Thursday, March 6, 2008

Autism and Vaccines

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.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


DJOT said...

I am a health care professional who works with many children with autism. I am not an expert on it but have attended numerous workshops, seminars, community meetings. I have read voraciously on the topic in order to educate myself so that I can help the children and families I work with. My understanding from all this is that the people who support a biomedical approach to treating autism believe that the causes and treatments of autism are both multifactorial. There is no one easy answer.

As a practitioner I see a pattern with many children, not all but many, who were normally developing and then regressed in development with onset of autistic symptoms. The theory of a pre-disposing genetic condition which is triggered by external toxins (not just vaccines, but environmental toxins in general) seems to me to be worth further investigation. How many other children with "autistic symptoms" are like Hannah? If children aren't routinely tested for mitochondrial disorders then how do we know that it doesn't exist in other children who are diagnosed with autism? What about other genetic conditions that might lie undetected only to be triggered by some external toxin - either in utero or after birth - to result in "autistic symptoms"?

My question is why does the mainstream medical community refuse to consider this as even a possibility? Perhaps this case will force the issue. It's about time. The answers can only be found by asking the questions. I hope this pushes research on autism in different directions so that we can find those answers.

Maria said...

Not just autism, but how can the government maintain "that childhood shots are safe" and then support a vaccine injury fund? Why shield the vaccine makers/developers from liability?

Anonymous said...

Re: autism & vaccinations;
The established medical profession has always resisted testimonial, "un-scientific" or "non-clinical" based reports that link an effect of a treatment that is observed by the families that actually go through the experience. Our son ( now 24) had a VERY severe reaction to the pertussis vaccination- extreme swelling at the injection site, pain, fever . We were up all night. I can tell you this, he was a perfectly normal baby before the injection and after the "shot" he went downhill and was diagnosed with autism. We were told he had to be institutionalized and would be on medications the rest of his life.( strange but not uncommon how the MD's are so quick to prescribe mind altering medications to any type of problem.)
We did not have our second son vaccinated with the pertussis mix .
Of course - none of this "is a controlled clinical study" but then again why would so many in the established medical oommunity ever want to admit or concede there is some cause and effect between the two . After all - that's not what they've been told. said...

I find it very interesting to hear from parents of children with autism. I welcome anyone to write in and tell their story whether you believe vaccines played a role or not. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

While the results in this case are obviously devastating, I am amazed and appalled that this happened to a child whose parents are health professionals. Where were their senses?

It shows how brainwashed the health care community is. While vaccinations are recommended and obviously safe if administered properly and on a reasonable schedule, would it not occur to anyone that the megadose of all at one time is extremely risky? If there are any health issues at the time the vaccination is given, the immune system can be even more compromised. I would not do that to my dog, let alone an infant.

Jeff said...

I am a dad with four children, three of whom are diagnosed with Autism. Personally, I feel that Autism is really a group of conditions that share symptoms. We (my wife and I) don't believe that vaccinations caused Autism in our children. However, as science progresses and specific cases are found (such as this one), we should use that information to help everybody. Perhaps it would be wise to test children for mitochondrial disorders before they're vaccinated.

I actually blogged my own opinion on the whole thing here

Shannon said...

Just pointing out that the little girl in this situation does *not* actually have autism.

She has a "mitochondrial disease with autistic-like symptoms." I don't know what that means - if it's not actually autism, or hasn't been diagnosed as such.

Some parents of autistic children on a message board I frequent are actually a bit upset about the connection..

I agree with djot.. I just wish the medical community would say, "you know... we might be wrong" instead of adopting a defensive, indignant attitude toward the safety of vaccines. said...

Can you send us the link to the message board or is it private?
I am interested in reading that. Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

To Shannon~

Yes, Hannah Poling was indeed diagnosed with autism, and her parents stated this verbatim in the press conference. THe health agencies keep using the term "autistic-like symptoms" in the press, however autism and symptoms of autism are one in the same. There is no specific lab test to diagnose autism, just observed behaviors and traits. Hannah's parents also stated that they did not know if Hannah's mitochondrial disorder was genetic or if it was acquired after vaccination. There is plenty of research showing that mercury exposure can cause mitochondrial disorder.

Jeffrey Dach MD said...

The Most Bitter Debate

Senator John McCain's recent comments linking autism with vaccines, and the recent revelations about the Hannah Poling case at the Vaccine Court have rekindled the debate about autism and vaccines. Hannah had an underlying mitochondrial disorder which raises the question of a link between autism, vaccines and mitochondrial disorders.

The association between autism and mitochondrial mutations was confirmed by Ricardo Segurado Am J Psychiatry 162:2182-2184, November 2005, and Dr. Pons at Columbia, J Pediatr 2004 Jan;144(1):81-5. and others.

Read more at:

John McCain Links Autism and Vaccines

Jeffrey Dach MD
4700 Sheridan Suite T
Hollywood Fl 33021
my web site

Shannon said...

Anonymous- I'm sorry if I misspoke or you misinterpreted my intentions. The story I had read said, "Her parents have declined to comment in the meantime because the case is not final and the payment amount has not been set."

I wasn't aware they had reversed that stance, I hadn't seen that they did speak.

FTR, I certainly believe in the possibility of a connection between vaccines and autism - so please don't misunderstand. I think there's a lot of compelling information out there that suggests some connection and I have made some choices for my family based on that.

Jen- the comment was made in the private section of a message board I belong to, but here's part of what she said: I don't see how this has anything to do with autism and I really wish they would stop using it in their headlines. I mean, good for this family who doesn't have a kid with autism, but leave autism out of it.

She is a mother of a chid with autism, and she said there was a difference between autism and what is described in this girl. So my bad for not looking into it further - (although, to be fair she was reading the same version of the story I was) although I think I did allude to some confusion and I was hoping someone would help me clear it up. I understand the difficulty in diagnosing autism - another friend of mine is encountering that right now. said...

Thanks for clearing that up Shannon. There sure are a lot of unknowns when it comes to autism and that is troubling.

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