The National Academy of Science’s press release specifically notes that the report‘s findings “will help the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) administer the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).” In the wake of British doctor Andrew Wakefield publishing a now-retracted study linking autism to the MMR, over 4,800 families filed lawsuits in the Autism Omnibus Proceeding in the hopes of receiving compensation from the VICP by contending that the MMR and thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative formerly used in vaccines, had caused their children to become autistic. After court proceedings from 2007 to 2010, the court dismissed both the MMR and thimerosal theories; for the proceedings to continue, the petitioners would have to demonstrate another causal theory, which they are unlikely to do. The new report provides further scientific evidence disputing claims of an autism-vaccine link.
With students starting school across the country, it’s even more important to make sure children are up-to-date with their immunizations, says committee chair Ellen Wright Clayton, professor of pediatrics and law, and director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University. Indeed, a recent Los Angeles Times article notes that one Pennsylvania family decided to stop giving their son Matthew his shots after his first round of immunizations; Kelly and Dan Lacek knew a family who thought their child had become autistic from a vaccine:
But on a Saturday evening three years later, Matthew complained of a sore throat. In a few hours, his temperature spiked to 105 degrees and his breathing was labored. In the emergency room, doctors discovered that his airway was nearly swollen shut. One of them asked Lacek if her son had been vaccinated for Hib. “He said, ‘If this is what I think it is, we don’t have much time,’” she says.
Matthew spent six days in the hospital, including two days in a drug-induced coma. Then the antibiotics began to work. He recovered without any lasting complications. “The doctor said he was one in a million,” Lacek says.
Now she makes a point of sharing her story with parents who haven’t vaccinated their kids so that they don’t lose sight of the relative risks. “My husband and I were so focused on [Matthew] not getting autism, I totally missed the fact that he could get anything else,” she says.
Vaccines are not without their side effects as the National Science Academy’s report spells out. But not having your child immunized carries plenty of risks that are backed up by plenty of scientific evidence to take note of.
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