Friday, June 27, 2008
Here is Julie's artice as printed in the Chicago Tribune today:
The AAP gets tough on vaccine dissenters
The American Academy of Pediatrics is growing so concerned about the climbing rate of vaccine exemptions--and the possible affect on community health--that it recently formed a group called the "Immunization Alliance" to address the growing refusal of some parents to vaccinate.
In a letter sent to members, the AAP identified the following as problems:
"Parent-to-parent spread of myths."
"A public that does not understand the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases."
"Unbalanced Internet and media exposure."
"Decreased trust in the government and health care providers."
"Slow response to negative news coverage."
"Increasing calls for philosophical exemptions."
But here's a problem the AAP missed: The sheer number of recommended and mandated vaccines is freaking parents out. And new combo shots that contain a stew of four or five different vaccines aren't going to help matters.
In 1982, The Centers for Disease Control recommended 23 doses of 7 vaccines for children up to age 6.
Today, the CDC recommends that children get 48 doses of 12 vaccines by age 6. That's a lot. Toss in flu shots for all infants and children and it boosts the number of recommended vaccines for children to 69 doses of 16 vaccines by age 18.
The two new combo shots approved yesterday by a federal advisory panel don't change the schedule; they just reduce the number of individual shots. GlaxoSmithKline's four-in-one shot offers protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio. Sanofi Pasteur's five-in-one shot is for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and illness due to Haemophilus influenzae type b, or HiB.
But parents who are already asking doctors to unbundle the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine because they want their child to have individual vaccines aren't likely to embrace a five-shot cocktail. The new shots are also likely to raise questions, concerns and storage issues.
And how does the AAP plan to handle it? The organization will not talk about choice or informed consent, issues that should be raised with any medical procedure that carries a risk.
Instead, the AAP suggests in a sample letter to pediatricians, that physicians tell parents who refuse to vaccinate that they have a "self-centered and unacceptable attitude" since your child is getting protection from others who have chosen to vaccinate.
And if you absolutely refuse to vaccinate your child despite your physician's efforts, you could be booted from your pediatrician's practice. The sample letter to doctors from the AAP recommends saying:
"We will ask you to find another health care provider who shares your views. We do not keep a list of such providers nor would we recommend any such physician."
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Anyway, the book got me thinking about vaccines many times, because the characters often wonder if the things they see are real or not. It references a real life book written by a man named Charles Fort, who collected at least 294 newspaper articles documenting showers of living things (frogs falling from the sky and that sort of thing). (It turns out Fort still has a following today, though he died in 1932.) Fort wrote that it seemed the common practice of humans was to process unexplained events or facts through the conclusions we already held about life, rather than starting with the facts and drawing conclusions (I paraphrase; the book is currently at class with my hubbie, so I can't quote it).
One of the characters in the book, at one point, feels that he has fallen into a puzzle and cannot get out. I, too, have had days where it felt like that. I have often wondered if all the research I am doing is "real," or is the perception I had before (that vaccines are generally safe) the more accurate one?
I lay in bed the other night with a scene from Disney's Alice in Wonderland in my head: Alice in the dark forest, walking a path that is in the process of being completely erased by some strange, four-footed creature with a broom for a face. The creature makes its way around her, leaving her standing on one square of path with no clue as to how to get out of the forest.
It seems like a scary place to be, not knowing where you came from or where you should go. But then, I thought, maybe we need more moments like that in life. If we don't have the "Think This Way" path in front of us, then we are forced to examine information and forge our own path.
Now, I'm not saying that all areas of life are open for re-writing. I am pretty orthodox in my beliefs, especially regarding right and wrong. But are there certain things where our thinking has been shaped by an outside force that isn't necessarily trustworthy?
It is hard to get a firm intellectual grasp on vaccine safety now. The information is very controlled. I used to think that my doctor would always know exactly what was correct, but I am beginning to see that doctors only have so much time and are most likely reading the newsletters they receive from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, or whatever other medical organizations they belong to.
When my doctor, the CDC and the AAP say that serious reactions are rare, I can't take it at face value anymore. How rare? What are the numbers? Are those pre-market numbers or post-market? When will the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System ever contain accurate numbers? Where is the paper trail for vaccine injury, and why isn't it discussed in the press? Why is vaccine injury hidden from the public? Because medical "authorities" do not trust us to decide for ourselves? No wonder we have such misconceptions about vaccines.
Why haven't the multiple vaccines in the vaccine schedule ever been tested together? Why aren't many vaccines tested for carcinogenicity before going to market? Do vaccines even work that well? How well? Why are there so many accounts of measles outbreaks among the highly vaccinated? Are the public's (and the scientific community's) perceptions of vaccine effectiveness completely wrong? Is it true what Dr. Robert Mendelsohn wrote in 1984, that no vaccine can be credited with eliminating any disease? Is it true that these diseases were on their way out before the vaccines were invented? (I have read much about this and it is shocking!) It is so hard to believe that we are vaccinating for no good reason! But what if it is true? What if we gave alllllll the numbers to little Alice on her square to calculate? What path would she re-write, and would it amaze us?
The AAP recently wrote that parents who question vaccinating simply don't understand things. They are not experts. They are selfish. Their decisions are emotional. My question is, do I not deserve to know everything? Why should the AAP and CDC make my decision for me? Why do they get to tell me what reality is? Such control of information is not fit for America.
The other day I read a TIME magazine article (dated June 2nd) titled "How Safe Are Vaccines?" In the subheading, it noted that parents are concerned about autism and are declining shots. Then it said, "What the science says about the real risks - and what you should do about it." Of course, the "experts" at TIME told me to get the shots and stop worrying (in a nutshell). (And cited the same old, faulty autism/thimerosal studies the government has been using for years.) Well, I guess I am a hard sell for TIME and whoever else commiserated to write that article (Dr. Paul Offit was quoted as always); I have a brain of my own and plan to draw my own conclusions based on the science they weren't so eager to publish. The perceptions I have regarding vaccine safety just won't fit into that neat little model of theirs anymore.
Does that make me a renegade? A fool? Or maybe a "fearless thinker," as one of the Chasing Vermeer kids called Charles Fort? (ha ha - I really don't know much about this Fort guy and say that somewhat in jest ... I'm not sure I want to align myself with him!) I read a quote in TIME that I've pondered for a few days -- a mom, whose son almost died from a vaccine-preventable bacterial infection after they elected not to get his shots, said she was "angry" that people are out there spreading information that would cause parents not to vaccinate. I felt for her as a fellow mother, and would definitely be shaken up if that happened to my child. I am sorry they went through that. I pictured her face looking angrily at me if she knew who was behind this blog. It made me want to be really sure I am sticking to facts, but not apologizing for them. I just can't see how turning a blind eye to the risks of vaccine injury is the solution.
As someone wrote recently on another blog, parents who don't vaccinate "know they are playing Russian Roulette with their child's health." Yes, the decision is emotional. It is hard to know if there are shots we should decline. But there needs to be room in this country for more than one answer. We allow many freedoms and many "ways of being" in this nation. American society assumes that not everyone believes the same things. It needs to be just as politically correct here.
Monday, June 23, 2008
But ... that doesn't mean we don't speak up anyway. A few years working in a lobbying organization in DC taught me a small bit, and I wanted to post a few more useful links.
1) Finding your officials is probably the easiest and most important first step. Once you know their names, you're well on your way. Congress.org allows you to type in your zip code and instantly see who your federal and state officials are. (There's a box on the left side of the page, and at the top right inside the navigation bar.)
2) Now that you have your representatives' names, just write down this phone number and keep it handy: Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121. When your call is answered, just say to the operator, "Senator _____'s office, please," or "Could you please direct me to Representative _______?" or something to that effect.
Sometimes this number gets very busy and it's hard to get through. You can try this number in addition: (202) 225-3121, and you can always use the House.gov or the Senate.gov Web sites to find additional phone numbers and email addresses for your legislators.
... Now, this may be elementary to most, but just as a refresher, every American has two Senators (no matter where you live in your state, your Senators are the same -- there are 2 for each of the 50 states) and one Representative in the House (different depending on your geographic location). All in all there are 535 members of Congress - 100 in the Senate and 435 in the House.
Tips on calling your Representatives/Senators:
- Don't be afraid to pick up the phone on the spur of the moment to voice your opinion. Your legislators work for you. I preach to myself when I say we need to make our voices heard. It literally could take only one or two minutes to call and speak three sentences while you're washing your dishes.
- The phone is probably being answered by a college-aged intern or an entry-level staff member (though sometimes the higher-ranked staff answer). This person may sound completely disinterested, but don't let that hinder you from saying all you want to say. Even if they only write down part of your comments or merely make a hash mark next to a topic showing that their boss got a call, your call is better than no call, and if asked for details later, they may recall some of what you said. Remember to be polite!
- This person also may not be able to explain the Rep./Senator's positions or answer "why" questions, such as, "So why did your boss vote in favor of such-and-such?" You can try, but don't be surprised if they keep mum.
- If you have lots of questions, ask if you can speak with the L.A. (legislative assistant) who works on (whatever issue). You might even be able to find a name before calling by going to the representative's Web site and looking up staff and issues. Some members provide this information. If your issue is vaccine safety, this topic may fall under something broader like "Health and Human Services." If you aren't sure, you can always just ask the person on the phone. ("Which L.A. can I speak to regarding ______?")
In-person visits can sometimes be scheduled in your vicinity when your federal Representative/Senator is home for a recess (such as in August). Or, you can call the local office and ask about meeting with staff regarding an issue anytime. Be sure to have clear talking points and handouts ready if you decide to pursue this route.
Next "Washington 101": How to Research Congressional Bills
Sunday, June 22, 2008
"When you can't reason, insult."
Parents, stay vigilant! You ARE correct to research your child's vaccines. It will take work, but the information is out there, and it's in medical journals and CDC documents - not just wacky Web sites as anyone who opposes you is likely to suggest! You are doing the right thing. YOU, and only you, have God-given authority over your child. Be empowered. You are not alone.
What can you do?
- Contact your federal and state representatives and tell them you want your medical rights protected - we want informed consent on vaccination, a medical procedure that carries risks, and we want the option to take exemptions on vaccines. Ask them to do all they can to protect our medical rights.
- Be prepared to discuss the facts you have discovered regarding vaccination with your child's pediatrician. Personally, I am working on a binder with dividers for each vaccine/disease that I can carry with me anywhere, open it up and point right to the information I need. A good book on vaccines would also do the trick. (Do an Amazon search on vaccine books by Stephanie Cave or Neil Z. Miller)
- If you're feeling saucy, give the AAP a call and tell them you do not appreciate being insulted for taking a reasonable look at the risks and benefits of vaccines. The motto on the AAP Web site is "Dedicated to the Health of All Children" - and since the former NIH Director, Dr. Bernadine Healy, recently said that "there is this susceptible group" (who is sensitive to vaccines), then perhaps the Academy needs to take it down a few notches and admit that not all children need all those vaccines. 847/434-4000 (Elk Grove, IL, headquarters) 202/347-8600 (Washington, D.C. office - Dept. of Federal Affairs)
Go get 'em.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
1) Is anyone else wondering if we are getting too "vaccine-happy"?
2) Will the manufacturer of this stomach ulcer vaccine lobby for it to be added to the pediatric schedule?
3) Does anyone still doubt that vaccines are primarily a business and not a philanthropic endeavor?
Again, we see that drug companies are not kindly little non-profit organizations; their motivation is for profit: "Novartis has recently stepped up its investment in vaccines as part of a strategy to diversify its business."
Novartis plans new anti-ulcer vaccine trial in '08
LONDON, June 4 (Reuters) - Novartis AG (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to launch a proof of concept trial for its experimental vaccine against a bug that causes stomach ulcers by the end of 2008, it said on Wednesday.
The Helicobacter pylori vaccine is currently in Phase I trials and has been shown to be safe and immunogenic in early tests.
Other products in early development include a Group B Streptococcus vaccine candidate in Phase I and a vaccine against infections from Group A Streptococcus, which is due to enter Phase I trials in 2010. A pneumoccocus vaccine to cover new strains is also expected to start Phase I testing in 2010.
The Swiss drugmaker laid out its development plans for the new vaccines in a statement ahead of a R&D meeting on its vaccines business to be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later in the day.
Division head Joerg Reinhardt said the products underlined the potential of the Novartis vaccines pipeline.
Its most advanced new vaccines are two against meningococcal infection in late stage development -- Menveo and MenB -- which analysts view as potential blockbusters.
Novartis has recently stepped up its investment in vaccines as part of a strategy to diversify its business. A new research site with up to 250 scientists is expected to open in Cambridge later in 2008. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Rory Channing)
Saturday, June 7, 2008
(Thanks, Ginger T.)
(Thanks, Autism One)
And seriously? No news in any major papers? I searched Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS... Found a few things in smaller news outlets, and one blurb on WJLA, the Washington ABC affiliate. Nothing very substantial, and nothing giving credence to the protestors' message. Reminds me of when the March for Life comes to town - the papers virtually ignore tens of thousands of protestors marching in the bitter cold of January through Washington.
There are some truths that are, unfortunately, very inconvenient.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I am all for this rally and I wish I could afford to be there; however, it doesn't need me to be successful. What I do believe it needs is God's blessing, and if you are the praying sort, please join me in praying some specific things for the day:
- Pray that God would work in the hearts of the members of Congress and also officials in other branches of government, that they might hear the valid concerns of these parents and do what is right.
- Please pray that God would bring to light the conflicts of interest in vaccine manufacturing and approval processes and how money has corrupted a program that is supposed to be for the public good.
- Pray that God will have mercy on our nation and bring about change, as the vaccine program is one that most people blindly trust in (me included, until 3 months ago!)
- Pray that more families will become aware of problems with vaccines and be able to educate themselves and act in the best interests of their children.
- Pray for the families of vaccine-injured children -- for strength, endurance, hope, and joy, and that their trials would point them to Jesus and the compassion He has.
Oh Lord, Your word says that the king's heart is a stream of water in Your hand; You turn it wherever You will (Proverbs 21:1). Lord, would you please use this rally to bring about change in our nation? Please work in the hearts of our rulers so that they can accomplish good things for our children. Please use this rally to protect children from future harm. Lord, you are sovereign over our land and we ask that you would divert the plans of dishonest men who care more about monetary gain than they do our health. Please give wisdom to parents and reveal the problems with vaccines to more people. In Christ's name, Amen.