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The Latest on Autism

The Link Between Childhood Vaccines and Autism continued...

Parents have also questioned whether mercury-containing thimerosal (used as a preservative in vaccines) might cause autism. Today, with the exception of some influenza vaccines, vaccines used in the United States to protect preschool-aged children contain reduced or no thimerosal as a preservative. (Influenza vaccine is currently available both with thimerosal as a preservative and preservative-free.) According to the CDC, there is no convincing scientific evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site. More importantly, studies have not found a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. In fact, a multi national study showed an increase in autism over a period of ten years after thimerosal was removed from vaccines.

Because the exact cause of autism is not known, parents may continue to have concerns, despite the evidence. In these cases, parents should be aware of the risks of serious disease in children who are not vaccinated. In some areas, outbreaks of these dangerous diseases have occurred in people who have not been immunized.

Understanding the Ruling on Autism-Like Symptoms and Vaccines

In a recent controversy, a Georgia girl was entitled to compensation after developing autism-like symptoms after she received five childhood vaccines in 2000. But what does this decision mean to your child and to other children?

It's important to note that the government has not said that childhood vaccines actually cause autism. Rather, the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation (DVIC) at the Department of Health and Human Services agreed there is a possibility that the vaccines aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder in this young girl. The mitochondrial disorder manifested as a regressive neurological disease with some symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. There is a small relationship between mitochondrial disorders and autism, which is now being actively researched

Understandably, many parents are worried about the risks that are thought to accompany vaccinations. Ever since the first vaccines were developed, there have been risks. Most vaccine side effects are mild, and severe ones are extremely rare. But the use of vaccines in children has essentially eradicated a number of major childhood diseases that kill. When parents fail to vaccinate their children, the risk of serious -- even deadly -- disease epidemics extends beyond them and their families to their neighborhoods and communities. Failure to vaccinate lays the foundation for new epidemics that could result in serious harm to your child. For instance, a decline in vaccination rates in some European countries has led to fatal outbreaks of measles. Deadly outbreaks of pertussis have also been seen in the U.S. and Great Britain because of an irrational fear to immunize.

In short, while some advocacy groups continue to take issue with immunizations, CDC officials maintain that this ruling should not be seen as indicating a risk from vaccines for all children. In a statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics reinforced its dedication to the health of all children and urges parents to fully immunize their children.

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