Autism and Vaccines
Individuals living with autism need help today. There is a clear and present need for the government, scientific, medical and autism communities to probe further into all possible environmental causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in a fair, unbiased and thorough way, particularly because findings may help us approach treatment and prevention more effectively. Research needs include, but are not limited to, research into the causal or contributory relationship to autism that may be attributed to thimerosal containing vaccines (TCV’s), the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) inoculation and/or a combination of the two. The interaction of these vaccines with other potentially contributory environmental factors and vulnerabilities also needs serious investigation.
The Autism Society strongly believes that:
Read more on autism and the environment.
- Vaccines administered to children, teens and adults must be safe;
- More unbiased and credible research needs to be done to:
- ensure and optimize safety,
- identify those who are at higher risk of injury and develop and implement appropriate accommodations for them,
- avoid injury altogether, and
- prevent unnecessary overexposure;
- All those who are vaccine injured need to be justly compensated;
- Development and availability of treatment for injuries from environmental factors, including but not limited to vaccines, needs to be prioritized.
Vaccine safety and the Omnibus Autism Proceeding
(A brief synopsis)
The FDA Modernization Act of 1997 mandated a thorough review and risk assessment of all mercury-containing food and drugs manufactured, sold or distributed within the US. Subsequently, vaccine manufacturers responded to FDA requests to provide detailed information about the thimerosal content of their preparations in December 1998 and April 1999. Upon conclusion of this review, the FDA, in conjunction with the other members of the US Public Health Service (USPHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in a joint statement with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), concluded:
At the time of our review, vaccines containing thimerosal as a preservative could expose infants to cumulative mercury at levels that exceed EPA recommendations during the first 6 months of life. […] However, reducing exposure to thimerosal from vaccines is merited given the goal of reducing human exposure to mercury from all sources, the feasibility of removing thimerosal as a vaccine preservative, and the desirability of ensuring public confidence in the safety of vaccines.” (emphasis added)
The Omnibus Autism Proceeding
In 2001, after several years of investigation with respect to providing legal relief to families affected by ASD, parents began filing petitions for compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), alleging that certain childhood vaccination preparations might be causing and/or contributing to cause ASD or neurodevelopmental injuries.
Specifically, it has been alleged in the pleadings that ASD or similar neurodevelopmental disorders to may be caused by:
The Office of Special Masters (OSM) held a series of meetings in mid-2002 with an informal advisory committee to address the task of dealing with these claims and issued Autism General Order #1 on July 3, 2002, in which it established the procedure for addressing the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. Petitioners’ attorneys then initiated an extensive discovery process that has, for the most part, concluded.
As of May 2, 2008, over 5,300* cases alleging a causal relationship between such vaccinations and ASD have been filed in the NVICP. Of these, 5,007 cases await adjudication. Some petitioners have withdrawn, as is their statutory right, and are pursuing claims against vaccine manufacturers in civil court, and some claims have been dismissed because they were filed after the statute of limitations had expired.
The first evidentiary hearing for a test case was held June 11-26, 2007. The Petitioners’ Steering Committee and the Secretary of HHS, through the US Department of Justice, presented expert testimony concerning the “general causation issue” for the combined theory (both MMR vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines caused autism), and also the specific causation issue in the first of three test cases for that combined theory. Hearings in the other two test cases for the combined theory were held in October and November of 2007. The special master’s decisions with respect to the first theory and three test cases are not expected before the summer of 2008.
On May 12, 2008, the Court began a 3-week hearing on the general causation issues for the thimerosal theory. Evidence in two test cases for the second theory is now being presented.
As was true in 2007 for the first theory’s general causation hearing and test cases, the public can listen to the hearing by registering on the Court’s web site (see below). Final decisions on the general causation theory and test cases are not expected until sometime in 2009.
Proceedings on the third theory of causation (i.e., MMR vaccine alone) await scheduling and further rulings by the OSM.
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- Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccinations;
- by the “thimerosal” ingredient contained in certain Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTP), Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellar Pertussis (DTaP), Hepatitis B, and Hemophilus Influenza Type B (HIB) vaccinations; or
- by some combination of the two.