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Nearly 5,000 families with an autistic child have filed claims against the U.S. government, alleging that their children’s autism resulted from childhood vaccinations. The first test case began in a hearing last Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and was presided over by three special masters. Should the courts find in favor of the families, they will receive vindication and monetary compensation from a multibillion-dollar trust fund.

The case alleges that thimerosal, a preservative found in the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR), is to blame for the children’s conditions. The thimerosal, which was also in other childhood vaccines, is about 50 percent mercury by weight. Common childhood vaccines no longer contain the preservative.

One of the plaintiffs contends that there exists “special outcomes in their children that are consistent with exposure to mercury, and those outcomes did not present themselves until after they received their vaccinations.”

However, a 2001 report from the Institute of Medicine points to the findings of five large studies from the United States and abroad. The studies observed thousands of children since 2001 without finding any indication of a link between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal. However, the CDC has indicated that it supports additional research on the issue.

For more information on this subject, please see our section related to Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.

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