I’m so used to reporters writing on vaccine issues always being extremely one-sided and selective in their coverage. They never tire of telling us that all the science is in and there are no serious side effects from vaccinating your child. This is why I was really surprised yesterday when the Sacramento Bee published a piece in which we got to hear from both sides. (The story was also published by the Modesto Bee.)
The story was about a significant increase in the in number of parents exempting their children from the vaccinations required for school. We were told that a new Cal. law set to go into effect in 2014 will require parents to get a doctor’s signature as proof that they’ve been informed about the risks of not vaccinating in order to get an exemption. It’s clear from the story why this is being done. There are schools where the exemption rates are at a stunning 50, 60, and 70 percent of kindergarteners. It’s important to note that these children are from wealthier families. Could it be that more affluent, educated parents aren’t buying the claim that a one-size-fits-all vaccine schedule is safe for every child? Could educated parents be researching this issue for themselves and finding lots of reasons for not trusting the safety claims?
Bee reporters Diana Lambert and Phillip Reese gave us the standard warning that unvaccinated children threaten the whole community, but they also included comments from the National Vaccine Information Center’s CA co-director, Michelle Gutierrez.
Here’s what was said:
“Leaders of a growing movement against vaccination disagree. They contend that shots contain dangerous ingredients and may cause autism, Crohn's disease and cancer, among other things.
“People are scared, said Michelle Gutierrez, co-director of the National Vaccine Information Center [in CA] – an organization skeptical of vaccines. ‘There are bomb blasts of all these vaccines and kids are getting sick.’"
“Many Sacramento-area parents apparently are questioning the safety of vaccines, particularly those with students in charter and private schools.
“The National Vaccine Information Center is among a number of groups battling such vaccination legislation. Gutierrez complained that AB 2109 could force a parent to schedule a doctor's appointment and take time off work, with no guarantee of obtaining the required signature.
“‘People are scared,’ Gutierrez said. ‘Politicians are pushing these laws backed by pharmaceutical companies.’”
Any interested parent reading this would have to pause and wonder about what else may be involved here. And with so much information available online, I’m sure more than a few people went to the NVIC website after reading this.
Comments on the two stories make it clear that the debate over vaccines is far from settled. One was from a San Francisco physician:
“here is no sunshine when it comes to vaccines. They can be, in some cases, immunologically very dirty and all the evidence that they are ineffective and not efficacious is covered up or suppressed. So there is a growing distrust and rightly so. It is next to impossible to seek recourse if one is injured by a vaccine and yet the evidence continues to mount that they are being produced and forced upon us not based on sound science, but by profit and greed. This is a sacred cow that needs to be gutted.”
KP Stoller, MD
There was another from a nurse, Jackie Murphy Forsyth:
“I was born and raised in El Dorado County....Placerville! How proud I am to hear we have parents thinking for themselves and making health care decisions that consider the needs of their individual child.
“I am a nurse and mother of a severely autistic child. My son was born with medical problems. Every vaccine I gave him (always assured by the pediatricians, with whom I worked with at UCDMC, my vaccine concerns were misguided) my son became more sick and regressed developmentally.
“The policies regarding vaccines assume one size fits all. This is a dangerous practice. Family history and the individual health of the child needs to be considered when vaccinating. Pediatricians refuse to have open discussions with parents. Institutions studying autism and the immune system are not forthcoming with information they do know to educate the pediatricians and the public. Parents, rightfully, are educating themselves when making decisions regarding vaccines -- a medical intervention.”
When doctors and nurses are suspicious of vaccine safety claims, we all have reason to be concerned. I talked with Michelle Gutierrez today and asked her about the interview. She said she talked with reporter Diana Lambert for over an hour and that she emailed her all kinds of information (far too much for me to include here) on vaccines, including links to the recent U.S. House hearing on autism, research on vaccines, the movie, The Greater Good, and even the package inserts on vaccine side effects.
It would have been nice if more of what Michelle gave the reporter had made it into the story, but we have to count our blessings. The National Vaccine Information Center has been here for more than 30 years informing the public about vaccine safety and about their rights when it comes to vaccine choice. Special thanks to co-founders, Barbara Loe Fisher and Kathi Williams, and Michelle Gutierrez and all the others at NVIC for their incredible work.