Etiology of Autism/Vaccine Damage/CHILD v. HHS

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Jon Poling, left, and Terry Poling with their 9-year-old daughter Hannah Poling
Jon Poling, left, and Terry Poling with their 9-year-old daughter Hannah Poling



CHILD, a minor, by her Parents and Natural Guardians, Petitioners, 


In accordance with RCFC, Appendix B, Vaccine Rule 4(c), the Secretary of Health and Human Services submits the following response to the petition for compensation filed in this case.


Birth - Normal Development

  • CHILD ("CHILD") was born on December --, 1998, and weighed eight pounds, ten ounces. Petitioners' Exhibit ("Pet. Ex.") 54 at 13.
  • The pregnancy was complicated by gestational diabetes. Id. at 13.
  • CHILD received her first Hepatitis B immunization on December 27, 1998. Pet. Ex. 31 at 2.
  • From January 26, 1999 through June 28, 1999, CHILD visited the Pediatric Center, in Catonsville, Maryland, for well-child examinations and minor complaints, including fever and eczema. Pet. Ex. 31 at 5-10, 19.
  • During this time period, she received the following pediatric vaccinations, without incident:
Vaccine Dates Administered
Hep B 12/27/98; 1/26/99
IPV 3/12/99; 4/27/99
Hib 3/12/99; 4/27/99; 6/28/99
DTaP 3/12/99; 4/27/99; 6/28/99 Id. at 2.

7 Months: Bilateral Otitis Media

  • At seven months of age, CHILD was diagnosed with bilateral otitis media. Pet. Ex. 31 at 20.
  • In the subsequent months between July 1999 and January 2000, she had frequent bouts of otitis media, which doctors treated with multiple antibiotics. Pet. Ex. 2 at 4.
  • On December 3,1999, CHILD was seen by Karl Diehn, M.D., at Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center ("ENT Associates"). Pet. Ex. 31 at 44. Dr. Diehn recommend that CHILD receive PE tubes for her "recurrent otitis media and serious otitis." Id. CHILD received PE tubes in January 2000. Pet. Ex. 24 at 7.
  • Due to CHILD's otitis media, her mother did not allow CHILD to receive the standard 12 and 15 month childhood immunizations. Pet. Ex. 2 at 4.
  • According to the medical records, CHILD consistently met her developmental milestones during the first eighteen months of her life.
    • The record of an October 5, 1999 visit to the Pediatric Center notes that CHILD was mimicking sounds, crawling, and sitting. Pet. Ex. 31 at 9.
    • The record of her 12-month pediatric examination notes that she was using the words "Mom" and "Dad," pulling herself up, and cruising. Id. at 10.
  • At a July 19, 2000 pediatric visit, the pediatrician observed that CHILD "spoke well" and was "alert and active." Pet. Ex. 31 at 11. CHILD's mother reported that CHILD had regular bowel movements and slept through the night. Id.

Vaccine Insult

At the July 19, 2000 examination, CHILD received five vaccinations, Id. at 2, 11.

Vaccine Dates Administered
DTaP 7/19/2000
Hib 7/19/2000
MMR 7/19/2000
Varivax 7/19/2000
IPV 7/19/2000
  • According to her mother's affidavit, CHILD developed a fever of 102.3 degrees two days after her immunizations and was lethargic, irritable, and cried for long periods of time. Pet. Ex. 2 at 6.
  • She exhibited intermittent, high-pitched screaming and a decreased response to stimuli. Id.
  • MOM spoke with the pediatrician, who told her that CHILD was having a normal reaction to her immunizations. Id.
  • According to CHILD's mother, this behavior continued over the next ten days, and CHILD also began to arch her back when she cried. Id.
  • On July 31, 2000, CHILD presented to the Pediatric Center with a 101-102 degree temperature, a diminished appetite, and small red dots on her chest. Pet. Ex. 31 at 28.
  • The nurse practitioner recorded that CHILD was extremely irritable and inconsolable. Id.
  • She was diagnosed with a post-varicella vaccination rash. Id. at 29.
  • Two months later, on September 26, 2000, CHILD returned to the Pediatric Center with:
    • a temperature of 102 degrees,
    • diarrhea,
    • nasal discharge,
    • a reduced appetite, and
    • pulling at her left ear. Id. at 29.
  • Two days later, on September 28, 2000, CHILD was again seen at the Pediatric Center because her diarrhea continued, she was congested, and her mother reported that CHILD was crying during urination. Id. at 32.
  • On November 1, 2000, CHILD received bilateral PE tubes. Id. at 38.
  • On November 13, 2000, a physician at ENT Associates noted that CHILD was "obviously hearing better" and her audiogram was normal. Id. at 38.
  • On November 27, 2000, CHILD was seen at the Pediatric Center with complaints of diarrhea, vomiting, diminished energy, fever, and a rash on her cheek. Id. at 33.
  • At a follow-up visit, on December 14, 2000, the doctor noted that CHILD had a possible speech delay. Id.

Educationnal Evaluation

  • CHILD was evaluated at the Howard County Infants and Toddlers Program, on November 17, 2000, and November 28, 2000, due to concerns about her language development. Pet. Ex. 19 at 2, 7.
  • The assessment team observed deficits in CHILD's communication and social development. Id. at 6.
  • CHILD's mother reported that CHILD had become less responsive to verbal direction in the previous four months and had lost some language skills. Id. At 2.

Ear Trouble

  • On December 21, 2000, CHILD returned to ENT Associates because of an obstruction in her right ear and fussiness. Pet. Ex. 31 at 39.
  • Dr. Grace Matesic identified a middle ear effusion and recorded that CHILD was having some balance issues and not progressing with her speech. Id.
  • On December 27, 2000, CHILD visited ENT Associates, where Dr. Grace Matesic observed that CHILD's left PE tube was obstructed with crust. Pet. Ex. 14 at 6.
  • The tube was replaced on January 17, 2001.

Kennedy Krieger Institute

Dr. Andrew W. Zimmerman,M.D. is a pediatric neurologist and research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is also an Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Andrew W. Zimmerman,M.D. is a pediatric neurologist and research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is also an Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.[1]
  • Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist, evaluated CHILD at the Kennedy Krieger Children's Hospital Neurology Clinic ("Krieger Institute"), on February 8, 2001. Pet. Ex. 25 at 1.
  • Dr. Zimmerman reported that after CHILD's immunizations of July 19, 2000, an "encephalopathy progressed to persistent loss of previously acquired language, eye contact, and relatedness." Id.
  • He noted a disruption in CHILD's sleep patterns, persistent screaming and arching, the development of pica to foreign objects, and loose stools. Id.
  • Dr. Zimmerman observed that CHILD watched the fluorescent lights repeatedly during the examination and would not make eye contact. Id.
  • He diagnosed CHILD with "regressive encephalopathy with features consistent with an autistic spectrum disorder, following normal development." Id. At 2.
  • Dr. Zimmerman ordered:
    • genetic testing,
    • a magnetic resonance imaging test ("MRI"), and
    • an electroencephalogram ("EEG"). Id.

Krieger: OT

  • Dr. Zimmerman referred CHILD to the Krieger Institute's Occupational Therapy Clinic and the Center for Autism and Related Disorders ("CARDS"). Pet. Ex. 25 at 40.
  • She was evaluated at the Occupational Therapy Clinic by Stacey Merenstein, OTR/L, on February 23, 2001. Id.
  • The evaluation report summarized that CHILD had deficits in "many areas of sensory processing which decrease[d] her ability to interpret sensory input and influence[d] her motor performance as a result." Id. at 45.
  • CHILD was evaluated by Alice Kau and Kelley Duff, on May 16, 2001, at CARDS. Pet. Ex. 25 at 17.
  • The clinicians concluded that CHILD was developmentally delayed and demonstrated features of autistic disorder. Id. at 22.

Andrew Zimmerman, M.D. Diagnosis of Mitochondrial Disorder

  • CHILD returned to Dr. Zimmerman, on May 17, 2001, for a follow-up consultation. Pet. Ex. 25 at 4.
  • An overnight EEG, performed on April 6, 2001, showed no seizure discharges. Id. at 16.
  • An MRI, performed on March 14, 2001, was normal. Pet. Ex. 24 at 16.
  • A G-band test revealed a normal karyotype. Pet. Ex. 25 at 16.
  • Laboratory studies, however, strongly indicated an underlying mitochondrial disorder. Id. at 4.

Mitochondrial PPD

  • Dr. Zimmerman referred CHILD for a neurogenetics consultation to evaluate her abnormal metabolic test results. Pet. Ex. 25 at 8.
  • CHILD met with Dr. Richard Kelley, a specialist in neurogenetics, on May 22, 2001, at the Krieger Institute. Id.
  • In his assessment, Dr. Kelley affirmed that CHILD's history and lab results were consistent with "an etiologically unexplained metabolic disorder that appear[ed] to be a common cause of developmental regression." Id. at 7.
  • He continued to note that children with biochemical profiles similar to CHILD's develop normally until sometime between the first and second year of life when their metabolic pattern becomes apparent, at which time they developmentally regress. Id.
  • Dr. Kelley described this condition as "mitochondrial PPD." Id.

Horizon Molecular Medicine: Muscle Biopsy

  • On October 4, 2001, Dr. John Schoffner, at Horizon Molecular Medicine in Norcross, Georgia, examined CHILD to assess whether her clinical manifestations were related to a defect in cellular energetics. Pet. Ex. 16 at 26.
  • After reviewing her history, Dr. Schoffner agreed that the previous metabolic testing was "suggestive of a defect in cellular energetics." Id.
  • Dr. Schoffner recommended a muscle biopsy, genetic testing, metabolic testing, and cell culture based testing. Id. at 36.

Cerebral Spinal Fluid Analysis

  • A CSF organic acids test, on January 8, 2002, displayed an increased lactate to pyruvate ratio of 28,1 which can be seen in disorders of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Id. at 22.

Muscle Biospy

  • A muscle biopsy test for oxidative phosphorylation disease revealed abnormal results for Type One and Three. Id. at 3.
  • The most prominent findings were scattered atrophic myofibers that were mostly type one oxidative phosphorylation dependent myofibers, mild increase in lipid in selected myofibers, and occasional myofiber with reduced cytochrome c oxidase activity. Id. at 7.
  • After reviewing these laboratory results, Dr. Schoffner diagnosed CHILD with oxidative phosphorylation disease. Id. at 3.

RNA Change

  • In February 2004, a mitochondrial DNA ("mtDNA") point mutation analysis revealed a single nucleotide change in the 16S ribosomal RNA gene (T2387C). Id. at 11.

Kennedy Krieger: 2004

  • CHILD returned to the Krieger Institute, on July 7, 2004, for a follow-up evaluation with Dr. Zimmerman. Pet. Ex. 57 at 9.
  • He reported CHILD "had done very well" with treatment for a mitochondrial dysfunction.
  • Dr. Zimmerman concluded that CHILD would continue to require services in speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapy. Id.


Emergency Evaluation / EEG

  • On April 14, 2006, CHILD was brought by ambulance to Athens Regional Hospital and developed a tonic seizure en route. Pet. Ex. 10 at 38.
  • An EEG showed diffuse slowing. Id. At 40.
  • She was diagnosed with having experienced a prolonged complex partial seizure and transferred to Scottish Rite Hospital. Id. at 39, 44.
  • She experienced no more seizures while at Scottish Rite Hospital and was discharged on the medications Trileptal and Diastal. Id. at 44.

MRI: 2006

  • A follow-up MRI of the brain, on June 16, 2006, was normal with evidence of a left mastoiditis manifested by distortion of the air cells. Id. at 36.


  • An EEG, performed on August 15, 2006, showed "rhythmic epileptiform discharges in the right temporal region and then focal slowing during a witnessed clinical seizure." Id. At 37. CHILD continues to suffer from a seizure disorder.


Medical personnel at the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation, Department of Health and Human Services (DVIC) have reviewed the facts of this case, as presented by the petition, medical records, and affidavits. After a thorough review, DVIC has concluded that compensation is appropriate in this case.

In sum, DVIC has concluded that the facts of this case meet the statutory criteria for demonstrating that the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder. Therefore, respondent recommends that compensation be awarded to petitioners in accordance with 42 U.S.C. ยง 300aa-11(c)(1)(C)(ii).

Image:Notepad.gif NOTE: DVIC has concluded that CHILD's complex partial seizure disorder, with an onset of almost six years after her July 19, 2000 vaccinations, is not related to a vaccine-injury. HHS later conceded that this child's complex partial seizure disorder was also caused by her vaccines.

 Respectfully submitted,
 Assistant Attorney General
 Torts Branch, Civil Division
 Deputy Director
 Torts Branch, Civil Division
 Assistant Director
 Torts Branch, Civil Division
 s/ Linda S. Renzi by s/ Lynn E. Ricciardella
 Senior Trial Counsel
 Torts Branch, Civil Division
 U.S. Department of Justice
 P.O. Box 146
 Benjamin Franklin Station
 Washington, D.C. 20044
 (202) 616-4133 

 DATE: November 9, 2007

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