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DPT Vaccine and Chronic Nervous System Dysfunction: A New Analysis
The NCES did not investigate the possibility of a direct relation between DPT and chronic nervous system dysfunction, that is, in the absence of a serious acute neurologic illness that occurs within 7 days after receiving DPT. The NCES provides data only on the limited case of a possible relation between DPT and chronic nervous system dysfunction in those children in whom a serious acute neurologic illness followed DPT vaccination within 7 days.
The committee posits three plausible scenarios whereby the acute neurologic illnesses that follow DPT might be related to chronic nervous system dysfunction.
DPT administration might cause serious acute neurologic illness and subsequent chronic dysfunction in children who otherwise might not have experienced either an acute neurologic illness or chronic dysfunction in the absence of DPT.
DPT might trigger (and thereby be an immediate or proximate cause) an acute neurologic illness and subsequent chronic dysfunction in children with underlying brain or metabolic abnormalities. Such children might experience acute neurologic illness and subsequent chronic dysfunction in association with some trigger other than DPT.
DPT might cause an acute neurologic illness in children with underlying brain or metabolic abnormalities that would themselves eventually have led to chronic dysfunction even in the absence of an acute neurologic illness.
The committee believes its conclusions take into account the fact that the data do not support any one of these scenarios over the others. Because the NCES did not (and probably could not) rule out the possibility that only children with underlying brain or metabolic abnormalities react to stimuli such as DPT with acute neurologic illness, and no other studies establish or rule out such a possibility, the committee concludes that the evidence is insufficient to indicate whether or not DPT increases the overall risk in children of chronic nervous system dysfunction.
The NCES data are consistent with the possibility that some children without underlying brain or metabolic abnormalities might experience serious acute neurologic illness within 7 days after receiving DPT and that acute neurologic illness will have chronic nervous system sequelae. The NCES data also are consistent with the possibility that some children with underlying brain or metabolic abnormalities (which foster a “triggering” by DPT of an acute neurologic illness) might go on to develop chronic nervous system dysfunction due to a DPT-triggered acute illness. Therefore, the committee concludes that the balance of evidence is consistent with a causal relation between DPT and the forms of chronic nervous system dysfunction described in the NCES in those children who experience a serious acute neurologic illness within 7 days after