Barbara Loe Fisher: Parents Should Be Free to Choose.
On Apr. 13, 2014, USA Today became the first U.S. national newspaper to call for an end to the personal belief exemption to vaccination in the U.S. and for narrowing of “strictly defined” religious and medical exemptions. In an opposing OpEd, NVIC President Barbara Loe Fisher disagreed and said: “Non-medical vaccine exemptions immunize individuals and the community against unsafe, ineffective vaccines and tyranny.”
The OpEds generated a heated online debate among USA Today readers. Within 72 hours, there were more than 15,000 “shares” and 450 comments for the “pro-choice” OpEd and 3,000 “shares “ and 140 comments for the “anti-choice” OpEd. A USA Today reader poll overwhelmingly supported informed consent to vaccination and the freedom to take non-medical vaccine exemptions for religious, philosophical or conscientious beliefs.
Below is a fully referenced version of Barbara Loe Fisher’s OpEd that appeared in USA Today on Apr. 13, 2014. To read the USA Today OpEd, click here.
Leave Parents Free to Choose Vaccines
Apr. 13, 2014
The public conversation about vaccine safety and choice began after Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 shielding drug companies from product liability and doctors from vaccine injury lawsuits.1 Under that law, $3 billion has been paid to the vaccine injured2 while liability-free drug companies enjoy profits from a multi-billion dollar market.3 4
U.S. health officials now recommend 69 doses of 16 vaccines for every child.5 States mandate up to 15 of them - twice as many as 30 years ago.6 7
With 95% of kindergarteners fully vaccinated8 and one child in six in America learning disabled,9 1 in 10 asthmatic10 and 1 in 50 living with autism,11 educated parents and health care professionals are asking legitimate questions about why so many highly vaccinated children are so sick.12 They are examining vaccine science shortfalls13 14 15 and wondering why Americans are coerced and punished for declining to use every government recommended vaccine16 while citizens in Canada, Japan and the European Union are free to make choices.17
Vaccines carry two risks: a risk of harm18 and a risk the vaccine will fail to prevent disease.19 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admits that U.S. pertussis outbreaks are not due to a failure to vaccinate but failure of the vaccine to confer long-lasting immunity.20 21
The Institute of Medicine acknowledges major gaps in scientific knowledge about how and why vaccines cause injury and death and who will be more susceptible to suffering harm. 22 23 Vaccine risks are not being shared equally by all because “no exceptions” vaccine mandates discriminate against and penalize those vulnerable to vaccine complications.
Public health officials and pediatricians are not infallible and what is considered scientific “truth” today may not be true tomorrow. When doctors cannot predict ahead of time who will be harmed by a vaccine and cannot guarantee that those who have been vaccinated won’t get infected or transmit infection, the ethical principle of informed consent24 becomes a civil, human and parental right that must be safeguarded in U.S. law.
Non-medical vaccine exemptions immunize individuals and the community against unsafe, ineffective vaccines and tyranny.
1 Herling DJ, Pasic LM. Supreme Court Rules the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 Bars State-Law Design Defect Claims Against Vaccine Manufacturers. Martindale-Hubbell Mar. 7, 2011.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Statistics Report: Awards Paid. Health Resources Services Administration Mar. 5, 2014.
4 Transparency Market Research. U.S. Vaccine Market Is Expected to Reach USD 17.4 Billion by 2018. PR Newswire Sept. 13, 2012.
5 Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years. United States, 2014.
6 Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Recommended schedule for active immunization of normal infants and children 1983.
8 Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Vaccination Rates Among Children in Kindergarten – United States, 2012-2013 School Year. MMWR Aug. 2, 2013; 62(30): 607-612.
9 Boyle CA, Boulet S, Schieve LA et al. Trends in the Prevalence of Developmental Disabilities in US Children 1997-2000. Pediatrics 2011; 127(6): 1034-1042.
11 Blumberg SJ, Bramlett MD, Kogan MD et al. Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011-2013. National Health Statistics Reports Mar. 20, 2013.
12 Bethell CD, Kogan MD, Stickland BB et al. A National and State Profile of Leading Health Problems and health Care Quality for US Children. Academic Pediatrics 2011; 11(3): S22-S33.
13 Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Committee. Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines: Evidence Bearing on Causality. Need for Research and Surveillance. Washington, D.C. The National Academies Press 1994.
14 Institute of Medicine Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Evaluating Biological Mechanisms of Adverse Events. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2012.
15 Institute of Medicine Committee on the Assessment of Studies of Health Outcomes Related to the Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule. The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence and Future Studies. Conclusions About Scientific Findings. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2013.
17 Haverkate M, D’Ancona T, Giambi C et al. Mandatory and Recommended Vaccination in the EU, Iceland and Norway: Results of the VENICE 2010 Survey on the Ways of Implementing National Vaccination Programmes. Eurosurveillance May 31, 2012.
18Institute of Medicine Committee to Study New Research on Vaccines. DPT Vaccine and Chronic Nervous System Dysfunction: A New Analysis. Washington, D.C. The National Academies Press 1994.
19 Wendelboe AM, Van Rie A, Salmaso S, Englund JA. Duration of Immunity Against Pertussis After Natural Infection or Vaccination.Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 2005; 24(5).
21 Szabo L. US Whooping cough may be becoming resistant to vaccines. USA Today Feb. 18, 2013.
22 Institute of Medicine Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Increased Susceptibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2012.
23 Institute of Medicine Committee on the Assessment of Studies of Health Outcomes Related to the Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule. The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence and Future Studies. Conclusions About Scientific Findings. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2013.
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