In the News
Court Rules Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism
Is that enough to quell parents’ fears?
-Julie Ryan Evans
In the ongoing, emotional debate about the potential link between autism and vaccines, a special court yesterday found there is no link.
The ruling was made by a court consisting of “special masters” who in 2007 began studying the cases of three families who filed a claim and were seeking compensation from The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. In the course of their study they considered 5,000 pages of testimony from experts and 939 medical articles.
“I feel deep sympathy and admiration for the Cedillo family,” Special Master George L. Hastings Jr. wrote in his ruling about one of the families. “And I have no doubt that the families of countless other autistic children, families that cope every day with the tremendous challenges of caring for autistic children, are similarly deserving of sympathy and admiration. However, I must decide this case not on sentiment, but by analyzing the evidence. In this case the evidence advanced by the petitioners has fallen far short of demonstrating such a link.”
As a parent who has spent countless hours agonizing over whether to vaccinate, whether to delay vaccinations or to just do them and hope for the best, I’d like to say that the ruling makes me more comfortable vaccinating my children. But sadly it doesn’t … not fully anyway.
There’s too much still unknown about this mysterious disease – too many smart, dedicated parents and physicians who say otherwise. Too many who have seen firsthand their children slip away from them after a vaccine.
Some experts say it’s just a coincidence, and that because the shots are given at the same time that autism’s first signs rear themselves, there only appears to be a link. But mothers’ instincts are incredibly strong … and to take a chance of losing your child in the world of autism, to have your life ripped apart by the often-disabling disorder by something that could possibly prevented, how do you make that leap?
My husband and I do, in fact, make the leap with our children, and it’s one of the hardest things to do. The fear and dread I have after each and every shot is overwhelming as I watch and wait for any behavioral changes, any sign of trauma. Thankfully, for us there haven’t been any at this point.
We choose to vaccinate because we believe the threat of the diseases children could encounter without the vaccines outweighs the other risks – that’s how I get in my car and drive my children to the doctor, sit them down on that crinkly white paper and hold their arms still with the chance in my mind that the shot they’re getting could lead to autism. But my belief is only my belief because I have to make a choice, not because I feel confident in it.
I asked Kim Stagliano, an amazing woman, writer and mother who is raising three daughters with autism, what she thought of today’s ruling. Here was her response:
As an autism advocate, I hear from parents whose children have been vaccine injured far too often. Last year, a court ruled that vaccinations contributed to the onset of Hannah Poling’s autism. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of cases are quietly settled.
Vaccinations are not subject to product liability lawsuits like other products and even or drugs. They are protected, and lawsuits go into “special courts.” Vaccination is public health policy, meaning it is based on large groups not individuals. And while certainly we want to protect “the herd” and no one wants deadly diseases for their children, including me, when it’s your “baby calf” who develops a seizure disorder, stops talking and suddenly requires a lifetime of care, protection takes on a different meaning.
So, while this ruling may offer some reassurance, and it’s great to see autism and its causes getting the scrutiny they deserve, it’s certainly not the final word we’ll hear on the subject. It still doesn’t take away the close-your-eyes-and-just-jump element, and it doesn’t offer any guarantees.
In the meantime though, it will give parents some more information to tip the scales one way or another in such a weighty decision.
I just hope it’s right …