ABC 20/20 Report Angers Parents

“We need to find out why so many highly vaccinated children are so sick.... .we didn’t [used to] see autistic children. Autism was so rare, most people had never heard of i.... .I don’t think I’ve scared anybody stupid. We do not tell people to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.... . I don’t think you can say good or bad, pro or against.... t’s a complex issue.” - Comments by Barbara Loe Fisher during the ABC Feb. 23, 2007 "20/20" John Stossel special

"My name is Michelle. I am a parent of two young boys and I have been actively researching vaccines for 3 years. I saw that segment on "20/20" regarding vaccines and I was appalled at the slanted spin they put on the vaccine safety issue. The only thing that Barbara Loe Fisher is guilty of is providing parents with the wealth of information regarding vaccine safety that the pharmaceutical companies, the FDA and the CDC conveniently leave out. Therefore, she is simply helping parents to make INFORMED decisions regarding vaccines, not scaring them into not getting vaccinated as John Stossel puts it. The pharmaceutical companies and the government do not want parents to be informed. They want them to remain ignorant and obedient. Therefore, Barbara Loe Fisher, who has saved countless numbers of children from death and injuries related to vaccines, was once again demonized by the pharmaceutical companies and the media and I am absolutely disgusted by this. I just want it to be known that there are infinite numbers of parents just like me who have an undying gratitude and support for Barbara Loe Fisher and the NVIC for their efforts to help parents make a truly informed decision about vaccines." - Email to NVIC on Feb. 24, 2007 at 9:55 a.m., among the many supportive emails and telephone calls NVIC has received since the "20/20" broadcast

"This was a very one sided story. If vaccines are so safe, then why does a portion of the cost of each vaccine ($0.75) given go into the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program set up by Congress and DHHS? The fund has about $2 billion, and has paid out about $1.5 billion to over 1800 families whose children were injured or killed by a vaccine. The fund was designed to shield vaccine manufacturers from expensive lawsuits. How can a news program do a story about the complex issue of vaccines, and not discuss this, or interview any parent who has had a child harmed or killed by vaccines? Very poor reporting." - Email to ABC "20/20" on Feb. 24 at 9:58 p.m., among the many emails ABC received since the "20/20" broadcast

ABC News Poll (as of 2/26/07) :

Yes, I am worried that some vaccinations could be harmful: 1,236

No, I believe the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks: 415

Total: 1,671

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

First, a heartfelt thank you to the many supportive emails and telephone calls mothers and fathers have made to the National Vaccine Information Center since the Feb. 23 ABC "20/20" broadcast from 9 to 11 p.m. EST. and about NVIC to ABC. I understand how upset many parents and grandparents are about the way that NVIC was portrayed and the misinformation about vaccine risks which was communicated during the segment.

Although I am disappointed by the superficial treatment of the subject of vaccine risks and the absence of a discussion about the violation of informed consent rights when it comes to mandatory vaccination laws, not to mention factual errors (the Institute of Medicine clearly DID confirm in 1994 that there is a causal relationship between DPT vaccine and permanent brain dysfunction), ABC at least acknowledged the national debate about vaccine safety. For that, we can thank John Stossel for his hyperactive, short sighted report.

My friends, this sacred cow is not going to be put back into the barn. It is out and running around the farm yard. And for every parent who watched "20/20" and believed that John Stossel and Paul Offit were right, there was a parent who became informed there was a controversy about vaccination and something to think about. Maybe some of them will check out and find out NVIC is simply trying to inform people about the risks and complications of diseases and vaccines in order to empower them to be able to speak intelligently with health care professionals and make a better educated vaccination decision for themselves or their children.

The truth about vaccine risks will shine bright and clear at the end of the day, no matter how many try to suppress or distort it. Adversity and challenge can serve to illuminate the truth.

Should Parents Worry About Vaccinating Their Children?

Fears of Vaccinations Rise, Diseases Reemerge

ABC News
February 22, 2007


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Feb. 22, 2007— - When we worry, we worry the most about our children. Everyone wants to keep them safe.

When politicians want us to fall in line, they always talk about saving the children. And our feelings about kids have created very intense emotions about vaccines. Some people say vaccines are dangerous. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that they have "poisoned an entire generation of American children."

Kennedy has added his voice to the chorus of angry parents who are convinced that mercury in vaccines causes harm to children.

"It's causing IQ loss, mental retardation, speech delay, language delay, ADD, hyperactivity," he said.

Worrying About Vaccinations

Barbara Loe Fisher, who heads the Vaccine Information Center, goes on television to alert parents about the dangers of vaccines.

On the "Today Show," she said, "We need to find out why so many of our highly vaccinated children are so sick."

The biggest worry today is autism. Before kids received so many vaccines, says Fisher, "you didn't see autistic children. Autism was so rare. Most people had never heard of it."

And the protestors blame the vaccines.

'Vaccines Don't Cause Autism'

Dr. Paul Offit is the chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He's also in the vaccine business. He developed and patented the rotavirus vaccine.

"I think that it's perfectly reasonable to be skeptical about anything you put into your body, including vaccines," said Offit. "And vaccines do have side effects. But vaccines don't cause autism."

Offit can say that with confidence because the National Academy of Sciences recently reviewed the science. They concluded that 19 major studies, tracking thousands of kids, all show no link between vaccines and autism.

"The question has been raised, it's been answered," said Offit. "Vaccines don't cause autism."

Then why are so many kids being diagnosed with autism? Because kids we once said had other conditions are now being called autistic.

As researchers from the March of Dimes put it, "improvements in detection and changes in diagnosis account for the observed increase in autism." Their data on autism rates in California showed that the increase in autism diagnoses almost exactly matched a decline in cases of retardation: autism prevalence increased by 9.1 cases per 10,000 children, while mental retardation dropped by 9.3 per 10,000.

"People that we once called quirky or geeky or nerdy are now called autistic," said Offit. "Because when you give that label of say, autistic spectrum disorder, you allow that child then to qualify for services which otherwise they wouldn't be qualified to get."

Not a New Concern

Two decades ago, "20/20" did a report which said that the whooping cough vaccine may lead to permanent neurological disorder and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Personal injury lawyer Allen McDowell said vaccine makers were victimizing kids, and more than 20 years later, he still says the vaccine makers put money before safety.

"There's no dispute about that. They were making so much money off the old vaccine they didn't really have any incentive to improve it."

McDowell made money too. The lawyer won lots of lawsuits.

"I made -- a good chunk of money," he said.

The vaccine makers did revise the whooping cough vaccine and the new version was approved by the FDA in 1991.

"The old (whooping cough) vaccine was probably our most reactogenic vaccine, which is to say that it had the highest rate of side effects," says Offit. "I mean, it could cause seizures with fever -- although it didn't cause epilepsy, meaning the permanent seizures --[but] it certainly could trigger seizures..... it caused pain and tenderness at the site of injection..... it caused floppy baby syndrome, a so-called 'hypo-tonic, hypo-response' syndrome. It caused persistent, inconsolable crying. And so, there was always an interest in trying to make that vaccine safer. But the science had to catch up to that."

Those serious side effects were temporary, not the permanent conditions for which lawyers often sued vaccine makers. In fact, comprehensive studies also reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences did not find that the old vaccine caused SIDS or permanent brain damage.

The Benefits of Vaccinations

Lost in this debate is the disease the vaccine prevents. Whooping cough racks a baby's body with violent fits of coughing. In its most extreme form, it kills. But after "20/20'"s vaccine report, many parents told their doctors, "I'm scared of your vaccine."

I asked Dr. Richard Saphir, my children's pediatrician, what he thought of that program.

"It was certainly alarmist," he said.

In fact, when my daughter Lauren got a fever after one of the vaccines, he decided not to give her the final shot, and a short time afterward, she got whooping cough.

Dr. Saphir said that the fact that I was a "20/20" correspondent made him even more anxious about giving my daughter the vaccine.

My daughter recovered from her whooping cough. She was surprised to hear that our reporting could confuse parents and influence doctors.

"Parents go in and force their physicians to agree to not give the vaccines even though the physicians say, you're making a stupid decision?" she asked. "Then you guys are doing a really bad thing."

Parent Suzanne Walther agrees. On internet sites, Walther read so many horror stories about vaccines, that so she postponed vaccinating her daughter, Mary Catherine.

"Some of the vaccine stories said that if I had my child vaccinated they were going to die of SIDS," she said. "I'm very protective of my children, I don't want to do something to them that might cause them harm."

But not vaccinating caused harm. Mary Catherine got very sick with spinal meningitis.

"Our pediatrician put us in an ambulance to go to Vanderbilt Hospital immediately," said Walther. "It is a deadly disease. There's a huge risk of deafness, blindness, it's very painful."

Resurgence of Old Diseases

Mary Catherine recovered, but she's one of many kids who are coming down with diseases doctors once thought were nearly eradicated, like mumps, measles, and whooping cough.

These diseases are coming back because pockets of frightened parents won't vaccinate their kids, some, after they search for information and end up on websites like Barbara Loe Fisher's. I asked Fisher about how sites like hers scare parents.

"You're really the vaccines' scare center. When you scare people stupid, and they don't get vaccinated, that spreads nasty diseases," I said.

"I don't think I've scared anybody stupid. We do not tell people to vaccinate or not vaccinate," she replied.

Fisher says she can't say whether vaccines are "good or bad."

"You can't say vaccines are good, vaccines haven't done more good than harm?" I asked?

"It's a complex issue," she said.

The Fear Factor

McDowell is now thinking about filing new lawsuits saying vaccine companies caused autism. I told him I thought he was an opportunistic hustler, preying on worried parents. McDowell disagreed.

"That's not the way I look at it. I look at it that I'm doing a service for the public in these immunizations."

He said of the whopping cough vaccine that, "if there hadn't been the litigation, they'd still be using the same old vaccine and causing a lot more serious problems."

Nonsense, says Offit. Lawyers didn't make the whooping cough vaccine better. "Science is always a process of evolution, and I think we had to get to the point in science where we could make the kind of purified products at commercial level that, that we couldn't do before," Offit said. The lawsuits "are a great example of just what can happen when, when lawyers go crazy.... I think there's a certain profiteering that comes with, with fear."

So I told McDowell I thought he was part of the Fear Industrial Complex, scaring people and making money off of it. After a long pause, he said, "True."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

after stumbling upon your blog, i have to comment on the many things i read. first, to those who believe that autism is biologically contracted, you must understand that while there are many early cases that indicate that origin, or the origin of predisposition based upon genetics, there are countless stories backed by medical records of healthy thriving children who, post vaccine, particulalrly the MMR, are thrusted back to an entirely different developmental stage, from which they do not recover! 12 years ago when this topic was very new, i was treated terribly by the pediatric office when i requested a thimerisol free, and separated MMR vaccine for my son. i have been threatened to be kicked out of my current pediatrician's practice because i have delayed my children's vaccines by a few years. some studies suggest that there are lesser risks as the children age. remember when they demanded that thimerisol was not a threat? if so, why is it now removed from vaccines? we all are fighting "the machine" in some way, i support families, not unlike ours, who understand that when you cave under pressure to bo what "they" want, it is possibly at your children's demise. on the other hand, i relate to all of us who feel troubled by the posed threat at not vaccinating our children. it is a complicated issue one which we must all choose where we draw our lines. my question to anyone who is capable of answering it is: what are the california laws about schools/preschools? what decisions are we entitled to make when it comes to our children and our choices of wheather to vaccinate or not. can schools (private or public) decline admissions? thank you for your informative site, opinions and your fair reporting.
mom in CA!