/ Articles / Federal court case questions the CDC’s claim that ‘vaccines do not cause autism’

Federal court case questions the CDC’s claim that ‘vaccines do not cause autism’

April 17, 2020 by Kimberly Drake

Without a doubt, the debate on whether vaccines cause autism is one of the most emotionally charged deliberations of the century, and the scientific community has struggled to provide concrete evidence either proving or disproving the link, if any, between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorder (ASD.) 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a hub America trusts for medical information, has made it clear for years “there is no link between vaccines and autism.” Recently, that claim was challenged in a lawsuit filed in federal court by ICAN (Informed Consent Action Network), which forced the CDC to produce the studies proving their claim there is no link between vaccines and ASD. The CDC submitted 20 studies, which, according to ICAN, contain no clear evidence vaccines do not cause autism. The non-profit organization claims the CDC has essentially “conceded that it has no scientific studies to back up its long-declared assertion that vaccines given to babies do not cause autism.”

The March 2, 2020 court document was the conclusion of a battle between ICAN and the CDC which began in the summer of 2019 when ICAN submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CDC to produce the studies used to claim vaccines — particularly the DTaP vaccine — does not cause autism. The non-profit group also included requests for the same information regarding HepB, Hib, PCV13 and IPV, as well as studies to support cumulative exposure to these vaccines during the first six months of life do not cause ASD.

After months of no response from the CDC, ICAN sued the agency in federal court. This complaint, filed Dec. 31, 2019, argued that in order for various non-profit autism groups to assure parents of children with ASD vaccines did not cause their child’s condition, they would like to have available the studies the CDC relied upon to make their claim. The complaint goes on to state that, “given the CDC’s broad and unequivocal assertions that ‘Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism,’ there must be a robust body of science that supports this conclusion.”

According to a press release from ICAN, the March 2 ruling proves the CDC has no studies to support any of these vaccines do not cause autism. This is not to say the CDC came up empty-handed, as they did produce 20 research documents. ICAN says these studies included “one relating to MMR (a vaccine ICAN did not challenge,) 13 relating to thimerosal (an ingredient not in any of the vaccines ICAN queried,) five relating to both MMR and thimerosal, and one relating to antigen, not vaccine exposure.” 

Another study listed by the CDC in the court document was a recent review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which concluded, “the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between the DTaP vaccine and autism.”

According to ICAN’s press release, Del Bigtree, the organization’s founder, said, “the CDC complains that those (individuals) raising concerns about vaccine safety are unscientific and misinformed, but when we asked the CDC for studies to support its claim that ‘vaccines do not cause autism,’ it is clear that their claim is not grounded in science.” 

Bigtree, who was also a member of the 2017 Kennedy Vaccine Safety Delegation at the National Institute of Health arranged by President Trump, founded ICAN in 2016 with the mission of “investigating the safety of medical procedures, pharmaceutical drugs, and vaccines while educating the public of their right to “informed consent.”

Opposition to Bigtree’s organization say it is one of the main anti-vaccine groups in the United States that spreads myths about vaccination safety, and one of the primary instigators of vaccine hesitancy among the general public. 

Despite this opposition, this recent court battle isn’t the only victory ICAN has seen against federal health agencies. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted it had not provided a single vaccine safety report to Congress as required by the Mandate for Safer Childhood Vaccines in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. In 2019, as a result of an ICAN led FOIA lawsuit, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admitted they are recommending vaccines for pregnant women that have neither been licensed for expectant mothers by their agency nor tested for safety in clinical trials. Also in 2019, ICAN submitted an FOIA request to the FDA regarding the MMR vaccine. As a result, the FDA revealed that the MMR vaccine was licensed based on clinical trials which had less than 1,000 participants and far more adverse reactions than previously acknowledged.

Clearly, more research needs to be conducted by non-biased third-party investigators to determine if indeed the evidence exists linking vaccines to autism. Enough of the smokescreens, baseless claims, and junk science on both sides of the debate. Somewhere in the middle of a quagmire of bureaucrats, pharmaceutical companies, government organizations, scientists and distraught parents lies the truth. And for the sake of the 1 in 36 children that will be diagnosed with autism this year alone, the truth can’t come soon enough.

Kimberly Drake can be reached at [email protected]

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