Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Font Size

Court Weighs Autism-Vaccine Link

Perspective: Parents Sue Federal Government, but Do They Have a Case?
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 11, 2007 -- Federal courts are now set to decide whether there is a link between autism and childhood vaccines. But what do medical experts think?

Parents are suing the federal government, claiming that a preservative in childhood vaccines led to autism in their children.

Typically, symptoms of autism are first noted by parents as their child begins to have delays in speaking after age 1, around the same time a child typically receives the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. This has led some to suggest a link between the vaccine and autism.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a pervasive development disorder (PDD), a group of illnesses that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize or form relationships with others as well as the ability to communicate and to use imagination (including fantasy play). Children with these disorders often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them.

In addition to problems with social interaction, imagination, and communication, children with autism also have a limited range of interests. Many children with autism (nearly 75%) also have mental retardation. In many cases, children with autism are unable to emotionally bond with their parents or other family members.

Is Thimerosal to Blame?

In years past, experts believed autism affected four to five out of every 10,000 children. But a new CDC report released earlier this year showed about one in 150 8-year-old children had autism. Since that study involved just 14 states, it’s unclear if those numbers reflect national statistics.

If there is indeed a rise, what could be fueling this increase? The question is whether this possible rise is due to doctors doing a better job at identifying kids with autism or to some other reason.

What could that reason be? One theory is children’s vaccines. The MMR vaccine - measles, mumps, and rubella -- has gotten the most attention, mainly linked to the mercury-based preservative thimerosal.

Experts Say 'No'

Several medical studies have shown no link between autism and the MMR vaccine. And several premier medical organizations have concluded that there is no link between autism and thimerosal.

Today on WebMD

girl at window
Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
boy playing a violin
How is this condition similar to autism?
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
preschool age girl sitting at desk
What causes this rare form of autism?
High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
Mother and daughter indoors playing
man on bicycle
girl at window
Mother hugging teenage son
Understanding Rett Syndrome
Home Care Tips

WebMD Special Sections