By Julie Obradovic
Part 2 in a series on the "14 Studies." Read Part 1 HERE.
When I was getting my Master's Degree in Education a few years ago, I had to take a class on how to help students best develop their reading skills. Quite consistently we talked about the importance of making sure students are prepared to read by having the necessary background knowledge to understand it. Entire classes were dedicated to coming up with activities aimed at providing a decent backdrop for comprehension for students without the same world experience. In short, setting the scene and creating the context was and is considered vitally important.
This point has not been lost on me. As I mentioned in my first article, it is frustrating to read others that dismiss the connection between vaccines and Autism without citing the science they are using to make their claim.
Equally frustrating is the lack of background knowledge most of these articles give the reader. Autism and the controversy surrounding it is a complex issue to say the least. Without putting the controversy into the proper context, it leaves the reader more often than not with a biased and incomplete picture. To be sure, I actually can't think of many articles that ever do a good job of truly presenting the issue accurately.
That said, setting the scene for my series on the 14 studies will be the point. Dissecting the studies just yet is getting ahead of ourselves.
The Big Picture
The studies themselves are very problematic, yes, but they are not the problem. They are the symptom. The real problem is this:
The very people who will be held accountable for the possible unintentional but reckless swap of infectious disease for chronic disease, namely the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the medical community, are being allowed to investigate and try themselves to see if they are guilty.
I don't care what position you take on the vaccine-autism connection. This situation is wrong. I can think of no other issue that would tolerate this non-sense.
Imagine if a police officer accused of a crime had the luxury of investigating his crime scene for clues, the results of which held up in court. Now imagine those results being the burden of proof the prosecuting team had to overcome in order to prove their case, and when they couldn’t, the officer was proclaimed innocent.
There's a reason such a scenario should never take place. It's because we know the police officer could never be neutral. Allowing him to investigate himself would be unfair. Regardless of whether or not he actually was innocent and truthful, it would be inadmissible. In fact, it would be illegal.
And yet, this is the precise scenario we as parents of vaccine injured children face on a daily basis. The potentially guilty parties, those under investigation for malpractice of the likes our world has never seen, are given total freedom to investigate themselves to find out if they are guilty. Worse, their results are the burden of proof we must overcome to prove our case.
So how is this happening? What is the answer to the big picture question? I think it's three-fold.
When our founding fathers wrote the constitution of our country, they did so with the fundamental understanding that power corrupts. In order to alleviate it, they created a complex system of checks and balances, including a free press. While not perfect, it is arguably one of the most successful forms of government man-kind has ever known.
The idea of checks and balances has been a far reaching one in our capitalist society. In fact, one of our government's most important roles has been checking and balancing the power and influence of big business, creating legislation when necessary to protect people from the fallout of corruption and greed. Political ideologies rest almost entirely on what that level of responsibility should be.
In an unprecedented chapter in our country's history, however, we are watching what happens when the government, big business, and the media start to blend together. Rather than being independent entities to check and balance one another, they are instead beginning to function more as a united team. Perhaps the only thing truly checking and balancing their collaboration is the internet and the independent voices on it.
Poor ethics and corruption are not exclusive to one of those entities, but for the moment, let’s look only at big business. When one considers what one particular big business has been able to do, the pharmaceutical industry, it's frightening.
The recipe of their influence could be summarized as this: take a product everyone needs (or that you convince them they need), and control it's production and price; with your astronomical profits from a stream of never-ending customers, finance and campaign for legislators who may sit on your advisory boards or own stock in your company, and when elected create laws to protect and/or promote your industry, as well as allow you to advertise publicly; advertise your product in medical journals and news magazines and on news programs, making it difficult for them to report negatively about you without the fear of losing your business; create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the advertising, marketing, research, development, and sales industry that not only the economy depends on, but that those people depend on to feed their families; get the majority of working citizens to have a portion of their retirement funds vested in you; donate millions to the medical researchers of your choice who will be happy to promote your product and proclaim it safe for the sake of funding; destroy the reputation of those who won't; lobby to put those cooperative researchers on government committees that make medical policy; court the medical community with lavish vacations and gifts; and finally, kill any and all legislation that attempts to curtail your influence by simply calling on those legislators you have put in office to do the job.
I envision years from now advanced degrees being given out to those who study how this happened and how to prevent it in the future.
So what does all this have to do with vaccines?
Well, in the instance of vaccines, we see their influence in a unique way. In the name of protecting us, the government created legislation that mandates the use of their product. This has never happened before.
Even though pharma has tremendous influence over our government, they are in some respect still independent. The government, for example, doesn't mandate cholesterol drugs and are still able to remain objective if the product causes adverse effects, especially if they were avoidable and foreseeable. For example, the public was able to hold Merck accountable in a court of law when their negligence was discovered in the case of Vioxx.
But in the case of vaccines, that recourse has been taken away. It was taken away with the belief that if it wasn’t taken away, we’d be worse off. In a rare instance, our government was forced to make the decision between what was more important: our right to due process or our health. They chose our health. It was called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act.
While it is understandable the dilemma the government found itself in prior to enacting that legislation (pharma threatening to pull all vaccine production during the Cold War unless they were granted full liability protection), the legislation itself was a profound failure, short-sited and inadequate for addressing the issue.
The issue should have been determining whether or not pharmaceutical companies should be granted immunity in the event of an unexpected epidemic or bioterrorism in which they would be called upon to rapidly produce a vaccine without the time to necessarily do proper research and safety testing.
I liken it to a person who sees an accident on the side of the road. The car is burning, people are trapped inside, and a by stander bravely steps in to save them. While dragging them to their safety, he accidentally severs the spinal cord of a victim who shouldn’t have been moved. Is the good citizen guilty? Logic would dictate of course not. But as we know, there are people out there who would sue him.
That’s what pharma wanted to avoid: crippling law suits by those adversely affected by a rushed-to-market vaccine. It’s no coincidence that only a few short years before the legislation was crafted, thousands of people sued because of their adverse reactions to the swine flu vaccine.
So I get it. I understand their position and can even be sympathetic to it. What I cannot be sympathetic to, however, is the sweeping immunity granted by the legislation they actually got, which went way above and beyond addressing the issue appropriately.
Rather than simply putting something in place that dealt with epidemics and bioterrorism, events that were unpredictable and emergency in nature, our government gave pharmaceutical companies freedom from liability for ALL vaccines ever created, including those given in the ABSENCE of such situations. They completely and totally missed the crux of the issue: THE CONTEXT IN WHICH THE VACCINES WERE ADMINISTERED.
Going back to the burning car analogy, the reason most of us would never sue the brave bystander who pulled us out of a burning car is because we can clearly see that given the choice between being paralyzed or burned alive, most us would choose the former. Neither is good, but one is clearly worse.
But what if there were no accident? What if the government mandated that everyone have burning car safety training just in case, and in a practice scenario someone accidentally paralyzed you pulling you out of the car? What if you found out that person had never been properly trained? Or you found out that for whatever reason people your weight or height can’t be pulled out a certain way? Then what? Would you be so sympathetic?
No, you wouldn’t. You would be angry that you were forced to participate in something that was supposed to help you and the greater good and ended up changing the course of your life forever, and that it could have been prevented. You would want to prevent that from happening to other people. You would want to expose the reasons that caused the problem in the first place. You would want and expect to be taken care of medically and financially. At the very minimum you would want your plight to be acknowledged, and that’s if it were you. What if it were your child?
By creating the NVICP and not writing the legislation in the context of an emergency only, we find ourselves in the situation we are today. I sincerely believe if it had been written that way, the problems with vaccines would have been exposed during the discovery process in court cases years ago.
Routine childhood vaccines are not rushed to market without enough time to do adequate safety testing. Furthermore, many of the vaccines given today are not and never will be of an emergency nature. Chicken Pox? Hepatitis B? Hepatitis A? HPV? Not emergencies. Any infectious disease that is currently not an urgent and looming threat? Take them out of the program. Now.
It should be no surprise to anyone that shortly after this legislation passed pharma went into vaccine production overdrive. Since that time, the childhood vaccination schedule has more than tripled.
But, in pharma’s defense, who could blame them? Why wouldn’t they forge ahead given the tremendous financial gift: The right to produce a product that is mandated by the government for public use, but that which cannot be held accountable in a court of law regardless of anything that goes wrong with it or how many people it hurts? No, their jump at the opportunity is not surprising; it was predictable, and THAT is the failure of our legislators.
What is surprising, however, is how long this liability has been able to survive, perhaps supported now more than ever. Fear of a potential problem has clouded people’s ability to properly examine the present one. One can only hope the Supreme Court can inject some level of logic when they review the issue shortly. This is not rocket science. Fix the context of the legislation, and fix the problem. Or better yet, get rid of the mandate to be vaccinated in the first place and the whole thing goes away.
(And as a side note to those who fear that by modifying or removing the liability protection pharmaceutical companies will refuse to produce childhood vaccines, isn’t that a red flag? Doesn’t that imply they don’t believe they have a safe product? Really, if vaccines are as safe as we are led to believe, what’s the worry?)
Meanwhile, we all remain subject to the incredibly unfair system that cannot and should not be labeled in any capacity a way of seeking justice.
It is a system without a jury of our peers in which the very people we are trying to hold accountable are the very people running it. The burden of proof we must provide is based on what they, the accused, have investigated and found out about themselves. In the rare event you do meet the burden of proof; you pay yourself compensation via the surcharge you paid when you purchased the product that hurt you in the first place.
Let’s say that again. They make you use the product by law. They get to decide if the product hurt you (and sometimes not just you, but a group of people) in a court they run based on the science they, the product maker, and the administrator of the product do. And if you should win (when the evidence is so overwhelming they have to find in your favor to keep any shred of credibility), you pay yourself.
I cannot think of anything more embarrassingly un-American. I think Benjamin Franklin, who so eloquently stated, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety,” is rolling over in his grave.
When you put the vaccine court system and the legislation behind it in the simple terms I have, even a 2nd grader knows something’s not right. So how is it that grown adults don’t? Quite simply, they don’t know about it.
While talking about this problem with numerous friends and relatives over the years, almost all of them have had absolutely no idea that such a court exists, or how it functions. More often than not they look at me confused, eyebrows furrowed, in complete disbelief.
Knowing my own ignorance prior to being inducted in the Autism club, I understand. I had certainly never heard of the vaccine court before, and I had no idea when I was vaccinating my children we were automatically subjecting ourselves to it. Should I have investigated? Oh, definitely. I own the failure to do so. But in my defense and the defense of most parents, this information is not explicitly taught or talked about. It never even occurred to me something like this even existed.
I truly hope an educated public will help either bring it to an end, or at a minimum change the definition of the context in which it is used.
In addition to being ignorant about the system in which vaccines are produced and protected, people are programmed to believe something this horrible could never happen. They believe we are the best and brightest in the world, and that certainly those doctors, scientists and elected government officials who have dedicated their lives to protecting people would never let something like this happen. The system of checks and balances we believe we can rely on would certainly have found something so egregious years ago. In fact, the more time that goes by, the harder it is to believe.
Furthermore, who wants to believe this? What a sick, horrible, awful thing to imagine: that your government, your medical community, and your pharmaceutical industry put money and foreign policy over your baby’s safety? That it was easier for them to sacrifice your child’s life for the sake of the greater good than it was to admit a terrible mistake? And that your media was too lazy or biased to fully investigate it and think for themselves? It’s the stuff conspiracy theories are made of.
And so semantics, rather than logic, shut down the debate before it can really ever begin. A society brought up to believe vaccines are the greatest miracle man kind has ever produced hears someone saying otherwise and immediately labels that person “anti-vaccine”: a code word for “crazy”.
Parents who brought their children to be vaccinated on the very day they were due transform from ethical, responsible people, to angry, dangerous, pro-disease lunatics. Desperate for an answer, they choose to blame anyone that makes them feel better. Pathetic, sad, potential murderers who are easily manipulated and unable to think rationally, they cling to something that suits them. This is the comfortable story the unaffected world believes.
A deeper look at the issue, the point of this series of articles, makes it very clear, however, that nothing about this is comfortable. And while it is certainly unbelievable it happened, that doesn’t mean it didn’t.
This is the story of what happens when a small group of people, truly a very small group of people, produce questionable, inadequate, and irrelevant science that they shouldn’t have had the privilege of producing in the first place, and it gets touted by a very large group of people as the opposite: adequate, responsible, unbiased science that serves as conclusive proof.
There is no conspiracy. There may at best be a cover-up. But the reality is more than anything, this issue is a failure to uncover. This is the failure to uncover the methods by which such proof was done. This is the failure to uncover the conflicts by which such proof was created. This is the failure to uncover the relevance of which such proof has. This is the failure to demand better.
On so many levels, this is a total system failure. A perfect storm of greed, fear, self-interest, ego, and group-think that finally manifested itself as potentially the worst man-made disaster ever known.
It is truly, unbelievable.
And Here We Are
It is within this context we will examine the studies touted as evidence vaccines don’t cause Autism. To be quite honest with you, it seems like a massive waste of time. We are examining the evidence the accused have put forth as if it has any relevance anyway. It doesn’t.
But that’s not to say it isn’t interesting, or that it doesn’t give us some important information. Still, the mistakes are glaring, the inadequacy obvious, and the conflicts deplorable.
For argument’s sake, however, I will approach them as if none of that matters. I will assume none of the authors of such studies are unethical in any capacity and that they too have friends and loved ones who deserve the truth. I will imagine all of them to be of the highest integrity, uninfluenced by the name on the paycheck funding their work.
And then I will show you, study by study, how even if all of that were true, not one, NOT ONE of the studies either individually or collectively can even come close to proving vaccines and Autism aren’t related.
On that note class, we are ready to begin.
(Next Up: Ladies and Gentlemen, Take Your Positions)
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism and the Education Outreach Coordinator for Generation Rescue.