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StarBulletin.com

Mercury vaccine preservative does not cause autism


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POSTED: Monday, February 16, 2009

GOV. Linda Lingle vetoed a bill three years ago that would have restricted the use of vaccines containing mercury that some families blamed for autism. The governor's sound judgment on this issue was validated last week by three judges who determined that such concern was unfounded. Further moves should be disregarded in the absence of reliable scientific findings.

The 2006 bill approved by the Legislature would have restricted the use of federally approved vaccines containing thimerosal, a mercury compound that has been used for years as a preservative in vaccines. Many parents had become convinced that it caused autism, despite the conclusion by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine that there was no causal link. Lingle warned that lowering the immunization rate would have put Hawaii at risk in the event of a flu pandemic.

Three judges in separate cases found that families have failed to show that their children's autism was caused by substances in vaccines. One judge, George L. Hastings Jr., found that the government's expert witnesses were “;far better qualified, far more experienced and far more persuasive”; than a family's experts claiming a causal relationship.

Hastings expressed sympathy for the family but ruled that it had been “;misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment.”;

Lawyers for the families indicated they will appeal, but their claim that the decision not to compensate the families was “;an incomprehensible injustice”; will be difficult to maintain from scientific evidence. Further research is needed to determine the cause of autism, the nation's fastest-growing developmental disability.