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Doctors urge tech companies to stop misinformation as new study finds no autism, vaccine link

Nicole Villalpando
No link has been found between vaccines and autism, yet some families still do not vaccinate their children.  [AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014]

Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics' President Dr. Kyle E. Yasuda sent letters to three tech companies — Google, Facebook and Pinterest — and urged them to do more about vaccine misinformation that spreads on their sites, which include YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and the Google search engine.

“Our worst fears are being realized as measles outbreaks spread across the country," Yasuda wrote in a press release. "I reached out to the technology industry with an urgent request to work together to combat the dangerous spread of vaccine misinformation online.”

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On the same day, "Annals of Internal Medicine" released a study done in Denmark that proves that there is no link between the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine and autism. The research studied the 657,461 children born in Denmark from 1999 to 2010 and from the time they turned 1 until 2013. 6,517 of those children were diagnosed with autism.

When they compared those who were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine and those who were not, there was no difference in the autism rates, and they saw no increase of autism before the MMR vaccine and after the vaccine.

The anti-vaccine wave came on strong after research in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield found a link between autism and vaccines, but that research was later refuted based on poor study methods, and debunked by scientists and many other studies.

"We are still suffering unfortunately from bad science," says Dr. Albert Gros, chief medical officer of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. The lack of a link between vaccines and autism, he says "has been pretty clearly established."

Yet the misinformation is still being shared.

“We have an opportunity — and in my view, an obligation — to work together to solve this public health crisis,” Dr. Yasuda wrote in his letter. “It will take commitments across all sectors — local and federal government, the medical and public health community, and the technology industry — to do so.”

Gros says while locally we haven't seen measles or mumps as they are in other states, "we are keeping our eyes open," he says. The real danger is that "some of our primary care physicians have never seen a case of modern measles."

That means the need for physicians to stay educated about what these disease look like and how to treat them to stop the spread if doctors should start to see them here.

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