A new survey has shown that one in four Americans believe that autism is caused by childhood vaccines, even though scientists have denied any link.
The survey conducted by Florida Institute of Technology showed that nearly one in four people believe that because vaccines may cause autism it was safer not to have children vaccinated at all, while another 19 percent were not sure.
The scientists said that there is no evidence linking vaccines and autism, but the lingering fear is leading to fewer parents having their children vaccinated and a growing number of measles infections.
The fear arouse after a controversial 1998 British study showed a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, which at the time contained the mercury-based preservative thimerosal.
The study was later retracted by most of its authors and thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines in 2001, but responses to the just-completed survey show the public is still confused.
"Fear of the unknown, coupled with anxiety over the growing incidence of the disease, may be leading people to draw their own conclusions," said Celeste Harvey, Florida Tech Assistant Professor of Psychology.
The survey includes responses from 1000 men and women, 21 years old or older, randomly selected from throughout the nation.