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Officials Defend Safety of Vaccines for Kids

No Evidence of Link Between Thimerosal Preservative and Autism, Health Officials Say

Rise in Autism Rates continued...

The CDC has signed a contract to purchase 3.5 million doses of preservative-free flu vaccine from manufacturer Sanofi-Pasteur, Gerberding told a House committee in May. The company is expected to make another 3 million to 5 million thimerosal-free doses.

"We are very, very concerned that people have confidence in the products that they use," said Murray Lumpkin, MD, acting deputy commissioner of the FDA.

A 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine rejected any link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.

Thimerosal Legislation

Still, many researchers are troubled by evidence that a rise in autism rates appeared to roughly coincide with the use of the chemical in the vaccine supply.

Gerberding said that she "cannot sit here and tell you with 100% certainty" that a link between autism and vaccines will never be found in individual children. "The predominance of evidence does certainly not reveal an association between thimerosal and autism," she said.

Bobbi Manning, vice president of a group known as Advocates for Children's Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning, tells WebMD that officials "are not being completely honest about the effects of mercury."

"It's not enough to hear that they've taken thimerosal out of vaccines. We still have a lot of damaged children," she said.

Rep. David Weldon (R-Fla.), who is an internal medicine doctor, said that he plans to introduce legislation tomorrow gradually banning thimerosal from all childhood vaccines beginning in 2007. Weldon also says he'll push for more government research on the causes of America's rising autism rate.

"We all know that these vaccines save thousands of lives," Weldon told reporters. "I think the incidence [of autism] is definitely up and what's yet to be determined is why that is."

As for the defense of vaccines by health officials on Tuesday, Weldon said: "They just want to reassure people because the press tomorrow is going to be raising a lot of questions about mercury."

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