Autism/Vaccine Link Ruled Meritless
> 2/12/2009 3:56:52 PM

Special courts recently ruled, in three separate decisions, that a group representing the parents of autistic children has no standing to sue the federal government for the conditions of their offspring because no scientific link has been drawn between infant vaccines and the occurrence of autistic spectrum disorders. The chief special master, or appointed attorney ruling on the case, held that the evidence presented on the group's behalf had "fallen far short" of demonstrating any sort of discernible link. Also particularly relevant to this topic is an independent report that has perhaps irrevocably damaged the credibility of the very study that started this furor more than 10 years ago. Thus ends the latest chapter in one of today's most emotionally fraught medical controversies.

These rulings amount to a major setback for a grassroots movement that has attracted a considerable amount of media attention and skepticism over the last decade. Parents, drawing their evidence from a single study performed in London, argued that their children's developmental disorders were caused by the presence of various metals (specifically mercury) as a preservative element in the standard infant vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella. This argument continued despite the fact that the element was removed from all related vaccines nearly 10 years ago. But the power of the underlying legal arguments has now been significantly diminished.

Perhaps even more important than the recent rulings is the conclusion of a lengthy investigative report performed by the Times UK which found that the decade-old British study that has served as the basis of the anti-vaccine movement was marred by intentionally fixed data and that its conclusions thereby retain no credibility. In the 1997 study, the cases of a dozen young children diagnosed with regressive autism were linked to the MMR vaccine due to the fact that their symptoms supposedly first appeared an average of less than 7 days after they received the shots. According to the study's lead author, a virus present in the vaccines caused a bowel disease that then damaged the subjects' brains, rendering them autistic. Despite repeated attempts, no independent studies have ever come close to replicating these results.

And now we know why: a careful review of the study's data has revealed several glaring contradictions that cannot be attributed to unintentional human error. Most significantly, the independent medical records of the 12 children involved do not support the study's final conclusions. In some cases, symptoms of ASD clearly began before the shots were administered. In other cases, they began several months, rather than weeks, afterward. While the study proclaimed each child to be "normal" before receiving the vaccinations, medical history begs to differ. The majority had displayed clear signs of some neurological disorder before receiving the vaccines. These symptoms were severe enough to warrant statements of concern from GPs. Three of the children were never even actually diagnosed with regressive autism. They were, instead, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a less-severe form of the disorder. Finally, biopsies taken from the children at around the same time counter the author's assertion that they each suffered from the same bowel inflammation.

The details of this case are certainly worthy of review; the larger point remains that the doctor clearly manipulated data to reach a preferred conclusion. His was not an innocent mistake - he had actually been working with a lawyer to build a case against the manufacturer of the MMR vaccines long before the study in question occurred, and several of the parents who participated in the study heard of him through this legal campaign. The subject pool from which he drew his subjects was anything but random. He is now appearing before the disciplinary General Medical Council due to ethical concerns stemming from this research.

The real-world results of the study are clear and inexcusable - British immunization rates dropped from 92% to 80% in its aftermath. In 1998, 56 confirmed cases of the measles occurred in Great Britain. In 2008 that number jumped to 1,348 as a direct result of this study - and at least two children died of this entirely preventable disease during the 10-year period. It would appear that the supposed link between vaccines and autism has, in the absence of further unbiased testing, been discredited. Unfortunately, until a greater understanding of autism can be achieved, collective anger and a desire to assign blame will allow the movement to continue despite an absolute lack of corroborating evidence.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy