On Monday began a hearing in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington to determine whether vaccinations could have caused autism in many children.

Over 4,800 families filed complaints against the government stating that routine childhood vaccines are linked to a rise in autism disorders. A preservative called thimerosal used in vaccines is being blamed for the impaired social interaction so typical of autism.

Although scientists contend strongly that there is no link between autism and vaccines containing thimerosal, a very load group of people remains unconvinced.

Parents whose children developed autistic symptoms reported that their children had no symptoms until after they received the vaccines, required by many states for admission to school. They are seeking payment under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This program has a 2.5 billion U.S. dollars fund built up from a 75-cent-per-dose tax on vaccines.

This is the first time ever that evidence of autistic harm from childhood vaccines is examined and cross-examined in a court of law. There will be no judges but three "special masters" instead who will hear the cases. They are Denise Vowell, a former U.S. Army chief trial judge; Patricia Campbell-Smith, a former environmental lawyer and clerk at the Federal Claims Court; and George Hastings a former tax claims expert at the Department of Justice.