From an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta:
GUPTA: And one of those 4,900 cases was the case of nine-year- old Hannah Polling, which has been making a lot of news lately. Luckily, we have the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Julie Gerberding here.
We’re talking a lot about autism, as you know. I should remind people that the — my understanding is the federal government conceded that vaccines caused her autism like symptoms. First of all, is there a difference? I mean, does she have autism or autism-like symptoms? What’s the difference?
JULIE GERBERDING, DR., CDC DIRECTOR: Well, you know, I don’t have all the facts because I still haven’t been able to review the case files myself. But my understanding is that the child has a — what we think is a rare mitochondrial disorder. And children that have this disease, anything that stresses them creates a situation where their cells just can’t make enough energy to keep their brains functioning normally. Now, we all know that vaccines can occasionally cause fevers in kids. So if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines. And if you’re predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.
GUPTA: Yes, I have a two-and-a-half-year-old and a one-year-old as you know. And you know, you know, you think about this all the time. Are we ready to say right now as things stand that childhood vaccines do not cause autism?
GERBERDING: What we can say absolutely for sure is that we don’t really understand the causes of autism. We’ve got a long way to go before we get to the bottom of this. But there have been at least 15 very good scientific studies on the Institute of Medicine who have searched this out. And they have concluded that there really is no association between vaccines and autism.
GUPTA: Are you comfortable with everything that we know? So you talk about the…
GERBERDING: Well, I’ll never be comfortable with everything we know. I mean, I think we have to have an open mind about this. We know that there’s very little chance that it’s something related to a vaccine that’s going to cause a serious problem for a child. We also know how life saving vaccines really are.
GERBERDING: You know, something like 33,000 children a year are saved from death associated with the vaccines…
GERBERDING: …because of our immunization program. That’s a huge benefit.
GERBERDING: One of the things that concerns me is while the attention is focused on vaccines, in a sense, it means people are not looking for other causes. I mean, we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that the vaccine story has been one that’s been debated for many, many years now. We keep looking and looking and looking. And we really cannot turn up any information.