is a nine year old girl with mild to moderate symptoms of autism, which developed three months after she received vaccinations. The Department of Health and Human Services
announced that her family will receive a settlement from the vaccine compensation fund. Autism activists are encouraged
, but the DHHS officials insist they are not admitting a link between autism and vaccines
and maintain that for most, vaccines are safe
. Rather, they say, the series of vaccines Hannah received exacerbated
an underlying mitochondrial
condition, causing the symptoms of autism.
Hannah had a mutation in a gene which controlled mitochondrial function
. When she received the immunizations, the DHHS concluded
, this mutation was aggravated, predisposed her to deficits in energy metabolism, and ultimately caused brain damage with "features of autism spectrum disorder
For the nearly 5,000 autistic individuals and their families seeking compensation
from the special fund, it is unclear whether Hannah's case represents an opportunity or not. The cases are reviewed by a special court None of the 950 claims the special fund has paid out since it was created by Congress in 1988 have been for autism. Officials insist that this case is no different from other claims paid out by the fund in the past.
The cases are before a special "vaccine court" that doles out cash from a fund Congress set up to pay people injured by vaccines and to protect makers from damages as a way to help ensure an adequate vaccine supply. The burden of proof is lighter than in a traditional court, and is based on a preponderance of evidence. Since the fund started in 1988, it has paid roughly 950 claims — none for autism.
The document released by the DHHS focuses on the rare mitochondrial disorder. It does not raise the issue of the organomercury preservative Thimerosal
used in many vaccines, which many autism activists believe has a link to autism
. Instead, the document states that the "five vaccines the girl received on one day in 2000 aggravated her mitochondrial condition, predisposing her to metabolic problems that manifested as worsening brain function with features of autism spectrum disorder". DHHS officials claim that Hannah's is a unique case
, and that the underlying condition she had is very rare.
Neurologist Jon Poling (MD/PhD), Hannah's father, who co-authored a paper
in the Journal of Child Neurology on his daughter's case does not agree
, saying: "I don't think Hannah's case is as unique as many experts believe." Some believe that autism could in fact be a mitochondrial disease
. A study of 69 Portuguese children conducted in 2005
and published in the journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology
found that five had mitochondrial abnormalities.
Interestingly, Dr. Poling says that he still supports giving vaccines to children
. "Each treatment has a risk and a benefit," Dr. Poling says