Do Vaccines Really Cause Autism?
Q: If the vaccine-autism link isn’t proven, why did the federal government recently settle a lawsuit alleging that a girl got autism from vaccines?
A: The reason for the settlement isn’t entirely clear. While many autism advocates hailed the decision as an admission that vaccines can cause autism, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went out of its way to dispute that notion. The agency insists that the research does not support a link between autism and vaccines.
The case concerned Hannah Poling, now 9, who was 18 months old when she received five shots at once that vaccinated her against nine diseases. Ten months later, she was diagnosed with mitochondrial-enzyme deficiency, a rare inheritable disease that causes brain damage and autism-like symptoms. The question put to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), a federal body established in 1988 to help control the slew of lawsuits against vaccine makers, was whether her vaccinations caused her autism symptoms, which didn’t appear until after she was vaccinated. The VICP conceded it was biologically plausible that the vaccines worsened her underlying disorder, triggering her symptoms. However, the case did not prove that vaccines can trigger autism symptoms in children with mitochondrial disease, only that common infections can set off the symptoms in these kids. (Hannah had endured several ear infections and fevers before displaying autistic behavior.) In fact, many mitochondrial-disease experts say that instead of avoiding vaccines for kids with these problems, it’s critical that they get vaccines to prevent devastating infections.
Next: Other factors that may contribute to autism