Expert Says Influenza Vaccine Marketing Misrepresents Facts

Posted: 6/25/2013 9:34:18 AM | with 14 comments
by Patrice LaVigne
Let’s be honest. Today’s alarming headlines about infectious diseases are enough to convince anyone to voluntarily live in a bubble. A few scary headline examples: “2 new diseases – H7N9 and coronavirus – could both spark global outbreaks,”1 “Pandemic fears after swine flu virus is found in seals for the first time,”2 “Officials Prepare For Another Flu Pandemic – Just In Case.”3

It is no wonder people are getting fed up with the scare tactics. One expert recently got so tired of the aggressive promotion of influenza vaccines that he called out U.S. public health agencies for engaging in disease mongering and misleading marketing.

Peter Doshi, a postdoctoral fellow in comparative effectiveness research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published an article in British Medical Journal on May 16, 2013 about hyping exaggerated risks of influenza, the disease, to market influenza vaccines.

Doshi notes that the message from public health officials is that “influenza is a serious disease, we are all at risk of complications from influenza, the flu shot is virtually risk free, and vaccination saves lives.” Doshi points out that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their campaign for universal influenza vaccination, the “influenza vaccine can only do good; there is no need to weigh risks against benefits.”

Doshi’s point is that there are proven risks with influenza vaccines and the studies surrounding influenza and its vaccine are “of low quality” and do not match what officials claim. The main studies the CDC uses to substantiate its influenza vaccine recommendations are observational and are a “product of the ‘healthy-user effect,’” meaning healthy people are more likely to receive an influenza vaccine and less likely to experience death or illness because they are healthy.

“For those that bother to read the CDC’s national guidelines – a 68 page document of 33,360 words and 522 references – one finds that the evidence cited is these observational studies that the agency itself acknowledges may be undermined by bias,” said Doshi while noting that reliable studies, especially randomized trials, are either unpublished or inaccessible.

Another fact that Doshi brings up is that most “flu-like illness” is not type A or B influenza. In fact, he said “only one in six ‘flus’ might be influenza,” so marketing the influenza vaccine as the flu shot is misrepresented.4 5

His main message—and this is true for all vaccines—do your homework. Be your own detective and make your own well informed vaccine decisions.


4. Doshi P. Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing diseaseBritish Medical Journal. 2013;346.
5. Expert questions US public health agency advice on influenza vaccinesBritish Medical Journal press release. May 16, 2013. 

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Celebrating the Progress in Vaccine Choice Advocacy

Posted: 6/12/2013 4:02:11 PM | with 1 comments
By Kate Raines
With so much special interest lobbying and legislative power behind the drive for one-size-fits-all vaccination mandates, it’s important to recognize and support the growing and potentially greater power in public opinion. The steps forward may not be grabbing mainstream headlines, but there is progress being made with every step, big and small.  
Coast to coast, citizen activists and health choice advocacy groups are making their voices heard in the halls of state legislatures. Hotly debated vaccine bills in Oregon and Maine, which either restrict or expand vaccine information and choices, are opportunities to educate legislators about parents’ right to make voluntary vaccine decisions for children.  Recent GMO food labeling wins in Maine and Connecticut point up just how important citizen involvement and grassroots advocacy is to protecting informed consent rights.
Maine Bill Informed Consent Bill Had Strong Showing
In Maine, for example, a vaccine informed consent bill similar to one that died early in its process two years ago1 2 made it through the House of Representatives late last month under the sponsorship of Andrea Boland (D-Sanford). State Representative Boland said, “Parents and guardians have a right to know exactly what is being injected into their children.”
Bills LD 754 and HP 505 would have given parents the right to be informed of the ingredients in a vaccine before agreeing to vaccinate their children under age 18. The bill also included a requirement that parents be informed of their option to refuse vaccines for religious and personal beliefs, a fundamental right that is increasingly coming under attack.3  A coalition of medical trade groups and public health officials lobbied hard to have the bill killed in the Senate,4 but the strong showing by legislators and citizen supporters marks an important advancement in awareness about the need for informed consent protections in public health laws.  
Oregon Bill Eliminating Religious Exemption Passes Senate
Similarly, in Oregon, where public health officials allege there are more   kindergartners attending school without receiving all state mandated vaccines than in any other state,5 opposition has been strong against a bill (SB-132) that completely eliminates the current religious belief exemption to vaccination. The bill would require parents to participate in a state-run vaccine education program before being able to obtain non-medical vaccine exemptions for their children. Parents would be required to either get a signed statement from a medical doctor (or other state-approved health care practitioner) or certification that they have completed a state-approved educational ”module” before their children can attend school.
Speaking out in opposition to the bill, Sen.Tim Knopp (R-Bend), said, “I don’t think we should infringe upon constitutional rights just because some of the medical community is concerned about vaccination rates.”6 He was joined in by 12 other Senators opposing the bill when it passed the Senate on June 6 by a margin of only three votes (16-13).7 8  The bill is now headed for the House where representatives will consider whether to amend it or vote to pass it into law.
NVIC has opposed the bill to eliminate religious exemption and has issued a number of Action Alerts through NVIC’s Advocacy Portal alerting Oregon residents about the bill’s status. The free online Advocacy Portal puts families and health care professionals in direct contact with their own state legislators via cell phone or computer. Sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal and get emailed information about proposed vaccine bills in your state.
Learn more about why NVIC is opposing SB-132 and read NVIC’s latest Action Alert so you know what you can do right now if you are an Oregon resident.
Citizens Resist Fluoridation and Support GMO Labeling
In other areas highlighting the heated debate over the right to have information about and control over limiting personal exposure to toxins and health hazards, Oregon lawmakers yielded to strong public resistance to mandated fluoridation of the public water supply9 and Connecticut became the first state to require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).10 
The win in Connecticut on June 5 was followed by a landslide vote in Maine on June 11 to require GMO food labeling, despite fierce opposition from biotech industry giant Monsanto.11 Importantly, it was grassroots organizing and the utilization of social media tools by citizens that was credited with making all the difference in the bid by Connecticut and Maine bid to become the first states to require labeling of GMO food sold in the states.
There is clearly power in numbers and there is both hope and a promise in the old truism, credited to Confucius, reminding us that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Article References

1. Stone M. Sanford lawmaker wants doctors to disclose vaccine ingredients. Bangor Daily News April 29, 2013.
2. An Act To Encourage Transparency in the Disclosing of the Ingredients in Vaccinations for Children. Open States, Maine House Bill HP 505. Introduced Feb. 28, 2013.
3. LaVigne P. New State Vaccine Bills Threaten Vaccine Choices. NVIC Newsletter April 22, 2013.
4. Nass M. Letter to Editor: Vaccine List. Bangor Daily News Jun. 9, 2013.
6.  Gray CD. Partisan Politics Throw Tougher Vaccine Law Into Question. The Lund Report May 22, 2013.
7. Senate Bill 132. Your Government. The Oregonian June 2013.
8. Oregon passes bill on vaccine education Associated Press June 10, 2013.
11. Mistler S. Maine House gives first nod to GMO labeling bill in landslide vote. Portland Press Herald June 11, 2013.

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