By Allison Chapman
Earlier this month, Claudine Liss posted of her encounter with Senator Barack Obama… “Last Friday evening, September 5, 2008, I had the opportunity to ask Senator Barack Obama about childhood vaccine safety/choice. His response, “I am not for selective vaccination, I believe that it will bring back deadly diseases, like polio.”
I don’t think even Claudine knew what kind of reaction this would create in a community where so many of us watched our children regress immediately following vaccines. I know when I read those words my heart sank. I thought; we have failed to give him the proper amount of information, does he really know what the magnitude of this question was, etc. As a personal lifelong lefty as well as an A-CHAMP/ACC non partisan district leader, I felt I had failed in some way to make sure he was receiving the information our community so desperately needed him to have.
Possibly I had fallen into a comfortable rut just hoping he was being informed by all sides and that we were at least being represented amongst that information. Then I realize his answer implied that he may have thought he was being asked “are you pro or anti vaccine”, thinking only black and white vs. all of the gray we are familiar with. The Polio response is often given when politicians are asked that question. Obama must not be aware that the current polio vaccine in America is not a live virus vaccine and does not create herd immunity.
Hoping that this was the case I started a call in plea, asking that he meet with someone in our community, someone with the science, the deep well of biological science. Possibly a Dr. Poling, or someone from the organization I am proud to call myself a part of A-CHAMP or now ACC (The Autism Action Coalition). I do know that he has promised to remove mercury from vaccines but we need broader action. I realized the call in effort would be difficult as they get thousands of phone calls everyday and that a computer was not going to be able to separate out questions as specific as we had. So the angle changed, I developed some questions to clarify what he meant by his statement, with the help of other ACC members and delivered them to his legislative staff via e-mail.
Unfortunately, due to rules and regulations they cannot handle campaign questions, so I was told it would be forwarded. The next day in my inbox was an invitation to a rally in Manchester, NH. I decided to cover all of my bases and deliver the questions and some of the science to the rally today and hopefully get a staffer with some pull to deliver them.
When the day started off this morning I didn't think I was going to be able to accomplish much. There were thousands of people at the rally in NH and when I asked some of the volunteers if there were staffers I could talk to, they didn't know much. They told me to keep asking as I got closer. As I got through security and made it in, I thought I probably had gotten there too late for anyone of importance to get to. I was shuffled along with everyone to standing room only at one side of the stage, and was in a sea of people. Obama gave a very good speech in my opinion and it was quite a sight to see so many people anxious and excited to see him speak.
After he spoke, to my surprise, he started over in the general direction of where I stood. However, I was about 20 rows of people behind the fence. He went by and shook some hands but kept on going. Many people tried to move with him so at that point I got as close as I could and took the place of where those people had been. At this point I was 3 rows back from the fence. Amazingly, he came back the same way and caught my eye. I started to yell "Senator, I'm a parent……" He touched his ear to let me know he couldn't hear so people quieted down.
I repeated "I'm a parent of a child who regressed into autism after his vaccinations. I'm here to help clarify last week's comments. Do you think one of your staffers could take my notebook??" He said, "Yes" and called someone over and they took my notebook and Obama shook my hand. This is the same notebook I prepared for Senators Kennedy and Kerry for the "Green our Vaccines" rally.
On the top was a request to clarify what he meant by his comment last week and my information. The second page was the questions developed by myself and ACC. So by some amazing miracle in this sea of people, I was able to hand deliver the questions…He was gracious and smiled and I really hope efforts will pay off and he will get back to us. I will let everyone know if and or when that happens. I want to thank everyone that called into the campaign. Today I felt hopeful again.
Allison Chapman lives in Massachusetts with her husband and children, including a son with autism.