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In The News: Vaccine Safety

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

There have been several articles in the news recently related to vaccines and concerns over their safety.


In the last several days the special master appointed by the United States Court of Federal Claims ruled that “the theory of vaccine–related causation and autism is scientifically unsupportable”.   The special “vaccine court” rejected the plaintiff’s theory linking thimerosal, a preservative previously used in vaccines, with the development of autism spectrum disorders in children.

In a previous case before the court in 2009, the court also discounted parent’s claims that the MMR vaccine and thimerasol caused the development of autism.  These rulings continue to refute a connection between childhood vaccines and autism.

It should be noted that thimerasol is no longer used in vaccines, and despite this autism incidence has risen.  The argument that the MMR vaccine alone could cause autism has also been refuted and last month the Lancet officially retracted the Wakefield paper from 1998 that started the idea that vaccines and autism are somehow related.

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case in which a family argues that there should be legal recourse beyond the administrative process set up by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (a law passed in 1986 to protect vaccine manufacturers from costly lawsuits). This family sued over a DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) shot, as a cause of their daughter’s seizure disorder. This case has been in the courts for over 15 years and the family has been denied compensation because they have been unable to prove “causation” between the vaccine and their child’s seizures. This is a pivotal case for both drug companies who want to clarify the legal issues surrounding vaccines, and parents who still believe that vaccines have caused injury to their children.

Despite the literature and science surrounding vaccine safety,  a survey in the March issue of Pediatrics still show that fears may linger among parents regarding vaccines and safety.  In the study, 90 percent of parents with young children agreed that vaccines protected children from disease, but 25 percent continued to think that vaccines might cause autism.

I continue to hear concerns from parents, but hopefully with logic, science and now the courts behind vaccines, parents will choose vaccines to protect their children and we will not see outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in this country.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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