The Lady Doth Protest Too Much: Voices for Vaccine is a Top-down Front Operation Launched by a CDC Partner in 2008
By John Stone
Despite Karen Ernst’s repeated insistence that Voices for Vaccines - who recently got up a petition against Jenny McCarthy on Change.com - is an independent parent-led organization speaking up for the vaccine program, the evidence that it was started by the Atlanta based non-profit partner of the Centers for Disease Control, Task Force for Global Health, to promote their joint policies is overwhelming. John Stone (UK editor of Age of Autism) reports:
A few days ago I wrote about vaccine program advocate Prof Dorit Reiss, her unconventional views about agency capture, and her links with Voices for Vaccines “an administrative project” of Task Force for Global Health a partner organization to the Centers for Disease Control and Emory University in Atlanta. The first response to my article was from Karen Ernst a Minnesota based officer of Voices for Vaccines :
“Voices for Vaccines has as its fiscal agent The Task Force for Global Health. They take in our donations and cut checks for us. Many non-profits who are too small to handle their own 501(c)3 status use fiscal agents in this way; it's quite common. We have absolutely no access to their money, nor do we benefit from their money. Voices for Vaccines is not tied to any pharmaceutical corporation or to any government organization. Thus far, all of our donations have been small and have come from individuals. Thus, the dots you have connected paint an incorrect picture.”
Ernst was again engaged the other day with Steve Schneider's article Big Pharma's faking a "grass-roots" campaign to keep Jenny McCarthy off "The View" in Mark Crispin Miller's News from the Underground blog noticed that a Change.com petition against McCarthy was being promoted by ‘Voices for Vaccines, St Paul, Minnesota’. Ernst was first to respond once more :
“I’m one of the two moms who runs VFV. Your blog post is curious to me, seeing that you are an academic. It seems you consulted Barbara Loe Fisher for her anti-vaccine conspiracy theories about who we are, but you never bothered to actually consult us.
“I am the person who started the petition. I have been in contact with exactly zero people who work for pharmaceutical companies or who work in the government about the petition. At best, your headline is misleading. The rest of your blog post is inaccurate. You’ve misrepresented our relationship with our Scientific Advisory Board and our fiscal agent.”
For the record the current Voices for Vaccine website states:
“Voices for Vaccines was re-launched in early 2013 after two young parents, Karen Ernst and Ashley Shelby, volunteered to lead the organization in rallying parents of immunized children to combat vaccine misinformation and increase immunization rates. In 2010, Shelby and Ernst founded the blog Moms Who Vax, which offers resources on vaccine information, commentary, and first-person stories from parents who immunize. They are currently working to develop a new organization, the Minnesota Childhood Immunization Coalition.”
The name ‘Voices for Vaccines’ rang a bell but I could not immediately find any pre-2013 references on Google. The web archive was rather more helpful, however, with the earliest page holding any text dating from 13 May 2008 (passages in bold are my emphasis):
“Recent public discourse has taken on a tone of doubt regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines. While immunization rates remain high in the United States, scientifically unfounded fears receive broad coverage in the media, and the views of those who oppose vaccination are often presented as fact. This creates an environment in which vaccine uptake is in danger of declining precipitously - in America, and in other countries that are influenced by American attitudes toward vaccines.
“Voices For Vaccines has been formed to speak for those who value the vital protection provided by vaccines and want accurate communication of their safety profile. Our goal is to maximize the ability of vaccines to prevent disease, disability, and death, here and abroad, by supporting sound vaccine policies and practices.
“Voices For Vaccines is guided by the following principles:
“ Science. We will follow the most reliable scientific findings in formulating our positions. We will be frank and clear about what is known and the limitations of current knowledge.
“ Independence. To allay concerns about conflicts of interest, we will accept no funding from companies that manufacture or distribute vaccines, nor from any government.
“Accessibility. We will provide information through multiple media formats in order to effectively reach the general public, health care providers, and policymakers.
“Voices For Vaccines has already begun enlisting members to demonstrate the strong support that vaccines enjoy across the population. Membership is at no cost and provides a subscription to our newsletter as well as the opportunity to participate in VFV-coordinated action campaigns.
“Voices For Vaccines is administratively housed within the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, an Atlanta-based 501(c)(3) organization.”
According to its notice on Wiki ‘Task Force for Child Survival and Development” was re-named ‘Task Force for Global Health’ in 2009. Apart from that there are two fundamental problems. One is that however Voices for Vaccines solicits funds it is still administered by Task Force (which solicits funds from all sorts of places), so the notion of independence is meaningless and a deliberate deception. The other is that it is an attempt to recruit members of the public to advocate for Task Force’s policies and activities: Voices for Vaccines was not started independently of Task Force, and Task Force is not just “cutting” Voices for Vaccine’s checks, it is Task Force's creature while posing as an independent and parent-led organization.
Also, according to a current Task Force web-page Voices for Vaccination is a subdivision of Task Force’s Immunizations and Vaccines: Center for Vaccine Equity' Dr Alan R Hinman (a CDC veteran) being the director of both the wider operation and Voices for Vaccines (the site was down this weekend but this is an archive snapshot) with ‘Task Force for Vaccine Equity’ being funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Merck and Novartis.
Why is it that these people can only operate by subterfuge?
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.
An update to this article is published here.