Court rules vaccine contributed to autism symptoms

March 7, 2008 9:12:07 AM PST
There has been a stunning admission from government health officials conceding that childhood vaccines worsened a rare disorder which led to autism-like symptoms in a Georgia girl. Now the girl and her family will be paid from a federal vaccine-injury fund.

Nearly 5,000 families are seeking compensation for autism or other developmental disabilities they blame on vaccines. Some cases claim that the cumulative effect of many shots given at once may have caused injuries. These cases are before a vaccine court that gives money to pay people injured by vaccines.

A Georgia family announced they will be receiving compensation from the federal government concluding that childhood vaccines contributed to autism symptoms in the child.

Dr. John Poling, a Georgia neurologist, and his wife, Terry, a former nurse and attorney, are the parents of 9-year-old Hannah. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that five childhood vaccines, given to Hannah at 19 months, contributed to an underlying mitochondrial disorder and resulted in a brain disorder with features of autism.

"Many in the autism community and their champions believe that the result in this case may well signify a landmark decision as it pertains to children developing autism following vaccination," said John Poling.

"My daughter, who had been completely normal until getting nine vaccines in one day, was suddenly no longer there," said Terry Poling.

The lawyer for the Poling family says this case is historic and that they are not against the use of vaccines in children.

"It just doesn't make any sense. We need to be safe rather than sorry," said Poling attorney Cliff Shoemaker.

Christine Blakely of Oak Park is the mother of an autistic child, 8-year-old Charlie. She said she sees the Atlanta case as a victory for autistic children and their families. Blakely says vaccines caused her child's mitochondria disorder that led to full-blown autism

"The American Academy of Pediatrics and others assert that all vaccines are safe for all children. That obviously isn't the case," said Blakely.

While government officials continue to maintain that vaccines don't cause autism, advocates say that Hannah's settlement proves vaccines may be the culprit.

"Ultimately we don't want our kids to be sick. We just don't want our kids to be sick and have to fight in court. We don't want to fight our school districts and want our kids to be better," said Blakely.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, which is in charge of the vaccine fund maintains the position that vaccines do not cause autism.

The Polings' attorney says the family has filed a petition with the special "vaccine court" to unseal all of Hannah's records and allow both the family and the government to fully discuss the case.

Parents who believe there is a link between vaccines and autism think this is a huge victory. Others in the medical community believe there is no link. They say this is a very narrow decision that does not apply to everyone.

Seven-year-old twins: Killian in a striped shirt is autistic; his brother Justin is not. And their parents are convinced that vaccines - 28 shots before his second birthday - caused Killian's condition.

"As his ear infection were increasing, and the vaccines were increasing, it turned out he got sick and he's not been better since," said father Kevin Hynes.

His parents moved to the Chicago area from New York two years ago to be closer to a doctor whose treatments have shown significant progress.

They are also among the 5,000 parents who have filed suit seeking compensation...

"A number of studies show there's no solid link between vaccines and autism," said Dr. Ronald Kallen, pediatrician.

Kallen has been deeply involved in autism research for years. He has an adult son who suffers from autism. But he doubts any link between autism and vaccinations.

It is a controversial issue in the autism community.

Hynes is completely convinced the link is real. And today's settlement is a landmark.

"It's a total homerun for us because what happened today was for the first time finally the government conceded that a vaccine caused injury," he said.

Illinois ranks 48th in the country in funding, according to the Autism Society of Illinois. They urge early screening, and while they are not convinced of any link between vaccines and autism, they are grateful for any media attention on the disease.