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David Kirby

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Breaking: Vaccine Court Ruling Due Thursday

Posted: 02/11/09 05:20 PM ET

8:30 PM EST - UPDATE:

I have confirmed the following information:

Members of the US Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs have been caught somewhat off guard with the news that the MMR autism rulings would be released on Thursday.

Yesterday, I sent a letter to the Court of Federal Claims, and to the Justice Department, asking why the decisions had not yet been handed down. I wrote:

"It seems very clear that the Court is aware of the content of these decisions, yet there does not seem to be any rationale for withholding the rulings any longer. As a journalist, I believe the public has an inherent right to know the decisions made by the Special Masters in a timely and responsible manner."

I did not hear back from the court. But within 45 minutes, I got this reply from DOJ:

David, We have no information in response to any of those questions. We, too, are awaiting those decisions from the court.

Charles Miller
Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Department of Justice

That was at 2:30PM yesterday. But by 2:30PM today, Public Affairs staff were bracing for a huge workload and a very long day on Thursday, knowing they would be taking press calls from all over the globe. They are grumbling that the Court did not give them more time to prepare.

Interestingly, and in an unusual move, the DOJ staff are also sending around copies of the Sunday Times of London articles by Brian Deer, about Andy Wakefield's alleged scientific misconduct - in an effort to discredit him and his work prior to the Vaccine Court rulings.

I have no idea what any of this means, but I thought I would report it.

---

I am hearing from sources that we will get rulings on all three MMR cases (with a supporting role for thimerosal). The three thimerosal only test cases will be released at a later date.

The rulings will be very long and thorough.

That is all I know.

I wouldn't bet on anything, but I am not at all confident that there will be a finding of general causation for MMR and autism. I would be willing to predict that there won't be. On the question of autism causation in any one of the three cases individually, my gut tells me that is a long shot too - but then again, I thought OJ would be convicted of double homicide.

So, what other scenarios are left? It is possible that one (or more) of the three children may receive some sort of compensation for their injuries - with the explicit stipulation that the vaccine caused some type of, say, encephalopathy, but not the diagnosis of autism. If you apply the normal vaccine court standards to the case of Michelle Cedillo, for example, it is difficult, though not impossible to imagine that this sweet and humble family from Arizona would be denied any compensation whatsoever to help pay for the seizure medication and other treatments that their daughter Michelle will need for the rest of her life.

That, in my opinion, would be justice denied. This girl was clearly injured by her MMR vaccine. Whether it caused autism or not is another matter, but she was damaged by that shot and, under the law, she is entitled to compensation.

If that happens, it is a personal victory for the Cedillo family, but certainly not a sweeping success for the vaccine-autism theory (And even an exceedingly unlikely slam dunk in the parents' favor would do nothing to end the scientific debate - which is how it should be).

Under this scenario, the message will be that vaccines do not and cannot cause autism - either in general terms, or in the cases of these three children. In some very rare cases, vaccination can cause encephalopathy in some children. But we already knew that.

I will leave it to Americans and their media to interpret what it will mean if any of these autistic children are awarded compensation for their maladies in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. My guess is that this one will have to be explained very, very carefully.