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studies, published and unpublished, that looked at two theories: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:
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:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Network for Immunization Information
Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University
American Academy of Pediatrics
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
CDC has additional information on its website at:
I hope you find these links useful. If you are interested in other
resources, please do not hesitate to call Sarah Despres or Dr. Stephen
Cha on my staff at 5-5056.
HENRY A. WAXMAN
Member of Congress