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
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:
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.
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.
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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