Skip to comments.Science trumps speculation: MMR not linked to autism
Posted on 04/12/2009 8:19:47 PM PDT by neverdem
A special vaccine court dismissed claims that the vaccine can cause the cognitive disorder.
The pitched debate regarding the purported link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine -- a battle viewed on both sides as critical to shielding the defenseless from harm -- took the encouraging turn for which many physicians were hoping and landed in favor of protecting public health.
At issue was the consideration by a special vaccine court of test cases to determine if certain hypotheses of how vaccines could cause autism were legitimate and, therefore, warranted compensation to the affected parties through the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
On Feb. 12, a panel of U.S. Court of Federal Claims judges, known as special masters, released its findings. The special masters ruled that the vaccines were not to blame. In doing so, they lined up on the side of a massive amount of scientific evidence gathered by diverse and unrelated groups of investigators from all over the world -- including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine -- that failed to find a connection between the vaccine and the disease. They also made clear the petitioners could not receive settlements through the VICP.
The vaccine court was right to reject the idea that the MMR vaccine, combined with the preservative thimerosal, caused the disabling autism that affects these children and their families.
Granted, the families confronting this reality every day are in a heart-wrenching situation. And their search for answers is acutely understandable. But science has long shown their arguments were misguided. The court's ruling will add momentum to efforts to redirect that search in a way that may lead to real progress in uncovering autism's causes, while not letting unfounded myths keep other children from receiving the proven protection from dreaded infectious diseases that vaccines provide.
That sentiment, at least, is the hope emanating from science, public health and organized medicine, including the American Medical Association. The AMA has long advocated the importance of childhood vaccination and worked to dismiss the flawed arguments that vaccines trigger autism. The AMA also urges that more research be done regarding the reported increase in incidence of autism, Asperger's and other pervasive developmental disorders and more training of physicians to enable them to identify these children and to assist families in accessing early intervention services.
It was from a mountain of research that the court's ruling flowed. A key element that makes the vaccine's court decisions so meaningful is the exhaustive nature of the proceedings -- tallying 5,000 pages of transcript and more than 700 pages of post-hearing briefs. The official record contains 939 medical articles, compared with the 10 articles cited in a typical vaccine case. In addition, 50 expert reports were filed, and 28 expert witnesses testified. By contrast, a typical vaccine case presents between two and six experts.
Thus, the court findings add significant weight to the already overwhelming body of evidence. It is important to note that physicians often recoil when judges make determinations about the practice of medicine. In this case, though, the court took on the task of determining causation based on evidence -- an inevitable question raised in light of the VICP -- and ruled with the strongest scientific backing.
This decision will not mark the last time the issue finds its way into a courtroom. The special court is still examining evidence regarding another causation theory that links autism with vaccines containing thimersol.
But many doctors in the trenches can view this development as a timely teaching tool -- and for good reason. It is one more authoritative voice helping to address credibly the tension parents feel about vaccination risks. After all, nearly 10 million doses of the MMR vaccine are distributed every year. At the same time, autism has become every parent's nightmare, and everyone hears the stories that fuel anxiety. But the court's decision, coupled with the scientific record, underscores the fact that vaccines continue to be one of public health's greatest accomplishments -- helping to protect against harm, not cause it.
The print version of this content appeared in the April 13, 2009 issue of American Medical News.
As a kid growing up, the only MMR we had was to actually get the disease.
I had all THREE! My brother had measles and mumps at the same time! My parents were pretty worried about that, but he made it through and is still kicking today.
The only thing I remember about it was that the doctor said it was good we got the mumps before reaching puberty.
I also had scarlet fever and survived that, too. I was about 7 years old.
One of my uncles survived a bout with Typhus, and another survived Rheumatic fever. One is 64 and the other is 76 and they remain in good health.
After WWII, MMR ceased to be “dreaded” diseases here in the States and were almost rites of passage for many of us who were elementary school age in the 50s.
so what’s the cause, I grew up in a big city and went to big schools and a big church and i never heard of anyone with autism. today, it’s one in 150 births.
Yes, I believe in science. I also believe in liberty, which must include the liberty to be wrong.
It wasn’t diagnosed properly back in the day and autistic children usually were classified as having some other disease or just weird or socially in-ept.
i don’t know, we had over 2,500 kids in high school and I’ve never seen one act like some of the kids with autism do today and this was during the 70s when special ed. was started and they were classifying everyone who didn’t seem average.
And who has mentioned the tons, quite literally tons, of illicit drugs gong into the bloodstreams of Americans every year, women of childbearing age included? How much effect is this having upon the incidence of autism, etc.?
What is the effect of repeated infections with STDs, lack of breast feeding newborns, abortions? And how can the later effects of these be tested for?
So you see it's not just too many environmental chemicals or lack of testing of medicines that may play a role in the incidence of childhood illnesses.
In some states, like NJ, it is around 1 in 60.
ping for later
And the Amish have their own health problems due to dangerous genetic disorders that get amplified when 2 carriers get married and pass it on.