Court of Federal Claims Rejects Vaccine Link to Autism

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The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has rejected claims in three cases that attempted to show a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the development of autism. Currently there are claims to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program on behalf of thousands of autistic children.

The program was designed by Congress to provide compensation for families whose injuries or deaths can be plausibly linked to a vaccine.

The claimants stated that because the vaccines are preserved with thimerosal, which contains mercury, a neurotoxin that can affect brain development in children, the resulting damage led to an autistic spectrum disorder. The vaccine, however, only contains a small amount of mercury and numerous studies have not found evidence that links vaccines with thimerosal and autism.

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Groups that support childhood vaccination were pleased with the court’s decision. Even some autism groups, such as the Autism Science Foudnation, back the court saying, “We all feel for the families, but we can’t lose sight of the science.” The advocacy group Autism Speaks said, “The proven benefits of vaccinating a child to protect them against serious diseases far outweigh the hypothesized risk that vaccinations might cause autism.”

Other groups were not as happy. The Coalition for Vaccine Safety (CVS), a group that represents over 75,000 families, believes that the decision was based on government policy to protect the vaccine program rather than based on the protection of children. They say that evidence was presented that proves that the three cases were linked to mercury toxicity and that medical interventions helped.

The group also cites recent evidence that one of the CDC researchers was implicated in embezzlement and forgery of documents, which casts doubt upon his ability for appropriate research.

Another group, the Coalition for SafeMinds (Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders), a non-profit organization to raise awareness of mercury exposure, was also expressed disappointment. “The denial of reasonable compensation to families was based on inadequate vaccine safety science and poorly designed and highly controversial epidemiology,” the group said.

Thousands more claims are still pending, but because of the most recent decision, they likely will be withdrawn or dismissed. The petitioners can still ask for a review of the decision and then appeal it to higher courts. They can also sue vaccine makers directly.

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