Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Vaccine Court Rules Against Thimerosal Autism Link

Another shot was fired in the vaccine wars on Friday, March 12. The Vaccine Court, a special court set up within the federal system to handle only those cases related to the vaccines given to children, found against plaintiffs claiming that the vaccine preservative thimerosal was to blame for their children's autism.

According to the report by CNN, the findings from three test cases were released. In all three cases, the special masters assigned found the plaintiffs failed to prove a link between the thimerosal and autism. In the case of Mead v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith wrote, "Petitioners' theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable." In another case, Special Master George L. Hastings Jr. wrote even more strongly, "After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the opinions provided by the petitioners' experts in this case, advising the King family that there is a causal connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and Jordan's autism, have been quite wrong." (Italics original.)

The Vaccine Court has a different standard of proof than is applicable in other courts. According to the Associated Press report, parents need not prove the vaccine was the actual cause of the disorder, just that it was the probable cause.

Anti-vaccine advocates are unhappy with the result of the three cases. The AP quotes Rebecca Estepp, of the Coalition for Vaccine Safety as saying, "You have government attorneys defending a government program using government-funded science before government judges. Where's the justice in that?" The rulings from the Vaccine Court can be appealed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The AP reported the rulings were supported by Dr. Paul Offit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who said the autism theory had, "already had its day in science court and failed to hold up." But the real problem, he noted, was that some parents are still avoiding having their children vaccinated. "It's very hard to unscare people after you have scared them," he said. As a result, some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.

Thimerosal was removed from vaccines given to infants in 1999.

Related Resources: