By Jon Hamilton
The nation's "vaccine court" has once again concluded that vaccines don't cause autism.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has rejected claims in three test cases that tried to show that vaccines preserved with thimerosal contributed to the development of autism.
The ruling comes a year after the same court rejected the claims of three other test cases. In those cases, experts failed to convince the court that the combined effects of the MMR vaccine and thimerosal caused autism.
Thimerosal contains mercury, which can affect brain development if kids are exposed to large amounts.
But vaccines preserved with thimerosal contain only tiny amounts of mercury. And numerous studies from around the world have found no evidence that autism is more common in kids exposed to thimerosal through vaccines.
The court's decision got a warm welcome from groups that support childhood vaccination, as well as some autism groups.
"We all feel for the families," said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. "But we can't lose sight of the science."
It's time to stop trying to blame vaccines for autism and invest in research that could lead to the real cause, Singer said.
If the court's decision holds up, it will mean that children with autism are not eligible for payments from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Currently there are claims to the program on behalf of thousands of children.
But the court battle isn't over yet. The petitioners to the so-called vaccine court can still ask for a review of the decision and appeal it to higher courts.
And they can still sue vaccine makers directly.