By Louis Conte
US Representative Darrell Issa, one of the most powerful men in the country, a man who can call cabinet secretaries in for hours of interrogation in front of the Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee has been forced to table a hearing on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). What kind of pressure might have caused Issa to make this choice? We don’t know for sure, but there is one obvious candidate.
Working through their not-for profit pro-vaccine advocacy allies, pharma exerted enormous influence and likely created the pressure (either direct or indirect) that forced Congressman Issa to pull the plug. Every Child By Two and Voices for Vaccines, two organizations with strong drug industry ties, slammed all the buttons and, as usual, threatened to lay any “vaccine preventable deaths” at Congressman Issa’s doorstep. Pharma used fear because they were afraid. What is it that drug industry supporters are so afraid of?
What the NVICP really knows about autism is terrifying to people like Paul Offit, Dorit Reiss and Amy Pisani. These folks can spout the decisions of the Special Masters in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP) all they want. It won’t do anything to cover up the truth about what doctors like Geoffrey Evans and Vito Casserta in the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation already knew years ago; sometimes vaccines tragically cause brain injury - an encephalopathy. A consequence of that injury, what the program calls a sequela, often includes the behavioral disorder known as autism.
The people in the NVICP know this to be true. A recent paper I co-authored, Unanswered Questions From the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury (Holland, Conte, Krakow, Colin, ), documented this clearly. While not getting access to the vast majority of the 1,300+ cases compensated for brain damage, we still found 83 cases where the vaccine injury included autism. This would have been very difficult to explain – or deny – under oath.
Since publication of Unanswered Questions, more compensated cases have emerged (US Court of Claims, Case Number: 06-227V) and more families have stepped forward with the same pattern of vaccine injury – encephalopathy featuring autism. It would have been really awkward for those in the program to explain why twenty-five years of these kinds of cases had nothing to do with the rulings in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. Rolf Hazelhurst’s statement at a recent Congressional Briefing about the curious behavior of government officials involved in the OAP must really have raised anxiety in the Office of the Special Masters and the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation.
The sad truth is that all of the petitioners who filed claims that ended up being dismissed under the Omnibus Autism Proceedings were victims of the same injustice that was visited upon the OAP test case families. There are 5,000 OAP cases that may be like Michele Cedillo and Yates Hazelhurst. And there are thousands and thousands more who never had a chance to file in the NVICP. People denied justice because of a label, such as “autism”, are the victims of discrimination. And discrimination, even in the name of protecting public health policy, is still discrimination.
This is why Darrell Issa needed to drag people from the NVICP in front of a room full of mystified US Representatives and disgusted families.