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Back to the Future: Parental Concerns About Vaccine Safety

Posted: 3/5/2010 1:18:43 AM | with 3 comments

by Barbara Loe Fisher

The results of a 2009 survey evaluating the vaccine safety concerns of American parents was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. 1 Out of the approximately 1500 parents, who took the survey, only 23 percent believe that vaccines cause autism in healthy children. But more than half were worried about serious adverse health effects of vaccination. The vast majority said they believe that getting vaccines is a good way to protect children from disease and follow their doctor’s recommendations. Still, more than 30 percent of those surveyed believe that parents should have the right to refuse vaccines that are required for school for any reason.
I am not surprised by these survey results because, since 1982, most parents contacting the National Vaccine Information Center tell us they want to trust what their doctors tell them about vaccination. Mothers and fathers depend upon their doctors to give them good advice; but when the health of their child or a child they know deteriorates after vaccination, 2 parents logically start to ask questions. And when they are belittled or even threatened for asking those questions, 3 4 the relationship between doctor and parent is never the same again.
Parents asking questions about vaccine safety is nothing new. Although in the past decade there has been a focus on whether a mercury preservative in vaccines, perhaps in combination with the MMR vaccine, can cause autism in some children, the public conversation about vaccine risks and flaws in vaccine science and policy began in the early 1980’s. 5 Back then, it was parents of DPT vaccine injured children calling for a less toxic whooping cough vaccine to replace an old one causing brain inflammation, brain damage and death.
We worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 6 believing that this historic law would provide a safety net for children harmed by vaccines. We believed that the informing, recording and reporting requirements for doctors in that law would reduce the numbers of children, who died or became chronically ill and disabled after vaccination.
Little did we know that - even though $2 billion dollars has been paid to families with vaccine injured children under that law - only one out of three vaccine victims are ever financially compensated. 7 8 This, while drug companies making and selling vaccines have been almost completely protected from product liability. 9 10 Other pharmaceutical products, like Vioxx, 11 are not protected from liability and they are not mandated for school attendance like vaccines. Perhaps that is why there are far more black box warnings on drugs 12 13 than on vaccines. 14
A quarter century after the Vaccine Injury Act was passed, nothing has been done yet to conduct the kind of vaccine science that will give us answers about which children are at higher risk than others for dying or being brain injured by vaccination so their lives can be spared. 15 16 17 Whether industry or government will ever do that good vaccine science 18 is an outstanding question. But that does not mean that we, the people, cannot raise the money to do it. That is why the National Vaccine Information Center is creating an independent vaccine safety research program to study long term health outcomes of those who do and do not get vaccinated. 19
Public trust is fragile. When what the people are being told about vaccine safety does not match what they are experiencing in their own lives, doubt grows and trust fades.
The American public still has fresh memories of the aggressive lobbying campaign for mandatory HPV vaccination of all sixth grade girls. 20 And the 2009 H1N1 swine flu emergency declaration 21 that turned out to be the mildest influenza season in decades, 22 followed by the new federal recommendation that every American from birth has to get a flu shot every year, 23 is also fresh in our memory.
More and more Americans are becoming painfully aware that their medical bills, taxes and health insurance premiums are going up because, today, 1 in 6 highly vaccinated child in America is learning disabled; 1 in 9 has asthma; 1 in 100 develops autism; 1 in 450 becomes diabetic and 7 in 1,000 babies born alive are dying before their first birthday. 24 25 With 69 doses of 16 vaccines being given to children from birth through age 18 26 and hundreds of new vaccines being developed 27 to prevent infectious disease while trillions of dollars are being spent to treat chronic disease, 28 is it any wonder more parents are asking more questions about vaccine safety?
And is it any wonder that more Americans want the legal right to make vaccine choices as drug companies and public health officials encourage legislators to pass laws that electronically track medical records and attach penalties for those who fail to get every government recommended vaccine? 29
There is no more important task before those responsible for ensuring the public health than addressing parental concerns about vaccination with better science and not with better press releases and more mandates.
Please support the work of the National Vaccine Information Center 30 and other parent-led organizations, 30 31 32 33 who have been educating the public for many years about vaccination and health and defending your right to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices for yourself and your children.  

29 Fisher, BL. Electronic Medical Records Tracking Systems & Privacy. Letter to Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation, Department of Health & Human Services. February 15, 2000.

Posted: 3/5/2010 1:18:43 AM | with 3 comments


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