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Vaccine FAQ

Vaccine Benefits, Vaccine Risks: 10 Basic Questions Answered

2. I heard that the U.S. government says childhood vaccinations might cause autism and something called mitochondrial disease. Is this true? continued...

The case settled by the DVIC is a legal case, not a scientific study. The DVIC agreed only that it is biologically plausible for a girl with a mitochondrial disorder to have been injured by her vaccination. The DVIC did not say that vaccines cause autism.

Does vaccination truly aggravate mitochondrial disease? WebMD asked Chuck Mohan, executive director and CEO of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

"There is no scientific proof that vaccines cause mitochondrial disease or autism, but there is very little scientific research in this area," Mohan says. "Persons with mitochondrial disease don't necessarily have autism, and persons with autism don't necessarily have mitochondrial disease. The tie-in is that in this case, mitochondrial disease was exacerbated by vaccination."

Louis Elsas, MD, professor of medical genetics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, says vaccination might very well trigger serious symptoms in people with mitochondrial disorders.

"But this could happen if a person with mitochondrial DNA defects gets a cold or one of the diseases the vaccine is supposed to stop," Elsas tells WebMD.

People worried that their children might be particularly susceptible to vaccines or medications may wish to seek genetic testing, Elsas says.

(Are you changing your child's vaccine schedule because of autism fears? Tell us what you're thinking on the Autism Support Group message board.)

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