HC Deb 04 July 2001 vol 371 cc221-2W
Dr. Starkey

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research is being undertaken to investigate the effects of thiomersal in vaccines on children and links with autism. [1408]

Yvette Cooper

The Department is discussing with the Public Health Laboratory Service what suitable research in this area may be possible. The United States Centers for Disease Control have conducted two studies which have not demonstrated a causal association between autism and thiomersal (the amount of thiomersal in vaccines used in the UK childhood immunisation programme is considerably less than that used in the United States programme). A full joint statement by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practice s and the US Public Health Services is available on the world wide web at http://www.cdc.govinip/vacsafe/concerns/thimerosal/joint_statement_00.htm.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the Department of Health's statutory independent advisory committee, has reviewed the available evidence and has concluded that the present evidence did not support a link between thiomersal in vaccines and autism. They also concluded that there was substantial evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—which is a live attenuated vaccine and therefore has never contained thiomersal—is not a factor, but the cause of autism remains unknown. The Department has asked the Medical Research Council to review current knowledge about autism and to suggest possible areas for further research development so that a cause may be found.

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