Back to the Future: Parental Concerns About Vaccine Safety

by Barbara Loe Fisher

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.

1 Freed GL, Clark SJ et al. Parental Vaccine Safety Concerns in 2009. Pediatrics: April 4, 2010 (Vol 125, No. 4).

2 International Memorial for Vaccine Victims. National Vaccine Information Center.

3 Cry for Vaccine Freedom Wall. National Vaccine Information Center.

4 Associated Press. Most parents back vaccines, though many believe autism link. Washington Post. March 1, 2010.
5 Coulter HL, Fisher BL. DPT: A Shot in the Dark. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1985.

6 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (PL 99-660).

7 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration. National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Statistics Report.

8 Fisher BL. Vaccine Injury Compensation: A Failed Experiment in Tort Reform? Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines. November 18, 2008.

9 Department of Health & Human Services. Coverage Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act for H1N1 Vaccination.

10 Mair JS, Mair M. Vaccine Liability in the Era of Bioterrorism. Medscape Today. October 28, 2003.

11 Food and Drug Administration. Vioxx (rofecoxib) Questions & Answers. September 30, 2004.

12 Black Box Warnings.

13 Food and Drug Administration. Medwatch. 2010 Safety Alerts for Human Medical Products.

14 Centers for Disease Control. Recalled Vaccines.

15 Fisher BL. Vaccine Safety Research Needs – Perspective from Parents. Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Forum. April 1, 1996.

16 Fisher BL. Vaccine Research Needs. Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review Committee. January 11, 2001.

17 Fisher BL. Vaccine Safety Research Priorities: Engaging the Public. National Vaccine Advisory Committee. April 11, 2008.

18 National Vaccine Advisory Committee. Recommendations on the Centers for Disease Control Immunization Safety Office Draft 5-Year Scientific Agenda. June 2, 2009.

19 National Vaccine Information Center. NVIC Launches Research Fund to Study Health & Vaccination. October 12, 2009.

20 Gardner A. Drugmaker Assists in Pushing for Mandate for HPV Vaccination. Washington Post. February 11, 2007.

21 National Vaccine Information Center. H1N1 Swine Flu: What About You & Your Family?

22 McKay B. The Flu Season That Fizzled. Wall Street Journal. March 2, 2010.
23 Stobbe M. Panel Recommends Flu Shots for Nearly Every American. Associated Press. February 21, 2010.

24 Fisher BL. References for Vaccine Safety Research Priorities: Engaging the Public. National Vaccine Advisory Committee. April 11, 2008.

25 DeNoon DJ. Infant Mortality: US ranks 29th. WebMd. October 15, 2008.

26 Centers for Disease Control. 2010 Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedules.

27 US National Institutes of Health. Directory of Clinical Trials (Vaccines).

28 The Milken Institute. An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease. October 2007.

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

30 Donation Page.

30 Vaccine Risk Awareness Network (Canada) founded by Edda West.

31 Australian Vaccine Network and Living Wisdom Magazine founded by Meryl Dorey.

32 Vaccination News founded by Sandy Gottstein.

33 The One Click Group (UK) founded by Jane Bryant.


Scott said...

Dear Barbara,
I've become alarmed by the requirement that the Hep-B vaccine be administered to newborns - usually within hours of birth. This is insanity! But I suppose rather clever on the part of the drug dealers. The more vaccines you can give closer to birth, the more likely it is to be blamed on complications of birth rather than on the vaccine since the parents have not had time to observe their 'normal' child and the changes that occur shortly after vaccination.
Thank you for your courage. It must be discouraging at times. I appreciate all you do.

john H said...


Even big pharma’s partner in crime ‘big pediatrics’ has to admit people are waking up to vaccine dangers. Personally I would question the validity of the results favoring vaccines and it’s part in autism in this survey.

I think it’s worse for the drug pushers than this survey even suggests because, both vaccine Inc. and big government are in an absolute panic that the public’s over all perception of the mutli-Trillion (?) dollar vaccine industry is at an absolute low, as in, ‘hitting rock bottom’ . Such is the panic that Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius blames people like myself and Barbara in particular for the publics perception and begs ‘big media’ NOT to give people like Barbara ANY media coverage CENSORING our point of view in her recent quote printed in ‘Readers Digest’.

“There are groups out there that insist that vaccines are responsible for a variety of problems despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. We have reached out to media outlets to try to get them to not give the views of these people equal weight in their reporting to what science has shown and continues to show about the safety of vaccines,”

Barbara’s years of dedication to vaccine safety of course has woken many people up but, it’s by no means the main reasons people have been becoming very skeptical of the ENTIRE vaccine issue. Big pharma, big medical and big government have been living in their own bubble, their own vacuum, while EVERYONE in the ‘real world’ has to deal with all the vaccine FUBAR’S both past and present.

Below is a quick ‘thumbnail sketch’ WHY the public is becoming NOT just ‘justifiably’ wary of vaccines but ‘justifiably; wary of the entire ’system’ that protects big pharma and coddles the vaccine industry in general.





I briefly discuss the significance of all of these bullet points on the public's perception on my blog.

BTW Scott you hit the nail right on the head with your post.

Wendy said...

Dearest Barb, It's me mother of Stacy. All 3 of my girls are married and I have 5 grandchildren. Stacy's son just turned 18 mo. Needless to say he didn't get his measles vaccine!! It angers me that they keep adding more and more vaccines. Stacy's life has not been easy;however, she has overcome so much.I realize this is not a personal e-mail but the only forum to reach you, which I have lived! Look forward to talking soon. Forever in my heart, Wendy

Wendy said...

Dearest Barb, I have written this 3 times. I can't do computer. It's me Wendy mother of Stacy. I have 5 grandchildren. Stacy has beautiful son 18 mo.Needless to say he didn't have his measle shot!Vaccinations have been and always will be a bone of contention with me. Stacy's life has not been easy but she's a trooper and has a great support system. I want you to know how proud I am of you for continuing this fight. I am 1 of the lucky one's "I got to dance at my daughters' wedding." Look forward to catching. I have pic's of my kids on My space. I am on Facebook also. Forever in my heart,Wendy