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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. Paul K Wolber

    Statistical thinking is an unnatural act for human beings. In fact, if it weren't so useful for gambling, I doubt that humans would have thought of it at all! So I understand why any parent who first noticed the telltale signs in autism in their child after they had received their childhood vaccinations would be inclined to believe that the vaccines had caused the condition. But as Menkin noted, "There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat,
    plausible, and wrong." I think the evidence suggests that is the case here.

    I must admit to a certain bias on this question. I grew up in an age when many of these vaccines didn't exist. I contracted measles and mumps and several other "childhood diseases" that modern vaccines have mostly banished to medical history, and my correlative observation is that I am shorter and less healthy than my younger brothers (who received the vaccines, rather than the diseases) as a result. When I was a child, a significant number of kids died of measles each year, and a significant number of kids were left permanently damaged.

    I am all for continuing to improve vaccines. But it's important not to lose track of the (statistically demonstrable) good that they do, or to let our human sympathy for families dealing with autism interfere with objective analysis of medical data.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. JC in SC

    Dr. Gupta
    I worked as a clinical research specialist for about 10 years back in the 80's and early 90's. At that time, I was working for a world renowned immunologist, Dr. H. Hugh Fudenberg. He was treating some 30 autistic children in whom he'd discovered an immune deficiency, and all of whose symptoms had manifested some 7 to 10 days after receiving the MMR vaccine. They were all children residing in Virginia. Their parents filed a class-action suit against Merck and the FDA claiming that the rubella portion of the vaccine was responsible for their neurological damage and they indeed won the lawsuit. Is the fact that in this high profile case monetary awards were given, and fault and responsibility was found in a court of law and placed squarely on the shoulders of Merck and the FDA, no longer highly significant in these subsequent cases? It was at that point in time a proven fact that the rubella vaccine, the live-viral portion of the MMR, was the culprit. Why is there any need for further discussion and now, 20 years later this fact is being hidden from the public and swept under the carpet?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. BobInIrvine

    As a pharmacist and attorney, I don't believe that any vaccine is labeled with product information that says there are "no possible side effects."

    The KNOWN side effects in fact appear in the package insert, which the health care provider has access to and is responsible for knowing. But things get murky when there is an alleged association of a vaccine (or any drug, for that matter) as to whether the manufacturer must disclose an unproven association.

    NO drug or vaccine is risk free. It's the balance between the risk of taking the vaccine/drug and the risk of contracting the disease that needs to be discussed by the patient and their health care provider.

    Bob, Pharm.D., Esq.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Greg

    Thank goodness this ruling came out the way it did. I am a physician with two children who have a mild form of autism. After our first was diagnosed we paid careful attention to the second one during her development and markers for autism such as increased brain size were present very early on. Her development seemed to progress then regress around the usual time between 1 and 2 years which happens to be a time when certain vaccines are given. But we were fairly sure this regression would occur based on what we saw in tests from as early as 6 months of age. I have reviewed the vaccine studies, and I have been educated how to properly interpret them from my medical training. At first i had hoped that a link would be found like everyone else. But when the large and much more highly powered studies came out showing no link whatsoever to autism I quickly realized vaccines were a dead end. Unfortnately many people don't understand how to interpret studies and recognize when quality studies are showing no link and they have not given up on this notion. Unfortunately this idea is a hazardous one. If people don't vaccinate their children, not only they, but other people's children may become ill and even die as a result of a preventable disease. If your child catches a preventable disease and doesn't die, he or she may still pass it along to another child who might then die of the disease or they may pass it along to other children. There have been some recent articles indicating that the autism fueled vaccine hysteria is in fact having this effect and children are dying of preventable diseases not just in western nations but around the world who weren't before.
    Hopefully the court ruling will put an end to this behavior and irrational thinking. Since what happens in a courtroom does not always reflect the scientific reality, I was worried about an aberrent decision that would further fuel the hysteria. Fortunately in this case the court got it right. As a parent who had two children develop autism I have no doubt whatsoever that I did the right thing by allowing the routine vaccinations to take place. Now it is time to stop wasting effort time and money on the disproven vaccine theory and get to work finding the real culprit(s) causing autism. There have been some positive results with regards to pesticides and there are many untested organic industrial pollutants in the environment that may well be responsible.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. John Whiteside

    Just because this court ruled this time it was not responsible, it doesn't mean it wasn't. Doctors are not God although many think they are. Story after story is printed where parents listened to the doctor even though their gut feelings and some personal experience says the doctor is wrong. Alot doctors even later apologize for not listening more. Hmmm. Science changes their opinions even more than people who change clothes several times a day, based on the scientific evidence, which is usually used in dismissing claims that medicines cause more harm than good. So who pays for medical school and the drug research? Drug companies who make billions of dollars each year off of the drugs they sell. We believed RJ Reynolds for over 40 years that smoking is not hazardous to our health, so why not the drug companies. Have we failed to learn from the past? The fox, drug companies, is saying vaccines are not harmful to us chickens, people.
    While I will agree medicines are very helpful, we still have to be vigilant to not trade one problem for two others.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Kathleen Shannon

    Autism is a heartbreaking tragedy for each child and every family member and I understand how the need to find an explanation leads people to draw conclusions that are not supported by science. But, we cannot let heartbreak interfere with truth and there is simply no evidence of a true connection between any aspect of vaccine use and autism. Conflating legal opinion with scientific evidence does this goal a disservice, and is a disappointment.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Nancy Hamilton

    The weight of evidence clearly shows there is no link. 1) Large epidemiological studies clearly show that there are no significant differences in the rate of autism in vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated kids 2) If thimerosol were the cause of autism, we would expect to see a drop in the number of new cases of autism. That is not the case, the rates of autism continue to rise 3) The "scientist" who started all of this furor with a small "study" of autistic kids is now under investigation for scientific fraud. 4) Neuroscientists think that the roots of autism occur during prenatal development. It is clearly possible that mercury compounds are to blame, but if so it is probably via Mom's diet/water/air/soil NOT the vaccines.

    My heart goes out to parents of autistic kids. I cannot imagine the pain you are suffering and I understand the desire to prevent other parents from suffering in this way. But, diverting funding from more fruitful lines of research toward investigating vaccines will make things worse, not better.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Joe S.

    The link between autism and vaccines has been tenuous and correlative at best. And as most of those in the scientific community know, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. This is not to say that there may not be a link between the two, but that there needs to be more conclusive studies to determine the link, if any.

    The fact is, vaccines have been around for a long time, my father has one of the huge scars from the combo polio vaccine they used to give out. As a researcher with a graduate level degree in the biomedical sciences I feel like many of these parents and news sources are jumping to conclusions without having an intimate enough knowledge of the pure science behind these things. The fact of the matter is, in terms of data, it just does not support a definite causative link.

    I and many others were vaccinated and turned out fine. As Gloria pointed out, yes vaccines can have negative side-effects, usually sickness, inflammation, or pain. However, it has not been proven that autism is caused as a direct side-effect.

    In fact most of the data is based on the trend that autism and vaccination have both been on the rise in the past couple of decades. Many do not stop to think that detection of autism and the addition of and detection of ASDs has become more well documented and is more sensitive to detection. Whereas in say, the 50s autism was mainly considered retardation or learning disability. As detection becomes more sensitive and more spectrum disorders are added, of course the prevalence of this disease would go up.

    Autism is a horrible disease, I have family members that are effected by it and I truly feel for anyone who has to go through the pain of having children, siblings, or anyone in their family suffer from this disease. However, the data is just not there to support a definitive claim to banish vaccines, the health risks without them vastly outweigh the risks of having them.

    Joe S., M.S.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mike Lazzaro

    In response to Gloria Rosario:

    You are correct in saying that most (if not all) medications have side affects, but the reason these side effects are listed in the package inserts is that their occurrence has been documented in controlled trials.

    Vaccines do have side effects. Most can cause pain and/or tenderness at the side of the injection, some can cause temporary and mild cold-like symptoms. Anyone who's gotten a tetanus vaccine is probably aware of the muscle soreness that is a common side effect.

    But all of this does not, by any stretch of the imagination, imply that vaccines of any sort cause autism. By the same logic, it could be said that vaccines cause any imaginable medical condition.

    Although I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in your position, I can tell you this: the end goal of treating, preventing, and potentially curing autism will be reached by further research and honest debate, not by subscribing to unsupported and unsupportable theories.

    Mike Lazzaro

    February 12, 2009 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jim Logan

    It has always been my understanding that the MMR vaccine contained the preservative, thimerosal. Am I correct in reading , here, that the medical community is, now, claiming that the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal ? I am requesting someone get back to me with a definative answer. Did the MMR contain Thimerosal and are there still MMR doses, out there, containing Thimerosal.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Michelle Turner

    I lost my son to his MMR – I wasn't looking for immune failure at 13 months. Then when he got HIB from that vaccine and the infection went undiagnosed for three years. He's polysaccharade ab deficient. Far worse than the autism diagnosis that he has. The CDC doesn't know about him. His shot reactions. His health failures. It's not about the mercury – the mmr cocktail is too strong for our kids. It's not just autism. Everything is on the rise food allergies, ee, primary immune def., add, sensory intergration and autism.

    If they think we're in a recession now – just wait for the health establishment to colapse.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. dan

    Hello Dr. Gupta.....

    Why don't you have the courage to slam the door on these claims? The parents who keep pressing this issue are eating up funds that could be used to determine the causes of autism.

    Why are you "eager to hear what we think?" Going to change your mind?

    This piece by yours is a cop out. What do you mean when you say "not all of the experts agree?" The experts overwhelmingly agree that vaccines are not to blame. That a person can identify a few who do not is like saying that the Holocaust is open for debate because a few people do not believe it happened, and one is even a Bishop in the Catholic Church.

    Go ahead. Be a scientist and a physician and risk the displeasure of a very strong and vocal minority.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ruth Lilley

    Dr. Gupta......first let me say I admire you ......all this talk about childhood vaccines and Autism.....I brought up the difference when my children were born 1971 and 1974.....and now....I was amazed at the difference in the amount of vaccines children today get compared to the ones my children got,I was shocked ..at least 32 today....my son ,who was born in 1974 recieved his first at 6 weeks old and had an adverse reaction .....the doctor said he could give him his ,in 1/4 doeses over a period of 5 years and that seemed to work...must they give all the vaccines ,I mean so many at once?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Brian

    There isn't enough empirically sound evidence that points to vaccines as being the cause of autism. That being stated if it could be linked do you really think that it would be worth getting vaccinated because of the risk?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. JC in SC

    Heffe
    All side effects from vaccines have a neurologic factor in one way or another. How can you unequivocally proclaim that autism, as you say, is not one of the multiple side effects? Autism is hardly a "side effect"! I think what you meant to say is that no vaccine causes the multifaceted and irreversible neurological damage resulting in the devastating state of autism. You're so wrong.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Suspicious

    You have to understand something...most of the Vaccine-Autism research is being done by medical doctors. There is an extreme conflict of interest.

    If a child is fine, then gets a vaccine and dies, has autism, or is temporarily or permanently disabled, its because of something in the vaccine. Plain and simple, you don't need science for that.

    If you eat bad peanut butter then get sick cause it has Salmonella in it, its because the peanut butter was bad.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Calis

    vaccinations seem like a very unlikely cause for autism is, mostly because a vaccination, unless I am mistake, is usually a small dose of the virus itself, too weak to infect the body serious, but strong enough to allow our bodies to develop an immunity to the virus. I don't see that causing autism.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Pat

    My son is 19 years old and has Asperger's. I know the frustration that parents of ASD kids feel because their children will never really be cured - unless their parents are celebrities married to celebrities, I guess. The link between autism and vaccinations has grown in popularity for the simple reason that none of us want to admit our kids are anything less than perfect. It's the same reason that obstetrics has such a high rate of malpractice claims. If the child has something wrong, blame the doctor, or in this case, the vaccine. I have three other children who do not have any evidence of autism, yet none of them are perfect either. They are just less obvious.

    The problem I have always had with the effort to link vaccines to autism is the risk that an unvaccinated child will contract one of the terrible illnesses for which the vaccines were developed. If the debate has helped to improve the formulation of the vaccines, that's great, but please don't stop vaccinations.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sharon

    I have had a very different experience with autism. My 16 yr. old son and I are both on the Spectrum with a diagnosis of Aspergers & I believe there is a genetic component to AS.

    I have not made up my mind completely about other forms of autism as it relates to the vaccine debate but it cannot be ignored that Asperger's Syndrome tends to be prevelant in more than 1 family member. I have a friend who refused to vaccinate her 2 child due to her firstborn receivng a diagnosis of autism around the time the vaccine debate began. Guess what? Her second son ended up with a diagnosis of autism as well. More interestingly is that the child who received the vaccines is the one who has a milder form of autism, and her child who did not receive ANY vaccinations is the one of more severly autistic. hmmmm?

    We all need to keep an open mind. Albert Einstein said: “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be” – I hope the autism community can begin to pull together and realize that we are ALL on the same team. We will arrive at the correct conclusions pertaining to ASD's much sooner if we can all work together. We don't need to all agree on every single matter 100% of the time in order to work toward the greater good of comprehending Autism Spectrum Disorders. http://www.sharondavanport.com

    February 12, 2009 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Becky L.

    Yes Curious! The MTHFR genetic mutation is reported to be as high as 90+ percent of children on the autism spectrum. Methylation is necessary to detox many vaccination components (mercury and aluminum). I have heard that as many as 40% of the population carry this mutation, but most haven't been exposed to as many neurotoxins, until now...

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

    I am sure now some of the parents and family members of these unfortunate patients of autism will find somebody else or some other issues to blame and hope for financial lottery.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Donna

    I think its a bunch of "hooey" The government will never admit that vaccines are causing our kids to become autistic. If they ever did admit that vaccines are at fault, this country would go bankrupt from the amount of lawsuits! I suggest everyone read the article that RFK Jr. wrote called "Deadly Immunity"

    February 12, 2009 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Tom Prunty

    I'm somewhat surprised the name Andrew Wakefield hasn't come up. The MMR-autism link has a rather sordid past.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wakefield
    I know it seems heartless to criticize parents of children with disabilities, but I think we need to stop being afraid of appearing insensitive and get the facts straight.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Charles Derrow MD early childhood vaccinations have saved enormous suffering. Do realyoolives

    Dear Curious:

    Anything is possible. you have used the word I think three times so far. It is good to be curious, and maybe you will find something that will have some promise. Until then, keep studying, work hard, and keep an open mind. Good luck.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Donna

    think its a bunch of “hooey” The government will never admit that vaccines are causing our kids to become autistic. If they ever did admit that vaccines are at fault, this country would go bankrupt from the amount of lawsuits! I suggest everyone read the article that RFK Jr. wrote called “Deadly Immunity”

    February 12, 2009 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Walter

    Gloria, my heart goes out to you. God bless you for your devotion to your son. I hope medical science will find ways to make both your lives easier. However, I disagree with you on your belief that vaccines are to blame for your son's autism. Contrary to your statement " ... why do they continue to say that the vaccines have no possible side effects ...?" no one is saying that vaccines have no side effects. What exhaustive medical research has proven is that the vaccines don't cause autism. You base your belief on a logical error: All medications have a risk for medical side effects, therefore vaccines cause autism. You could just as easily use that logic to argue that vaccines cause warts, astigmatism, flu, scoliosis, and many other disorders. Science has some very precise and reliable methods to determine cause and effect - methods that are far more reliable than a parent's hunch. For your sake and your son's, I urge you to give up the belief in a causal link between your son't vaccinations and his autism. It very well may be that doing so will allow you to shed needless guilt over having provided him the vaccinations in the first place. And shedding that needless guilt will, in my opinion, go a long way toward a more productive outlook on life, and thusly a healthier outlook for your son.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Aspy mom

    My son also has a form of autism known as Aspergers Syndrome. He began exhibiting symptoms almost from birth and I am certain the vaccines did not cause it.

    I am please to report that with intense counseling, special education and the support of his family that he is now a fully functioning man that just turned 21. While I am unable to tell where his acting ends and real feeling begin most people meeting him would be impressed by his wide array of knowledge and may not even realize that he is "different".

    For all parents of children with higher functioning autism, help your child to understand that while they may live in their own world, they need to learn how to function in ours.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Timothy Reed

    It is easy to look at all the anecdotal evidence and come to the conclusion that vaccines and autism are related. A mother takes her healthy infant to get a vaccine...he later develops autism. A grieving person will always try to grasp "why did this happen; there must have been a cause" and it's easy to be fooled. Correlation does not imply causation.

    That's why you can't rely on anecdotes. Careful studies, looking at all the children who *did* develop autism versus ones that *didn't* have to be carried out. And they have. And study after study after study has shown that the link doesn't exist, as much as celebrity spokespeople and the anti-vax crowd claim there is.

    We're sorry your child has autism. We would like to find the root causes, and seek the means to prevent it. But as much as you *want* to believe it was caused by vaccines, the data doesn't support it.

    In the meantime, deaths from preventable diseases are rising because of pockets of unvaccinated children ... and not just them, but people they come in contact with.

    Quit relying on anecdotes and rationalizations and trying to figure it out yourself. The data has been collected. The link isn't there. Vaccines help far more than they hurt. Get your children immunized.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. John Washburn, MD

    All vaccines have side effects, as with any medication. The court never stated otherwise. What the court did was officially acknowledge the mountains of evidence that show no link between autism and immunizations. In fact, even after reducing thimerasol, autism rates have continued to increase. This is a matter that has been studied quite extensively and the link simply does not exist. As a result of these claims, many parents have delayed or outright refused to immunize their children, putting these kids at risk. I assure you, none of these parents have ever seen a child with H Flu meningitis, or tetanus, or suffer from infertility as a result of mumps.

    As with anything, there will always be anecdotal claims to the contrary, but anecdotal evidence does not equate to a definitive scientific link. I sympathize with parents of autistic children but I think it would be irresponsible to label the vaccines as the cause. The result would be decreased immunization rates and re-emergence of terrible diseases.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Steve (Irvine, CA)

    I've heard enough circumstantial evidence to conclude I will not allow any kids I may have to be vaccinated until they are old enough and developed enough for their bodies to resist possible side effects of the vaccine. I'll take the risk for the first few years that they may contract a disease. Period.

    Just as in everything created by humans, there is always a side effect whether it is proved by science or not. Everything is poisonous if taken to extreme. Perhaps vaccines are so for small developing kids. Prove they are not dangerous I say rather than prove that they are.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Geoff Hamer

    The Sunday Times of London is reporting the following today: Dr. Andrew Wakefield's paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism launched the British doctor to fame and fortune. However, new reports reveal that he may have faked the data, and in publishing the fraudulent report is responsible for the deaths of at least two children who failed to get vaccinated due to the scare.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. dee1234

    I have wondered if genes must play a big part in who might develop autism. If a parent or grandparent has say ADH and takes meds for this, might that somehow be passed on to fetus and if that fetus has the right gene or chromosone make-up mgith that not be a cause of autism?
    This is just something I have been curious about as I know families with a child on the spectrum and one or both parents or a grandpart/sibling has some form of ADH or similar developmental issuse.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Amy

    Wouldn't you be way more upset to have a dead child than a child with autism?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. A Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

    I think we need to stop chasing this, stop wasting money and causing public anxiety about vaccinations which save lives. Autism is not caused by vaccination; it is a devastating illness that has many roots in genetics and brain development. I hope this Blog will help to spread knowledge and facts about the research in Autism. I invite people to research BDNF and Oxytocin rather than wasting time researching an old question that we were able to answer, not only by us in the United States but by many researchers across the globe.

    A Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. dan

    I asked a co-worker who is from another country where they do not have a lot of vaccines for small children. He had never even heard of autism in his country.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Tannim

    Sorry, Dr. Gupta, but the court's reasoning is faulty. The cause of most properly diagnosed ASDs (and most aren't!) is simple body toxicity (as is most illness!), most common of which is heavy metal neural poisoning. That intake comes from a lot of sources, especially in the diet, and the chemical junk that is in the vaccines is the most concentrated and toxic. It's not just mercury, either. Aluminum is the second biggest culprit. Has it ever occurred to anyone besides me that Alzheimer's is simply a geriatric ASD?

    If vaccines are supposedly so safe, then why don't they go to a preservative-free oral or saline titer variety that can be kept refrigerated or frozen, without the chemicals like the formaldehyde and other toxins like animal organs in the solution, and simply use those? Europe does that regularly. The reason is that the shelf-life, and therefore the profit lines, are less. The point is that the crap in the vaccines is the problem!

    BTW, the Amish don't vaccinate and their autism rates are zero. It may be a correlation instead of a converse causation, but it certainly is no coincidence.

    One last thing: How many cases of true autism are there from un-vaccinated children?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Penny

    I am the mother of three children (one girl and two boys) with two them having Aspberger's: one boy, one girl. And, I, for one, am sick of this whole vaccine/autism link debate.

    The Poling case just infuriated me. The reason: it gave parents who were sitting on the fence just one more reason to put the rest of us – and our children – at risk by not giving their kids life-saving vaccines. In my opinion, these parents who decided not to give their kids their vaccines committed a crime of endangerment – not just to their kids but to their communities as a whole. I know firsthand about the pain, the sorrow and the daily struggles of autism. However, with my kids, I knew that something wasn't right when they were first born. They were too easily stimulated (rocking in a baby swing was often too much for them), playing a radio would "hurt" them physically (sensory integration disorder), they never looked at me directly, they always had to touch skin for comfort and their interactions between themselves and their peers were not age-appropriate. And..that was BEFORE they had their MMR vaccines.

    I do not believe that vaccines are the root cause. It doesn't mean that there are not side-effects to the vaccines – that is why flyers are to be given out once they are received. However, to blame life-saving vaccines as the sole cause is ludicrous. My heart goes out to all who suffer, but I choose not to suffer. My "Aspie" kids give me such joy that I wouldn't trade for any amount of money in the world. I wouldn't change a thing about them despite the hardships we've faced.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Russell

    Please google Dr. Paul Offit and see for yourself how corrupt these doctors have become. You will see that Dr. Pual Offit is on the payroll of big pharma and that he holds a patent on a vaccine. He also sat on the board at the CDC that reviews the vaccine schedule. He is frequently cited as an expert on vaccine safety but almost never disclosed that he has conflicts.

    I have been posting this information all day to CNN and they have yet to post it.

    Just go by your local pediatrician's office, pick up some vaccine literature, research the doctors and organization cited. You will see why families do not trust vaccines. I spoke with my child's pediatrician about the problem with his literature and he had no idea of the level of conflicts.

    The research does not exist to show a link because big pharma give too much money to doctors, universities, media, and politicians. Just pay attention to the commercials while watching TV.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Daniel

    It's pretty simple, really. Does autism occur more frequently in vaccinated children than it does in the population as a whole? While finding that it does wouldn't prove causation, it would certainly imply it. If it doesn't occur more frequently amongst the vaccinated then it doesn't cause autism.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. brett

    Dr. Wakefields original studies were funded by lawyers trying to sue vaccine makers. NO other studies have EVER replicated his results. There is no link. Sadly, as a pediatrician I now read daily about the children that are sickened or killed by vaccine preventable diseases. I know these parents are looking for a reason for their child's condition. Well, it is time to PLEASE look elsewhere and stop putting children's lives in danger with your heresay and lies.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Tom Davis

    1,500 people have been paid in excess of $1.18 billion since the inception of the program in 1988. – This is the KEY – there is always a RISK with vaccines, cross contamination, human error, manufacturing errors, ect... I wonder how much stocks these experts have in Pharmaceuticals?

    February 12, 2009 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Andrei Varney

    well the decisions must be given merit if three different special masters ruled on the same evidence which was provided to all three of them by the three petitioners. after reading the decisions, not only did the special masters (all three of them) determine that the petitioners seeking redress did not provide beyond a preponderance of the evidence, that the vaccine caused autism, they decided the the evidence they did provide was insufficient.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Jon

    IMO (not that I'm a doctor), it's more likley that the link between autism and vaccines is purely circumstantial. It's quite possible (and I'm sure being heavily researched) that there is a genetic developmental trigger in the brain that induces autism at roughly the same age as vaccinations are recommended.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. befuddled

    I think it is unjust to tell a mother who is extremely concerned about her child's lack of health that she is putting the entire world at risk when she voices concern and recommends not using vaccines. If we consider history, vaccines came along at the same time that sanitation practices increased greatly. Perhaps the vaccines have something to do with the near inexistence of epidemics we now experience, but likely the new sanitation practices such as hand washing, indoor plumming, ect have done much more than we give them credit for.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Nancy Hamilton

    Here is a link to the story in the London Times describing the case against Andrew Wakefield.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article5683671.ece

    It baffles me why this has not been reported on CNN or many other American News sources.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. David

    I have several friends with autistic children, and not one believes the myth of vaccine causation. The scientific evidence has repeatedly and overwhelmingly shown there is no correlation between the two. But, every time there is a new study, the anti-vaccine crowd grasps at the most absurd straws to dismiss it. There are new articles in Scientific American and Science Daily on autism, which none of the people will ever read for fear of being disproved. When I was a young man, in the 1960's, I worked in a very rural part of America, at an institution housing many autistic children. Most of their parents NEVER had their children vaccinated... colloquial evidence, yes, but that's all the anti-vaccine crowd relies on. And, the one thing they never touch, is truth.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Tamika Walker

    I was very religious when I had my children. A girl first, then my son. At first I didn't get any vaccines for my children because I was instructed by my "church" not to. However, when it was time for my children to attend school I was very worried about their interaction with other children. So I went ahead and let my son get ONE SHOT, and both my children the oral vaccine.... (my daughter was not given any needle injections). My son, who was a bright and bubbly child lost all interest in his peers after the vaccines and would often lay on the floor and continue to organize and reorganize books and cars. Luckily for me, i noticed the change in his behavior almost instantly and was able to get a swift introduction to the world of PDD and with that proper treatment for my son who was diagnosed at 2 and a half with Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Other-wise Specified. My son is now 12 years old, makes good grades and full of life! He still has some social difficulties which are often not noticed by people who don't know him. I truly believe that if i had continued to blindly have my child injected with whatever IS IN THOSE vaccines, my son's outcome may have been very very different!

    Furthermore I would like to introduce the ideal that the body has a natural ability to protect it's self, case in point is both my children, 14/12 have survived WITHOUT the vaccines. Maybe we should consider trying to live without the MED's and a way of life, with vaccines as a "ONLY IF NEEDED" plan of action. My heart goes out to countless families, who do what is sold to them as "the right thing" only to have their children lives destroyed and dreams of the parents turned UPSIDE DOWN. And why? For money.....pieces of paper that mean nothing compared to the tons of lives that have been and continue to be sacrificed. Please save the children! Save the children, save the world.
    Proud and AWAKE Mom
    Tamika.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. JC in SC

    Tom
    Facts are comments made by people who present themselves as knowing what they are talking about.
    The facts, as I see them, are that vaccines have a very high benefit-to-harm ratio. Millions are administered and small numbers of those receiving the vaccines demonstrate harmful side effects (That's not to say that there are no side effects, but not at detectable levels i.e., sub clinical). So, should vaccine administration be stopped? Probably not. Do vaccines cause irreparable neurological side effects in a small percentage of recipients? Absolutely!

    February 12, 2009 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Lynne

    When we have a sick child or one with a disability, it is natural to search for answers to why this happened. If you haven't had a child with an illness or disability – you simply can't understand it. However – we have to find answers that are valid. There is so much 'junk' science out there and it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. While I don't have a child with autism, my child has other chronic illnesses and I searched long and hard for a reason. I have finally accepted that I'll never know why. It's just there.

    Here's something to consider with the vacinnation debate. All kids get the same vaccines – so how come boys are much more likely to develop autism? Wouldn't we expect boys and girls to be affected equally if vaccines are to blame? And here's something else to consider. So often children receive vaccines at the same time they should be hitting developmental milestones. The fact that the child had vaccines and the milestones are not met doesn't mean that vaccines are the reason. While it seems reasonable to suspect the vaccine – science doesn't seem to be proving that.

    At some point I think we need to look beyond the vaccine debate and focus on early diagnosis, treatment, education, and insurance. Other causes need to be looked at as well.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. CLD

    The the biggest possible "trial" - using the entire US newborn population - has unequivocally demonstrated that the thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism. As Dr. Gupta notes, thimerosal has been removed from all vaccines for over 6 years. If thimerosal were causing the autism, the number of cases should have have gone down when thimerosal was removed from the vaccines. But the number of autism cases keeps going up. Thimerosal clearly is not the problem.

    A more likely cause of the problem is a change in behavior: The likelihood of autism goes up with the mother's age at first birth. The average age at first birth has been rising steadily, at a rate comparable to the increase in autism. And that is still going on, so a continuing increase would be expected.

    February 12, 2009 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.