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Childhood: 1 in 4 Parents Link Autism to Vaccines

Most parents believe that vaccines protect their children against disease, but one in four think some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, and nearly one in eight have refused at least one recommended vaccine, a new study has found.

The vaccine most likely to have been rejected by parents was for human papillomavirus, or HPV, to protect against cervical cancer, according to the report. It was based on questions asked of more than 1,500 parents of children 17 and younger. Many parents also rejected the chickenpox vaccine, the meningococcal conjugate vaccine against bacterial meningitis and, to a lesser extent, the MMR, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Just last month, the British medical journal The Lancet retracted the 1998 study that first linked the MMR vaccine to autism and set off widespread fears about vaccine safety.

“We were sobered to find that one in four parents erroneously believe that vaccines can cause autism in an otherwise healthy child,” said Dr. Gary L. Freed, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the paper, published online on March 1 by the journal Pediatrics. “Fortunately, they are still overwhelmingly vaccinating their children.”

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