The Status of Research into Vaccine Safety and Autism

 
   

Congressman Dan Burton
 


FOR IMMEDIATE
RELEASE
CONTACT: John Cardarelli 202-225-2276
June 15, 2002


The Status of Research into Vaccine Safety and Autism

June 19, 2002

Room 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. - On June 19, 2002, at 11:00 a.m., in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), will conduct a hearing to evaluate the status of research concerning the possible relationship between vaccines and neurological disorders, including autism.

Ten years ago, autism was estimated to affect 1 in 10,000 children. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is now anticipated to affect 1 in 250 children.

The Committee will hear testimony from scientists from three countries conducting research into possible relationships between vaccines and neurological disorders, including autism. One line of current research questions whether a mercury-based preservative used for years in children’s vaccines weakened the immune systems of some children and made them more susceptible to adverse reactions to the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield of Great Britain is conducting research to determine if the MMR vaccine has a relationship to children who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease and autism, a condition he terms autistic entercolitis. Other researchers testifying come from Sweden and the U.S.

The Committee will hear testimony from the following witnesses:

PANEL I

Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.,
Medical Doctor and Founder of the International Child Development Resource Center, and an autism parent, Palm Bay, Florida.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, M.D., Research Director, International Child Development Resource Center, Palm Bay, Florida, and Surrey, England.

Dr. Arthur Krigsman, M.D., Pediatric Gastrointestinal Consultant, Lenox Hill Hospital, and Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York.

Dr. Vera Stejskal, Associate Professor of Immunology, University of Stockholm and MELISA MEDICA foundation, Stockholm, Sweden.

Dr. Walter Spitzer, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.P.C. Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at McGill University.

PANEL II

Dr. Roger Bernier
, Associate Director for Science, Office of the Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Robert Chen, Chief of Vaccine Safety and Development at the National Immunization Program and Associate Director for Science and Public Health, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Frank DeStefano, Medical Epidemiologist, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.

BACKGROUND

In April the Committee conducted a hearing reviewing the dramatic rise in autism rates and the Department of Health and Human Service’s response to this increase. Ten years ago, autism was thought to affect 1 in 10,000 individuals in the United States. It was considered a rare condition. When the Committee began its oversight investigation in 1999, autism was thought to affect 1 in 500 children. Today, the National Institutes of Health estimates that autism affects 1 in 250 children.

This dramatic rise in rates cannot be discounted merely as better reporting or the expansion of the definition of autism. Autism is thought by many to be a genetic condition. This may be the case for classic autism. However, for late-onset or acquired autism there are many environmental factors that may also be contributing factors.

In parallel to the autism investigation, the Committee has reviewed ongoing concerns about vaccine safety, vaccine adverse events tracking, the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project, and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The purpose of this hearing is to review current research regarding the two most prevalent issues that have arisen regarding possible relationships between vaccines and autism:

(1) the possible link between the use of the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in vaccines and autism, and

(2) the Wakefield hypothesis regarding autistic entercolitis and the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.



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