Objective: To explore how the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine controversy impacted on the lives of parents caring for children with autism.
Design: Qualitative focus group study.
Setting: United Kingdom.
Patients: A purposively selected sample of 38 parents took part in 10 focus group discussions between March 2003 and May 2005.
Results: Many parents felt that the MMR vaccine could be too potent for children who are susceptible to developing autism. Of the parents whose children received the MMR vaccine, many felt guilty that they may have caused or contributed to their child’s autism. Some parents felt frustrated by health professionals’ lack of understanding of the negative impact the MMR controversy has had on them. Some parents were anxious about subsequent MMR decision-making for their children.
Conclusions: The controversy has had a negative impact on some parents of children with autism. This has implications for health professionals, who need to be particularly aware of the issues these parents face in future MMR decision-making for their affected child and younger siblings. It is anticipated that these findings will raise awareness among health professionals of the difficulties faced by such parents. More generally, there is a need to promote a greater awareness of the important role health visitors can play in parental decision-making and for research examining whether health professionals feel they receive sufficient training in communication skills. It is also essential that the latest scientific research findings are disseminated quickly to these parents and to those health professionals advising parents on matters of vaccine safety.
- MMR, measles, mumps, and rubella
- MRC, Medical Research Council