Court: Vaccine not to blame for autism

February 12, 2009 7:42:43 AM PST
A special vaccine court ruled against parents with autistic children Thursday, saying that vaccines are not to blame for their children's neurological disorder. The judges in the cases said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parent's claims - and backed years of science that found no risk.

"It was abundantly clear that petitioners' theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive," the court concluded in one of a trio of cases ruled on Thursday.

The ruling, which was anxiously awaited by health authorities, was a blow to families who have filed more than 5,000 claims with the U.S. Court of Claims alleging that vaccines caused autism and other neurological problems in their children.

To win, they had to show that it was more likely than not that the autism symptoms were directly related to the measles-mumps-rubella shots they received.

But the court concluded that "the weight of scientific research and authority" was "simply more persuasive on nearly every point in contention."

The court still has to rule on separate claims from other families who contend that rather than a single vaccine, the culprit could be a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal that once was common in children's inoculations. But in Thursday's rulings, the court may have sent a signal on those cases, too:

"The petitioners have failed to demonstrate that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to causing immune dysfunction," a judge wrote about one theory that the families proposed to explain how autism might be linked.

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