FairWarining Reports

Analysis Finds Evidence of Autism in Many Vaccine Injury Cases

Porter Bridges-Parlet, 17, of Minneapolis, who has been diagnosed with mental retardation and epilepsy, along with autism spectrum disorder, in a photo from last year. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bridges)

For years, government health officials and most other medical authorities have dismissed the idea that autism might be linked to childhood vaccines. And the special court set up by Congress to compensate people hurt by vaccines has denied thousands of claims by parents who have contended that their children developed autism because of their inoculations.

But a new report in a New York law school journal, the Pace Environmental Law Review, could reignite the often-inflammatory debate over the issue. After looking into cases in which claimants won settlements or awards in vaccine court, the authors found 83 instances in which victims demonstrated evidence of autism – even though, perhaps as a legal tactic, their lawsuits emphasized other injuries.

At a midday news conference Wednesday in front of the red-brick U.S. Court of Federal Claims building in Washington, where the vaccine court hears its cases, authors of the report emphasized that their study was only preliminary. With further research on the more than 2,500 claims that have won compensation in vaccine court, they said, more evidence of inoculation-related autism would be certain to turn up.

“We think this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Mary Holland, a research scholar at the New York University law school and one of the study’s four co-authors.

Holland, in an interview, said it would be “a big problem” for government, vaccine makers and families if it turned out that a lot of children had autism that stemmed from vaccine injuries. But that fact, she said, doesn’t provide legal justification for turning down the claims.

“That may be part of the back story here,” Holland said. “We don’t know, that’s why we’re calling on Congress to look into this.”

The authors, with research help from Pace University law school students, performed database searches to find vaccine court decisions that acknowledged autism or autism-like symptoms. They also identified sealed settlements in which the victims were children, and performed follow-up research to determine if those cases were associated with autism.

In all, they turned up 32 cases with documented evidence of autism or autism-like symptoms.

The evidence in some of those cases included findings by the court that the children had autism, “autism-like symptoms” or “symptoms and behavior consistent with autism.” In other situations, third-party medical, educational or other court records confirmed an autistic disorder.

In addition to those 32 examples, there were 51 cases in which parents interviewed by the researchers said their child’s vaccine injury led to “an autism diagnosis, autistic features or autistic-like behaviors.”

A key similarity among the 83 successful claims identified, which produced more than $96.7 million in settlements and awards, is that the families did not assert that autism was their child’s primary injury.

Another one of the report’s authors, Robert Krakow, a New York lawyer with an autistic child who represents claimants in vaccine court, said the researchers did not determine why autism was a secondary factor in the successful cases. Still, he acknowledged, making a case for a link between vaccines and autism is “not a winner legally.”

As a lawyer, he added, “If you have a way of showing that the injury manifested in something less controversial, then you do that.”

At the same time, Krakow said the study provides a “strong suggestion” that the question of whether vaccines can cause autism should be reopened by federal authorities, rather than allow them to make “a blanket dismissal that vaccines don’t cause autism.”

One of the children in the study whose families won in vaccine court is 17-year-old Porter Bridges-Parlet of Minneapolis, who has been diagnosed with mental retardation and epilepsy, along with autism spectrum disorder. (Autism includes a range of developmental disorders extending from profound problems to far milder forms, including Asperger’s syndrome, which can go undiagnosed.)

The teenager wears a helmet throughout the day to protect against injury from seizures, plays for hours with a simple puzzle meant for toddlers, and repetitively utters whatever he’s fixated on that day.  As his mother, Sarah Bridges, reports, “It could be ‘Hello mother, hello mother, hello mother,’ or ‘Tiggers don’t like honey, Tiggers don’t like honey,’” a reference to the character in Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

In February, 1994, when Porter was four months old, he went through a wellness exam, which included a routine DPT, a combination vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. About 14 hours later, his mother says, she found the infant unconscious, his head flopping to the side.

Paramedics eventually revived him and at the hospital, while sweating with a high fever of around 106, Porter jerked with the first of his now-chronic seizures. His other diagnoses, for mental retardation and autism, came from later testing when it was clear Porter was not developing language and other skills at the same rate as his peers.

In 2001, seven years after Sarah Bridges and her ex-husband, Porter’s father, filed a petition with the court, formally known as the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, they settled the case for $2 million. “In our case it was argued that the [DPT] vaccine caused encephalopathy [brain damage] that caused mental retardation and autism-like features,” she said.

However, most legal and medical authorities — who worry about the potentially grave public health consequences if large numbers of families refused to have their children inoculated for dangerous diseases — reject the suggestion of a link between vaccines and autism.

After parents began filing thousands of autism cases, the vaccine court lumped the litigation together, in a maneuver akin to a class action suit, in 2002. As part of what was known as the Autism Omnibus Proceeding, six cases were selected to represent the thousands of autism cases. But one by one all of the case were denied, including one turned down by the court last year.

The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, also weighed in against the supposed link between vaccines and autism in a 2004 report based on an evaluation of several major epidemiological studies. The institute said, among other things, that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to establish that thimerosal, a compound formerly used in some vaccines that contains mercury, could cause the condition.

And just this year, an investigation by the medical journal BMJ dealt perhaps the most devastating blow yet to an influential 1998 article associating autism and childhood vaccines. The investigation found that the 1998 article was based on a hoax perpetrated by a since-disgraced English doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who lost his license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom last year.

In response to the new report released Tuesday, the U.S.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement saying that “the overwhelming body of evidence to date by the best scientists at CDC and around the world for that matter does not support a link between vaccines and autism.”

A spokesman for the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency that helps run the vaccine court, took the point a step further. “There is no reliable scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism even in cases where an acute encephalopathy [brain damage] following vaccination has occurred,” said the spokesman, Martin A. Kramer.

Patrick Corcoran, in Washington, contributed to this story.

Related Posts:
Study Suggests Autism More Prevalent Than Previously Thought
A Boy’s Death Sheds Light on a Rare Vaccine Hazard
Landmark Research on Vaccine Link to Autism a Hoax, Investigation Finds

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16 comments to “Analysis Finds Evidence of Autism in Many Vaccine Injury Cases”

  1. joseph Putnoki

    It is frightening how much lies, propaganda saturate the web. Came across in Wikipedia a page cleverly constructed, deceiving the naïve and the ignorant. The very FACTS well documented and referenced of 2 books I will mention in a minute are lied about blatantly. This is EVIL! Not only ignorant, arrogant experts ‘s testimony accepted by some courts. , but many lawyers sold their soul to the Devil and the media also played its part perpetrating the harm.
    The two books that sets the record straight is by Andrew J. Wakefield from whom a severe toll was extracted but he was not broken. A brave, decent, committed top practitioner with intelligence and character, and educated heart spoke up and paid for it heavily. In my books he is one more joining the procession of those I call SECULAR SAINTS.
    Let his 2 books speak for themselves and the people populating his pages, the toxic authorities, the corrupt media, the evil knowingly willing experts , Big Pharma, and then suffering parents and their children denied natural justice but not all lost: compensation been paid quietly to quite a few.
    Here are the titles:
    CALLOUS DISREGARD Autism and Vaccines – The Truth Behind a Tragedy.
    WAGING WAR on the AUTISTIC CHILD The Arizona 5 and the Legacy of Baron von Münchausen.
    For updates for this ongoing saga please visit http://callous-disregard.com
    Be well!
    Joseph.

  2. Katergotchya

    So true vaccinations are bad!

  3. Feli

    Like you say, Jin, “a lawsuit is not proof of link”. But the government paying millions and millions in compensations IS proof of link.

  4. kristina

    forget the law suits, forget the “studies” that you are quoting, because I have TONS that quote otherwise- vaccines do indeed cause injuries…. and you know what, forget those studies as well…. all you need to do is talk to a few of these parents who have indeed gone through the horror of realizing that within minutes or hours of these POISONS, their children were NOT who they were BEFORE they received the shot, regardless of the shot….. as a parent, you KNOW when something injures your child…. the fact that the gazillion dollar profits to be lost if the TRUTH is in total view is the real subject here!

  5. kev

    you people defending these vaccines are so far from the truth you can’t even catch a glimpse of it! they are poisoning us! please, for the sake of you, me, and all our brothers and sisters, OPEN YOUR EYES!

  6. Jin Packard

    Really? Lawyers doing epidemiology work – is THIS your story?

    Think: If your kid developed autism, you’d be more likely to sue the vaccine company. People sue for big reasons (like autism), not little ones (skin infection). Just because parents of autistic kids sue (and demonstrate impairment just by the fact that the child has autism) that in itself is NOT evidence that vaccine causes autism. A lawsuit is not proof of link.

    You got one thing right – This is the “tip of the iceberg” – definitely, for sensational journalism that once more aims to stir the loco pot.

  7. John

    the mortality of short term illness has dropped over the years since vaccines, however the mortality of longterm chronic illness has skyrocketed. The ingredients of the vaccines themselves should concern any parent, and if any reasonable person thinks that formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, MSG, etc are not harmful then you must believe in magic.

  8. Frank Emkey

    Cheryl, your assessment is right on target. What is nearly as equally troubling as the biggest smokescreen in the history of health care, is the masses of gullible citizens in this screwed up nation who refuse to think for themselves. It is those very puppets that allow this infant crippling lie to continue. Aside from the toxins in these concoctions, few make an issue over the fact that foreign DNA is also being injected at the same time. What is God’s creations is going on in the mad modern world of medicine, and what has happened to the brainwashed population that has lost their ability to think for themselves?

  9. Cheryl Saurette

    It was in 1979 that the Made-For-TV movie “Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love” (directed by one of that era’s best Hollywood directors, Glenn Jordan) was broadcast. It’s the story of a family with an autistic son. I read the script before it was produced. I was then working in television as a production assistant. At the time, now this is 1979, I already knew the link between vaccination and autism. I felt sad that this important element was not being presented in the prospective film as a way to educate the public. So here we are, 30 years later. What kind of a society do you think we really have, people? You think there are no cover-ups? You think there are no conspiracies? They are all around us. We are drowning in them.

  10. George Horton

    While everything from heavy metals to vaccinations to pesticides have been blamed for increased instances of autism, none of these sources have strong evidence, and some of them have been debunked entirely (Rutter, 2005). MMR vaccinations, in particular, have been extensively scrutinized as a potential cause of autistic-spectrum disorders, and no evidence has been found supporting any vaccinations as part of the autistic etiology (Rutter, 2005). In fact, a meta-analysis of 20 epidemiological studies found no support for vaccinations or thimerosal as causing autism (Plotkin, Gerber & Offit, 2009). Indeed, very few studies seem to support any specific environmental toxin as sufficient or necessary for the development of autism (Rutter, 2005; Plotkin et. al, 2009).

    Rutter, M. (2005) Incidence of autism spectrum disorders: changes over time and their meaning. Acta Paediatrica Jan;94(1):2-15.

    Plotkin, S., Gerber, J.S., Offit, Paul (2009). Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses Clin Infect Dis. (2009) 48(4): 456-461 doi:10.1086/596476

  11. John Fryer Chemist

    Yes I can add to the bus analogy.

    Because those injured and not killed pay out huge sums formedication from the same people that injured them.

    Add this

    Also ANOTHER 1 in 50 not killed when run over are then made to pay the wages of the bus workers for the rest of their lives and buy all the fuel and pay for the up keep and maintenance of the bus.

  12. LISA

    I LIKE THE ANALOGY TO THE “SCHOOL BUS”! THIS IS SO TRUE. WHAT REALY NEEDS OT BE BROUGHT OUT TO THE PUBLIC IS THE GROSS MISCALCULATION AND OVERDOSING OF THE PERSERVATIVE THIMERISOL THAT OCCURRED IN THE US SUPPPLY OF VACCINES BETWEEN THE YEARS 1988 TO 1999. WHEN DISCOVERED THE US HEALTH OFFICIALS DID NOT RECALL THESE HEAVILY DOSED VACCINES BUT LEFT THEM ON THE SHELVES IN DOCTORS OFFICES ACROSS THE NATION TO CONTINUED TO BE USED UNTIL EARLY TO MID 2000–EVEN AFTER US HEALTH OFFICIALS DECLARED IN 1999 THAT THIS NEUROTOXIC ADDITIVE SHOULD NOT BE USED IN VACCINES ANYMORE . ALSO EPIDEMILOGICAL STUDIES ARE SHOWING A DOWNWARD TREND IN THE REPORTING OF AUTISM. THE CASES THAT ARE BEING REPORTED ARE OF OLDER CHILDREN. PUTTING THIS ASIDE WE HAVE ANOTHER ISSUE-WHY DO HEALTH OFFCIALS INTRODUCE MORE AND MORE VACCINES OF DIFFERENT SOURCES TO INFANTS, CHILDREN AND ADULTS. WHERE IS THE DATA TO SUPPORT THE NEED FOR THESE NEW VACCINES THAT ARE BEING INTRODUCED AND WHERE IS THE DATA THAT SHOWS THESE VACCINES ARE SAFE AND THAT THEY HAVE LOWERED DISEASE RATES. THE FACT IS THERE IS NO DATA. IN FACT THE LOWERING OF LIFE THREATENING DISEASE RATES BACK IN THE EARLY 1900′S WAS CREDITED TO BETTER SANITATION- NOT VACCINES. ADVICE TO THE BLIND FOLOWERS–GET INFORMED AND KNOW THE FACTS!

  13. diyg

    Oh, and thanks for your comments, Michael J Dochniak, CTO of Mallard Adhesives LLC, which, no doubt, sells non-latex based adhesives….

  14. diyg

    And what “evidence” is that? A comprehensive, double blind peer reviewed study? Or just somebody running their mouth to get some publicity?

  15. nhokkanen

    Imagine if decades ago, vaccine policymakers had prioritized vaccine injury study and prevention. Instead the CDC has overdeveloped its sales and distribution system. No other product offers so few consumer protections, yet needs postmarketing followup as much.

    How can anyone trust an agency that allows so many children to be written off as collateral damage in the war on disease? It’s analogous to school districts ignoring a bus that runs over 1 in 100 students, arguing that research is unnecessary because 99 students were transported safely.

  16. Michael J. Dochniak

    New evidence clearly shows that vaccines can cause allergy-induced regressive autism. Refuse vaccines that have latex warnings.

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