February 13th, 2009 by David E. Williams of the Health business blog
From The New York Times (Court Says Vaccine Not to Blame for Autism)
In a blow to the movement arguing that vaccines lead to autism, a special court ruled on Thursday against three families seeking compensation from the federal vaccine-injury fund.
In a case pitting the family of Michelle Cedillo, a severely autistic child, against the Department of Health and Human Services, the judge ruled that the Cedillos had “failed to demonstrate that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to causing immune dysfunction, or that the M.M.R. vaccine can contribute to causing either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction.”
In his decision, the special master, George L. Hastings Jr., ruled that the government’s expert witnesses were “far better qualified, far more experienced and far more persuasive” than the Cedillos’. Although the family had to show only that the preponderance of evidence was on their side, Mr. Hastings ruled that the evidence was “overwhelmingly contrary” to their argument.
I asked SimulConsult founder Michael Segal MD PhD, a pediatric neurologist, for his opinion.
The 3 decisions were about the evidence in individual cases. They are not a decision that there is no possible role for vaccines in any cases of autism.
Our best model of vaccines and neurological damage seems to be SCN1A gene mutations, where it seems that seizures would have begun anyway but are more likely to occur in the days following vaccination. There can be a big difference between a trigger and a cause if triggers are so common as to be unavoidable, as they seem to be for SCN1A mutations.
It is unclear whether the situation for autism will be similar, but it is useful to have models in mind to figure out what is going on, and hopefully to find ways of preventing such deteriorations.