By J.B. Handley
With less than a half-dozen full-time activists, annual budgets of six figures or less, and umpteen thousand courageous, undaunted, and selfless volunteer parents, our community, held together with duct tape and bailing wire, is in the early to middle stages of bringing the U.S. vaccine program to its knees.
A well-publicized report from Pediatrics, released earlier this month, Parental Vaccine Safety Concerns, discussed the following:
“Our study indicates that a disturbingly high proportion of parents [25%] continue to believe that some vaccines cause autism in otherwise healthy children.”
The same report went on to comment on the public health’s response to this “problem” so far:
“This finding indicates that current public health education campaigns on this issue have not been effective in allaying the concerns of many parents.”
Worse for pediatricians and public health officials than the 1 in 4 people who believe vaccines can cause “autism in healthy children” is the 54% of parents and 60% of moms who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I am concerned about serious adverse effects of vaccines.”
Community, prepare to take a bow, America is listening.
But, before you do, let me share some more data with you. When this study came out, the headlines were focused on the “1 in 4 believe vaccines cause autism” but nowhere in any of the press reports could I find any data on how attitudes have changed over time.
Taking a very different approach from the average journalist, I started doing some of my own research, and came across this study, Parental Vaccine Safety Concerns, Results from the National Immunization Survey, 2001-2002 .
I was floored.
I remember 2001-2002. My son was born in 2002. I’d barely heard of autism. I’d heard the faintest whispers about vaccines causing autism, but wrote it off as hippy-conspiracy stuff. Not surprisingly, the 2001-2002 report, unlike the 2009 report, does not even mention the word “autism.”
And, in 2001-2002, what percent of parents expressed any concerns about the safety of vaccines? Seven. 7%. Less than 10. Five plus two. A full 93% of parents said vaccines were “completely safe.” In fact, the 2001-2002 study was exceptionally proud of the “low prevalence of vaccine safety concerns.”
What a difference seven years has made. Folks, the U.S. vaccine program literally has its hair on fire. 56% of parents today are concerned about the serious adverse effects of vaccines, and 60% of moms. 56% of parents is an 8-fold, or 700% increase from 2001-2002.
Parents, you can now take a bow. It’s way worse than we thought.
Referring again to the 2009 Pediatrics report that “current public health education campaigns on this issue have not been effective,” I am pleased to lay the blame for that on four people: Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. David Gorski, Amanda Peet, and Ms. Alison Singer. The data clearly shows that the efforts of these four to stem the tide of public opinion away from vaccines has been a miserable failure.
To make my point for me, consider the LA Times
reporting last week on the Special Masters ruling that injecting mercury into babies is some kind of wonderful:
“Commenting on the rulings, Dr. Paul Offit of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said in a news conference that the idea that vaccines or thimerosal cause autism "had its day in scientific court and was shown not to hold up. . . . The ruling clearly supported the science, fortunately." Offit, inventor of the rotavirus vaccine and author of five books on the vaccine controversy, is a strong proponent of vaccination and has been vilified by many parents.”
Hmm…invented a vaccine…vilified by parents…hey, wait a minute! (thanks, Kent, for the “idiot moment”).
Did Hollywood cast this guy as a villain? He’s perfect! Of course, Offit found Amanda Peet, who let the world know we were all parasites (anyone hear from her lately?). Go online to get the other side, and your likely to find Dr. Gorski’s blog, where a dozen anonymous commentators echo Dr. Gorski’s venomous invective – just the thing to build trust with a new mommy! The newest entrant, Ms. Peet’s replacement, is Ms. Singer, who looks like she stepped out of the morgue to take each interview and tell everyone that vaccines are safe and we all barely exist. Keep talking, Ms. Singer, keep Paul Offit on your board, and keep publicizing the “National Immunizations Conference” on your “autism science” website.
A message to our haters: it’s not working, you need a new plan. I think Paul Offit has slammed the door on the debate a half dozen times just this month. And, we’re still here, still telling the stories of what happened to our kids, with fully 60% of American moms damn worried about the downside of vaccines.
I have been called a lot of things in this debate, and I really don’t give a hoot. I know what happened to my son and I have heard many of the same stories from so many of you. Every time the other side just lies blatantly to try and make this debate go away, I smile. The more you over-reach, the easier it is for new moms to smell a rat, the less likely they are to trust you, and the closer the other side gets to having the walls cave in around them. The vaccine-autism debate has created a tinderbox for the U.S. vaccine program, and we’re really only one lit match away from bedlam.
This debate will not end the way the other side hopes. Their plan is to convince the media to stop reporting on the conflict and to keep adding vaccines to the schedule and keep getting 90%-plus of parents to comply. Simply seeing what happened with H1N1 and what is happening with HPV would tell any idiot that this is an unrealistic goal.
The other side needs a solution to this problem far more desperately than we do. Our community is finally mobilized. We have more money, more parents, more coordination, and more purpose than we ever have. Every day, a new, important person—unfortunately--joins our community and lends a hand.
Dr. Bernadine Healy has been right all along: real science needs to be done. Unvaccinated children must be objectively studied. Children who have regressed need to be looked at so that potential vulnerabilities can be identified. Caution and moderation need to be re-introduced to our vaccine schedule. I would advocate an immediate move to the current vaccine schedule of Denmark or Sweden with a far more cautious approach to vaccinating introduced: only one shot per visit, no shots while on antibiotics, delaying shots if any adverse reactions happen, etc.
There is a solution to this mess. As Jenny said, the genie is not going back in the bottle. The fear of vaccines is going to rise. Our community is only getting stronger. Who will step in to broker a truce? I really don’t know, but, mark my words, the results from the next survey will show that the trust continues to erode. Keep fighting, parents, America is really listening.
J.B. Handley is Co-Founder of Generation Rescue