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Gov’t Concedes Vaccine-Autism Link

After years of insisting there is no evidence to link vaccines with the onset of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the US government has quietly conceded a vaccine-autism case in the Court of Federal Claims.

The unprecedented concession was filed on November 9, and sealed to protect the plaintiff’s identify. It was obtained through individuals unrelated to the case.

The claim, one of 4,900 autism cases currently pending in Federal “Vaccine Court,” was conceded by US Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and other Justice Department officials, on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, the “defendant” in all Vaccine Court cases.

The child’s claim against the government — that mercury-containing vaccines were the cause of her autism — was supposed to be one of three “test cases” for the thimerosal-autism theory currently under consideration by a three-member panel of Special Masters, the presiding justices in Federal Claims Court.

The doctors conceded that the child was healthy and developing normally until her 18-month well-baby visit, when she received vaccinations against nine different diseases all at once (two contained thimerosal).

Days later, the girl began spiraling downward into a cascade of illnesses and setbacks that, within months, presented as symptoms of autism, including: No response to verbal direction; loss of language skills; no eye contact; loss of “relatedness;” insomnia; incessant screaming; arching; and “watching the florescent lights repeatedly during examination.”

Seven months after vaccination, the patient was diagnosed by Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a leading neurologist at the Kennedy Krieger Children’s Hospital Neurology Clinic, with “regressive encephalopathy (brain disease) with features consistent with autistic spectrum disorder, following normal development.” The girl also met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) official criteria for autism.

In its written concession, the government said the child had a pre-existing mitochondrial disorder that was “aggravated” by her shots, and which ultimately resulted in an ASD diagnosis.

“The vaccinations received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder,” the concession says, “which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of ASD.”

This statement is good news for the girl and her family, who will now be compensated for the lifetime of care she will require. But its implications for the larger vaccine-autism debate, and for public health policy in general, are not as certain.

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