"The government has made absolutely no statement about indicating that vaccines are the cause of autism, as this would be a complete mischaracterization of any of the science that we have at our disposal today," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a March 6 news conference on the Poling case. "I think we need to set the record straight on that."
Still, the case was viewed as an important milestone by autism groups that maintain that vaccinations are connected to autism.
"I wanted to know why my daughter, who had been completely normal until she received [five vaccines for nine different diseases], in one day was no longer there … no longer responding," Hannah's mother Terry Poling told the crowd of reporters present on the steps of a U.S Federal Court in Atlanta on March 6.
The Polings said Hannah received the battery of vaccines in 2000, when she was 19-months-old. Shortly after these shots, they said she suffered from a fever that left her screaming and arching her back. Following this, they said, Hannah began showing classic signs of autism — staring at lights, running in circles and staring at fans.
"I think that Hannah's case … is echoed among thousands of similar cases," Hannah's father Dr. Jon Poling, who is also a neurologist, told Chris Cuomo on ABC's Good Morning America. "I know a lot of other medical experts are going to get out there and say this is a very unusual, oddball case. We don't really think it is at all."
But health experts worry that fears about the use of vaccines could expose children to risk of sickness or death from other conditions, including measles and polio.
"These diseases that affected childhood are now not known by this generation of parents, so there's no balancing of concern," Schaffner said.
"Without vaccination, these disease will return, and they will spread."
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.