[JURIST] Three special masters sitting in the US Federal Court of Claims [official website] Friday rejected [opinions, PDF] three compensation actions brought in a coordinated omnibus proceeding [backgrounder, PDF; HRSA backgrounder] by families of autistic children who had argued that their children's autism was induced by vaccines containing mercury-laden thimerosol. The families had sought compensation under the no-fault National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program [HRSA backgrounder]. Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith wrote that her petitioners had not "presented a scientifically sound theory", citing evidence that it was "biologically implausible." In February special masters in the same court rejected arguments [JURIST report] made in three other test cases against the US Department of Health and Human Services by families alleging that their children's autism was caused by a combination of common childhood vaccines.
Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, has been at the center of several health debates. In 2005, HHS officials said that state laws prohibiting thimerosal could impede efforts [JURIST report] to fight an avian flu pandemic should an outbreak occur. Most doctors believe thimerosal is safe, saying it does not affect the body in the same manner as mercury found in pollutants, but several groups claim that use of the preservative can be linked to neurological diseases including autism. Creation of mercury-free vaccines requires packaging individual doses, which is expected to pose a major problem if large batches of the vaccine need to be rushed in the event of an avian flu pandemic. Doctors partially attribute recent outbreaks of measles and other infectious diseases [Bloomberg report] in the US to an increasing reluctance among parents to expose children to vaccines.