ATLANTA (AP) -- The parents of a nine-year-old Georgia girl who won a government settlement described today how their hearts were broken as they watched her deteriorate into an irritable, odd-behaving toddler after she got several childhood shots.
Terry Poling of Athens, the girl's mother, said in a news conference that suddenly, her daughter was no longer there.
Poling and her husband, Jon, said their daughter, Hannah, has been diagnosed with autism.
The government has agreed to pay the Polings from a federal fund that compensates people injured by vaccines. U.S. officials reject the idea that the vaccines cause autism. But they say that in this case the shots worsened an underlying disorder that led to autism-like symptoms.
The Polings said five simultaneous vaccinations in July 2000 led to Hannah's autistic behavior. She was about 18 months at the time.
U.S. health officials have consistently maintained that vaccines are safe, and a lawyer representing them said this week that there was no change in that position.
The Athens couple acknowledged their legal case never got to the point where evidence was introduced or argued. Jon Poling, a 37-year-old neurologist called on the government to remove thimerosal -- a mercury-based vaccine preservative -- from all flu shots. Thimerosal has already been removed from other vaccinations given to children.