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Live Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) Should Be Replaced with Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) in the U.S.

Presentation by Kathi Williams, NVIC Co-founder & President

Presentation to the Institute of Medicine
Vaccine Safety Forum
Polio Vaccines
June 7 and 8, 1995

It was tragic to watch the video yesterday of the adults who contracted paralytic polio in the 1950's. Their experiences as victims of polio disease are heartbreaking and compelling, just as the experiences of John Salamone and Lenita Schaeffer, who are victims of the live polio vaccine are heartbreaking and compelling. Polio is polio and the paralysis that comes with it is devastating, whether it comes from the disease or the vaccine.

I don't have to go very far back into my family history to understand the fear of parents in the 1950's who were desperate to protect their children from polio. My parents enrolled my brother and sister in the polio trials that were held in Vienna, Virginia. They were given buttons that said they were "polio pioneers."

Today in 1995, as polio reportedly nears extinction, the risks of the disease in the United States have changed and so have the benefits of the vaccine for many families. The Centers for Disease Control reports there are about 10 cases of vaccine associated polio each year in the U.S. The National Vaccine Information Center takes issue with that figure because it is well known that there is gross underreporting of adverse events associated with the administration of drugs and vaccines. In addition, past studies as well as reports to our Center by parents of vaccine injured children have revealed misdiagnosis of neurological events which, in fact, turn out to be polio vaccine-induced.

The federal government's Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has many reports of children, parents and baby-sitters exhibiting paralysis and other neurological symptoms following receipt of OPV or having come into contact with a recently vaccinated child. VAERS also contains reports describing children who exhibit paralysis after receiving live oral polio vaccine and live MMR vaccine on one day, even though this practice is contraindicated in manufacturer product inserts. There are families in our organization whose children have suffered polio vaccine induced paralysis that was originally blamed on the DPT vaccine and who did not get a correct diagnosis until NVIC provided information that enabled doctors to make a correct diagnosis.

The National Vaccine Information Center has been providing information on vaccines and diseases to the public since 1982 and the parents who are contacting our organization, particularly in the last two years, are frustrated and angry. They are angry with doctors and health officials who will not provide them with truthful information about disease and vaccine risks. And they are angry that their right to exercise informed consent when making vaccination decisions for their children is being taken away by an oppressive mandatory vaccination system that includes charging parents with child medical abuse for making independent vaccination decisions that do not conform to government health agency recommendations. This includes parents being denied the option of vaccinating their children with the inactivated polio vaccine rather than the live oral polio vaccine which can give a child or his parents polio.

Another issue in the polio vaccine debate which concerns vaccine consumers, particularly parents who are making vaccine decisions for their children, is the issue of potential contamination of oral polio vaccine with monkey retroviruses. Three years ago in The Lancet, Walter Kyle described such contamination. A year ago the National Vaccine Information Center requested that government health agencies release the results of independent testing of current and archived oral polio vaccine stocks to refute the evidence that the oral polio vaccine contains animal retroviruses which may be harmful to humans. To date, this evidence has not been released by the government.

We had hoped that Mr. Kyle would be given the opportunity to present his data at this workshop but, at the very least, there should be a thorough review by vaccine policymakers of the disadvantages of using polio vaccine grown on animal tissue cultures. We believe there should also be a thorough review by the Institute of Medicine of whether or not government health agencies responsible for regulating vaccines as well as analyzing reports of adverse events following vaccination are ethically constrained by the conflicting responsibility for promoting vaccination.

Attitudes about health care are changing and, in 1995, more and more parents are unwilling to blindly accept products as being risk free and they are no longer blindly accepting the word of health officials and doctors without first asking questions. Because mothers have sought the truth about breastfeeding during the past two decades, we now see the First Lady on television telling the American public that bottle feeding is not a medical advance and that the natural way is the best way for most babies. Many mothers and fathers are choosing to deliver babies with midwives in the home or in birthing centers without drugs. Others are choosing not to circumcise. And others are using more natural preventative health care options such as acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathic to help keep themselves and their children healthy.

Parents today want to be part of the decision making process when it comes to health care decisions for their children and mass vaccination policies need to catch up with consumer needs and demands. Parents don't want to be told they must put their baby's life on the line with a vaccine for which they consider the risks to be too high. They believe they have as much right to protect that baby from dying or being injured by a vaccine as they do to protect that baby from dying or being injured by a disease.

If the risks of polio disease have changed since the 1950's then official recommendations for use of a vaccine that can give a child or his parents polio should also change. Full, complete and honest information on polio disease and polio vaccine options should be provided to parents before a child is vaccinated and the parent should be allowed to make an independent vaccination decision free from harassment by a doctor or a state health official. When it happens to your child, the risks are 100 percent and it is the mother and father, not the doctor or health official, who lives with the consequences of the vaccination decision that is made for a child.

The National Vaccine Information Center believes that every life is sacred and that if only one child or one mother could be saved by making vaccine policy changes which more accurately reflect the epidemiologic reality of polio disease today, then those changes should be made without delay. To do anything less in the United States is, in our view, morally unacceptable.

NVIC Note: Barbara Loe Fisher, Co-Founder and President of the National Vaccine Information Center, was appointed to the Vaccine Safety Forum at the Institute of Medicine in the Spring of 1995. During that year and during 1996, she helped the Forum coordinate four vaccine safety workshops: Polio Vaccines (June 7-8, 1995); Vaccine Adverse Event Detection and Response (Nov. 6, 1995); Vaccine Research Priorities (April 1, 1996); and Vaccine Risk Communication (May 13, 1996). Her major contribution to the Forum was to ensure that the public vaccine safety workshops included statements by parents of children who were injured or died following vaccination as well as statements by independent doctors presenting new research and alternative viewpoints about vaccine safety issues.

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