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. Researcher

    "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."

    Autism is nothing like heavy metal poisoning. This was actually one of the points made in the first set of the omnibus proceedings.

    The number of vaccines have increased, but mercury has been gone out of them for almost 8 years and autism rates continue to rise. This argues against any association.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Kelly from Indiana

    I have a 3 year old son who is Austic, our first and only child. When my husband and I went to our doctor and asked about the shots, his comment was,"That they are safe and I gave it to my son and nothing happened." (who was a year older than mine). At the time of my son's 2nd well-care check-up, I expressed my concern for his regression. He then set me up with an appointment for a brain doctor, the very one he took his own son too.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. erdoc

    Childhood vaccination represents one of the more controversial issues worldwide and will continue to remain so despite the latest Vaccine court's statement.
    Check out one of the current articles on Health WorldNet http://healthworldnet.com " To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate " where this issue is explored in depth.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sonny

    Nancy Hamilton February 12th, 2009 5:08 pm ET

    I don’t know who you are but I am using the information superhighway to give you an “F” in critical thinking. You can NEVER prove a negative. It is a fundamental impossibility.

    Although I may fail in my attempt to prove that you ARE a space alien. There is no way on God’s Green Earth that you can prove that you are NOT a space alien. (Nanoo Nanoo)
    Uhhh Wrong!! Negatives can easily be proved. I can easily prove that you are NOT a man, just as easy i can prove that you ARE a woman. so why dont you give yourself an F as well.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bek

    Deb Quilter made an excellent point.

    I too wish that pediatricians would screen for or at least inquire about certain areas of development with all kids. I also wish that all pediatricians (and pediatric specialties) would read up and at least be aware of the current diagnostic criteria. Lots of pediatricians, from my experience, still have a very old and dated stereotype as their criteria and many kids have delayed diagnoses and are delayed in getting help that can make a difference, just because they aren't rocking back and forth in the corner, grunting. I just wish everyone would be aware that the word "spectrum" actually means something.... Every kid is different.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. B. Mull

    People have this idea that vaccines are this incredibly unnatural thing that can cause havoc with the human body in trace amounts. News flash: There are thousands of chemicals in our food and in the air we breathe. Often we don't even know what they are. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi are everywhere around us.

    I believe one thing about vaccines: they can stir up your immune system and cause a fever. So can the common cold. If everyone had to get a cold precisely at 2, 4, 6, 12, 18 months, etc., we would surely be arguing that colds cause autism.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. joseph Moore

    I don't think anyone has ever said that Vaccines are without side effects. Fever, Fussiness, and other side effects are well known. What scientific study after study has shown though is that there is not a link between the vaccine and autism. This is not one of the side effects of the vaccines.

    February 12, 2009 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Tannim

    Dr. Mary Megson wrote:

    "Autism is caused by a sequence of events that disconnect calcium signaling at the cellular level. Pertussis toxin, yeast proteins, measles virus, clostridia toxin and metals all affect calcium signaling. Parents give a history of disorders associated with a G inhibitory protein defect. When pertussis toxin is given they lose the closure switch for L type calcium channels. Measles lands on cell wall receptors and opens these channels. The mercury in vaccines blocks their ability to take calcium in and out of storage within cells. As long as we don’t look at this sequence of events that is disconnecting cell signaling autism will remain a mystery. Many children in my practice recover on nutrients that restore cell signaling. One in six children are disabled. This is bigger than one lost case in court, this is destroying Americas future. The truth is staring us in the face and won’t go away."

    Dr. Megson, what are the nutrients of which you speak? You back up what I've been saying for years, but it sounds like you also have a treatment that seems to work. That is important.

    February 12, 2009 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Tia McLucas

    I'm a parent of an autistic son. Yes day to day life is challenging.

    My son was vaccinated, so are both of his younger siblings, and I will vaccinate my baby that I'm pregnant with now. I have a brother with an immune deficiency disease he depends on herd immunity to keep him alive. The flu- chicken pox- what some deem as unnecessary vaccines? If he got these diseases he would die. Its that simple. So would the majority of people who are receiving cancer treatments or have had transplants. If I don't vaccinate my children I'm not just risking their lives I'm risking many many others. And I would rather have my son with autism who is living then one who died from a preventable disease. (Think it can't happen? What about the 7 month old who died earlier this year from HiB?)

    My son has had autism since he was born, yes we didn't really notice it until he was around 18 months (which is normally when children receive the majority of vaccines, which is possibly why so many think vaccines = autism because around 18-30 months is when autism really shows its ugly head.) however, now that we know what to look for, we can watch videos of him as early as 6 weeks old and see the signs- about a month before he had his first vaccination. There is a study being done that observes how children learn to roll over and crawl (again long before vaccines) and it is being proven that children with autism many times learned to roll over and crawl differently.

    There are so many things that can cause autism. People say look at Denmark- they have lower amounts of vaccine and lower amounts of autism. They also have a different diet then us. For example they began to give their children cow's milk at 9 months instead of a year. So is cow's milk earlier the cure for autism? Any autistic parent who has cut dairy out of their children's diet and saw improvement in autism would complete disagree with that statement. The GFCF diet does work with some but not all autistic children. It is the same with other diets and supplements. Sometimes they work, other children they don't. In the same vein there is probably many many factors that cause autism or predispose a child to have it. Let's move on, let's look at other routes, vaccines are probably the most researched route, all the parents who don't believe any study done accomplish is more funding to be taken away from looking at other causes so we can do yet another study into vaccines = autism. As a parent of a child who has autism that was clearly not caused by a vaccine I'm tired of hearing this "link" I want answers, I want new treatments for my son not more money spent on a dead end road.

    February 12, 2009 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mike

    I guess these people claiming a link have failed to notice that ASD is also found in populations in which the infants are not vaccinated (Amish, etc.) What caused this ASD then? Hmmmm....silence....

    And how about those infants in the general population that develop ASD but their parents declined their vaccination, again, what is the cause? Silence again......

    I truly feel bad for these parents who have children with ASD, but finally there has been a muffle to the screaming. To the diehards...you will never be convinced...but neither were many people when science showed that the world wasn't flat....come to think if it, some still claim that it is.

    February 12, 2009 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Doctor Mike

    Dr. Mary Megson – What you said sounds great except its a load of bunk. You can postulate all the complex mechanisms you like, but in the end if there is no link between vaccines and autism, as numerous studies have now proven, then there's something wrong with your math. When you make a comment like this "Autism is caused by a sequence of events that disconnect calcium signaling at the cellular level." you need to qualify it with a BIG "in my opinion" because this is not accepted scientific fact or theory. Its especially important to do so when you put "Dr." in front of your name. Whether you are an MD, PhD, or you have a "a mail order degree" that allows you to call yourself doctor, with the use of those two letters comes responsibility. Those letters require you to be factual, not just opinionated.

    February 12, 2009 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Tracy Mayer

    I am so happy to hear about this court ruling. Autism is not caused by immunizations. I have two sons, 19 and 6 who are both severely Autistic. My older son was immunized and I refused to immunize my younger son. He was not immunized until after he had received a label of Autism from Yale Child Study Center. Hopefully, research can now go in the right direction- a genetic component with some kind of trigger.

    February 12, 2009 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mother To Be

    Laura, KR, Cliff Court:
    Thank you for your comments. My first child is due in a few months and we've been struggling with the decision to vaccinate or not, and if so how much, how often, when.
    Why was there so much response to Gloria's comments and your educated and intelligent comments of your first hand experience are ignored?
    We need to widen the investigation: so ASD is probably not *caused* by vaccines but it seems very likely that for children who are genetically pre-disposed it is a *trigger*.
    It seems probable that vaccines are not a singular cause but a contributing factor (one of many factors including environmental toxicity which causes immune system disfunction).
    And please, until you have lived through this experience hold your judgements – it helps no one. (And for all you rational scientists that justify your skepticism of first person observation, I too hold an advanced degree in biological science and I would like to remind you that empirical observation is the cornerstone of the scientific method. It's not that these parents are crazy with a need to blame – they have observed data, they have formulated questions, and those questions are yet to be answered.)

    February 12, 2009 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ben

    There have been many comments in which people have asked legitimate scientific questions about this case, but fortunately they have all already been asked by scientists and you can find the results easily online.

    But I have a question for anyone who still believes that autism is caused by vaccines. If this is true, why couldn't this court be convinced

    February 12, 2009 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cesar

    My name is Cesar and I have son who just turned 12 months two days ago. We did not give him the MMR shots, until we get more research. Anyhow, all the comments here mention that their kids have autism, can we have any families who did give their sons the MMR, shot and did not see any difference in the behaviour or for that matter get austism. Thanks

    February 12, 2009 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sharon

    I am on the Spectrum – Aspergers Syndrome. I must say that this debate is wild. I already made a comment earlier as to where I stand on the vaccine vs autism debate, so I will not repeat myself. However, at the risk of going "off subject matter" I really want to voice just a few thoughts.

    First, to all the people who are referring to autism as if it were some horrific tragedy which renders the individual with no quality of life – please stop. The Spectrum is huge and the ranges of autism span across vast margins.

    Can I be honest and really say what I feel? Would all of you non- autistics respectfully listen to someone who actually lives with autism everyday? Do you know what I hear when I read these comments from parents who state that it is more preferaable to them to risk their children's lives & other citizens lives by not vaccinating because they want to prevent their child from being like me?

    Well, this is what I hear: I hear you saying that individuals like me are such a bother that you would opt for certain death (yes some vaccine preventable diseases result in certain death!) than to have a child with autism. QUESTION: If a doctor told you that your child needed both arms amputated in order to prevent their death (ie: cancer, etc) would you say "NO" and let your child ultimately die because the certain disability of a double amputee child would be too much of a burden on you?

    Is it easy to parent a child with autism? My mother would certainly tell you that I was definately a challenge. And bless her heart, she did it without the luxury that parents have today. Aspergers wasn't even an available diagnosis in the DMV IV when I was a child & I didn't even receive my diagnosis until adulthood. And BTW: I am parenting a son on the Spectrum too! Yes my teenager has Aspergers as well. So don't think for a minute that I cannot see this entire situation from both sides because I CAN!!!

    I will save my breath and say no more – except that I am going to give my mother a call as soon as I submit this comment and tell her how much I love her & respect her for being the most selfless, dedicated, unselfish mother an autistic daughter could ever wish to have! I am happy I read all of these comments.....I've never appreciated my mother more! http://www.sharondavanport.com

    February 12, 2009 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. alice

    Just want to mention that Dr Gupta article points to the FDA website where it is clearly stipulated that there are 3 flu vaccines that do NOT contain ANY mercury AT ALL ( zero , nada) . So why don't we simply always use these ones ? next time I get a flu shot , I ll ask for one of these .

    February 12, 2009 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sharon

    I am on the Spectrum – Aspergers Syndrome. I must say that this debate is wild. I already made a comment earlier as to where I stand on the vaccine vs autism debate, so I will not repeat myself. However, at the risk of going “off subject matter” I really want to voice just a few thoughts.

    First, to all the people who are referring to autism as if it were some horrific tragedy which renders the individual with no quality of life – please stop. The Spectrum is huge and the ranges of autism span across vast margins.

    Can I be honest and really say what I feel? Would all of you non- autistics respectfully listen to someone who actually lives with autism everyday? Do you know what I hear when I read these comments from parents who state that it is more preferaable to them to risk their children’s lives & other citizens lives by not vaccinating because they want to prevent their child from being like me?

    Well, this is what I hear: I hear you saying that individuals like me are such a bother that you would opt for certain death (yes some vaccine preventable diseases result in certain death!) than to have a child with autism. QUESTION: If a doctor told you that your child needed both arms amputated in order to prevent their death (ie: cancer, etc) would you say “NO” and let your child ultimately die because the certain disability of a double amputee child would be too much of a burden on you?

    Is it easy to parent a child with autism? My mother would certainly tell you that I was definately a challenge. And bless her heart, she did it without the luxury that parents have today. Aspergers wasn’t even an available diagnosis in the DSM IV when I was a child & I didn’t even receive my diagnosis until adulthood. And BTW: I am parenting a son on the Spectrum too! Yes my teenager has Aspergers as well. So don’t think for a minute that I cannot see this entire situation from both sides because I CAN!!!

    I will save my breath and say no more – except that I am going to give my mother a call as soon as I submit this comment and tell her how much I love her & respect her for being the most selfless, dedicated, unselfish mother an autistic daughter could ever wish to have! I am happy I read all of these comments…..I’ve never appreciated my mother more! http://www.sharondavanport.com

    February 12, 2009 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kim

    Its the number of vaccines that is the main problem. Children receive 26 vaccines before the age of two. Just ten years ago it was half that amount.
    I wish someone would come up with a safe vaccine schedule, check for compromised immune systems in these kids and give one vaccine at a time.
    My son had 6 live vaccines at 18 months, started throwing up, stomach problems, lost language....autism.
    I dont think any of us are against vaccines. There are just too many of them given to little children at once.

    February 12, 2009 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rob Davis

    My son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was 8 years old. He was "different' from the day he was born. Even his cry in the nursery at the hospital was different. He did not sleep at night for years. There is no way that vaccines later in his life caused his autism spectrum disorder. The focus needs the be on the real "causes", treatments, and support for future success.
    The possibilities are there if the focus isn't on blame or endangering other children by frightening parents from vaccinating their children from deadly diseases. My son just graduated from college with honors and has been accepted into graduate school. At one point we were told that he could not be taught and would need to be institutionalized. As parents, his mother and I chose not to believe that. Neither did our son.

    February 12, 2009 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. autismne

    February 12th, 2009 5:07 pm ET

    My relevant questions:

    1. "Have there been any studies that look into not just the side effects of vaccinations, but the rate at which they are given? Why can’t vaccinations be spread out?"

    The number of antigens introduced into a child via a needle is a tiny fraction of what he he exposed to when he breathes, licks his fingers, or eats pizza crust off the floor at Chucky Cheese. The live viruses used in some vaccines are weakened, and roughly 1,000 as powerful as a non-weakened virus. In other words, there is no known mechanism by which four or five or six vaccines can cause autism.

    2. How long are the tests done on vaccines? Do they periodically re-test these vaccines? Autism is a developmental disease and doesn’t appear overnight.

    Safety testing for all vaccines is ongoing. Adverse effects are self-reported by parents, and that information goes into a database that is continuous monitored.

    3. Do environmental changes alter side effects of vaccines?

    I don't know what this means.

    4. If thimerosal was taken out of MMR’s in 1999, why is the rate of autism still going up?

    Thimerosal has never been in MMR. Diagnoses continue to climb due to expanded diagnostic criteria for ASDs; more social services; increased awareness by parents, physicians and educators; and other reasons that have nothing to do with vaccines.

    5. Could it be environmental and genetic factors in synergy with some part of vaccinations that causes autism?

    Sure. It could also be the phases of the moon, or rap music. But there's no proof for those things either.

    6. Would the FDA be honest if vaccines did cause autism? Maybe they believe that 1 out of 150 kids with autism is better than an outbreak of polio or hepatitis.

    Such a conspiracy would involve millions of people in universities, governmental offices, news rooms and drug makers around the world. It strains credulity.

    7. How much pull do pharmaceutical companies have in the FDA? (this is a rhetorical question….)

    How do you measure pull?

    February 12, 2009 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Marie

    Vaccines did not cause my sons autism. No more than the fact that my partner displays autistic traits and every male in my side of the family is an engineer! My son, now that I know the signs, always had the "hallmarks" of autism from his early days. Even as an infant, I noticed he didn't gaze while nursing. He was an especially easy baby - always doing his own thing.

    I truly wish that all of this court time and lawyers fees were being used to make IBI therapy more readily available. My understanding is that in the US it's still considered "controversial", where here in Canada it's provincially mandated (but the wait-lists are insane!).

    My son went from non-verbal to saying things like: "mommy, going to the store and in the shopping cart going to buy lots of toys and presents!!" in LESS THAN a year.

    I really really wish the best for all other families who have an autistic child, but this is a false claim. The sooner other parents realize this and use this money to set up an ABA-based program or other program (DIR/Floortime, NET) the better!

    Fundamentally, does it MATTER why your child has autism? No. What matters is helping them reach their full potential.

    February 12, 2009 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. John

    I feel this ruling is just. Vaccines don't work in any way the same as normal drugs with side effects, unless you consider the side effect to be relative immunity. Most drugs work against the body's natural systems to prevent things like high blood pressure, etc. Vaccines work with the body to produce antibodies to ward off infection. Save contamination, there is little to no chance a vaccine would have a side effect other than making you sick (if you happen to have a weak immune system and a live virus vaccine). In any case, whatever developmental processes lead to autism likely occur during development and even before birth, not afterwards.

    February 12, 2009 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. john hemenway

    What is the autism rate in children who are not vaccinated?

    If no studies have been conducted to determine this, why not? It could be done with simple review of medical records, or even telephone canvassing. Why not add it to the US Census data?

    As a sample, what is the autism rate amongst religious groups that do not vaccinate?

    I believe no such data exists. Why not?

    What is our government and Big Pharma worried about if they are so sure that vaccinations does not cause autism. Do the study. NOW!!!!

    February 12, 2009 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Kirstin

    re Nancy Hamilton.
    I don't want to see an epidemiological study of the "dose-response" relationship of thimerosal and autism. Many of us just want a study of the rate of neurological disorders (including autism) in vaccinated vs. UN-vaccinated children in the U.S. Studies that compare different vaccine schedules or different doses of thimerosal in Denmark or England is like comparing apples to oranges. We really need someone to actually do a REAL study here in the U.S. with vaccinated vs. UN-vaccinated children. This would answer the question whether vaccines in general (not thimerosal or just MMR) cause neurological disorders in some of the children who receive them.

    February 12, 2009 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Twyla

    There is a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that inflammation plays a major role in autism. Studies published in respected peer-reviewed journals have found in people with autism:
    • inflammation in autopsied brains
    • inflammatory cytokines in the spinal fluid
    • auto-antibodies to the myelin basic protein that covers nerves
    • imbalance between various components of the immune system such as Th-1 & Th-2 cells.

    We have an autism epidemic. The huge increase during the past 25 years was recently confirmed in a study at UC Davis. This increase cannot be the result of genes alone. This increase has paralleled the huge increase in the number of vaccines received by babies and children during the same time period.

    We also have increased rates of severe allergies, asthma, and auto-immune disorders in today’s children. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/03/AR2008030303200_pf.html

    What could be causing this? We are giving an unprecedented number of vaccines – two dozen vaccines by the age of 2, and another dozen before school starts – containing multiple live viruses, aluminum, mercury, and a number of other ingredients. This is unprecedented in human history! The purpose of aluminum in vaccines is as an "adjuvant" to provoke a stronger response from the immune system. Are we over-provoking infants’ developing immune systems? Some kids seem able to tolerate this aggressive vaccine schedule, but others are not.

    February 12, 2009 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Twyla

    Many many credible parents are reporting vaccine injuries in their babies and children. These adverse reactions are summarily dismissed as "coincidental" and not studied by the government agencies and medical organizations who should be working hard to understand, prevent, and treat vaccine reactions.

    My daughter, a healthy toddler, had a seizure after receiving the MMR at the same time as the varicela vaccine. After that she had high fevers for about a month, and then always developed a high fever whenever she got sick. Nobody else in our family has ever had a seizure, and she never had a seizure before or since. But she was fortunate. She recovered. Her immune system was able to regain its equilibrium.

    A study used to be cited on the CDC web site from the New England Journal of Medicine saying that there is an increased risk of febrile seizures following both the MMR and the DPT vaccines. Encephalitis (swelling of the brain) is a known reaction to some vaccines. Here’s an interesting article about research on how viruses can cause seizures: http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/01/seizures-and-the-immune-system.html

    Here’s an interesting article about how injections are different from normal exposures such as eating: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1913/richet-lecture.html

    Many stories of vaccines causing regression into autism start with generally accepted reactions such as high fever, seizures, swelling at the vaccine site, screaming, and then are followed by loss of language and social skills, and sometimes development of health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease. These stories are very credible, and are told independently by so many parents from various times and places. There is more to this than "post hoc ergo propter hoc".

    February 12, 2009 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. CJ

    I was given my routine shots as a child and was diagnosed with ADD as a 12 year old. Do I blame vaccines for my ADD? No! ADD runs in my dads side of the family. I'm so tired of families blaming vaccines for their kids Autism. Autism is genetic. In utero, kids are predisposed of the Autism gene. Please look at genetics first before blaming something else.

    My friend is a D.O. and she told me that the mercury levels are quite low.

    February 12, 2009 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Twyla

    Can you imagine if the recent salmonella outbreak was greeted with comments such as:
    – All these reports from people saying they got sick from eating peanuts are just anecdotal! The plural of anecdote is not data! So they should just be ignored!
    – Just a coincidence! Don’t confuse coincidence with causation! Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy!
    – Studies show that there has always been diarrhea and stomach cramps and vomiting throughout history – no reason to blame the peanuts!
    – People who blame peanuts are anti-food! They don’t remember what it’s like to have famines! Food is a victim of its own success!
    – My friend threw up and she never ate peanuts! My other friend ate peanuts and didn’t get sick! So obviously peanuts don’t cause stomach problems!

    These are the kinds of things that people keep saying about autism and vaccines.

    Instead of reacting like this, our government agencies took reports of salmonella-related sickness seriously and investigated. They took poop samples and identified the bacteria. They interviewed the people about everything they ate and tracked down the source. If they had not done this, people would still be getting sick and even dying from the products of that contaminated peanut plant.

    But, as Dr. Bernadine Healy said, and as many parents have witnessed, nobody from our government agencies is studying children whose parents say they became autistic because of vaccines.
    There needs to be research on the injured children. Epidemiology is not the only form of science. Epidemiology is notorious for being subject to manipulation through selection criteria and statistical methodology.

    And, contrary to what some of you have said, one of the most important epi studies has NOT EVER been done: a comparison of health outcomes in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated kids.

    February 12, 2009 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Twyla

    Nancy Hamilton linked to an article by Brian Deer about Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Please read Dr. Wakefield’s rebuttal to at http://www.rescuepost.com/files/deer-response.pdf .

    Also read about Dr. Wakefield’s case at http://www.cryshame.co.uk/

    Dr. Wakefield is one of the few gastroenterologists who listens to parents and helps children with autism and severe GI issues. He has been unjustly pilloried for simply investigating his patients' health problems. We need much more doctor's like him.

    February 12, 2009 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Twyla

    Please please read these books:

    "Evidence of Harm" – By David Kirby

    "Changing The Course Of Autism – A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians" – by Bryan Jepson, M.D. with Jane Johnson; foreword by Katie Wright (daughter of the founders of Autism Speaks)

    "Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Development Disorder" – By Karyn Seroussi

    February 12, 2009 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jeff in Illinos

    anyone notice that most of the parents of autistic children on this blog who are completely against any idea of a vaccine-autism link are parents of Asperger's Syndrome children (many with others in the family having the syndrome as well)?

    They're called Autism Spectrum Disorders for a reason – they're different. It seems obvious there is a strong genetic component to Asperger's. It also seems obvious that heavy metal poisoning can be a trigger for other forms of autism. Obviously, it isn't affecting everyone, but take a genetic sensitivity or other environmental factors (i.e. diet – toxic foods for example will only exacerbate any health situation), and add in some mercury, or aluminum, or other toxins, and there could easily be a link. What we need to do is stop listening to the people making billions of dollars from this.

    February 13, 2009 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. George Friedman

    Trying to link a specific instance of anything to a cause when the likelihood of an occurence is recognized by everyone as being extremely low is a fool's errand or in this case a serious mistake on those trying to reach a decision. Proof will come in the form of statistics, not examining three specific cases.

    February 13, 2009 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Paul

    The direct effect of MMR vaccine may not necessarily be the the cause of autism, however, when you have or live in a state with the highest rate of autistic children it is not difficult to see that those states have highest number of mandatory vaccinations. NJ for example just added Flu shot to the list. And by the time child gets his or hers 18 month MMR shot the system is already overloaded and usually MMR becomes the trigger. And we should see that all reaserch in connection with vaccines has been done by FDA financed research facilities that are affraid to lose funding. By the way we all see how effective they are in peanut salmonella outbreak and prevention.

    February 13, 2009 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Laura

    : J Biomed Sci. 2002 Jul-Aug;9(4):359-64.Links
    Abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism.
    Singh VK, Lin SX, Newell E, Nelson C.

    Department of Biology and Biotechnology Center, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322, USA. singhvk@cc.usu.edu

    Autoimmunity to the central nervous system (CNS), especially to myelin basic protein (MBP), may play a causal role in autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder. Because many autistic children harbor elevated levels of measles antibodies, we conducted a serological study of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and MBP autoantibodies. Using serum samples of 125 autistic children and 92 control children, antibodies were assayed by ELISA or immunoblotting methods. ELISA analysis showed a significant increase in the level of MMR antibodies in autistic children. Immunoblotting analysis revealed the presence of an unusual MMR antibody in 75 of 125 (60%) autistic sera but not in control sera. This antibody specifically detected a protein of 73-75 kD of MMR. This protein band, as analyzed with monoclonal antibodies, was immunopositive for measles hemagglutinin (HA) protein but not for measles nucleoprotein and rubella or mumps viral proteins. Thus the MMR antibody in autistic sera detected measles HA protein, which is unique to the measles subunit of the vaccine. Furthermore, over 90% of MMR antibody-positive autistic sera were also positive for MBP autoantibodies, suggesting a strong association between MMR and CNS autoimmunity in autism. Stemming from this evidence, we suggest that an inappropriate antibody response to MMR, specifically the measles component thereof, might be related to pathogenesis of autism. Copyright 2002 National Science Council, ROC and S. Karger AG, Basel

    PMID: 12145534 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    February 13, 2009 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Laura

    : Pediatr Neurol. 2003 Apr;28(4):292-4.Click here to read Links

    Comment in:
    Pediatr Neurol. 2004 Jan;30(1):78; author reply 78.

    Elevated levels of measles antibodies in children with autism.

    Virus-induced autoimmunity may play a causal role in autism. To examine the etiologic link of viruses in this brain disorder, we conducted a serologic study of measles virus, mumps virus, and rubella virus. Viral antibodies were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in the serum of autistic children, normal children, and siblings of autistic children. The level of measles antibody, but not mumps or rubella antibodies, was significantly higher in autistic children as compared with normal children (P = 0.003) or siblings of autistic children (P <or= 0.0001). Furthermore, immunoblotting of measles vaccine virus revealed that the antibody was directed against a protein of approximately 74 kd molecular weight. The antibody to this antigen was found in 83% of autistic children but not in normal children or siblings of autistic children. Thus autistic children have a hyperimmune response to measles virus, which in the absence of a wild type of measles infection might be a sign of an abnormal immune reaction to the vaccine strain or virus reactivation.

    PMID: 12849883 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE

    February 13, 2009 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mark James

    For those who want to believe there is a link, no evidence will ever be enough. They will continue on with their tirade – tilting at windmills for no good purpose. I respectfully suggest that their energy would be best applied in other pursuits.

    February 13, 2009 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Dave J.

    I agree with Twyla's point above. Until I see a study that measures the incedence of autism (and other suspected vaccine related side effects) in vaccinated vs unvaccinated populations, I remain skeptical of the denials and "proof" offered so far. This does not strrike me as a difficult study to design. Of course, if it is done by the same groups currently raging against any parent that does not support mass vaccination, it will be of dubious value.

    February 13, 2009 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Tia McLucas

    To Cesar: My 2 older sons have received the MMR shot. Both spiked a slight low-grade fever (about 100.2- which is a fairly common side effect). In my son with ASD it did not make it worse. In fact other then the fever (that my son without ASD also had) there was no side effects.

    To Marie: Thank you my feeling exactly! The more funding on these studies the less that goes to proven therapies (like ABA!) that work.

    To Jeff in Illinois: I'm what you would call pro-vaccine, my son has autism- classic autism not Aspergers. He is the only member of my or my husband's families for as far back as we can research that does. Neither one of my other two sons have autism. My son that is autistic was born with it. Vaccines had nothing to do with it. He also because of family history had immunological screening done at 6 months BEFORE he received his vaccinations.

    To john hemenway: There has been a few informal studies done on religions that do not vaccinate. The difficulty is this- there are very very few religions that don't. Certain Amish do not (its normally more of a money issue then religious because they do not have health insurance for the most part and so many receive their vaccines at free clinics) , but as many as 70% of Amish children are vaccinated. Also of the religions that don't, some reject all forms of medical intervention and therefore well-kept medical records don't exist. In any study they have done- there have always been cases of unvaccinated children having autism. There hasn't been a broad study done that I know of yet that can give exact percentages.

    February 13, 2009 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Michele

    I am a public health nurse. Probably one of the most challenging aspects of our profession is ensuring that when our families do "research" on vaccinations, they are receiving information from a credible, medical source. If you were looking to buy a car, you would probably contact the Canadian or American motor association for credible, independent advice about a reliable vehicle. So why do parents continue to bypass the American pediatric society, Canadian pediatric society, and their local health authorities and choose to believe the information on anti -vaccination websites? I have read some of these blogs, and they are truly comical if you are reading them with a medical background. I have seen everything from people posting their name with a "medical degree or designation" that does not exist, to parents making statement about what vaccinnes their child received that they could not possible have had..such as a family claiming that their child had the MMR vaccine at 2 months of age and was harmed( MMR vaccine is not given anywhere in the world at 2 months of age). Themerosal (the "mercury") was removed from all routine childhood vaccines over a decade ago, yet I still hear parents lament over all the mercury in the vaccines. NO ONE has ever claimed that an individual could NOT POSSIBLY be harmed by a vaccine,but the risk of harm is incredibly low. Yet, I can guarantee if your child ends up in emergency with suspected meningitis or whooping cough, you are NOT going to be studying the product monograph to see if the antibiotic or other medicine that is being used to SAVE YOUR CHILD's Life will contain, thimerosol, alluminum, or any other "poisons" that some parents claim are harming thier children through vaccination. You think that getting the disease will make your child stronger? Then how come when there is a disease outbreak of the measles, mumps or meningitis, the health clinics suddenly get overwhelemed with calls DEMANDING that their non-vaccincated child (by chioce) suddenly gets the vaccine? It is because the risk of harm to their child then becomes real. I respect choice, and I think parents need to do what they think is best for their children. I only hope that these choices are based on sound scientific research and not illogical fear. Anyone can book an appointentment (in Canada) at their community vaccination clinic for the sole purpose of gathering more information.about vaccines. No health professional will, or should, force the shots apon you, or make you feel like a bad parent for wanting this imformation if you have not decided to vaccinate. For those parents who are trying to make a decision on whether to vaccinate, I hope you recieve the support and information you need. Good luck!

    February 13, 2009 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Kevin Brink

    As a parent of an Autistic son, I can only tell you that it is heartbreaking, hard work, financially devastating, and baffling. I watch/listen to my son cry inconsolably some nights. He cannot speak/communicate to tell me why he is crying. I try to explain to my neighbors that my son cannot help himself after they bang furiously on the walls of our apartment. I read comments from experts or novices about how autistic kids just want to be by themselves. I am certain that my son has not chosen this life. I have been to public school programs where they direct you to a broken-down, mobile trailer behind the school. Inside there are old taped together desks, dirty broken toys, and a loveseat, arms black from years of wear and stuffing hanging out one side. There is one trained teacher and one untrained helper for some 18 kids, most of which need individualized attention if there is any hope of them learning skills/progressing. I cannot help thinking that this is the best the "richest country in the world" can do. My vet's office is newer, cleaner, etc. and has almost a 1:1 ratio or caregivers to pets. We try Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, Play Therapy, Floor Time, sign language, and on and on without signficant results. The level of training from agency to agency varies dramatically and there seems to be a high level of turnover of therapists. I read about and occasionally try one of the myriad of treatments that have cured the child of the article's/book's child. I never find any reputable studies on the internet to support the author's claim however. I offer to fly out to see the author's child, but my offers are never accepted. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate – with schools, with my insurance company, etc. All of these things that I pay for in one way or another, and they do not want to provide/pay for any thing.

    If you have made it this far in my diatribe, let me close by saying that, to a certain extent, the vaccine ruling is irrelevant. We need to find the cause or causes to be certain to prevent one more parent from having to experience the heartbreak of watching their child suffer from Autism. However, regardless of the vaccine case ruling, we need more treatment, better treatment, better facilities, and we need financial support.

    February 13, 2009 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. sunny

    I would like to know what percentage of parents that have opted out of vaccines have children with autism. Now that would be telling, but I can't find any data for this, figures.

    PS. I have family member with autism.... gut instinct tells me this is from vaccines, I've done enough independent research to see that we can not blindly trust what the govt allows to be doled out.

    What is the answer? Less vaccines...does anyone know an autistic person 40 years old or older? I don't. Did we have these type of vaccines in our day? Some, but not all.

    February 13, 2009 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Rob Davis

    Virtually everyone I've spoken to, and everything I've read, indicate that autism is a brain "wiring problem". My son sees the world ( and everything) differently than I do. He sees things I never would have noticed. His visual and auditory senses are much more acute than mine. He is driven and obsessed by "what he needs to do". We have learned to deal with this, both my son and I.
    The degree that a brain has a "wiring problem" probably determines the degree of impairment. If a child's senses were more acute than my son's, it may prevent normaI reaction to the inputs and may block out everything else.
    I absolutely believe that my son was born the way he is and that it's probably an inherited genetic trait. I do not believe that any form of autism is caused by vaccinations. I am basing this on my personal research and the very instincts that recognized that my son was "different" on the day he was born.

    February 13, 2009 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Randy Crawford


    from – Randy Crawford 3701 Second St. #10 Coralville, Iowa 52241 (319)400-2837
    randycrawford52241@hotmail.com rancrawfo@hotmail.com

    The federal vaccine court is to be congratulated for ruling Feb. 12, 2009 MMR does NOT cause autism and other diseases. I have been using dozens and dozens of repeated doses of MMR for years, because it is the only thing that will alleviate my autoimmune disease processes. I know from direct experience that MMR is completely safe and free from side effects. It is effective to alleviate autoimmune disease, and works best when injected every day for weeks at a time. MMR works even better when given with other live virus vaccines like varicella and yellow fever. The stories that mercury combines with MMR in some weird way is also demonstrably false, because when I took a dozen tetanus-diptheria shots with thimerosal the same days I got MMR, there were no side effects either. When kids get sick about the time of getting a vaccine, it's only an event that would have happened anyway and had nothing to do with the shot– like with a million people watching TV today some will have heart attacks next week, but the heart attacks would have happened anyway and had nothing to do with watching TV the week beforehand. Now that the courts have ruled intelligently, doctors don't have to be paranoid about using MMR and they can help more people with multiple MMR injections. And that's good for people who need relief from autoimmune disease. MMR works against autoimmune disease by acting as an immunodistractant to down-modulate eosinophils, neutrophils, lymphocytes, and other leukocytes.

    February 13, 2009 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Christopher Wunsch

    As a former critical care registered nurse, and more recently a disabled 40 year old man, I know first hand about Pharma side effects. I was on Lipitor for high cholesterol for 3 years, and developed Mitochondrial Mutations of my Mitochondrial DNA, with Neuronal Apoptosis (Brain Cell Death) as a direct result of my LIPITOR use. Nowhere will you find this listed as a potential effect, unless you are part of a STATIN EFFECTS Study and your case is presented to Dr. Doug Wallace of the UC Irvine, one of the worlds foremost mitochondrial experts, who opined that LIPITOR was the causal contributor to my Mitochondrial DNA mutations as well as the neuronal apoptosis evidenced on Electron Microscopy of my brain Biopsy.
    I for one will never again trust anything from our FDA, there is much credible research out there if you sift through it objectively, and read every part of it.
    My heart goes out to any and all patients and families who have been let to believe the junk science pushed on medical doctors by salesmen for the BIGGEST WHORES in the world, big pharma.

    February 15, 2009 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Gladys Vazquez

    As a Pediatrician in private practice, the autism – vaccine link has long been resolved for me.Before this special vaccine trial, the evidence has long been known to the medical community -there is NO link .More important than this trial is the news reports from the Times of London that Dr Wakefield was working for Trial Attorneys when he wrote his controversial paper and that he changed results of his study to make a point for his financial gain.He is now getting a large salary here in the US as head of an Autism foundation. He and others like him stand to make Huge sums of money by keeping this controversy alive.Until he is sanctioned and exposed for the quack that he is,autism rsearch will continue to waste money barking up the wrong tree

    February 15, 2009 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. roose

    As a autism therapist,I can tell you that autism is a "relationship"problem.The best way to help autistic children is to help PARENTS by telling them what's the^problem.

    February 19, 2009 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. chad

    Mike Z is absolutely correct. No one is saying that vaccinations are without side effects but so far there has been no convincing evidence that autism is caused by vaccinations, whether it be the MMR vaccine or thimerosal. What is known is that those diseases can be deadly, take measles for example: there are several potentially deadly side effects of measles but likely the worst side effect is encephalitis which is much worse than autism and occurs in about 1:1000 cases of measles. Many people haven't seen the diseases that are vaccinated for so do not fear them. Another good example is polio, read about polio in the 1950s and it was a horrible disease crippling millions of people and putting people in an iron lung sometimes for decades. They built whole hospitals to house the people that had polio. Fortunately a vaccine came out to prevent polio. There were side effects with that initial vaccine (the oral vaccine) and the main side effect was polio itself but at a much, much lower rate than the people who didn't get vaccinated. Now we have an injection version which does not have that side effect. Unfortunately as humans we more often than not succumb to the emotional argument and so when Jenny McCarthy gets on her soapbox we listen.

    February 20, 2009 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Doc_A

    Finally, the reason prevails. Maybe there will be fewer of those who irresponsibly endanger my daughter's health by sending their unvaccinated kids to her school. Or have we forgotten why do we need vaccinations?

    February 23, 2009 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Katherine Snyder

    I am Colten Snyders mother and YES vaccines do cause Autism. As far as The "special masters" rulings this is what I think. Listen to the words from John Mayhers song Waiting on the world to change. "When you trust your television what you get is what you got, cause when you own the information you can bend it all you want, that's why I'm waitin', waitin ' on the world to change. The song says it all. We can't even trust these people to keep us safe from peanut butter. Until you have lived the story you will never know the scope of it.

    February 23, 2009 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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