Paul Offit, M.D.
Chief: Section of Infectious Disease
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Dr. Paul Offit, Chief Section of Infectious Disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will join Dr. Galati this week and discuss his recent New England Journal of Medicine article discussing the ongoing questions surrounding vaccines and autism.
When she was 19 months old, Hannah, the daughter of Jon and Terry Poling, received five vaccines — diphtheria–tetanus–acellular pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles–mumps–rubella (MMR), varicella, and inactivated polio. At the time, Hannah was interactive, playful, and communicative. Two days later, she was lethargic, irritable, and febrile. Ten days after vaccination, she developed a rash consistent with vaccine-induced varicella.
Months later, with delays in neurologic and psychological development, Hannah was diagnosed with encephalopathy caused by a mitochondrial enzyme deficit. Hannah's signs included problems with language, communication, and behavior — all features of autism spectrum disorder. Although it is not unusual for children with mitochondrial enzyme deficiencies to develop neurologic signs between their first and second years of life, Hannah's parents believed that vaccines had triggered her encephalopathy. They sued the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for compensation under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and won.