Recent estimates are that up to 40% of parents are choosing to selectively vaccinate or avoiding vaccinating their children altogether. As a response, the public can soon expect to be exposed to a campaign to "vaccinate a wary public".
The strategy appears to consist of using fear, imagery, and insults as a way to gain greater compliance. Forthcoming Public Service Announcements with infectious disease victims. Conferences guiding physicians linguistically through tiresome conversations with seemingly misguided parents. Referring to concerned parents as anti-scientific. Censorship by the media at the government's request.
Predictably this strategy will fail miserably and likely only make the situation worse. Why? It misses the point of why parents actually aren't vaccinating.
Parents aren't opting out of vaccinating because they are too young to remember infectious disease. It isn't because they take the threat of infectious disease lightly and want their children to get it. It isn't because they are misinformed by the internet and media.
No, the real reasons parents aren't complying with recommended vaccination schedule are because:
1. Having a child with Autism far outweighs the risk of having or dying from any infectious disease right now, and anything that could possibly be contributing to the development of Autism, even if it means risking infectious disease, will be considered riskier.
2. They don't trust the denial of the role of vaccines in the development of Autism by the medical community or government because they are biased; they will be the entities held accountable for Autism if it is proven vaccines are indeed causal factors. Furthermore, they are both closely tied to the pharmaceutical industry that repeatedly puts profit over safety and has to have products recalled because of it.
3. Their reality is vastly different than what these groups are trying to convince them (that Autism always was this prevalent and problematic). A condition that was unheard of only 25 years ago is now the number one issue facing a generation of children and the only explanation offered for any of it is coincidence. Further, 1 in 20 families now has an affected child, with neighbors, grandparents, relatives and friends being eye witnesses to the regression and recovery of these children.
Those in charge of the "vaccinating a wary public" campaign would be wise to remember that parents who question vaccine safety are by and large a highly educated group, often now related to, friends with, or neighbors with parents who have a child affected by Autism, ADHD, speech delay, learning disabilities, life threatening allergies, asthma and more. They are frightened by the statistics facing their unborn children, and even more so by the lack of urgency and care with which these problems are being addressed. With their own eyes through their own experience they can clearly see something is very wrong with today's children, unlike some in the medical establishment that are trying to pass it off as the norm. That creates distrust and suspicion.
Additionally, they don't take kindly to propaganda or threats, and they most definitely don't like to be insulted. Telling them their choice is to go with the scientific side is juvenile in its approach, suggesting that any parent who researchers both sides of the debate, personally knows someone with a different experience, and disagrees with the one size fits all approach to vaccination is by default, non-scientific. Brilliant.
More important, it's disingeneous to take that position. Vaccines are vastly understudied in the current way they are administered, and there are plenty of questions about their safety left unanswered. Worse, the questions that have been attempted to be answered are inadequate thus far in being able to truly tell us anything meaningful about vulnerable populations and the role of vaccines in their negative health outcomes. And certainly, wondering if whether or not the influence of the pharmaceutical industry and our government on our medical institutions has rendered the science less than objective is a sad reality in this day and age, not conspiracy thinking.
Furthermore, there has been close to $2 billion dollars in settlement payments paid out to victims of unexpected and unfortunate vaccine reactions. Legislation had to be passed on how to handle this kind of compensation not because it might happen, but because it does happen, and worse, that they have no idea who it will happen to or why. Given that vaccines are not studied for safety in the manner in which they are administered (with 2,3,4 or even 5 plus injections being given at once to infants), it is impossible to know precisely how many people have been injured by vaccines. The debate in fact is not if vaccines have hurt people, but rather only how many and how.
Moreover, all parents will choose the safety of their child over that of the general public. Whereas the job of the CDC is protect the public over the individual, the job of a parent is to protect their individual child. The two positions are incompatible from the start, and the medical community is trying to serve both masters. It isn't working. Being able to possibly protect the public from infectious disease is a nice by-product of choosing to vaccinate your child, but it is absolutely, positively not the main motivation of any mother or father I have ever met. In fact, until recently the real reason parents vaccinated so aggressively is because they believed they had no other choice.
So to any of you reading this who are about to embark on the campaign of "vaccinating a wary public", let me help you save a lot of time, energy and money. If you actually want to save the vaccine program and regain the public's trust, here's how you can start:
1. Tell the truth. Stop claiming that science has completely resolved this issue. At best, the limited science thus far (done by those with tremendous conflicts of interest) has shown us that with regard to Thimerosal, it might be good for kids and it might be bad for them, and with regard to the MMR, that for the general population, it doesn't appear to be a problem. That's hardly the same thing as the sweeping statement that all vaccines in any child, at any time, with any ingredients, in any amount, in any combination don't cause Autism. Furthermore, Thimerosal is not gone from vaccines, and the trace amount touted as safe is still far too toxic to flush down a toilet. Plus, according to the Material Safety Data Sheet, it should never be combined with aluminum because of how highly reactive it is, and yet, there are multiple vaccines that combine the two right now. Moving the goal posts? More like clearly identifying the end zone.
2. Acknowledge your lack of objectivity in this matter. By pretending to be unbiased, you lose credibility.
3. Remove Paul Offit as your spokesperson; he is hurting your cause. You have chosen to give a man who has never treated a single child with Autism the authority to speak for your profession on what doesn't cause it: the very product that has made him rich. You must realize how poorly that sits with the parent community you serve.
4. Understand that you are under investigation by the parent community for a crime: medical negligence. Understand that no amount of self-investigation will ever be good enough to convince them of your innocence.
5. Support the creation of an independent vaccine oversight and safety commission with no ties to the CDC, the vaccine industry, or the medical industry. Acknowledge the conflict and that you feel so confident in what you do and how you do it that you are willing to hand it over to a third party for verification of its safety.
6. Reach out to your loudest critics. Rather than dismiss them, recognize these are the parents who listened to what you told them verbatim and are utterly convinced you completely betrayed them and their children. They have nothing left to lose by speaking out until they believe justice has been served. Your campaign will only make them louder.
7. Create a vaccine schedule based on the reality of today's American society. We do not live in the hazardous conditions of the third world, and the majority of us do not live in drug-infested urban squalor; our vaccine needs are different. Categorize the available vaccines based on need, not availability. Base these categories on the risk-reward relationship for each individual child.
8. Welcome media coverage of all sides equally. By requesting limited reporting about the controversy you create tremendous suspicion. Historically, the squashing of free speech about controversial topics does anything but make it go away.
9. Open the Vaccine Safety Datalink Database. Allow independent researchers to verify CDC findings.
10. Get your priorities straight. You are more worried about a measles outbreak in 12 California children than you are about the fact that 1 in 70 American boys has Autism. This is outrageous. You have just as big of an obligation to stop chronic disease as you do infectious disease, and you have an obligation to figure out if in the pursuit of the eradication of one we have increased the incidence of the other. You have yet to do so.
11. Stop playing dumb. Stop pretending Autism has always been with us at the incidence rate it is. Stop suggesting that toxins in the environment could play a role in Autism while simultaneously denying toxins injected into a baby's body do not. You must realize how ridiculous that sounds. Furthermore, stop trying to convince people that everything they know about Autism is a coincidence. You pride yourself on being scientific and yet the only explanation you have for anything about Autism is that it is coincidence. This too is ridiculous.
12. Demand and welcome the independent study of the vaccinated versus never vaccinated immediately, as well as the study of affected children for evidence of vaccine injury. Certainly with such a dramatic drop in vaccine compliance over the last several years you can find a large population of unvaccinated children from with which to draw for these kinds of investigations.
13. Learn to recognize and treat vaccine injury from your peers who are doing so. It happens. It isn't rare. It is treatable.
14. Screen for possible vaccine injury risk factors. Ask about heavy metal susceptibilities and a history of autoimmunity. Do not vaccinate sick children. Do not vaccinate children on or recently on antibiotics. Do not give acetominephine to children before or after vaccines. Do not put convenience over safety.
15. Clean up the vaccines. It is no longer acceptable to inject heavy metals such as mercury or aluminum into a human being, as we continue to learn just how vulnerable we are to amounts we previously thought harmless. To repeatedly pierce the flesh, bypass the natural immune system the body has created in the nose, mouth and digestive tract, and directly inject more and more chemicals, metals, and viruses into it without studying the life long and/or unintended consequences for having done so is no longer a miracle; it is madness.
This is an incomplete list, but it is a good start. Should the effort not be made to accommodate the wishes of parents in this manner, the demise of the vaccination program will likely only accelerate. One can only hope these eye-opening statistics indicate the time has finally come to realize that the only true way to protect the greater good is to meet the needs of the individuals that make it up first.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.