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Study Casts Doubt on Vaccine-Autism Link
Date:1/7/2008

Research adds to growing body of evidence thats finds no connection between the two

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Adding to a growing body of evidence that rejects the idea that immunizations boost autism rates, a new study finds no proof that incidences of the disorder dropped after makers of most childhood vaccines stopped using a mercury-based preservative in their products.

Researchers found that autism rates in California continued to rise over the past several years, even though the preservative -- known as thimerosal -- had vanished from almost all vaccines by 2001.

The study makes clear that "thimerosal cannot be the major cause of autism in California," said its lead author, Dr. Robert Schechter, medical officer with the Immunization Branch of the California Department of Public Health.

Another expert called the study limited and said it did not prove that vaccines have no connection to autism.

Still, the new research "adds to the body of existing evidence in which there is no causal connection that demonstrates thimerosal is a primary cause" of autism, said Andy Shih, vice president of scientific affairs for Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization.

Thimerosal, a preservative once used in contact lens solutions, was frequently a component of childhood vaccines until around 2000. Today, it's still used in flu vaccines recommended for infants, but researchers think children are still exposed to much less thimerosal than in the past.

In recent years, some parents have blamed their children's autism on the preservative, which is derived from mercury; others have accused the parents of creating public panic and threatening the health of children by casting a bad light on routine immunizations.

One government study released in 2007 claimed that thimerosal exposure in the first seven months of life didn't appear to affect the brain function of children aged 7 to 10,
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