June 11, 2009 12:22:09 PM PDT
First off, kudos for you doing research into this and keeping an open mind. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't have kids myself, however I've had a number of discussions on the subject with close friends who have children. Coming from a science-academic background I realize I'm biased towards the research side of things, but for me it all comes down to looking at the supporting evidence for one side or the other. And as you stated, studies have not shown any evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The one study that gets quoted by the anti-vaccine side is a study 1988 by a researcher called Andrew Wakefield, that claimed a link between autism and the MMR, but the this study has come under intense scrutiny as a result of the MMR debate. Some of the funding for the research was shown to have come from trial lawyers looking to establish a link to benefit their clients' litigation. After the funding disclosure, 10 of the original paper's co-authors retracted their support for the published findings. What has occurred in the meantime, is measles, mumps, and rubella rates have gone up as the vaccination rates have gone down.
You are probably feeling more uneasy this time around, because with "celebrity support" the anti-vaccination side is in the news a lot more now, and sadly it seems that you have to attach a Hollywood name to any news item these days to get any sort of public interest.
Yes, this is an individual decision, but it affects not just your kids but all the other kids around them. These decisions have to be made as *informed* decisions, based on facts not Entertainment Tonight sound-bites. Regardless of your decision about this or any other subject, an informed decision should always be respected, even if it's not one that you agree with.