Court Says Vaccine Not the Cause of Autism

"I wish it [Thursday's ruling] were enough to quell the controversy, but I fear that it might not be enough," Trommer added.

On this point, at least, some opponents agreed.

"This is going to fuel the controversy. This could have the effect of further freaking parents out," said James Moody, director of SAFE MINDS (Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders) and a director of the National Autism Association. "Always in test litigation, you win a few, you lose a few. This [ruling] is unremarkable, although we would hope for something better."

According to Moody, the basic research needed to determine whether or not childhood vaccines are safe still hasn't been done, and, because doubt exists, the court should have ruled in favor of the families.

"When we ask kids to take vaccinations, we make a sacred bargain with them as soldiers in the war against infectious disease that if they are injured regardless of what the injury is, that we'll take care of them," he said.

According to Moody, families can also take their claims to civil courts.

Autism Speaks, an advocacy group for children with the condition, said in prepared statement: "Today the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ruled that the combination MMR vaccine -- with and without the preservative thimerosal -- did not contribute to three particular children's autism. These latest rulings are limited, and do not mitigate the need for further scientific investigation."

Thursday's decision follows a published report earlier this week that the British doctor whose 1998 paper fueled international fears of a link between childhood vaccines and autism had manipulated and changed the data to make his case.

An investigative report by the Sunday Times of London stated that Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues altered confidential and public records to support their claim that eight of 12 autistic children attending a routine clinic at Wakefield's hospital had developed symptoms of autism only days after they were given the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. But, almost all of the children had developed symptoms of autism well before receiving the shot, according to published reports.

Wakefield denied the allegations in the Sunday Times of London report.

Since Wakefield's original paper was published in The Lancet, numerous studies have failed to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

In February 2008, British researchers reported in the Archives of Disease in Childhood that their large study failed to uncover a connection. The researchers based their finding on a sample of 240 children -- 98 who had been diagnosed with autism, and two comparison groups: 52 children with special educational needs who were not autistic; and 90 children who had no developmental problems.

And a large-scale U.S. Institute of Medicine review in 2004 also failed to uncover a link between childhood vaccines and autism.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was created in 1988 as, among other things, a venue for resolving vaccine injury claims. In 2001, parents began filing claims contending that some childhood vaccinations could cause autism spectrum disorders. The Office of Special Masters issued a general order in 2002, establishing a procedure for addressing this so-called "Omnibus Autism Proceedings."

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