Gov't: Girl’s Autism-Like Symptoms Linked to Vaccines
Federal Officials Say Vaccines Worsened Condition That Led to Autism Spectrum Disorder in Georgia Girl
Autism Groups: Decision a Victory
Sallie Bernard, co-founder of SafeMinds (Sensible Action for Ending
Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders), is ecstatic about the decision.
"We're finally seeing the truth come out," she tells WebMD. "We've
gotten such incredible pushback, yet here is a case showing this connection
"Here is a case that really looked into the science, and behind this
child's case of autism, they have found a link between the child's autism and
the vaccines that she was given," she says.
Bernard says she hopes the decision will spur re-investigation of the issue.
"I think this will push more scientists and hopefully the NIH [National
Institutes of Health] to really investigate the role of vaccines, the role of
mercury, in autism, because this case is so compelling."
Autism Expert: Case Is "Rare"
A pediatrician who serves on a childhood vaccine advisory committee for the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sees the case differently. "To
say mercury causes autism is a giant leap," says Jaime Deville, MD, a
pediatrician at Mattel Children's Hospital at the University of California Los
"Epidemiological studies do not support the hypothesis that mercury in
vaccines causes autism in the general population,'' he tells WebMD.
"However, there might be individual sporadic, or rare cases in which
patients have an adverse reaction after a dose of a vaccine that might
exacerbate a pre-existing condition."
That was the contention in Hannah's case -- that Hannah developed a disorder
of the mitochondria, the cells' "power sources," before developing
In a statement, Chuck Mohan, executive director and CEO of the United
Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, says science has not linked vaccines to
"There are no scientific studies documenting that childhood vaccinations
cause or worsen mitochondrial diseases, but there is very little scientific
research in this area," the statement reads. "Mitochondrial
diseases are as prevalent as childhood leukemia, however the National
Institutes of Health devotes only $11 million a year to research into
mitochondrial disorders and only about one-third of that is earmarked for
primary mitochondrial disease research. Many scientists believe unmasking
the causes of mitochondrial disease may lead to possible cures for Parkinson's,
Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer."
Deville worries that parents will again shy away from vaccines. "I would
expect parents to start calling pediatricians," he tells WebMD. But he adds
that Hannah's situation "seems to be an isolated case."
He also points out: "Once mercury was removed [from most childhood
vaccines] in 2001,
autism cases did not decline."
He doubts that the decision will spur further research into the proposed
vaccine-autism link, partly because of a lack of research funding.