KEVIN FREKING and LAURAN NEERGAARD
February 12, 2009
WASHINGTON â€“ In a big blow to parents who believe vaccines caused their children’s autism, a special court ruled Thursday that the shots are not to blame.
The court said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parents’ claims â€” and backed years of science that found no risk.
“It was abundantly clear that petitioners’ theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive,” the court concluded in one of a trio of cases ruled on Thursday.
The ruling was anxiously awaited by health authorities and families who began presenting evidence in June 2007. More than 5,500 claims have been filed by families seeking compensation through the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The claims are reviewed by special masters serving on the U.S. Court of Claims.
“Hopefully, the determination by the special masters will help reassure parents that vaccines do not cause autism,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
An attorney for the families did not respond immediately to a request for comment. But the head of one consumer group that questions vaccine safety, the National Vaccine Information Center, said the court’s ruling will do little to change the minds of most parents who suspect a link between vaccines and autism. She said more studies are needed.