Special Education

Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, Court Says

By Christina A. Samuels — February 12, 2009 1 min read

A special court that was hearing cases by parents who said vaccines caused their children’s autism ruled against the families today.

The New York Times has a story here, as does the Associated Press (courtesy of USA Today) and The Washington Post.

The ruling comes as a blow to thousands of parents who were seeking compensation from the federal government’s vaccine injury fund. The parents were arguing that the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal, or the combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, prompted the onset of autism in their children. The federal government has set up a special “vaccine fund” that allows people who believe they have been injured by vaccines to seek restitution through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, rather than sue vaccine makers and put them out of business.

One special master in this case, George Hastings, came out strongly against the witnesses gathered by the parents of Michelle Cedillo, a 14-year-old with autism. His decision is here (pdf), and I strongly recommend reading it for a thorough understanding of the information presented. From part of Hastings’ conclusion:

After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the reports and advice given to the Cedillos by Dr. Krigsman and some other physicians, advising the Cedillos that there is a causal connection between Michelle’s MMR vaccination and her chronic conditions, have been very wrong. Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment. Nevertheless, I can understand why the Cedillos found such reports and advice to be believable under the circumstances.

The decision came just a few days after a story in a British newspaper that says a researcher who claimed a link between autism and the MMR vaccine in a 1998 study falsified his data. Measles vaccination levels in Britain are now so low that incidents of the disease are on the rise there.

Despite those two major setbacks, those who believe vaccines are linked to autism have not changed their minds. This is just another example of the government failing their children, they say.

This debate is far from over.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.