Skip to comments.Panel Finds No Evidence to Tie Autism to Vaccines
Posted on 05/18/2004 11:56:40 PM PDT by neverdem
An examination of scientific studies worldwide has found no convincing evidence that vaccines cause autism, according to a committee of experts appointed by the Institute of Medicine.
In particular, no link was found between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine or vaccines that contain a mercury preservative called thimerosal. The committee released its eighth and final report yesterday in Washington.
Some parents of autistic children immediately protested. Mark Blaxill, the father of an 8-year-old girl with autism, said the committee's conclusions were premature. Studies are under way that should not be dismissed, said Mr. Blaxill, who is a director of the Coalition for SafeMinds, an advocacy group that finances research on the possible connection between autism and vaccines.
Representative Dave Weldon, a physician and a Republican from Florida who is an advocate for the parents, said the report was "based on preliminary, incomplete information and may ultimately be repudiated."
The report will not "put to rest the concerns of parents who believe their children were harmed" by vaccines, Mr. Weldon said.
Autism is a disorder of brain development that has been the subject of much publicity in recent years as parents and researchers hunt for its underlying cause or causes. The issue has been fueled by a rise in the number of children found to have autistic traits in the last decade, though experts disagree on how large the increase is.
Dr. Marie McCormick, a professor of maternal and child health at Harvard who led the investigation, said that most "parents should be reassured" and should not worry about getting their children vaccinated. In the meantime, she said, research on autism should focus on "more productive" areas, like genetic and environmental factors. The debate over vaccines and autism began five years ago when a British researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, reported that a small number of autistic children had signs of measles infection in their intestines after getting the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.
A separate dispute soon broke out when researchers noted that many childhood vaccines contained a mercury preservative, though the measles formulation was not among them. Could an increase in the number of mercury-containing vaccines given to infants be an underlying cause of increased rates of autism?
The Immunization Safety Review Committee at the Institute of Medicine, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences, was formed three years ago to examine those issues. The group, composed of expert physicians and scientists with no connections to the pharmaceutical industry, met nine times to gather evidence on the claims.
The committee emphasized that it carried out its mandate from a neutral position: the weight of evidence would indicate only whether it was possible to favor or reject a link between vaccines and autism. "You can never really prove a negative," Dr. McCormick said.
In 2001, the committee issued two reports. The first concluded that the measles vaccine was not likely to cause autism based on the epidemiological evidence. The second found that there was not enough evidence to reject or accept a causal link between vaccines with mercury and neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. To be on the safe side, it recommended that infants get vaccines without mercury preservatives. By 2002, mercury had been removed from most childhood vaccines.
The report released yesterday was based on previous evidence and new studies since 2001, and goes further than ever in discrediting claims that vaccines cause autism. On the subject of vaccines with mercury, five epidemiological studies worldwide show there is no evidence of a link with autism. Three studies found evidence, but the committee said the research methods were flawed.
As for the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, 14 epidemiological studies have shown no evidence of a link. The committee dismissed two studies that did show a link as flawed. The committee examined a number of possible biological mechanisms to explain how vaccines might cause autism, but said that all were theoretical and that there was not sufficient proof.
Fewer children today receive vaccines that contain mercury, Mr. Blaxill of SafeMinds said, so if the mercury hypothesis holds true, rates of autism should fall in the next couple of years. The number of cases in California, where autistic children are carefully tracked, declined slightly in the last six months, he said, but it is too soon to know if the drop is a trend.
Autism is notoriously complex, Dr. McCormick said. Many scientists believe that it may involve numerous genes that appear to interact with a variety of environmental factors and other nongenetic influences.
In other words, a shill for the trial-lawyer pirates. He and his group be damned.
I hope this leads to a lot of lawsuits by pharmaceutical companies to reclaim the money the plaintiffs and their lawyers collected by fraud and lies. RICO would be a good idea too. We need to use the lawyer bastards' own tools to destroy them.
Sounds like a big corporate CYA, if you ask me.
I have no idea if there is a link or not, but something is causing much higher levels of autism in the past 20 years. I hope they keep searching for a cause, so that some day there may be a cure. Nothing will help my son, but maybe some parents in the future...
After reading the complete WaPo article and the NY Times version, I would appreciate comments about which was more informative.
As a research virologist, Im very skeptical of this panels conclusions. The feds tell us that mercury emissions from power plants must be lowered, they are dangerously high. The feds tell us that pregnant women should not eat tuna fish because it contains dangerous levels of mercury. And yet, the feds will NOT admit that injecting, on average, 25 micrograms per shot (this is thousands of times higher amounts than could be found in tuna or the air) of mercury directly into the bloodstream of infants for the last 30 yrs just might cause health/neurological problems?
Maybe, just maybe, the panels scientific conclusions are flawed, and the other studies showing a link between mercury and autism are correct?
Also, dont trust scientific studies high-lighted in the NYT or WaPo, these are not the best places to obtain factual scientific conclusions.
There are also much higher levels of Type 1 diabetes than a few years ago (which I and my sons are very, very familiar with). There are also much higher levels of various other auto-immune diseases. Vaccinations have been blamed for those too.
I doubt it. Modern medicine is allowing many more people to survive and pass on their genes (both strengths and weaknesses) than was possible in the past. Is it really any surprise that more and more recessive genes (which would have died out in the past) are getting together and causing problems today.
Back in the 1930's a person with Type 1 diabetes would be dead within a few months. There has been 2 ot 3 generations of people who have that problem and who have lived to breed since then.
The entire world would benefit from a complete understanding of the conditions that lead to autism and of the physical conditions that define autism. Restricting research to the study of the possibility that vaccines are the root cause of autism, may well be channeling limited resources away from much needed research in this area.
Even given that vaccines may turn out to be the missing link in the mystery surrounding the onset of autism, there may still be other events that occur simultaneously with the administration of the vaccine. For instance, are 18-month-old's particularly vulnerable to allergic reactions or to a common virus on surfaces in doctor's offices?
In other words, the vaccine should be viewed as a clue, but the entire circumstances surrounding the onset of autism should be examined. (Incidentally, in order to properly research a brain condition, it is important to narrowly determine the physical or genetic markers that define the disease.)
Sounds like a big corporate CYA, if you ask me. The companies making vaccines rarely profit from vaccine production, except maybe the flu shots. If there is a "CYA" out there, you might be better off looking at the CDC, or the virologists involved in vaccine research. The general theory in most widespread, government programs is this: "the good of the many outweighs the good of the few".
In conclusion, it would behoove all interested parties to push for research that does not focus on one "suspect" cause. Finding the true problem will undoubtedly reveal the causal agents, whichever they may be.
Ping to you, sweetie!
Actually, that part is a PETA-pushed agenda.
One would think that you, as a research virologist, would know that vaccinations are not injected directly into the child's bloodstream, but rather intramuscularly - almost always in the thigh...
University of Michigan declares that "MMR Vaccination Does Not Cause Autism" based on this evidence:
Summary of Key Evidence
498 children with autistic spectrum disorders were identified in the NE Thames region of England. Immunization information from a computerized data base were obtained on these children.
*In a Poisson regression analysis, no step up in the incidence of autism were noted for those born after the initiation of the MMR vaccine in 1988.
*The age at diagnosis of autism was compared for those immunized, unimmunized, and with late vaccination. No change in the age of diagnosis was detected.
*Using the case series model derived by Farrington, no temporal association was found in the diagnosis of autism and the MMR vaccine.
*The case series model is applicable when the overall incidence of disease is low.
Now if the vaccine isn't responsible for the increase in autism, what is? I gather one theory is that the age of childbearing has gone up in recent decades. Another theory is that in California, where autism has experienced a particular increase, more engineers are marrying other engineers, and the left-brain engineering personality type is associated with autism.
Research is being conducted along MANY lines. Vaccines are only one possibility. The temptation to want a quick and easy answer where blame can be placed at the feet of deep-pocketed pharm. companies may be leading more researchers to study vaccines, but others are pursuing several other leads.
What do you mean by "deep-pocketed pharmacuetical companies"?
Do you mean that accusing the vaccine manufacturers of causing Autism forces them to fund autism research to prove their innocence? Is that even constitutional?
You are of course correct, but the mercury preservative does not stay in the muscle cells, it eventually ends up in the bloodstream and is carried to other cells thoughout the body.
The cleverness of the human mind continues to astound me.
I mean that people only tend to sue parties that have substantial assets. You can't get blood from a stone. Autism treatments (like ABA) are very expensive ($50K/year). Desperate parents are willing to look in any direction to find a culpable party that "caused" their child's autism; a pharmaceutical company seems like an inviting target--if you can afford to bring a lawsuit. If the pharmaceutical company settles, you now have your ABA paid for, and there is the scent of vulnerability and guilt in the air, so others will come forward and try the same thing.
As parents of a sincerely autistic son, we gave up hope a while back, but I can see where some parents would want this to be true.
What is the preservative that contains mercury that you're talking about? I'm just curious.
Are these $50K treatments effective? Can autism be treated without knowing the cause?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.