February 12th, 2009
01:03 PM ET

Court rules vaccines not to blame for autism

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

There is a special court, known colloquially as a vaccine court. It is a place where judges called “special masters,” who are legal experts, not medical doctors, hear claims about vaccine injuries. It’s been around since the late 80s, in part prompted by the scare over the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine possibly causing injuries. If the court finds that an injury was likely caused by a vaccine, it can make a monetary award. For example, a few years ago, there was a case of optic neuritis after the tetanus vaccine. Other awards were given for fibromyalgia after the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine; transverse myelitis after the HiB (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccine; and Guillain-Barre and MS after the hepatitis B vaccine.

Many people started paying attention to the court after the federal government last year awarded damages to the family of Hannah Poling, conceding that Hannah was injured by a vaccine, causing her autism-like symptoms. (Read about Hannah’s case here) According to the Department of Justice, more than 1,500 people have been paid in excess of $1.18 billion since the inception of the program in 1988.

There is no question there is lots of money at play here. For more than 20 years now, the program has been funded by an excise tax of 75 cents on every purchased dose of covered vaccine. And, with today’s decision, some of the big questions about vaccines and autism are being addressed. It is worth noting the standard the court was using allowed for the petitioners (the parents of the children with autism) to demonstrate “biologic plausibility” as opposed to direct cause and effect. Scientifically, biological plausibility is an easier standard to meet. (Read about vaccine court now).

While this can by no means be a complete overview of the hundreds of pages that composed the ruling (read the decisions here), it is safe to say that the court found no biological plausibility of a connection between autism and either the MMR vaccine, or the combination of MMR vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines: no awards will be granted in any of these test cases. We spent some time with Michelle Cedillo, one of the children represented in the test cases last year (meet her here). You will no doubt hear a lot more about this in the days to come. Within the world of autism and vaccines, this is a huge deal and a major ruling.

Couple of points: Remember that thimerosal is a mercury-derived preservative that was present in many childhood vaccines that did not contain a live virus (for example, the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal). Nowadays thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines that are routinely recommended for children six years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine. In case you are curious, a preservative-free version of the inactivated influenza vaccine (contains trace amounts of thimerosal) is available in limited supply at this time for use in infants, children and pregnant women. And, in the interest of clarity, vaccines with trace amounts of thimerosal contain 1 microgram or less of mercury per dose. (Learn more about vaccines here)

On page 278 of the decision in of the cases, Snyder v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the statements even get a little snide. The special master, Denice K. Vowell, wrote “to conclude that Colten’s condition was the result of his MMR vaccine, an objective observer would have to emulate Lewis Carroll’s White Queen and be able to believe the six impossible (or, at least highly improbable) things before breakfast.” She goes on to say “the families of ASD and the court have waited in vain for adequate evidence to support the autism–MMR hypothesis.”

So, do you feel like you are gazing through the “looking-glass?”

I hope you get a chance to click on the links above and read the rulings. You will find that not all the experts agreed with one another and the evidence is worth reading. After that, I’m eager to hear what you think.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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soundoff (903 Responses)
  1. Gloria Rosario

    Peter my son has autism and I do believe that the vaccines are to blame for his autism.
    This is why: Have you ever taken a medication for High Blood Pressure or an infection, have you read the information packet that comes with the medication. All medications have a risk for a possible side effect. So why do they continue to say that the vaccines have no possible side effects, I find that hard to believe. No amount of money will give me back my child so I will never put my sons name behind a law suit.
    All I want is for them to find a way that no other parent will have to go thru what my daughter and I go thru on a day to day basis. Having a family member with autism is not an easy life.
    Somebody has to stop this. If not for my family but for the family who is today being blessed with the most precious gift of all a son or a daughter.
    Thank You For Letting Me Have My Say On This Matter
    Proud Mom,
    Gloria Rosario

    February 12, 2009 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Deb Quilter

    As an Early Intervention Special Education Teacher, I wish: That pediatricians would step up to the plate and aggressively screen for ASD and diagnose so that the children could get the prescribed treatment for ASD....ASAP! When speaking to my pediatrician, she said that they "go by what the parents say (developmentally); whether they are concerned or not. and if we see something that stands out, we will refer them to Child Find and then to KKI for a diagnosis". Diagnosing ASD is not that difficult...especially for a pediatrician. The timeframe for iintense ntervention is small...most times I get them late and it is very frustrating. Parents need to see these deficits, come to terms with them, and get their children help. The time for denial is ultimately their demise. We can make up to a 20pt difference in their IQ in a lot of cases if we can get them early. How can we get the message out to Ped's and to the parents????? I'm tired of hearing about the causes, let's deal with the issue NOW so we can make these kids functioning, independent members of our community. It's all about the kids, not the parents.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mike z

    Gloria, no one says that vaccines are free of side effects. If they were the vaccine court would not exist. What this ruling (and all available evidence) says is that Autism Spectrum Disorders are not one of these side effects.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mike

    I think the problem is not that there are no side effects, just that there aren't the ones people claim. For instance, while my aspirin can cause bleeding and ulcers, no amount of wishing would allow me to say it could cause my knee dislocation. I feel a lot of sorrow when I see families dealing with this problem, but I think focusing on something that has been shown not to be the cause distracts us from spending resources on other things that may actually be causing autism.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Laura

    Our son regressed and lost the language he had developed between the ages of 15 and 20 months. Prior to that he had met all developmental milestones and was engaged with others. By 24 months of age, his language levels regressed to that of a 6-9 month old and he was diagnosed with autism.
    The evening he received his MMR and DTaP, he developed a fever of 105. During the subsequent months, he would develop fevers of unknown origin, lasting 10 days once, and ear infections/upper respiratory infections.
    He was fully vaccinated until age 2. Even though he did not receive boosters at age 5, his titers to measles are 3-4 times the normal range eight years later.
    So, if we were to look at the regressive subset of kids with autism and their vaccine titers, in particular to measles, I wonder if there would be any interesting findings? Could they have measles in their cerebral spinal fluid? Personally, I think my son reacted to his MMR and it set off a chronic inflammatory cytokine response in his brain.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mac Mcaan

    There are side effects for vaccines but autism is not one of them. The false thought that vaccines cause autism is creating a rise in the diseases that they prevent which puts people who ligitmately can't take vaccines like those with a comprimised immunity at risk. If the rate of vaccination falls too low the herd immunity will cease to exist and the rate of preventable diseases will go up. I feel sorry for your difficuties but by telling others to not use vaccines you are putting the ENTIRE WORLD at exteme risk

    February 12, 2009 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ShawnG

    If it wasn't for these vaccines, entire cities would be crippled by deadly diseases. We would all live in fear. IF the vaccines are to blame, then I'll take the risk of having my children getting autism over my entire family dying from an epidemic.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Heffe Relhats

    "They" don't continue to say that the vaccines have no possible side effects. Vaccines have been shown to cause multiple side effects. Autism is not one of them.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Anthony Mohen


    I'm sorry to hear for your difficulties with your son and I'm glad that your family has had the strength to provide him with what sounds like a loving and caring home. But I have to take issue with the criteria you're invoking to support your belief. What makes you think that vaccines are the cause for your son's autism? That "medications have a risk for a possible side effect" and therefore it's wrong to say that "vaccines have no possible side effects." But no one ever made the latter claim, or rejected the former. The side effects listed on the side of blood pressure medication (or anything else) are the result of clinical trials that reveal statistical tendencies to produce effects. The tendency may be weak, and the benefits of a medicine may outweigh them, but they're usually observable. So far no study has been able to find any such connection in the case of vaccines. Why is it so hard to believe that, in a world full of factors, genetic and environmental, that one in particular is _not_ contributing to this condition?

    Medicine contains a lot of uncertainty, and undoubtedly will continue to for the rest of our lives. But we have no good reason to simply reject the findings that have now shown us, repeatedly and from numerous sources, that the link you're looking for is not to be found.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jeff in Illinois

    The vaccine-autism link is, to me, a matter of common sense. The link is abundantly clear, but is masked by the pharmeceutical industry, and protected by an extremely corrupt FDA.

    Autism is incredibly similar to heavy metal poisoning. Vaccines contain heavy metals. The number of vaccines administered has grown extraordinarily over time, and autism rates have increased in parallel.

    Some argue that identification of the ASD's has improved, or that more, lesser versions are now included in the totals. This is a farce, as the number of cases throughout the spectrum has increased. It isn't happening by magic.

    There is FAR too much vaccination which happens in this country (and others), with very little benefit. Of course there are some benefits, but do we REALLY need vaccines for chickenpox and influenza? The childhood vaccines have gotten out of control as well, and the drug companies have far too much power, destroying lives by the thousands for profit.

    When I have children, they will be opted out of most vaccines. If we could trust the FDA, it would be a different story, but for anyone who believes them, I have a bridge in Alaska to sell you...These are the same people who, under pressure from one Donald Rumsfeld, approved Aspartame as a food additive after it was thoroughly decried as a dangerour neurotoxin by their own scientists.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. diablo250

    The reason that they can say that the vaccines don't cause this is because in no trial EVER have there been a case of a child developing Autism as a result of these vaccines.

    See your High Blood Pressure medicine went through medical trial and when it was doing so there were a few patients that developed whatever side effects are listed that information packet. It might have been as little as one person (depending on the statistics of the trial), but the side effects were deemed low risk in comparison to the reward of the medicine.

    In the case of the MMR vaccine there have been no _credible_ results that show that there are Autism effects from these vaccines. This is after the original trials and when the first poorly done research came out, they were rigorously retested for effect and found to have none.

    I would also like to say that I am sorry for your child's condition and I wish that there was something to do for them that would correct the problems. My sister has a mild form of Autism so I have a small idea of how trying it can be.

    With that being said, the diseases that these vaccines are preventing are _FAR_ _FAR_ worse for extremely large numbers of the population. EVEN if there was an autism trigger in these (and there isn't, there just isn't), in my opinion the millions of lives that the vaccines save outweigh the costs of having less than 1% of the children taking them develop Autism. I am sorry to say that, but I feel it is the truth.
    If all parents were forced to watch a video of what these diseases do to children before they were allowed to not give their child the vaccines, the number of parents that choose to not vaccinate their children would be almost zero. These are horrible horrible diseases, and to willingly allow them to have a chance to _KILL_ your child should be a form of child abuse.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kelli Ann Davis

    "Nowadays thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines that are routinely recommended for children six years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine."

    Thank you Sanjay for your balanced piece.

    Fortunately, children today don't receive the amounts of mercury in their vaccines that my son did in the early 90's; the irony is it’s mostly due to parents (like the Cedillos) whose children were injured that the message *got out* and the pressure to limit the amount of mercury in today’s vaccines was achieved so other children wouldn’t suffer the same fate as our own.

    Unfortunately, for the children that *sounded the alarm* - like my son - justice was denied today.

    Bottom Line: We will never go away or stop sounding the alarm. And for anyone who thinks otherwise, I’d say, “Think again.”

    Kelli Ann Davis
    Mom to Miles
    D.C. Political Liaison for Generation Rescue

    February 12, 2009 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. john smyth

    These articles are pathetic, and so is that kangaroo court's ruling. We're swimming in evidence that vaccines=autisim. Just google "vaccines + truth" or even 'vaccines' .
    All this reeks of desperation... and it seems the gov/science establishment is having a hard time with it all, lol

    February 12, 2009 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Andy

    It's hard for me to understand why some parents of autistic children continue to insist that there is a link despite numerous large studies showing that there isn't. You hear statements like "I still think that my child's autism was caused by a vaccine."

    I'm sorry to say that what you think is completely irrelevant. There are people who still think that the earth is flat, despite the fact that we have pictures of our planet from space. Thinking something doesn't make it so.

    Why hold on to these beliefs when scientific studies (other than the discredited study that caused all of this nonsense) have shown no link? Future generations of children will be far better off if you take all of the resources you are wasting on a false belief and work toward finding out what is really causing autism.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Charles Derrow MD early childhood vaccinations have saved enormous suffering. Do realyoolives

    To deny objective evidence accumulated over decades and conclude that vaccines cause autism has been gone over and over for many years. There are no studies that have shown a link. Do you really think that if autism was caused by these vaccines, that they would be in general use, and that all the doctors with children would allow them to be vaccinated? All of my children were vaccinated as soon as the vaccines were approved.

    We have a good friend with an autistic child. his parents are full professors at the Ohio State University. He and his brother and sister were vaccinated. Medical evidence is the standard. The level of evidence was essentially anecdotal. That means that is not evidence.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Arnab Gupta

    Dear Gloria, I have a daughter with autism. And I am not convinced by your casual linking of autism with vaccines. Vaccines have saved countless lives. The side effects you are talking about for other medications are something found in clinical trials. Autism-vaccine link on the other hand is extremely tenuous, totally unproven and in some cases outright fraud, like Dr. Wakefield's.

    I will venture to say that given the number of lives saved by vaccines, it is irresponsible to even suggest without any bases that vaccines cause autism. It exploits the valid fear of one of the rapidest growing medical conditions (autism) to irrationally raise fear (or in some cases unwarranted compensation) about something (vaccines) that prevents millions from dying every year.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Seth

    Ms. Rosario,

    First and foremost, you are to be commended for being such a hard-working and engaged-in-the-process mother of an autistic child.

    That said, the whole point of the court ruling is that what you personally believe isn't the same thing as credible evidence of a link between vaccinations and autism.

    Autism deserves serious scientific investigation, and for the sakes of your child and the families I know who have autistic children, I hope _real_ medical progress is made soon.

    February 12, 2009 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. KR

    I have a son with autism and while I can't say with 100% certainty what caused it, I do point strongly to the MMR vaccine. Demonstrating exact causality is difficult, because the doctor that gives your child the shots typically tells you that you may see a fever post-vaccination or other symptoms. So, what parent thinks at that time that this is a slide into such a devastating condition? Who documents the symptoms experienced and looks for changes in behavior just in case you might have to prove causality three months, six months, or a year or more later? All I can tell you is this: post vaccination with MMR, our son developed fever, a rash and bowel issues. He went from a child who would come to the door every day I came home from work to a child who, when he was sitting alone in a room, you could come up to him and scream at the top of your lungs and he would not react at all. No flinch, no tears, no nothing.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. C. Chu

    Gloria –

    I'm sorry that your son has autism. It's a crippling disease and I can only imagine what you must go through every day.

    That said, the scientific and medical community have been researching the autism-vaccination "link" for *years*, and there has not been a proven link. Testimonial evidence and sentiment have no place in science. To date, all evidence "proving" a link between vaccination and autism are simply "My child got a vaccine, and now he has autism!"

    It's a typical logical fallacy – correlation does not imply causation. It snowed in Tucson a couple days ago, and since then my car broke down. Clearly, the snow in Tucson did not cause my car to break down. This is as illogical an argument as "my son got a vaccine and now he's got autism!" It's like saying "my son picked his nose and now he's got autism!" Correlation is NOT causation.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Alison from surefoodsliving.com

    Isn't it true that autism numbers have increased despite taking out the thimerosal from the vaccines?
    I am also curious to know if these children are or were ever on a gluten-free casein-free diet? It works for so many children - I don't understand why there are autistic children who have not tried the diet. I have met parents of autistic children who have never even heard about it!

    February 12, 2009 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Honus

    I believe you have understated the scientific evidence against any link between thimerosal and autism.
    Furthermore, much of the 'evidence' offered as supporting any link has either failed to be replicated, of poor quality (small sample sizes, poor controls), and in some cases, discredited.
    Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor on whose work much anti vaccine propaganda is based, has had his 1998 study linking MMR to autism rebuked by the very journal that published it. He is also, thankfully, being called on the carpet for scientific fraud, and for failing to disclose conflicts of interest: He was being paid large sums of money by trial lawyers who were suing vaccine manufactures. He also had applied for a patent for a 'safer' measles only vaccine, which he stood to profit from by defaming the MMR vaccine.

    Dr. Gupta, as a reporter, you obviously feel bound to report both perspectives on this issue, but as a doctor, you are duty bound to provide the public with a more objective analysis and let your readers know just how strong the scientific consensus is on this issue.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Dr Ana Platon

    Why there is no alternative to this type of tri-vaccine with thimerosal.?
    When I was a child in a different country and continent , my mother told me the doctor gave my vaccines one after other with some time between the appointments, there wasn't one vaccine for all these three diseases combined. I also believe those vaccines were less safe from the secondary(thimerosal) component point of view, there were times when the vaccine was barely taken from fridge just before administration, according with my mother's memories. As a child the only thing I remember was the pain and tears, but on the other hand, just by having this alternative of separate vaccine appointments would create a possibility to prove the safety / the connection between modern vaccine with thimerosal vs. old way. Nevertheless it would give those very concerned parents the possibility to protect their young against diseases and the peace of mind of not taking the risk of autism. I understand the increase of cost just by multiplying the appointments, but given the opportunity, most concerned parents will probably be more than happy to cover extra cost...

    February 12, 2009 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Beasley

    It is tempting to believe the arguments about these vaccines and autism, but they are really based on unrelated statistical evidence, not good causal analysis.

    A similar example of drawing an incorrect conclusion can be drawn from the birthday statistics of professional hockey players. They are overwhelmingly born in the first few months of the year. Are we to conclude that being born in the coldest months of the year can give you a leg up in playing hockey? Well, it's tempting, but the real answer has nothing to do with weather, it's simply the January 1 cutoff date for eligibility in youth hockey. For each year's crop of young players, those born in January are the oldest, and therefore the biggest and strongest, of the bunch. They get the best coaching and they get into the elite squads.

    Rather than concentrate on trying to get the legal system to name a scapegoat, everyone should understand that there is a biological cause for this. The vaccine theory is attractive for some, because there is someone with deep pockets who can be blamed, but genetic abnormalities or pre-natal development issues are probably a more realistic cause. Resources have been squandered in this rush of finger-pointing. These resources would be better applied to an open-minded approach that looks for the cause rather than a payback. Sorry, but there's no big payday for lawyers at the end of this tunnel.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. A. Madsen

    While certainly not qualified to provide expert opinion on this topic, I am currently involved as an undergrad in an Analytical Chemistry research group at Brigham Young University and have spent a moderate amount of time looking into this vaccine-autism issue.

    As per my readings of the published studies to which I have access, I understand that no plausible biochemical mechanism has yet been identified to link the MMR vaccine with brain damage resulting in autism, whether acting in combination with the thimerosal preservative or not. Likewise, statistical studies demonstrate no connection between said vaccine and childhood onset of autism.

    Granted, individual cases vary greatly and one child's specific genetic or biochemical makeup could make him prone to adverse reactions following exposure to a vaccination, however in my experience observations based on large data pools are much more likely to provide an accurate understanding of biological processes. Therefore, I am convinced that the Special Masters found correctly in this case, and that no substantial connection between the MMR vaccine and autism exists.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RMD

    Vaccines do not cause autism. That is what the science tells us. Period. End of story.

    Parents who do not vaccinate their children aren't just endangering their kids. You not giving your kid a flu shot because of some ill informed opinion on their safety could result in my Grandmother dying. That's not acceptable.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. doctor

    Although I do agree that families dealing with autism have it rough and that it can be challenging at best at times, being a pediatrician, I firmly believe there is no link between autism and vaccines. As to Gloria's response, nobody has argued that there is no side effect to vaccines. Anything we choose to put in our body has the possibility of a side effect. Autism is the one thing there actually is alot of scientific data for, and none of it supports a link between the two.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Andrew

    Vaccines generally have one important possible side effect: The disease might catch and you might get sick. Thimoseral was used from the '30s until about 2001. The autism rate has climbed independently of its use.

    Of course, that means we don't know yet where autism comes from. I agree with the statistically intriguing idea that TV viewing plays a large role in causing autism- but I'm sure parents won't want to hear that! It has to be the doctor's fault, right?

    Not that I blame anyone... since nobody knew that watching TV at such a young age could have such an effect, no parent should feel responsible for autism, any more than they should if their kid caught the chicken pox.

    The TV theory isn't proven yet, but it hasn't been disproven like the vaccine theory has. So we let our own little girl watch a little TV, but we make sure to keep it to a few minutes a day, at least until she starts going to pre-school. Just in case.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Rob Bonin

    Nobody says that vaccines are risk free – the entire first paragraph of this page lists the possible (but very rare) complications that can occur with vaccination. What has been said by the overwhelming majority of the scientific and now legal communities is that there is no link between vaccination and autism. Autism occurs just as frequently among non-vaccinated children as vaccinated. Although the appearance of autism can occur around the same time as childhood vaccination, there is no biologically plausible mechanism by which autism can be caused by vaccines. Whatever side effects vaccines have, autism is not one of them. That any medication has side effects does not mean that they can cause any possible side effects. For example, aspirin can cause fatal intestinal bleeding but it does not cause autism. I welcome this ruling as it will hopefully persuade those who do believe or trust scientists that the vaccine-autism link does not exist. When too many children are taken out of vaccination programs over fears of non-existent risks it can eventually compromise the immunity of whole populations.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Matt

    Vaccines do have side effects. They are listed in the literature when your child gets a vaccine. Autism is not a listed side effect because there is no evidence to support that it is true.

    The fact that you say that vaccines caused autism in your child just because you think for some reason that vaccine manufacturers claim there are no side effects is not only terribly logic, but just flat untrue. I wonder what non-reputable website gave you such an impression?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Cliff Court

    Dear Dr Gupta

    Having read some of the ruling (it's pretty heavy going!), it's clear this case was specifically addressing a claim for vaccines causing Regressive Autism and not so-called Classic Autism. Without being a lawyer (thankfully!), it certainly looked like a very difficult case to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

    I think this case was unfortunate because it has taken the attention away from vaccines possibly triggering (not causing) Classic Autism. I am a father of an autistic boy and know several other families with children having a similar condition. What is so commonly heard is how the children reacted poorly immediately (within hours) after having their MMR or DPT vaccinations. And in many cases, they never recovered and rapidly (within days) went on to full-blown autism.

    This is very different to this case of Regressive Autism, where in theory, the vaccine left elements of Measles within the body which caused brain damage and the corresponding problems with the condition some moths later. I am talking instead of cases, like mine and many others, where effects were seen IMMEDIATELY after the vaccination, meaning that the vaccination was the ONLY possible variable to have caused the deterioration into autism.

    Most of the impressive and highly qualified experts that testified in this case would be almost useless in explaining away this deterioration of the child so close in time to receiving the vaccine.

    I have yet to see a study that looks at those children that deteriorated immediately after getting their vaccines, and that then went onto develop into full Autism. I know several such families that would testify to this happening. This doesn't mean that vaccines definitely cause autism, but to me, it shows that there are a group of children that are susceptible to autism being triggered – and that certain vaccines do the triggering – not the causing per say.

    Where I believe the medical and drug industries have failed badly is to suitably research that specific triggering possibility. Instead, too much effort and money is spent on proving vaccines do or don't cause autism.

    As you know from your research of families with autistic children, it's a tough life for all concerned. If there had been a way to test the possibility of autism being triggered prior to getting his vaccine, we could have possibly avoided what happened to my son thereafter.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cliff Court
    Cape Town

    February 12, 2009 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Charles Kern

    Just because a court refuses to acknowledge a link between autism and vaccines does not mean that there is none. The courtsof our country have historically ignored facts and testimony to protect the government. Isn't it strange that a normal infant suddenly shows signs of autism after receiving massive doses of vaccine? Could it be that the child's immune system could not handle the invasion of chemical vaccines? There will never be a cure for autism until the medical community looks at all the evidence, not just what it wants to accept.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sain Person

    I took an aspirin this morning and then wrecked my car. Did aspirin cause me to wreck my car, no. Just because you take product X and Y happens, does not mean X caused Y to happen. Just as vaccines do not cause autism. There is NO medical and/or scientific evidence of it.

    Just because you see warning does not mean they are part of the drug, but that people that took the drug reported them. I bet if you read deeper you would see people on a placebo also reported side effects, while taking nothing. Try and think for a minute before you try and blame someone and/or something else. Maybe that cigarette you smoked, drink you drank, not taking your vitamins, etc… has a bigger chance and has been proven to harm a fetus then vaccines.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Steve James

    The medical research has shown that there is no medical link between Autism and these vaccines.

    I believe that despite this research, some parents still cling to the idea that it was the vaccine that caused their child to be different. Right now, there is no known cause of Autism. It is likely that there might never be a specific indicator or link as to what causes this. It is very hard for a parent to internalize the idea that pure randomness caused their offspring to become so different. It is much easier to attempt to blame it on something. Right now that somethine is a vaccine.

    I do feel for the parents who have to raise children with Autism. But the ones blaming it on vaccines, they need to come to grips with reality.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. dcv

    My son has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. Looking at it with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, he displayed symptoms of this disorder as early as 6 weeks old, when his pediatrician told me he was having problems with sensory overload and that no amount of walking him or rocking him would comfort him, because it provided too much sensory stimulation. He needed to lie in his crib in a dark, silent room with as little sensory stimulation as possible until he was able to calm himself. His physical symptoms also began well before the bulk of his vaccinations.

    The peer-reviewed medical studies on autism and other ASDs indicate that there is a genetic link to autism. The few studies out there that link autism with thimerosol and/or vaccines with autism have not been verified or duplicated. I do not like one bit that all evidence is that I and my husband passed "autism genes" to our son, but we did, and he has it.

    Now it's time for people in the autism community to move on. We need to focus on finding the best treatments for our children, and in assuring that insurance covers those treatments.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Curious

    I have followed these studies for quite some time simply out of interest. I studied genetics and biology in college and have often wondered if anyone has ever considered a possible genetic link to these vaccination correlations? Is it not possible that the vaccinations are responsible for causing this side effect due to a possible genetic mutation in certain children that causes a deficiency in the way these vaccines are transmitted through their systems? Perhaps the vaccinations are not to blame in general, as the mass of the populous has recieved them and not had these responses; however, perhaps the vaccinations in combination with a genetic predisposition to a faulty reaction in some children is causing the link that many parents are witnessing. I am curious if it wouldn't be beneficial to begin a study of autistic children by mapping their DNA and searching for similar gene variants that link them to each other, and then perhaps compare to other children and try to find a processing link between the two. If the faulty gene can be identified perhaps children can be tested prior to recieving vaccinations to determine if there is a higher chance of autism developing. Then the parents would have the choice as to how to proceed.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jason Turner

    What other decision can we expect as this country is run by corporations. Greed, no care for anyone.
    My only solace is that there is a universal law of karma. What Goes Around Comes Around.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Dr. Billy Bob

    Biological plausibility is a terribly standard because it will allow people to get millions just because something sounds "plausible" rather than being proved. Autism symptoms are usually noted in early childhood. There are so many vaccines given in early childhood that it is almost certain to be the case that parents notice autism symptoms close to a vaccine date. It's not just autism, but there are people out there trying to get money for all sorts of childhood disorders claiming that many other common childhood illnesses were the result of that vaccine two weeks ago.

    People think that there is somehow an increasing epidemic of autism. While we can't say for certain that autism is not increasing in the population, it has always been the case throughout medical history that when a disorder is described and initially separated out from a broader diagnostic category, that the specific newly described disorder will show a huge increase in diagnoses over the next ten years. Before people thought of autism as a discrete disorder with a specific symptom pattern not a lot of thought was given to these people diagnosed as "insane" in the worst cases, or retarded, or neurotic. But as we have parsed these ancient categories and found more specific classificatory systems that have proven useful in treatment and prognosis, we have inc reasingly come up with new constructs that go through the same pattern of explosive growth in overal diagnosis of a disorder that was previously unrecognized. We have had autistic children for millenia and they are well described by galen, but never given much thought until this last 50 years or so.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Andy

    All I can say is for decades the smoking lobby provided scientists that found no link between smoking and cancer or heart disease, no link between passive smoking and cancer or heart disease and that cigarettes weren't addictive.

    They didn't prove anything, claim to have proven anything, but rather said they had failed to find a link and therefore it probably wasn't the case that cigarettes were harmful or addictive.

    None of us believed it. In fact I'd go so far as to say we've known otherwise for centuries.

    I don't know if this is the same with these vaccines and autism, but if this is a coincidence, then it's a coincidence on a scale that most people would find abnormal. It may be that autism just occurs at around the same time kids are vaccinated for the first time. It maybe that something we normally put in the diet of children that age contains something that doesn't affect older kids or adults.

    Maybe cable tv is the problem or telephones or power lines over our homes. I doubt it, but I bet you could create statistics that appear to prove it.

    My problem is that when things are tested, it's impossible to test for all outcomes especially those that are just plain silly. We eat meat that comes from livestock injected with steroids and stimulants. We eat vegetables sprayed with pesticides that have been "proven" safe.

    We clean ourselves with chemicals and we brush our teeth with toothpaste laced with antifreeze.

    There are millions of ways this could occur, but the vaccine theory is one that has been around for decades and appears to be a dirty little secret no one is admitting to.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. concerned

    Does no one else find it horrific that a team of "legal experts" determine this rather than medical professionals? It's frightening.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Anonymous

    I'm not a medical expert but I have kept up with autism research and it seems pretty clear from all the science that vaccines really aren't to blame. There's definitely a genetic root to the disease, though there may still be an environmental trigger (like a vaccine). Still, there just doesn't appear to be any correlation between vaccines and autism. The debate on that seems to have ended already a few years ago - the courts are just now catching up to it.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. David Siller

    I have never seen an issue that has generated such an outpouring from parents and others on blogsites and in the news. Believe the parents! Most are the most dedicated parents imaginable, they are not wrong in the fact that the autism followed the shots in so many cases. The problem is really with the cover-up that has been going on. Where are the whistle blowers? The few who are brave enough to speak out seem to have their research immediately dismissed...The govt sponsored research and the BIG PHARMA research are held up to be accurate no matter what the criticism might be. "Read, Robert Kennedy Jr.s White Paper on this subject, Read David Kirby's "Evidence of Harm"...The potential liability of the Pharma Industry and whomever else that might have any involvement with the cover-up has potental vicarious liability, The issues being debated and the facts that this debate has reached this point is as vast as how affected some children and adults are that have Autism. Just as courts ruled in favor of Big Tobacco, other Pharmacetucal Lawsuits, auto industry lawsuits, etc.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Enkidu

    Gloria: No one is saying that vaccines can't have side effects. Read the insert or the CDC website, and there is a list of possible side effects printed right there. However, study after study has concluded that autism is not one of them. I am sorry that your child has autism, but the court ruling was based on evidence and science, not belief and sentiment.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Christopher Johnson

    This whole controversy represents the decline of and need for robust scientific education and respect for the scientific method. The scientific method is about developing testing falsifiable hypotheses, conducting an experiment, and then analyzing the results. The proposed link between vaccines and autism has been definitively, conclusively, and repeatedly falsified. Having lost the scientific grounds, the plaintiffs and their cause are reduced to illogical and emotional arguments. They would have us all believe that there is a vast pharmaceutical-sponsored cabal of established physicians, reputable researchers, and other medical research practitioners conspiring to purposefully harm children in the "profitable" industry of vaccines. Perhaps their money is better spent on etiological research to identify the environmental and genetic factors that contribute to autism, rather than trying to debunk reams of scientific data and engaging in endless malpractice litigation.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Wayne

    "So why do they continue to say that the vaccines have no possible side effects, I find that hard to believe."

    That's your scientific explanation for believing that the vaccines caused your son's autism? You've got to be kidding me.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Andrew Gordon

    Gloria, that reasoning makes no sense at all: because some other drug may have some other side effect, that means that vaccines somehow cause autism? As they used to say in school, you need to "show your work" on how you reached that conclusion given that premise.

    The real problem with this "debate" is that we are not seeing a whole suite of possible causes being evaluated in parallel and then backing the one that is the most plausible and seems to fit the observed data the best. Instead, the backers of this hypothesis have latched on to one concept and are unwilling to consider others, no matter what new data comes in that disproves theirs or supports others. If they did that, they might see that, so far, the bulk of the evidence most strongly supports a genetic basis for autism. For example, studies in recent years have found that the parents of children with autism are much more likely to have Asperger's syndrome themselves, or other Autism spectrum disorders, than the general population. That relationship holds even if you factor in whether or not the parents also received vaccinations when they were kids.

    Most of the time, the chief observation that I hear backers of the vaccine hypothesis mention is that autism seems to occur shortly after vaccinations are received. That's a common logical fallacy called "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" and the scientific method provides a simple tool for determining if there really is some cause/effect relationship between 2 events: the control experiment. Basically, do we see the same effect in a control group who don't experience the proposed "cause". The vaccine hypothesis fails miserably on this test: kids who don't receive vaccines have a similar rate of autism, and develop it at around the same age as those who do receive vaccines.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Daniel Bressler

    Both of my sons have received the vaccines, and one has an autism spectrum disorder. As much as I would like to have something (or someone) to blame for his condition, there is simply no reason to believe that these two facts are related in any way. It makes about as much sense as blaming the vaccines for the fact that both of my sons have blue eyes.

    While I can't lay my son's difficulties at the vaccine's door, there are consequences of these vaccines that are quite clear. Neither of my kids has ever had measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, or chicken pox. Because they and the vast majority of their classmates are immune to these diseases, the small minority that cannot take the vaccines will probably never be exposed, and can be protected by proxy. If we give parents a reason to not vaccinate their children, this proxy protection will vanish and these very dangerous childhood diseases could quite likely return to the United States.

    My son's disorder is quite mild, as autism spectrum cases go. Nevertheless, it has disrupted our family and continues to complicate our lives every day. I feel for those families with more severe cases of autism to deal with, but blaming vaccines for their problems doesn't help if it isn't true.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jacques

    Gloria, I'm sorry that your son Peter has autism. But there are millions of other children who do not have autism who were vaccinated. It has been shown over and over in study after study that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. We will see in the coming years what damage will be caused by this alleged link (by the faulty research of Andrew Wakefield, that was faked from the start) in the UK where vaccination rates have plummeted. Indeed, the deaths are already starting to occur as children come down with these diseases.

    Have your children vaccinated.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jerome Haltom

    @Gloria Rosario:

    Your post is exactly the type of faulty non-science stuff which was confronted in this law suit. This is not about whether or not 'you believe'. It's about drawing a statistically significant correlation between vaccines and specifically autism. It's not there, and nobody has ever been able to demonstrate it. The vacines at issue here do not contribute to higher rates of autism. That means that you daughter had the same chance of getting autism before and after the vacine, and that you simply got the unlucky draw. The other hundreds of thousands of kids did not get autism.

    Our perceptions of our own circumstances are biased. You believe there is a link, because you are smack in the middle of it. But it's a bias. And that is why have science, to remove the bias.

    it's one thing to have a belief. It's another to back it up with data. Before we start handing out settlements to people, things need to be backed up.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Jerome Haltom

    @Gloria Rosario:

    I meant to say 'your son'. Just my faulty human brain.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Michael Hiller

    I think that vaccines are important for obvious reasons...but I also believe that most of these children were completely normal and after that visit to their doctors slowly sank into autism. Some people may be allergic to the mercury-based preservatives or any of the combined drugs giving them abnormal reactions to the injections and ending up in this terrible state...for both them and their parents. It's like people allergic to bee stings. It's a little bit of poison that gets into your system and most of us just get a lump or a little pain from it, but to those allergic to their venom it's instantly life threatening and they can die very quickly.
    The main problem, much like anything else boils down to money. Can you imagine the law suits that would be filed if they actually admitted that these vaccinations caused or contributed to their state. It's the same with mal-practice suits where the people judging the doctor are a panel of doctors. A little rediculous if you ask me.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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