Feds' concession reignites autism controversy

For the first time, federal authorities are conceding a link between vaccines and autistic symptoms--just not the link activists thought.

A panel of medical evaluators at the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that one 9-year-old girl had an underlying cellular disorder that was worsened by vaccines she was given. The disorder then caused brain damage that manifested in autistic symptoms.

The girl's family is awaiting a ruling on damages from a special federal vaccine court; they originally were part of a group of almost 5,000 families seeking damages from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The other cases haven't been resolved.

The CDC maintains that vaccines are safe and notes that even though was eliminated from most childhood vaccines several years ago, autism rates thimerosal continue to climb. However, even though this one girl's case has some unusual features, the link between her vaccines and her symptoms could indicate that there's a link between vaccines and other kids' symptoms, too.

"It's always possible that there's a small subset of kids that have this vulnerability," one expert told Time magazine. But researchers believe that most cases of autism are caused by a matrix of genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors, perhaps dozens or hundreds of possible combinations--vaccines being just one possibility.

- read the story from Time