The Vaccine-Autism Link: Facts and Myths

Autism researchers say there is no link between thimerosal and the disorder.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 9:13 PM

June 11, 2007 — -- A federal court begins hearings today on the more than 4,800 claims by parents of autistic children that the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, present in certain routine vaccinations, led to their children's disorders.

It is the day that many of these families have pushed for since 1999.

Concerns about thimerosal's possible link to autism have gained publicity in recent years as the occurrence of autism in children has climbed steadily in the United States. Doctors have struggled to find a clinical reason for the increase. Because vaccinations are mandatory for all children at a certain age, some parents and doctors believe the vaccines indicate a common link that cannot be ignored.

However, current research weighs heavily against the premise of a thimerosal-autism link, as thus far a number of large scientific studies have shown no association between the two.

Most recently, a review of past research published this month in the journal Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases suggests "increasingly convincing epidemiologic and laboratory evidence against a causal relation of several alleged adverse events following immunization."

The findings bolster the position that has been steadfastly held by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that no link can be established between thimerosal and autism.

Prior to the summary, most physicians and researchers have agreed that the suggestion of such a link is likely baseless, as seen in their previous statements on the issue (responses collected from telephone interviews conducted in June 2005):