The relationship between vaccines and autism has caused controversy for years, and has generated a large number of court cases. At this stage of scientific research, there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to prevail in a vaccine lawsuit.
Autism is a developmental disorder with no exactly-known cause. It often becomes apparent by age 3, and affects the development of social and communication skills. There is a wide range of abilities across the autism spectrum. It affects boys more than girls. Signs and symptoms of autism may include sensitivity to touch, light and sound, fixation on routine, unusual attachment to objects, repeated bodily movements, and social awkwardness. Estimates vary, but some experts believe that 1 in 88 children has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Legally Disproving the Link Between Autism and Vaccines
Several medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine have opined that vaccines do not cause autism, and continue to believe that the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. The scientific community has rallied even further against the connection with the January 2011 issue of the British Medical Journal, which did much to ruin the career of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a leading proponent of the autism-vaccine connection.
In court battles, several plaintiffs have attempted to prove that one of the preservatives in these vaccines (mercury, called thimerosal), could cause autism. Those cases take place in “vaccine court”—they are cases against the government rather than the vaccine manufacturers. The rationale is that the government wants to encourage the creation of vaccines, and those vaccines would often not be made due to manufacturer concerns about lawsuits.
There have been over 5,500 claims made to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims over autism. Only one plaintiff’s case, somewhat unique in its facts, has received payment. Most cases have either been dismissed, received verdicts against the plaintiffs, or are still pending resolution.
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