Health Law

Vaccine Court Finds No Thimerosal-Autism LInk

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A special branch of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled today that the vaccine additive thimerosal is not to blame for autism.

Today’s rulings in three test cases that thimerosal alone does not cause autism follow a ruling last year that thimerosal in combination with measles, mumps and rubella vaccines do not cause autism.

Special Master George Hastings wrote in one of the cases, Mead v. Secretary of Health and Human Services that the theory and experts the parents of William Mead presented were “biologically implausible and scientifically unsupported.”

The so-called vaccine court was established to handle injury claims from vaccines, and the plaintiffs in today’s cases are more than 5,000 parents of children diagnosed with autism who were petitioning for settlements with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, CNN reports. The standard of proof is lower in this court: Parents did not have to prove that thimerosal definitely caused the disorder, only that it probably did. The vaccine court ruling can be appealed in federal court, the Associated Press reported.

In 2008, the government agreed to compensate the family of Hannah Poling, who claimed that a vaccine aggravated her autism. But the vaccine court said the decision in her case was not precedential because of the special circumstance of her mitochondrial disorder.

Concerns about a link between vaccines and autism first came up in 1998 when a British physician, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, published a journal article linking the measles vaccine with a particular type of autism and bowel disease, the Associated Press reported. The Lancet retracted the paper last month after Wakefield was found to have acted unethically in conducting the research.

Thimerosal has been removed from most U.S. vaccines, the Associated Press says.

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