On February 12, 2009, a special court ruled that vaccines do not cause autism in children. The court began hearing three types of autism related cases in 2007. The ruling today concerned only one type of cases, the allegation that autism was caused by the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and other vaccines containing thimerosal, which contains mercury. With these types of cases, the court found there was no association or causal link between vaccines and autism. The court has yet to rule on the other two types of cases: autism caused by the MMR vaccine alone and autism called by thimerosal containing vaccines alone. The parents of autistic children filed petitions with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) seeking compensation, which led to the special court hearing.

Understandably, both the medical and scientific communities are anxious to find what exactly causes autism. Autism is a very complicated developmental and neurological disorder. Autism affects the brain, which leads to abnormal communication skills and social interactions. Autism is one of five disorders, collectively called PDD (pervasive developmental disorders). The other disorders include Asperger’s, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) and Rett’s Disorder.

Autism is the most common PDD disorder and affects roughly 1.5 million people. According to recent statistics, the number of people with some form of autism is rising. In Rhode Island public school’s the number of autistic children increased by 1,500 from 1992 to 2002. Current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 out of 150 babies are born with some form of autism. In addition, the rate of autism is much higher for males, than females. Boys are four times more likely to be autistic than girls.

The debate over the cause of autism has been raging for some time. There is not any single known cause of autism. Potential causes suggested by scientists, medical professionals and parents include genetics, medical problems, pregnancy problems, environmental factors and toxins and vaccines. There is a lack of consensus among scientists and medical professionals as to the potential causes of autism. Although the special court determined vaccines do not cause autism, it is unclear whether others will agree with their decision.