October 18, 2001
A leading vaccine injury law group announced today that their firm is now in possession of an unreleased confidential report authored by Centers for Disease Control scientists which studied autism as a potential neurological injury caused by mercury in children’s vaccines. An announcement was made by the law firm of Waters & Kraus, the firm that filed the first known lawsuit alleging that a mercury preservative in children’s vaccines caused neurological damage to an infant ultimately diagnosed with autism.
Andy Waters, the lead attorney in the firm, warned that a different version of the report was eventually made public and has been cited by the recent Institute of Medicine study as inconclusive on the issue of whether the mercury-based vaccine preservative known as thimerosal has contributed to cause a nationwide epidemic of regressive autism and other neurological disorders in small children. The confidential version of the study, however, clearly demonstrated that an exposure to more than 62.5 micrograms of mercury within the first three months of life significantly increased a child’s risk of developing autism. Specifically, the study found a 2.48 times increased risk of autism – that is to say, children with the exposure were more than twice as likely to develop autism as children not exposed. In the United States, courts of law have generally held that a relative increased risk of 2.0 or higher is sufficient to substantiate that a given exposure causes disease. As but one example, in the case of Cook v. United States, 545 F.Supp. 306, at 308 (Northern District – California 1982) the Court stated that, “in a vaccine case, a relative risk greater than 2.0 establishes that there is a greater than 50% chance that the injury was caused by the vaccine.”
Waters indicated that, in many of the cases his firm has evaluated, including the case filed in a Texas state court on behalf of the Counter family, the affected child received more than 62.5 micrograms of mercury through pediatric vaccines in the first three months of life.
The confidential report, which was obtained by the SAFEMINDS support and advocacy group, states: “As for the exposure evaluated at 3 months of age, we found increasing risks of ‘neurological developmental disorders’ with increasing cumulative exposure to thimerosal … within the group of ‘developmental disorders’… for the sub-group called ‘specific delays,’ and within this sub-group for the specific disorder ‘developmental speech disorder,’ and for ‘autism,’ ‘stuttering’ and ‘attention deficit disorder.'” The report also contained the graph depicted below which illustrated the report’s findings of a child’s increasing risk of developing the neurological symptoms of autism Waters pointed out that the confidential study’s lead author, Thomas Verstraeten, has since left the Centers for Disease Control and is now employed by GlaxoSmithKline, a manufacturer of thimerosal-containing vaccines for many years that is a defendant in numerous suits pending nationwide. “We have asked GlaxoSmithKline to provide Mr. Verstraeten’s deposition in order to understand if conflict of interest issues may have played a role in the CDC’s decision to keep this report confidential, and specifically, their failure to reveal it to the Institute of Medicine.” Waters called the report’s contents and the fact that it was kept from the public as “shocking, but unfortunately not surprising, given the political influence of pharmaceutical companies and the tremendous liability they face if they are forced to compensate thousands of families for the costs of care that these children require.”
Waters added that “no amount of money can give these children back the potential that they were born with, and no amount of money will comfort the parents that watched The purpose of the lawsuits his firm is currently prosecuting, said Waters, is “to bring to the surface the truth on this issue, a truth that government agencies seem unwilling to admit, perhaps for fear that parents will stop vaccinating their children, and to force the companies that profited from this disastrous mistake to shoulder the responsibility that so many families now bear on their own, often without even the aid of health insurance benefits.”