NVIC Vaccine News

Back to the Future: Parental Concerns About Vaccine Safety

By Barbara Loe Fisher
Published March 05, 2010 in Science

The results of a 2009 survey evaluating the vaccine safety concerns of American parents was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. 1 Out of the approximately 1500 parents, who took the survey, only 23 percent believe that vaccines cause autism in healthy children. But more than half were worried about serious adverse health effects of vaccination. The vast majority said they believe that getting vaccines is a good way to protect children from disease and follow their doctor’s recommendations. Still, more than 30 percent of those surveyed believe that parents should have the right to refuse vaccines that are required for school for any reason.
I am not surprised by these survey results because, since 1982, most parents contacting the National Vaccine Information Center tell us they want to trust what their doctors tell them about vaccination. Mothers and fathers depend upon their doctors to give them good advice; but when the health of their child or a child they know deteriorates after vaccination, 2 parents logically start to ask questions. And when they are belittled or even threatened for asking those questions, 3 4 the relationship between doctor and parent is never the same again.
Parents asking questions about vaccine safety is nothing new. Although in the past decade there has been a focus on whether a mercury preservative in vaccines, perhaps in combination with the MMR vaccine, can cause autism in some children, the public conversation about vaccine risks and flaws in vaccine science and policy began in the early 1980’s. 5 Back then, it was parents of DPT vaccine injured children calling for a less toxic whooping cough vaccine to replace an old one causing brain inflammation, brain damage and death.
We worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 6 believing that this historic law would provide a safety net for children harmed by vaccines. We believed that the informing, recording and reporting requirements for doctors in that law would reduce the numbers of children, who died or became chronically ill and disabled after vaccination.
Little did we know that - even though $2 billion dollars has been paid to families with vaccine injured children under that law - only one out of three vaccine victims are ever financially compensated. 7 8 This, while drug companies making and selling vaccines have been almost completely protected from product liability. 9 10 Other pharmaceutical products, like Vioxx, 11 are not protected from liability and they are not mandated for school attendance like vaccines. Perhaps that is why there are far more black box warnings on drugs 12 13 than on vaccines. 14
A quarter century after the Vaccine Injury Act was passed, nothing has been done yet to conduct the kind of vaccine science that will give us answers about which children are at higher risk than others for dying or being brain injured by vaccination so their lives can be spared. 15 16 17 Whether industry or government will ever do that good vaccine science 18 is an outstanding question. But that does not mean that we, the people, cannot raise the money to do it. That is why the National Vaccine Information Center is creating an independent vaccine safety research program to study long term health outcomes of those who do and do not get vaccinated. 19
Public trust is fragile. When what the people are being told about vaccine safety does not match what they are experiencing in their own lives, doubt grows and trust fades.
The American public still has fresh memories of the aggressive lobbying campaign for mandatory HPV vaccination of all sixth grade girls. 20 And the 2009 H1N1 swine flu emergency declaration 21 that turned out to be the mildest influenza season in decades, 22 followed by the new federal recommendation that every American from birth has to get a flu shot every year, 23 is also fresh in our memory.
More and more Americans are becoming painfully aware that their medical bills, taxes and health insurance premiums are going up because, today, 1 in 6 highly vaccinated child in America is learning disabled; 1 in 9 has asthma; 1 in 100 develops autism; 1 in 450 becomes diabetic and 7 in 1,000 babies born alive are dying before their first birthday. 24 25 With 69 doses of 16 vaccines being given to children from birth through age 18 26 and hundreds of new vaccines being developed 27 to prevent infectious disease while trillions of dollars are being spent to treat chronic disease, 28 is it any wonder more parents are asking more questions about vaccine safety?
And is it any wonder that more Americans want the legal right to make vaccine choices as drug companies and public health officials encourage legislators to pass laws that electronically track medical records and attach penalties for those who fail to get every government recommended vaccine? 29
There is no more important task before those responsible for ensuring the public health than addressing parental concerns about vaccination with better science and not with better press releases and more mandates.
Please support the work of the National Vaccine Information Center 30 and other parent-led organizations, 30 31 32 33 who have been educating the public for many years about vaccination and health and defending your right to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices for yourself and your children.  


29 Fisher, BL. Electronic Medical Records Tracking Systems & Privacy. Letter to Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation, Department of Health & Human Services. February 15, 2000.

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3 Responses to "Back to the Future: Parental Concerns About Vaccine Safety "
Commenter Name
Posted: 3/5/2010 1:19:46 PM
Why blame all deaths, asthma etc on vaccines or make it sound like it is all do to vaccines. There are a lot of environmental factors such as lead poisoning, pesticides and genetic factors that contribute to disease and deaths. We should look at the whole picture. I understand that there are risks with vaccine, and those who do not vaccinate their kids are protected because other kids are vaccinated. Lets say that nobody gets vaccinated and those diseases comeback, then statistics would change dramatically. Probably more than 7 per 1000 deaths in infants and much more disabilities from these diseases that are much worse than autism because some of these diseases that people are vaccinated from leave child disabled for the rest of the life if he/she gets this disease. You probably do not need to be vaccinated against milder diseases such as influenza if you are not immunodeficient and there is more mercury in influenza vaccine than any other vaccines, but people should vaccinate their kids against much serious diseases. When somebody vaccinates the child they should understand the disease, and the seriousness of it and what are benefits of the vaccine and what are the risks and then make the decision. I also beleive that vaccines should not be mandatory and every parent has right to chose against what diseases they should vaccinate their kids. I think that even right now, parent do have a right to opt out and choose not to do any vaccines. I believe that right now even unvaccinated kids can attend schools they just should go through certain process.
Commenter Name
Posted: 4/4/2010 8:41:49 AM
There is a new book out "The History of the Peanut Allergy Epidemic" by Heather Fraser. Heather is a historian and mother of a child who has a fatal peanut allergy. Some highlights of the book: The World Health Organization decided that even though highly refined peanut oil has a trace amount of peanut protein in it, that it is GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and does not have to be listed as an ingredient on the pharmaceutical package insert. Also that the FDA and similar agencies in various countries followed WHO's recommendations. And there is trade secret protection given to our pharmaceutical companies. Simply put, peanut oil can be an ingredient in the mandatory Vitamin K shot given to babies and every vaccine and neither the doctor nor the patient have the right to know. Another interesting fact is we have an epidemic of possibly fatal peanut allergies amoung our vaccinated children. 1 in 125 children are now affected.
Commenter Name
Posted: 6/11/2012 10:15:25 AM
Lil, the point about looking at all environmental factors to determine what is causing autism, asthma, etc. is a good one. The problem we face is that we do not have an open scientific dialogue in this country about the role of vaccines in the illnesses of our children. If you look at those who defend vaccines, and how they criticize the science into vaccine dangers, they start with the conclusion of the study (pro or anti vax) before they support or counter the study. Opaque systems encourage exploitation. Transparent systems encourage altruism. And the vaccine makers take great pains to withhold or dismiss the myriad conflicts of interest that permeate each level of the delivery of vaccines: from design to jab. We deserve an open scientific dialogue that brings all factors of our environment into examination, assign the contribution to harm fairly, and make appropriate public health policy decisions. No one has dragged their feet more to come to that table than those that profit most from the status quo.

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