Autism and Vaccines: Another Headline That Doesn’t Fit The Story’s Facts

This story reported by the Associated Press by the LA Times today and many other nation media venues, is a great example of the mismatch between headlines and facts.

The LA Times headline, “Government Concedes Vaccine Injury Case”, is scary and eye-catching all at once. But, the article has some important details that make the headline’s validity fall quickly into question. According to the AP, “(g)overnment health officials have conceded that childhood vaccines worsened a rare, underlying disorder that ultimately led to autism-like symptoms in a Georgia girl, and that she should be paid from a federal vaccine-injury fund.”

The scary headlines now looks less scary. This isn’t a case of a vaccine causing autism at all. This is a case of a child having an underlying condition involving her mitochondria which is an energy disorder. If you read to the end of the LA Times story, you’ll see this paragraph:

“…five vaccines the girl received on one day in 2000 aggravated her mitochondrial condition, predisposing her to metabolic problems that manifested as worsening brain function ‘with features of autism spectrum disorder.'”

Mitochodrial disorders are very complicated and many of those children not only do have autistic-like symptoms but can have metabolic crises brought on by illness and stress. We don’t know what her symptoms were before these vaccines were given or right after but clearly she had a metabolic crisis which caused her neurologic problems.

So, in the end, this case does not prove any link between vaccines and autism at all. Parents in the mitochondrial world agree.

The vaccine compensation program has certain rules in place to grant cases like this involving rare side effects, including brain function problems, compensation that has nothing to do with autism, as noted by the AP. In fact, numerous cases have already been awarded compensation. So, we have to be careful what conclusions we draw from this one case, especially given this girl has an underlying medical condition where the metabolic stress of being given the vaccines may have been the issue, as opposed the vaccines themselves.

What does this tell me? We need to know more about mitochondrial disorders to diagnose it better. I did some work with the Mitochondrial Action Committee last year and was impressed by the complexity of the disorder and how difficult it was to diagnose. Since awareness is part of the issue, let me do my part by passing on the information I learned that I put into a few articles for the MitoAction Committee:

Understanding Mitochondrial Disease

Sickness and Mitochondrial Disease
“Normal” and Mitochondrial Disease

By the way, a better headline for this story would have been: Vaccine Case Highlights Need for Mitochondrial Disorder Awareness.


  1. Destiny says:

    but their headline accurate or not sells more papers and enstills strong emotions in parents. It is sad how much power the media has and yet they abuse it by not being accurate or lacking the truth in their articles. Thanks for putting the facts out there.

  2. Thanks for sharing your opinions. I linked to this post at Qvisory yesterday.

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