Vaccines in Court

The past few days have been rather exciting. There are two big stories here, neither of which has gotten much (if any) press in the US: vaccine manufacturer’s being taken to court in France over hepatitus b vaccines, and the US Department of Health & Human Services concedeing a case on a vaccine-autism link.

The first case comes to us from France, where vaccine manufacturer’s are being sued for manslaughter for failing to fully disclose side effects to hepatitis-B vaccines. Judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy has opened two separate investigations one against GlaxoSmithKline & Sanofi Pasteur and another against Sanofi Pasteur MSD a joint venture between Sanofi Aventis and Merck.

Between 1994 and 1998 about two thirds of the population (including almost all newborns during the time period) was vaccinated against hepatitis B, before the campaign was suspended because of concerns regarding side effects. Among the 30 plaintiffs are 5 families of people who died after being given the vaccine.

The second case takes place right here in the US. David Kirby in the Huffington Post reports that on November 9, 2007 US Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler quietly conceded that vaccines aggravated an existing mitochondrial disorder and thereby caused the manifestation of Autism Spectrum Disorder in one child. Mr Keisler and the other Justice Department officials were working on behalf of the Department of Health & Human Services.

This is huge because while mitochondrial disorders are extremely rare in the general population (0.2% or 1 in 10,000), they are far more common among people with ASD. An incredible 10-20% (estimated in some journal articles) of all autism cases may be linked to them, making them the most common disease associated with ASD. And in the Journal of Child Neurology Dr Zimmerman (the doctor who diagnosed the child in this case), co-authored an article which “showed that 38% of Kennedy Krieger Institute autism patients studied had one marker for impaired oxidative phosphorylation, and 47% had a second marker.”

All of this begs the question “What next?”. What will the US government do now. They have been claiming for the past several years that autism is in no way shape or form connected to vaccines or thimerosol. And yet, now they have conceded one case, which may be just the first of hundreds or thousands to come. With 4900 cases pending in vaccine court, how many can the government realistically afford to settle?