The Sciences

Court rules no link between autism and vaccines!

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitFeb 12, 2009 4:45 PM


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REALITY WINS IN COURT! Three separate test cases were before special courts, all alleging that autism was caused by vaccines. The courts were set up by the government as part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, done basically to look at the very rare cases where it was possible that vaccines caused some harm to the people inoculated. The cases started in 2007, and in all three courts, the rulings were basically identical: there is no cause to compensate parents of autistic children due to the vaccines those children received. In other words, these three special courts all ruled that in these cases there is no scientific claim that vaccines cause autism. In fact, in one ruling, a special master (the judge, essentially) said the parents of one troubled child had "been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment." The claims of links between autism and vaccines were also cited as "speculative and unpersuasive." Damn straight. My heart goes out to these parents, looking for some sort of reason why their children are autistic. I can hardly imagine what that must be like. But it is absolutely 100% critical that in our emotional and utterly human outreach for an explanation that we do not grasp at the wrong ones. Vaccines don't cause autism. The science is extremely persuasive, and I would even say conclusive. However, as I have said before, the vocal antivaxxers will not be persuaded by this. They are impervious to reason, impervious to evidence, and impervious to facts. They are not looking at this rationally, they have a religious fervor and nothing can sway them from that. Here is a quote from one article on the new rulings:

"I think it is a mistake to conclude that, because these few test cases were denied compensation, it's been decided vaccines don't play any role in regressive autism," said Barbara Loe Fisher, the [National Vaccine Information] center's president.

That is complete nonsense. It's not been decided based on these rulings, it's been decided based on many scientifically-produced tests looking for any link between vaccines and autism. These rulings were based on a few test cases, and those were unpersuasive legally. Scientifically, the results are extremely persuasive, if you happen to live in the reality-based community. The point being that vocal antivaxxers don't have property anywhere near there. This ruling will only make them dig in further, and double their efforts to make sure that children all across the planet become victims to diseases which can kill or debilitate them, diseases which can be prevented by the simple effort of getting a shot. These rulings are incredibly important, and definitely cause for celebration. But the two things we must always remember to do: have sympathy for the parents in these situations (but not so much that we are swayed by unreasonable arguments), and be vigilant. The antivaxxers will not go away, and we must keep fighting. It cannot be overstated: the lives of our children are at stake here. This is nothing less than a pending global health crisis.

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