Vaccinations and Autism: One Pediatrician's Perspective
Medical Author:David Perlstein, MD, FAAP
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
When I was asked to write a Doctor's View about the Hannah Poling ruling, I hesitated initially, and then determined that it was one of my responsibilities as a pediatrician to give my opinions of the decision. Briefly, this is in response to the recent case in which the federal government ruled that Hannah Poling, a nine year old girl, was entitled to receive compensation from a federal vaccine injury fund after developing neurological delays, including signs and symptoms of autism, following administration of a number of vaccines in 2000. This decision added fire to the Blog-O-Sphere where it was seen as both a victory for anti-vaccine groups and as the Government's admission that vaccines are the cause of the increase in the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders. On March 6, 2008, after the Poling ruling, Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in response to a question about the government's ruling stated:
"Let me be very clear that government has made absolutely no statement about indicating that vaccines are a cause of autism. And that is a complete mischaracterization of the findings of the case and a complete mischaracterization of any of the science that we have at our disposal today."
First of all, as a general pediatrician working in the Bronx, and as a parent of children with medical and developmental problems, I can wholly appreciate the visceral nature of dealing with a child who is not "normal". I also want to be clear that, although I do not have child with autism, I recognize the challenges and emotional stressthat is involved in raising a child with autistic features. I would like to personally praise Hannah's parents and especially her father Dr. Jon Poling, who has been adamant about his support of immunizing children against infectious diseases.