Neurodevelopmental disorders following thimerosal-containing childhood immunizations: a follow-up analysis

Int J Toxicol. 2004 Nov-Dec;23(6):369-76. doi: 10.1080/10915810490902038.


The authors previously published the first epidemiological study from the United States associating thimerosal from childhood vaccines with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs) based upon assessment of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). A number of years have gone by since their previous analysis of the VAERS. The present study was undertaken to determine whether the previously observed effect between thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines and NDs are still apparent in the VAERS as children have had a chance to further mature and potentially be diagnosed with additional NDs. In the present study, a cohort of children receiving thimerosal-containing diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccines in comparison to a cohort of children receiving thimerosal-free DTaP vaccines administered from 1997 through 2000 based upon an assessment of adverse events reported to the VAERS were evaluated. It was determined that there were significantly increased odds ratios (ORs) for autism (OR = 1.8, p < .05), mental retardation (OR = 2.6, p < .002), speech disorder (OR = 2.1, p < .02), personality disorders (OR = 2.6, p < .01), and thinking abnormality (OR = 8.2, p < .01) adverse events reported to the VAERS following thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccines in comparison to thimerosal-free DTaP vaccines. Potential confounders and reporting biases were found to be minimal in this assessment of the VAERS. It was observed, even though the media has reported a potential association between autism and thimerosal exposure, that the other NDs analyzed in this assessment of the VAERS had significantly higher ORs than autism following thimerosal-containing DTaP vaccines in comparison to thimerosal-free DTaP vaccines. The present study provides additional epidemiological evidence supporting previous epidemiological, clinical and experimental evidence that administration of thimerosal-containing vaccines in the United States resulted in a significant number of children developing NDs.

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Autistic Disorder / chemically induced
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / chemically induced*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual
  • Developmental Disabilities / chemically induced*
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis Vaccines / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Immunization / adverse effects
  • Infant
  • Odds Ratio
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / chemistry
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thimerosal / adverse effects*
  • Thimerosal / chemistry
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis Vaccines
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Thimerosal