UW News

May 27, 2010

UW panel to discuss autism and childhood vaccinations June 1

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

“Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: Do vaccinations put children at risk to develop autism?’ will be the topic of a UW panel discussion for the Institute of Translational Health Sciences June Interdisciplinary Grand Rounds.

The panel discussion will take place from noon to 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 1, in K069 at the UW Health Sciences Center. The program is free and open to all interested persons. It will also be webcast live on UWTV.

The panelists will be Dr. Wendy Stone, the new director of the UW Autism Center; Dr. Charles Cowan, a developmental pediatrician and the program director of Autism Medical Services at Seattle Children’s; and Dr. Al Berg, UW professor of family medicine, and a member of the Institute of Medicine Panel on Autism and Childhood Vaccination.

Stone came to the UW this spring from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee. Her clinical and research interests are the early identification and early interventions of children with autism spectrum disorders. She is working to characterize the emerging behavioral symptoms of autism in very young children, to understand the mechanisms underlying the development of the disorder, of and to find ways to prevent or attenuate symptoms. She helped to create the Screening Tool for Autism in Two-Year Olds (STAT) and to design training activities for teachers, pediatricians and other early-childhood professionals. Stone is a UW professor of psychology.

In addition to his medical practice at Seattle Children’s, Cowan serves on several boards and agencies to improve care for children with developmental disabilities. He was appointed by the governor of Washington to oversee the Infant-Toddler Intervention Program and serves on the Kindering Center Board of Directors. Cowan speaks in communities throughout the region on the latest findings and guidelines on autism.

Berg has served on several national expert panels that determine clinical guidelines based on research evidence. He is the former chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. He served on the 2001 Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review on Measles-Mumps-RubellaVaccine and Autism. The committee’s primary finding was that, based on a consistent body of epidemiological evidence on a population level, there was insufficient support of a causal relationship between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism spectrum disorders. Berg is board certified in family medicine and in general preventive medicine and public health.

The prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, retracted a 1998 paper that linked the childhood vaccine to autism when the study was discredited for breaching fundamental principles of research medicine. Some 20 subsequent studies by various other research groups could not replicate the findings of the paper.

The Institute of Translational Health Sciences Education Core is sponsoring the autism panel discussion through federal grant funds. The Institute of Translational Health Sciences helps researchers obtain the education, resources and collaborations necessary to translate discoveries into practice. The Institute is a partnership among the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other local institutions dedicated to improving human health.