Last week, there was a briefing for U.S. legislators by Mr. David Kirby and Mr. Mark Blaxill. As you can imagine, the topic was vaccines and autism. As you can imagine, there were some inaccuracies and there was at least one outright misrepresentation.
Well, now I give a great big thank you to Congressman Waxman. Congressman Waxman is the chair of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform. To put that in perspective, “Oversight and Reform” is the committee that Congressman Dan Burton used to investigate autism and vaccines. (a very good discussion of what went wrong there is in Autism’s False Prophets ).
Congressman Waxman’s office sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter. It is a good, succinct discussion of autism and vaccines, and, as such, I think it worth posting. And forwarding to people who may have questions about this issue.
It’s also worth thanking Congressman Waxman for taking the time to work on autism issues.
Resources Regarding Vaccines and Autism
October 1, 2008
Since 1998 some people have been raising concerns that there may be an association between childhood immunizations and autism spectrum disorder. I am writing to let you and your staff know that there are a number of resources available to understand what the science says about whether vaccines could contribute to autism.
Institute of Medicine report on vaccines and autism
In 1999 the Department of Health and Human Services contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review a number of different vaccine safety issues and to make recommendations about future research needs. IOM convened a committee of experts that was carefully vetted for conflicts of interest. The committee issued nine reports, all of which are available on line at: http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3793/4705.aspx.
In 2004, the committee issued its final report, which analyzed the studies, published and unpublished, that looked at two theories: whether the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine could cause autism; and whether the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal could cause autism. The committee concluded that the “evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism” and the committee also concluded that the “evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism.” This report is available at: http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3793/4705/20155.aspx.
Other resources on vaccines and vaccine safety
Since the IOM report was published there have been additional studies that looked at a possible link between vaccines and autism. Below are several other links to government or private organizations with helpful information about the latest research into vaccines, vaccine safety, and autism and vaccines:
Information regarding mitochondrial disorders and vaccines
Another concern that has received some attention is whether people with mitochondrial disorders are more susceptible to vaccine injury. This issue was in the media after it became public that in 2007, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), the no-fault compensation program for people who have been injured by immunizations, compensated nine-year-old Hannah Poling for injuries she sustained from her immunizations. Hannah Poling suffered from a mitochondrial disorder, which is a genetic or acquired defect in the part of each cell that helps produce energy. People with these disorders are susceptible to a number of stressors, including fever, illness, dehydration and certain kinds of medication. In Hannah Poling’s case, after her immunizations she developed a fever, lethargy, irritability, and other symptoms of encephalopathy. These symptoms worsened over a period of months to includ! e muscle weakness and features of autism. Instead of taking this case to the vaccine court, the VICP conceded the case and agreed to compensate Hannah Poling.
This case raised concerns that there may be an association between mitochondrial disorders and autism. Mitochondrial disorders are poorly understood and there is much research that needs to be done. However, according to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation: “There are no scientific studies documenting that childhood vaccinations cause mitochondrial diseases or worsen mitochondrial disease symptoms. In the absence of scientific evidence, the UMDF cannot confirm any association between mitochondrial diseases and vaccines.” This statement is available at: http://www.umdf.org/site/c.dnJEKLNqFoG/b.3616911/apps/s/content.asp?ct=5087517.
Following this case, NIH, HHS, and CDC organized a workshop entitled “Mitochondrial Encephalopathies: Potential Relationships to Autism.” The workshop was held on June 29, 2008 in order to explore this complicated topic and panelists included experts from around the country. The proceedings from this workshop state that because acquired infections and the associated inflammatory responses are a known trigger for mitochondrial disease, “the workshop panelists strongly encourage vaccinations in the hundreds of children they treat for mitochondrial disease.” A summary of this workshop is available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/news_and_events/proceedings/20090629_mitochondrial.htm