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AJC: Settlement Reached in Autism-Vaccine Case

Posted Sep 11 2010 10:40am
A curious thing happened in Atlanta. The AJC posted a story on the Poling case, then some sort of internet sewer alligator monster must have climbed up from the depths and eated it or somethin', because today it was gone.

Fortunately, I still had my browser open when I heard about the disappearance of the poor missing article, so I saved a copy. You are welcome AJC. Hope you catch that creature who is stealing your stories.

Settlement Reached in Autism-Vaccine Case
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Carrie Teegardin
7:20 p.m. Friday, September 10, 2010

A Georgia girl whose high-profile case established a connection between autism symptoms and vaccines has received an unprecedented damage award from a federal vaccine injury fund.

Federal health officials concluded in 2008 that childhood vaccines contributed to the development of autism symptoms of Hannah Poling of Athens. The decision did not establish a clear link between the immunizations and Poling's condition. Instead, it concluded that vaccines aggravated a rare, pre-existing condition that resulted in a disorder with autism-like symptoms.

The 2008 decision did not determine the amount of compensation, which was finalized only recently. The documents reporting the award from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims keep Poling's name confidential. But Poling's attorney confirmed that the case was that of Hannah Poling in an interview with CBS News.

Government officials still insist that vaccines don't cause autism. The Poling case represents the first claim that was compensated among thousands filed by families that allege that their child's autism was caused by vaccines.

The award is sizable: $1.5 million immediately to cover care during the first year after the judgments, lost future earnings and pain and suffering. The award includes another $140,00 to cover past expenses incurred by the family. The decision also orders an annuity contract that would cover at least $500,000 in annual expenses to care for and educate Poling during her lifetime.

"It’s critical to remember that the government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually caused by vaccines," said Martin Kramer, communications director for the Health Resources and Services Administration. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is part of the administration. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims decides who will be paid damages for injuries that result from vaccines, under a 1988 law that created a program.

It's unclear whether the award will offer help to other families seeking payments, since the case did not establish a clear link between vaccines and autism. The compensation program received 5,632 autism-related petitions between 1999 and 2010, according to statistics posted on the program's website. The program has turned down all autism-related claims in about 700 cases adjudicated so far, except for the Poling case.

Dr. John Shoffner, a neurologist and national expert who has conducted research on autism and its causes, said researchers have found no link between vaccines and autism. And he said he strongly favors vaccination.

"The preponderance of data shows that vaccines are important and safe for children to prevent preventable and sometimes life-threatening infectious diseases," Shoffner said. "I certainly am in favor and support the CDC's as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of vaccination."

Shoffner is a co-author of a journal article that describes Poling's case without naming her.

Autism is a complicated and varied condition that makes communication and social interaction difficult. Some children with autism exhibit repetitive behavoirs and intense interests. But children who share the same diagnosis are often completely different from one another.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008, Poling's parents said their daughter was a normal, verbal toddler until she received several vaccines at around 19 months of age. Within 48 hours, she developed a high fever and was crying inconsolably. She later began exhibiting symptoms of autism. Poling's father is a neurologist and her mother is a lawyer and a nurse. They took Hannah for evaluations by leading experts in neurology.

"I had to know," Terry Poling, Hannah's mother, said in the 2008 interview. "My daughter didn't just suddenly develop autism for no reason."

The Polings could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Rebecca Estepp, a California mother of a 12-year-old son with autism who also has a compensation claim pending, said the award for the Polings is a step forward for other families.

"This is hugely important because there is a record now of a child who has autism that was compensated for vaccine damage," she said.
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