Health Law

Special Court Finds Vaccine-Preservative Combination Didn't Cause Autism

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Ruling in three test cases, special masters appointed by the U.S. Court of Claims have found that parents of children with autism failed to prove that certain vaccines combined with a preservative caused their children’s neurological condition.

Special masters ruled there was insufficient evidence to show that autism is caused by a combination of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines and the preservative thimerosal, CNN reports.

One of the rulings, Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, involved Michelle Cedillo, who can’t speak and still wears a diaper at age 14, CNN says. Her parents said she was a normal toddler until she was vaccinated at the age of 15 months.

The parents had sought compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. If an alleged injury is not listed on a table, the petitioners have to prove the vaccine caused the problem under a preponderance of the evidence standard. Autism is not on the list.

Writing in Cedillo’s case, Special Master George Hastings Jr. wrote that the parents had failed to demonstrate that thimerosal and the vaccines can contribute to autism. Numerous medical studies “have come down strongly against the petitioners’ contentions,” Hastings said, and the parents’ experts didn’t match those presented by the government. “The expert witnesses presented by the respondent were far better qualified, far more experienced, and far more persuasive than the petitioners’ experts, concerning most of the key points,” he said in the decision (PDF).

Ruling in another autism test case, Special Master Denise Vowell said the parents of Colten Snyder had advanced theories of causation that were “speculative and unpersuasive.”

“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 six impossible (or, at least, highly improbable) things before breakfast,” Vowell wrote in the decision (PDF).

More than 5,000 vaccine claims have been filed with the U.S. Court of Claims, the Associated Press reports. The rulings released today by three special masters deal only with the combination of MMR vaccines and thimerosal. Other cases claim autism is caused by thimerosal vaccines alone, and by MMR vaccines without a thimerosal link, CNN says.

The decisions are posted at the U.S. Court of Claims website.

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