The U.S. Court of Claims is hearing a series of arguments from parents who charge that vaccines gave their children autism.
The claims court is considering arguments from 4,900 parents who say that the vaccines produced autism or neurological problems in their previously normal, healthy children. While the disorder normally develops before the age of three, many of the parents claim that their older children only developed the condition after being vaccinated.
In order to deal with the large number of claims, the court's Office of Special Masters ordered lawyers for the families to select three test cases for each of the three vaccine-autism arguments that have been put forward.
The group currently being heard claims that autism was produced by a preservative thimerosal, which contains mercury. The vaccine caused mercury to build up in children's brains, the lawyers say, reversing their normal mental development when brain cells became chronically hyperactive in order to try and purge the metal.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is known to cause a variety of developmental and brain problems, especially in children.
"In some kids, there's enough of it that it sets off this chronic neuroinflammatory pattern that can lead to regressive autism," attorney Mike Williams said.
In the past, many children's vaccines were made with the thimerosal. Although the FDA denies that the thimerosal in vaccines is dangerous, it ordered the chemical phased out of childhood vaccines in 1999. It is currently found only in adult vaccines and in certain multi-dose flu vaccines that are also given to children.
Another group of parents, which went before the court in 2007 and has yet to hear a verdict, argued that autism was produced not only by thimerosal, but also by the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which does not contain the chemical. A third group, to be heard in September, alleges that only the MMR vaccine produced autism in their children.
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