Update: Here's CNN's coverage of today's news conference with the family of a little girl who has autism in Georgia.
Here's CNN's Sanjay Gupta on todays news conference about autism and vaccines.
This is the ABC story: Government health officials have conceded that childhood vaccines worsened a rare, underlying disorder that ultimately led to autism-like symptoms in a Georgia girl, and that she should be paid from a federal vaccine-injury fund. Medical and legal experts say the narrow wording and circumstances probably make the case an exception - not a precedent for thousands of other pending claims.
The government "has not conceded that vaccines cause autism," said Lindam Renzi, the lawyer representing federal officials, who have consistently maintained that childhood shots are safe. However, parents and advocates for autistic children see the case as a victory that may help certain others. Although the science on this is very limited, the girl's disorder may be more common in autistic children than in healthy ones.
Nearly 5,000 families are seeking compensation for autism or other developmental disabilities they blame on vaccines and a mercury-based preservative, thimerosal. It once was commonly used to prevent bacterial contamination but since 2001 has been used only in certain flu shots. Some cases contend that the cumulative effect of many shots given at once may have caused injuries.
Studies repeatedly have discounted any link between thimerosal and autism, but legal challenges continue. The issue even cropped up in the presidential campaign, with Republican John McCain asserting on Friday that"there's strong evidence" autism is connected to the preservative. Others said they doubt the Georgia case will have much effect.
No link between mitochondrial disorders and autism spectrum disorder has been made in mainstream medicine," said Dr. Michael Pichichero of the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., who has consulted for the government on vaccines and has received speaking fees from vaccine makers.Reported cases of autism have been rising in the U.S., even after thimerosal was removed from most childhood vaccines.
However, some experts believe the rise is due to an expansion of the definition of autism and related conditions, and a desire to diagnose children so they qualify for special services and aid.