“The MMR vaccine does not cause autism.”

A new report released today investigates the risks associated with eight childhood vaccines

An independent panel of experts convened to explore the risks associated with eight childhood vaccines determined that there isn’t a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. “The MMR vaccine does not cause autism,” said Ellen Clayton, a pediatrician who chaired the panel, in a media briefing today.

She went on to say that MMR and DTaP, which guards against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, do not cause Type 1 diabetes, and that the flu vaccine shows no link to Bell’s palsy, a nerve disorder, or the onset of asthma—all side effects that many parents have long been concerned about.

The panel’s findings were released in a report today by the Institute of Medicine, a nongovernmental organization that advises the federal government on health issues and policy. The Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency, asked IOM to review the eight vaccines and determine if there’s evidence to prove that reported adverse events following a vaccination are actually causally linked to the vaccine itself. The panel considered studies of whole populations, as well as individual case reports.

Reports NPR: “The group found convincing evidence for 14 health problems, including seizures and brain inflammation, and identified the vaccines that are linked to those problems. …Two live vaccines — MMR and one against chickenpox — were found to be responsible for most of the serious side effects. The committee found clear evidence that the MMR can cause fever-related seizures, which usually cause no long-term harm. The MMR also can cause brain inflammation in people with immune system problems.”

Six vaccines—MMR, varicella, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal and tetanus—were also determined to sometimes cause anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

For many reported side effects, the committee concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence or research to support or deny a causal link. And, according to NPR, Clayton explained that when it comes to autism, “it’s impossible for this committee, or any other scientific committee, to prove there’s not a link. ‘However, there have been a number of very strong studies looking at a large number of people. They consistently show no risk for MMR,’ [she said].”

So…they’re pretty sure. As sure as they can be, in other words, since proving there’s not a link is an impossibility. Does that mean we’re right back where we started with autism and vaccines? With a shadow of a doubt?

With a new school year getting underway, the debate over whether to vaccinate or not is again front-and-center, with some choosing not to vaccinate their kids due to the risks—both perceived and confirmed—outlined above. Where do you fall on the issue? Do the risks of not getting a vaccine outweigh your fears of getting them? Share your thoughts in the comments.