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Court Again Rejects Vaccine-Autism Link
Special Masters Critical of Witnesses, Studies Supporting Theory
By News Staff
Doug Campos-Outcalt, M.D., M.P.A., the AAFP's liaison to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, said the rulings could help convince some vaccine-resistant parents to immunize their children.
"It depends on the parents," said Campos-Outcalt, who is associate head of the department of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix. "Ardent anti-immunizationists, who are small group, are unlikely to be swayed. It should help with the larger number of parents who are in the 'concerned' group and often see misinformation."
The rulings are the latest in a mounting body of evidence against those who claim vaccines cause autism. In February, The Lancet fully retracted a 1998 study that linked autism to the MMR vaccine after an independent panel concluded that the study was flawed and its lead author's conduct was "dishonest, irresponsible and misleading."
As in last year's rulings -- which were upheld on appeal -- the Special Masters were critical of the expert witnesses and studies presented by the petitioners.
Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith wrote in her ruling that "the theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable."
"The scientific validity of the studies on which the petitioners rely has been questioned, and the conclusions drawn from the studies have been criticized as unsupported," she said.
Similarly, Special Master Denise Vowell said the petitioners had "relied on practitioners and researchers who peddled hope, not opinions grounded in science and medicine."
Vowell also noted that numerous government agencies and medical organizations -- including the AAFP -- have concluded there is no causal connection between vaccines and autism.
Jonathan Temte, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, and a member of the ACIP, said it was important to note that the burden of proof needed to establish causality of harm in the vaccine court is significantly lower than the burden of proof required in civil court cases or to make medical decisions or recommendations.
"They have a very low burden of evidence for a case to go in their favor, but the court was not very impressed with the evidence they presented," Temte said. "That the plaintiffs could not surmount even this lowered standard of evidence is highly reflective of the evidence base for vaccine-induced autism."
Journal Retracts Controversial Study Linking MMR Vaccine, Autism
The Lancet's Decision Could Ease Parental Resistance to Vaccination
Autism Activist Says It's Time to Acknowledge There's No Autism-Vaccine Link
FPs' Personal Touch Can Persuade Doubting Parents to Vaccinate Their Children
Respect for Parents' Perspective Is Key
Federal Claims Court: Vaccines Don't Cause Autism
Other Case, Appeals to Follow
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U.S. Court of Federal Claims: Autism Decisions and Background Information
CDC Vaccine Safety: Concerns about Autism