With a little help from his friends, a man who has made millions from creating and promoting forced use of vaccines has begun the process of canonizing himself. Frustrated that his new book attempting to debunk the autism-vaccine connection is not selling well, Paul Offit is desperately trying to lose the Dr. Proffit label and morph into a martyr even as he continues to lead a public attack begun in 2007 on those questioning vaccine safety and defending informed consent to vaccination.
The day before Halloween, Offit's good friend TV doc Nancy Snyderman gave him a helping hand when she attempted to relentlessly browbeat the intellectually honest and affable Matt Lauer into agreeing with Offit that public debate about vaccines and autism is dangerous and should immediately cease. Gritting her teeth through a steely grin and hissing "It is NOT controversial" at her stunned NBC-TV colleague over and over again, Snyderman's on-camera meltdown was an unexpected Halloween treat for Moms making breakfast for the kids.
The interesting thing about Snyderman's glowing video tribute to her friend and subsequent tantrum when Lauer innocently labeled the vaccine- autism topic a "controversy," was her insistence that public debate should stop because her hero had gotten "death threats" presumably from distraught parents of vaccine injured autistic children. That same sentiment was forwarded by medical reporters at Newsweek magazine and ABC- TV, who appeared to agree with Offit's point of view that citizens questioning vaccine safety and forced use of vaccines are dangerous.
Adopting a strategy similar to the one that Merck pro-actively employed in 2006 to roll out the poorly tested and reactive Gardasil vaccine, Offit and his colleagues are demonizing parents and doctors questioning vaccine safety by characterizing them as ignorant, crazed, anti-science religious fanatics with a penchant for violance. In a desperate play for sympathy, pro-forced vaccination proponents agreeing with Offit's big stick approach are trying to deflect attention from the fact that they, themselves, created the current climate of fear, distrust, and anger. The bitterness now being expressed by parents, who have been belittled, harassed and threatened by hostile doctors inside and outside of government for standing up for their right to protect their children from vaccine injury and death, was inevitable.
When mothers and fathers take their healthy sons and daughters to pediatricians to get vaccinated and then witness them suffering vaccine reactions and regressing into chronic poor health within hours, days and weeks of getting sometimes 5 to 10 vaccines on one day, they are not going to accept an illogical, unscientific explanation like "it's all a coincidence." When mothers and fathers are thrown out of pediatricians offices and denied child medical care for asking questions about vaccines; or reported to child protective services for refusing to get children every vaccine; or denied exemptions to vaccines by government officials taking a militant "no exceptions" stance, they are going to feel angry.
At the same time, pediatricians, who become pediatricians to help children stay well, are not going to willingly accept the possibility that something they injected into a child injured or killed that child. When they cannot answer questions parents ask about vaccines, they are going to feel angry. The debate is so contentious because it is about life and death issues that affect everyone but neither those questioning vaccine safety nor those defending it serve their causes well by engaging in physical intimidation and threats against each other.
What should be troubling for doctors practicing medicine and journalists reporting on it is the Statist approach being taken by influential doctors like Offit, Greg Poland and Peter Hotez in response to three decades of reports by parents that children are being harmed by vaccination. Those who simultaneously develop new vaccines, help make national vaccine policy and promote forced use of vaccines certainly have the right to earn a profit from the products they create. They also have the right to promote an ideology in which they deeply believe. But Americans, who cherish freedom of thought, speech and action, should think long and hard about all efforts to pit citizen against citizen and marginalize those asking for credible scientific investigation into vaccine risks and the right to make informed, voluntary vaccination decisions.
A more reasoned, open minded approach to the vaccine safety debate was taken by pediatrician James Sears, M.D. and ER physician Travis Stork, M.D., who anchored an Oct. 28 episode of "The Doctors." The new CBS daytime show featured a segment airing different views about vaccine risks and mandatory vaccination in which Julia Berle, of TACA, and I appeared. To the credit of the show's producers, a spirited but civilized debate was allowed.
Both of the show's doctors joined an AAP pediatrician guest in strongly encouraging vaccination. However Dr. Sears and Dr. Stork also encouraged parents to become informed and supported the right of parents to make voluntary decisions about vaccines.
The show has elicited heated discussion on "The Doctors" website and a staff member monitoring the discussion boards yesterday told posters "Time to remind everyone that there is a person behind every screen name. Let's remember to address the topic without personally attacking another member because their views are different from yours. We all can learn from everyone's viewpoint, let's try to keep this discussion progressing in the manner intended." Immediately following this advice, posters who had been attacking one another found common ground even as they agreed to disagree.
At the vaccine freedom rally in Trenton sponsored by the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice on October 16, pediatrician Larry Palevsky, M.D. encouraged parents to continue speaking out and working for the legal right to voluntary vaccine decision-making. He challenged doctors to open their minds about vaccine risks, stating:
"As Einstein said, we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. I challenge my colleagues in medicine to listen and learn that there is more to know than what we've been told...... Engage in a more scientific dialogue and not in the rhetoric that keeps coming from those who have a stake in keeping the status quo of one-size-fits-all vaccinations and an ever- increasing vaccine schedule. Take whatever fear you have about speaking out, and turn it into being responsible to our children in a new way."
Another doctor, who has had the courage to step up to the plate and ask her fellow physician colleagues to consider the possibility that vaccine risks are not equal for all and must be examined more thoroughly, is former NIH Director Bernadine Healy, M.D.. In a CBS-TV interview last May, she expressed the view that scientific research must go forward to identify individuals genetically or biologically vulnerable for suffering vaccine injury.
Healy told CBS investigative journalist Sharyl Atkisson: "I don't think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you're afraid of what it might show..... there may be this susceptible group. The fact that there is concern that you don't want to know that susceptible group is a real disappointment to me. If you know that susceptible group, you can save those children. If you turn your back on the notion that there is a susceptible group - what can I say?"
The fear and dread that new vaccine developers and promoters like Offit, Poland and Hotez may have is that their vaccines will not be welcomed with open arms by a public concerned about vaccine risks. But the way to remove public concern about vaccine safety and effectiveness is not to back questioning parents and doctors into a corner and club them into submission and silence.
In the meantime, an editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution in Georgia is calling for a rejection of a bill to allow New Jersey residents the same freedom that citizens living in 18 other states have: the legal right to exercise conscientious belief exemption to vaccination. And a large HMO in the Midwest is forcing all of its 26,000 employees to get a flu shot every year or be fired.
Tomorrow, all Americans have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for the candidates they believe will best represent them at the local, state and federal government level. Understanding the positions of candidates on vaccine safety and informed consent issues is important.
We cannot let those who are afraid of the truth about vaccination silence the voices of those who have paid the ultimate price for that fear. Stand by for announcements coming soon about how you can join NVIC in becoming an activist citizen and educate members of your community about the importance of standing up for the right of all Americans to make informed, voluntary decisions about vaccination.
"People think of me as this wild-eyed maniac," Offit says. "If I sat down with them for 10 minutes, they'd see that my motivation is the same as theirs. You want what's best for kids." Asked how he ranks the intensity of the vitriol aimed at him, Offit says simply, "Abortion, doctors who perform abortions." Nobody's firebombing pediatricians' offices, and there's no moral dilemma here about when life begins. But the overarching question-what happened to my baby?-is still impossible to answer, and the anger is real and it's deep. Some parents of children with autism tell stories with an eerily similar start: an infant who was happy and healthy until she got her shots. Then, suddenly, she lost eye contact and language. Parents' dreams for their babies are buried in sadness, their pockets are emptied to pay for therapies, their worries about their children's future haunt them even as they're trying to get through the screaming, splattered minutes of the day." - Claudia Kalb, Newsweek (November 3, 2008)
"Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a vocal proponent of universal flu vaccination, says he is no stranger to such harassment. Among the most egregious things -- I got a letter once railing against my involvement in vaccines and hoping that something serious would happen to me and hoping that something serious would happen to one of my children," he said.....But some people connected to groups that believe a vaccine-autism link exists say that they, too, have been the targets of hateful speech. "I've been called a baby killer," says Rebecca Estepp, national manager of the autism support group Talk About Curing Autism. "One woman got into my face this summer and told me I was going to cause millions of children to die. Emotions are running high because this involves the health of our children....Poland said he believes legislation should be considered to offer special protection to those in the field of vaccine research. "Since this affects not only a person and his or her family, but indeed the public health, special provisions should be considered in terms of legal consequences," he said. "This was done, for example, in the case of abortion protesters.".....Dr. Peter Hotez, immunologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and father of a daughter with autism, said he believes that federal public health agencies, including the surgeon general's office and the National Institutes of Health, must take a more active role in dissuading the link between vaccines and autism. "[These organizations] have to be willing to speak out and make strong statements that vaccines do not cause autism," he said. "These organizations have been conspicuous by their silence." - Dan Childs, ABC-TV (October 31, 2008) http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ColdandFluNews/story?id=6150482&page=1#.TsN9Gd5FunB
"Parents fail to get their children inoculated for a variety of reasons: ignorance of the requirement; concern over how much it will cost; misunderstanding that for the vaccine to be effective against some diseases, children must get follow-up shots....More problematic are the parents who willfully ignore the requirement, substituting their judgment for that of experts who must guard the public health. In New Jersey, the state Legislature is being asked to approve a bill that would allow parents to opt out of mandatory vaccine requirements. The measure was prompted by a new requirement in New Jersey -- the first in the nation -- that pre- schoolers get annual flu shots.....The bill in the New Jersey Legislature would allow parents a "conscientious exemption" as long as they swear they have "sincerely held" objections to immunizations. No doubt many parents have sincerely held beliefs, but allowing them to opt out of vaccination puts the lives of their children at risk as well as the lives of others....The vaccine-autism link has been thoroughly debunked. States should not back off mandatory vaccination laws, and local school districts and health departments should do a better job of enforcing compliance." - Mike King, Atlanta Journal Constitution (October 29, 2008) http://www.ajc.com/s ervices/content/opinion/stories/2008/10/29/vaccinesed .html
"BJC HealthCare, the shining beacon for traditional medical care throughout the Midwest, has made getting a flu shot mandatory for its 26,000 employees. That goes for all employees, even the ones who never come in contact with patients. If anyone refuses, it is going to be considered a breach of the fitness for duty requirement, meaning anyone who refuses to be vaccinated is subject to dismissal. Many employees are unhappy over this new edict. Some employees who see the policy as a blatant violation of their privacy believe it should be at the discretion of the individual to decide what medications to take. Others think the way the policy was presented created an atmosphere of intimidation. When the policy was initially presented to employees, was made clear that without compliance, the employee could no longer work at BJC. Still others suspect that BJC is getting a kickback from the vaccine's manufacturer. Employees receiving the flu vaccination are required to sign a waiver that totally absolves BJC of any liability if the employee is harmed by the vaccine."- Barbara Minton, NaturalNews.com (November 2, 2008)
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