Information Needed on Vaccines and Autism in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)

Recently I came across the following story on a court ruling that found vaccines were not the cause of autism. I am interested to know what information is available from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System on vaccines and autism so that I can better understand the issue. Here is a link to the news story on NPR.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/03/court_vaccines_dont_cause_aust.html

Let me start by pointing out that I am not a medical professional.  I am a computer scientist who examines the U.S. Government’s VAERS data and posts it at MedAlerts.org.  So what I have to say here is purely the result of examining that data.

A recent court ruling states that vaccines do not cause autism.  Specifically, they rejected a claim that the MMR vaccine, combined with its thimerosal preservative, is at fault.  So I examined the government data to see what could be found.  Here is what I did (and I’ll give specific steps I took so that you can do it, too):

At www.medalerts.org I looked through the over 6000 symptoms listed in Section 2 of the search form and found the word “Autism” in two of them (“Autism” and “Autism spectrum disorder”).  I selected these two symptoms and then asked (in Section 1 of the search form) to “Show Table” of “Vaccine”.  The search turns up 2150 VAERS reports mention an autism symptom, and the resulting table breaks it down by vaccines that appear in those VAERS reports.  I then sorted the table by clicking on the green “down arrow” at the top-right, and the result was a list of the vaccines that are most associated with the autism symptoms.  Here are the top 10 entries:

MMR              1418 (65.95%)
HIBV              422 (19.63%)
DTAP             339 (15.77%)
HEP               329 (15.3%)
OPV              164 (7.63%)
VARCEL         163 (7.58%)
IPV               162 (7.53%)
PNC              156 (7.26%)
DTP              135 (6.28%)
DTPHIB         57 (2.65%)

So of the 2150 events in the VAERS database that list Autism as a symptom, well over half of them (1418) were cases in which MMR was administered.  (This result was obtained with U.S. Government data as of Feb 12, 2010.)

Now as I said at the start, I am not a health professional.  There are surely many factors surrounding these VAERS reports that change the picture dramatically.  I leave it to you to draw your own conculsion.