NVIC Vaccine News

Promoting Vaccination, Fear, Hate & Discrimination

By Barbara Loe Fisher
Published March 28, 2008 in Rights & Ethics

Story Summary

    • Comments in recent NYT article publicly attack those who refuse to vaccinated;
    • Some comments threatened physical harm and social outcasting;
    • On the whole, the article and comments did not acknowledge that every person is a unique individual and may respond differently to vaccines.

The discrimination begins, always, with the majority in a society pointing the finger at a minority for somehow endangering the public health and welfare. Individuals in the minority group are singled out as different - ethnically, biologically, spiritually, morally - from the majority. The human impulse to fear, judge, marginalize or eliminate those different from the rest has left a blood soaked trail winding throughout the entire history of man from the Great Inquisition to the Holocaust; from the killing fields of Cambodia to Rwanda, Serbia and Tibet; while the persecution of those with leprosy, TB, AIDS, mental illness, and handicaps continues in every society.

It was with a heavy heart that I read the March 21, 2008 New York Times article, "Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines." Then I waded through the venomous comments posted on the New York Times website attacking parents of vaccine injured autistic children and those supporting informed consent to vaccination, specifically legal exemptions.

Some New York Times readers simply engaged in adolescent name-calling, angrily accusing parents of being "stupid" for questioning the wisdom of doctors in positions of authority and "selfish" for wanting to make informed vaccine choices:

"I'm so tired of these morons who refuse to vaccinate their children. It's stupid and selfish and, as usual, the kid suffers because of an hysterical, paranoid mother. What we need is a vaccine against paranoid conspiracy theory nuts. Oh, yeah....and by all means, let's trust a primary care doc from Arizona rather than the AAP and CDC. After all, what does some pinhead in private practice know that the best trained, most informed academic docs at some backwater like Johns Hopkins or CHOP or Children's Boston know, anyhow."

Others ridiculed parents for having faith in God but not in medical science, doctors and the safety of vaccines:

"The irrational decisions of adults, including parents and even physicians, supported by superstition, faith and magical beliefs, rather than data, evidence and proof, cannot stand in the way of science's obligation to create new knowledge to protect the members of a society, especially its most vulnerable members."

"Western religion's relationship with God requires a scapegoat. Since the Satan bit is worn a little thin they have once again decided that science and technology are to blame for all man's evils. As a civilized society we have given far too much deference to religion. Those not wishing to participate should simply not be included in schools, hospitals, etc. Not allowing their children to participate is the cruelist of abuse and should be removed from their "care."

"The parents whose personal beliefs cause them to fail to vaccinate their children should be seen clearly for what they are - child abusers. They are as monstrous as people that allow their children to die because they are convinced that if their god wants their children to live, he'll take care of it."

"Science is not infallible but it works. No one doubts that savagely beating a kid and offering "religious beliefs" as a pretext is a crime. These parents are doing the same thing. They should be prosecuted for endangering the health of their children - and ours."

The idea that the unvaccinated should be made "outcasts" in society and kept in isolation or even banned from being able to go out in public was a popular one:

"To those who demand an exemption, the choice should be clear and simple. No vaccine, no attendance at any public venue, schools in particular. Let these leaches live up in the woods as hermits."

" Parents of immunized children should not allow their children to play with [unvaccinated children]. Being an outcast is a powerful tool to use against these very selfish people."

Doctors defending their belief in vaccination weighed in, too, calling for elimination of the unvaccinated from society:

"As an epidemiologist who believes in the power and strength of herd immunity, I would like to ask these people who forgo vaccination to politely leave the herd."

Several more suggested the unvaccinated be publicly branded and forced to reveal their vaccination history to all who come in contact with them:

"Those making this decision [to not vaccinate their children] should be ineligible for access to public schooling. They should also be mandated to inform any and all people with whom they come into contact of their lack of vaccinations. They should also sign a waiver to any public or insurance pool funding for treatment of avoidable disease and/or long term damage caused by contraction of that disease."

"Should parents get to decide what happens to their child, even when that decision flies in the face of all evidence? Yes. But then should I have a right to know who these children are, so that I can keep my own child away from them? Indeed, I think I should......"

Another went further, calling for hospital and medical care to be denied to the unvaccinated:

"They should not be permitted in clinics and hospitals, where immunocompromised children and adults have the right to safety. No exception, whether based on religious faith or just garden-variety ignorance and superstition."

Several others believe mothers and fathers with unvaccinated children should be not only be charged with a crime but have their children taken from them:

"This should be a reason to notify CPS so that they can remove these children from parents who endanger their lives. This should be a crime."

There was a call for legislators who vote for vaccine exemptions to be punished:

"The parents who unilaterally decide to withhold immunization from their children should be sent to jail. The legislators who voted to condone this behavior should be identified and subjected to recall."

And some wanted to see parents and their unvaccinated children physically harmed:

Fine, so long as these parents are forcibly exposed to the illnesses themselves. And if their children either die, or are permanently injured, criminal charges should be laid. Then we'll see how much they still believe in their voodoo- science......"

Like sharks in a feeding frenzy, they gave public witness to their fear and loathing of fellow human beings who do not believe, think or act as they do.

I could not help but think of the children and parents forced to line up in November 2007 at a Maryland County Courthouse patrolled by armed police with dogs, a stark reminder that the parents were under threat of imprisonment and fines for failing to show schools proof that their children got chicken pox and hepatitis B shots.

I remembered the news report out of Belgium in February 2008 describing how a State court had sentenced mothers and fathers to five months in prison and a $4,000 fine because their children had not gotten vaccinated.

I thought of the persecution of Andrew Wakefield, M.D., who is being punished by his British colleagues for daring to report an association between the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine and neuroimmune dysfunction, including inflammatory bowel disease and autism. Like when the heads of heretics were impaled upon stakes on the Tower of London as a warning for all to see, the Wakefield inquisition is a spectacle designed to persuade all doctors contemplating questioning the safety of current mass vaccination policies to remain silent.

And then I thought of the Jewish orphan from Philadelphia, whose DNA I inherited from several generations back, and whose lineage in my mid-west Protestant family was not known to me for many years. Her blood is my blood, her genes belong to me just as the Norwegian and Scottish-Irish genes that predispose me and my children to autoimmunity and vaccine reactions are part of who I am.

I wondered how many of the readers of that New York Times article, who spewed fear, prejudice and hate into cyberspace and urged discrimination against and punishment of the unvaccinated, remembered that we are who we are because of the genetic strengths and vulnerabilities inherited from our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers going back generations and generations.

I come from a family of doctors and nurses, physical therapists and social workers, historians and soldiers, artists and writers, pastors and farmers, public administrators and builders; feminists and teachers, who have made the world a little better because they were allowed to live. And all through our family there is a history of autoimmunity, including rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, diabetes, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, severe allergies to foods, prescription drugs and pollen, and vaccine reactions.

My mother died of lupus two years ago this week, her body unable to protect itself from self. A nurse who once took care of polio victims at Mayo Clinic, she left three children and 11 grandchildren, all of whom carry her genes.

We do not choose the genes we inherit that make us the unique individuals we each are, as different from one another as we are similar within the human species.

My mother would have gladly laid down her life for any one of her children or grandchildren in order to protect them from harm, as I and countless other mothers around the world would do. The biological imperative, which prompts mothers and fathers to willingly sacrifice their lives to ensure their children survive, dictates we do that in order to ensure the survival of the human race.

For what is the human race but a collection of individuals from individual families living in different communities, all joined together to make up the whole of humanity? When any one life is devalued and deemed expendable, by extension, the well being and integrity of the whole is compromised.

Individual health IS public health.

Vaccine policies issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) do not recognize the potential biological vulnerability of my family and many other families to be harmed by vaccination. It does not matter if we have a vaccine injured child: CDC and AAP policies turned into law by state legislators do not provide for vaccine injured children or the siblings of vaccine injured children to be medically exempt from vaccination. Children, who have had seizures and other health deterioration after vaccination, often do not qualify for medical exemptions.

In the past quarter century, the numbers of vaccines the CDC and AAP insist that children must get has increased from 23 doses of 7 vaccines to 48 doses of 14 vaccines by age six without any large, credible studies proving it is safe for all children. How many of those genetically vulnerable to repeated atypical manipulation of the immune system through forced multiple vaccine use are among the highly vaccinated American children who are chronically ill and disabled today: 1 in 6 learning disabled; 1 in 9 asthmatic; 1 in 150 developing autism?

The doctors in charge at the CDC and AAP have refused, for more than a quarter century, to acknowledge the existence of a growing number of vaccine injured children and so they have refused to identify and screen out children biologically vulnerable to vaccine-induced brain and immune system dysfunction. One-size-fits-all vaccine policies and state laws have become a de facto selection of the genetically vulnerable for sacrifice. It is a very small step from that kind of societal thinking to the prisons, concentration camps and killing fields that stand as chilling testimony to the human impulse to dehumanize others in order to control, exploit or eliminate them.

Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel has said "When you take an idea or a concept and turn it into an abstraction, that opens the way to take human beings and turn them, also, into abstractions."

Individuals harmed by vaccines are not abstractions. They are human beings who deserve to be spared a lifetime of suffering rather than being thrown under the bus to prop up forced mass vaccination policies that fail to acknowledge biodiversity within the family of man.

In the face of a medical community committed to the utilitarian rationale that a minority of human beings can be sacrificed in service to the majority, the only way parents can protect children from being injured or killed by vaccines is by the free exercise of non- medical legal exemptions for deeply held religious or conscientious beliefs.

Doctors inside and outside of government, who have instilled fear of and discrimination against parents with vaccine injured children, bear responsibility for the hate and prejudice expressed on the New York Times website last week. It is a wake-up call for all Americans who cherish freedom and the human right to make informed, voluntary medical decisions that involve a risk of injury or death.


"The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles' heel," said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. "Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don't realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine." Dr. Sawyer and the vast majority of pediatricians believe strongly that vaccinations are the cornerstone of sound public health. Many doctors view the so-called exempters as parasites, of a sort, benefiting from the otherwise inoculated majority.....While the picture of an unvaccinated child was once that of the offspring of poor and uneducated parents, "exempters" are often well educated and financially stable, and hold a host of like-minded child-rearing beliefs. Vaccine skeptics provide differing explanations for their belief that vaccines may cause various illnesses and disorders, including autism. Recent news that a federal vaccine court agreed to pay the family of an autistic child in Georgia who had an underlying mitochondrial disorder has led some skeptics to speculate that vaccines may worsen such conditions. Again, researchers say there is no evidence to support this thesis. Alexandra Stewart, director of the Epidemiology of U.S. Immunization Law project at George Washington University, said many of these parents are influenced by misinformation obtained from Web sites that oppose vaccination. "The autism debate has convinced these parents to refuse vaccines to the detriment of their own children as well as the community," Ms. Stewart said." - Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times (March 21, 2008) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/21/us/21vaccine.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin3/21/us/21vaccine.html?hp

"Two sets of parents in Belgium were recently handed five month prison terms for failing to vaccinate their children against polio. Each parent was also fined 4,100 euros ($8,000)....The parents can still avoid prison - their sentences were delayed to give them a chance to vaccinate their children. But if that deadline also passes without their children receiving the injections, the parents could be put behind bars.....The polio vaccine is the only one required by Belgian law. Exceptions are granted only if parents can prove their children might have a bad physical reaction to the vaccine.....Aside from Belgium, only France makes polio vaccinations mandatory by law. In the United States, children must be vaccinated against many diseases including polio, but most states allow children to opt out if their parents have religious or "philosophical" objections. In the U.S. state of Maryland, prosecutors and school officials in one county threatened truancy charges against parents who failed to vaccinate their children.....People who refuse to be vaccinated are "free riders," Harris said. "They can only afford to refuse the vaccine because they are surrounded by people who have fulfilled their obligations to the community." - Maria Cheng, Associated Press (March 12, 2008) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080312/ap_on_he_me/polio_vaccine_prisonp/20080312/ap_on_he_me/polio_vaccine_prison

"One of the most reprehensible weapons being wielded in the witch-hunt against Wakefield is the claim that anyone who gives any credence whatever to his concerns is responsible for the incidence of measles amongst children whose parents are as a result too frightened to give them the MMR vaccination. There are two obvious points to make in response to this piece of moral blackmail: 1) the whole panic could have been avoided by offering single measles, mumps and rubella jabs rather than the triple MMR, and 2) it is surely just as important as avoiding cases of measles mumps and rubella to avoid causing the kind of catastrophic damage to the brain and gut displayed by the children at the heart of this controversy. And there is a further and quite appalling point to note. This whole saga started because parents of such children found that their family doctors were dismissing out of hand their children's gut and brain problems, accordingly refusing to alleviate their suffering. Now, as a direct result of the animosity towards Wakefield that has been whipped up - and the fear that any doctor who suggests he might be right will similarly find him or herself at the receiving end of the medical establishment's fist - children exhibiting this combination of gut and brain damage are finding it difficult to obtain treatment." - Melanie Phillips, The Spectator (March 21, 2008).

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