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February 12th, 2009
01:31 PM ET

Court rules vaccines not to blame for autism

Program Note: To hear more from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, tune in to AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/02/12/autism.vaccines/art.cedillo.cnn.jpg caption="A special court denied Mike and Theresa Cedillo's claim that vaccines caused autism in their daughter, Michelle. "]

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

There is a special court, known colloquially as a vaccine court. It is a place where judges called “special masters,” who are legal experts, not medical doctors, hear claims about vaccine injuries. It’s been around since the late 80s, in part prompted by the scare over the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine possibly causing injuries. If the court finds that an injury was likely caused by a vaccine, it can make a monetary award. For example, a few years ago, there was a case of optic neuritis after the tetanus vaccine. Other awards were given for fibromyalgia after the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine; transverse myelitis after the HiB (Haemophilus influenzae type B) vaccine; and Guillain-Barre and MS after the hepatitis B vaccine.

Many people started paying attention to the court after the federal government last year awarded damages to the family of Hannah Poling, conceding that Hannah was injured by a vaccine, causing her autism-like symptoms. (Read about Hannah’s case here) According to the Department of Justice, more than 1,500 people have been paid in excess of $1.18 billion since the inception of the program in 1988.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    Anderson Cooper and AC team,

    Excuse me if I missed something, but my greatest interest today, in the show was on this, as described in the header of the post (Program Note: To hear more from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, tune in to AC360 ° tonight at 10 pm ET.)

    Could we return to this issue? Or send me more information?

    Thank you very much...

    The work of you is magnificent!

    February 12, 2009 at 11:08 pm |
  2. Teresa, OH

    @ Roger: I like that : ) you "caught jury duty". Kind of like catching a bad flu, huh? I also really like that you listened so closely to testimony. They were lucky to have you on board.

    It's odd aint it? For every disease we seem to cure or irradicate: we grow another one.... now why is that?

    February 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm |
  3. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    I confess my ignorance! I had never heard about that vaccines can cause a disease with symptoms similar to autism. And last year I read a lot about autism.

    Please, Dr. Gupta,
    How to know that a child who has some symptoms similar to autism, but wasn't detected autism by a neurologist, may have this problem?
    Or what can be done by the parents when a child has this disease?

    I have a child of three years. He still speaks very little (doing speech therapist six months), has difficulty in relationships with other children (he coexists well with adults), from which it was born has great difficulty sleeping, agitation and presents a lot of crying may have seizures for no reason apparent. Last year, the school psychologist raised the suspicion of Autism and Hyperactivity.

    From then I decided to seek a more experienced and dedicated pediatrician, he also was concerned about the symptoms of my son, we made audiometric, which showed no abnormalities, and I indicated to Dr. Gustavo Valle (neurologist). Dr. Gustavo dismissed the chances of Autism and Hyperactivity because at the time my son had a little over two years. He said it was still too early to diagnose. He advised the speech therapist.
    From then on my son had any improvement. He speaks a few words, good nights of sleep merges with bad nights, but the other symptoms still occur.

    I have heard much that every child has the time, for the delay in the speech, but even with doctors discarding Hyperactivity or Autism, I am very afraid of having something wrong with my son. Outside the symptoms mentioned, it is a child healthy, happy, and normal and never had serious illnesses, have much motor coordination.

    Dr. Gupta or team AC360,
    If you can help me, send me more information about this, and I thank.

    February 12, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  4. Roger Iowa

    I didn’t know how addicts made methamphetamines until I caught jury duty last year. After learning an overview of what is used to extract it from over the counter cold medicine, I wondered if this form of deadly chemical use was a method applied by pharmaceutical companies. I’d find the method of processing the vaccine including the chemicals introduced to extract medicine and ask a chemist and research doctor if the chemicals apply to autism.

    February 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  5. jen

    I'm not surprised that the verdict came in that vaccines aren't the cause of autism. I do believe that autism exists, but I feel I need to question the amount of people being diagnosed with it. Remember when everyone was being diagnosed with ADD and then ADHD? According to the criteria listed in the DSM IV, anyone growing up in a home where the parents don't wish to parent could be diagnosed with it. Looking at the criteria to be diagnosed with autism, I feel the same way. I would be interested to see what the statistics are for autism and see how they differ from ADHD. I have had the honors to work with people who have been diagnosed with severe autism disorder and have always been curious to know what the cause of such disorder is.

    February 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  6. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    There is a special court, known colloquially as a vaccine court. It is a place where judges called “special masters,” who are legal experts, not medical doctors, hear claims about vaccine injuries. Special master---and where did these special masters receive their medical degree--this is a legal oxymoron.

    February 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm |