A few weeks ago, a friend brought a new book to my attention. A relative of hers in Spain had forwarded a link to an article about the book as a show of support. She was letting her know that internationally there were also questions and criticisms of vaccine programs and politics, not to mention very different philosophies about how, when and who should be vaccinated. It was the height of the measles hysteria here.
My friend doesn’t speak or read Spanish, but she knows I do, so she forwarded it to me. I am both fluent and literate. I was immediately interested in not only the book, but also the author. I purchased and read it as soon as possible, followed by an email and a tweet.
Jara responded almost instantly, and we have been corresponding since. He has served as an outstanding source of insight into the thoughts and beliefs about vaccination in Europe, something I think is extremely important for Americans to understand before moving forward with more legislation to require more vaccines for everyone.
Most Americans do not realize that in many other first world nations (that happen to have better infant mortality rates) such as Spain, the law does not require anyone to be vaccinated, nor are vaccines given in the manner or capacity that they are here. Also like here, most people aren’t against vaccines, but they are against forced vaccination, federal product liability, and an ever-expanding for-profit program that seems to have no limits. Spain serves as an excellent example of how vaccination can be successfully done differently without any legislation, bullying, name-calling, or threats involved.
I asked Miguel if he would answer a few questions for me for this blog post. Graciously, he agreed. I have translated them and published them here with his permission.
How did you decide to investigate and write about vaccines?
MJ: The first time I heard a critique of vaccines was almost 20 years ago. Before then I had started to investigate harm caused by medicine and the interests that surrounded that environment, which I expressed in 2007 in my first book, Health Traffickers: How they sell us dangerous medicine and gamble with disease.
That year I also started to publish a blog, www.migueljara.com and a little bit later, in 2009, the flu pandemic that never was would arrive. That phenomena opened many minds to the practices of the pharmaceutical industry and vaccines, such that during the last six or seven years I have gone into depth in all that surrounds vaccines, which I have written about in my book Vaccines, a fair look: Are all necessary, safe, and effective?
What percentage of parents in Spain typically decides to vaccinate their children? Are there many parents that vaccinate but only with specific ones? Do they follow all of the recommendations or no?
MJ: In Spain the vaccination rate is around 95%. There exists a growing criticism of certain vaccines and the vaccine system, but generally the population does not argue with what their doctors tell them. They tend to be guided by the recommended vaccine schedule.
Here there are no mandatory vaccines, they are only “recommended”, but the perception of the public is that they must receive vaccines because it is their duty. That which is supposed to be given to a baby of a certain age is that which is given.
What percentage of adults has faith in vaccines? Is it different than the faith they have in pharmaceutical companies? Is the public cautious?
MJ: It’s interesting you used the term “faith” because I think science and faith are antagonistic, but it’s certain that the majority of health professionals and the public actually have “faith” in vaccines. In my book, I critique that there are vaccines that have little scientific evidence.
But the public in Spain is not very cautious with pharmaceuticals in general or with vaccines in particular. You have to keep in mind that our country is the second largest consumer of medicine in the world! Although it is true that the majority of the population has a bad image of the pharmaceutical industry, as they recognize their own laboratories [as a part of the problem].
Do you know if it is mandatory to vaccinate in other European countries? Or is it like it is in Spain, a personal choice?
MJ: For the most part, it’s like Spain. It’s a choice.
How many children in Spain have autism? Is it an epidemic like it is here in the US? Last year our rate (based on children born in 2002) was 1 in 68. What is it in Spain?
MJ: 1 in 68 is simply a figure from the Centers for Disease Control and reflects diagnostic practices that in turn are a product of socio-economical phenomena; there is no epidemic, and there are no diagnostic biological markers. This is their story.
The involved professionals en the “world of autism”, are doing what they can in Spain to arrive at these same statistics. The numbers that the entities shuffle around, however, without any scientific basis, are those of 1 in 100 and 1 in 150. The difference between the USA and Spain is that over there this diagnosis has implications of various kinds that here it does not.
Is it difficult to criticize vaccines in Spain? Is it controversial or is it a topic open for discussion?
MJ: It’s very controversial, perhaps one of the health themes that is actually taboo. Vaccines are considered mythical and whoever makes the smallest criticism finds himself being treated as “anti-vaccine”.
These days as I am promoting my book, debates have developed where I have participated with doctors in favor of the vaccination schedule. That has been thanks to the fact that in my book I recognize the risks of certain vaccines, and I make a critique of concrete aspects that even those most supportive of vaccines today can support.
We cannot directly sue pharmaceutical companies for the problems that may result from a vaccine. Can you do so in Spain? Is it difficult to do? Is it common? Can you explain the process?
MJ: My understanding is that in the US before you can sue a pharmaceutical company you have to pass through an injury compensation system whose funds the government and pharmaceutical companies are in charge of. In Spain no such injury compensation program exists. The state does not obligate a person to vaccinate but recommends that the public do; however, when there are serious adverse reactions and or deaths they don’t compensate for it. [Consumers have to sue privately.]
There have been lawsuits for injuries by vaccines with copious amounts of compensation, and lawsuits have been filed that related to autism with vaccines. Suing here is laborious and slow, but it can be done. Bufete, Almodovar & Jara are suing, for example, the manufacturers of the HPV vaccine.
For more information on Miguel Jara, please visit his blog at www.migueljara.com Miguel is an award-winning independent writer and freelance journalist who specializes in the investigation of health and ecological themes. He is the author of 5 books and the founder of the legal practice Almodovar & Jara that offers legal assistance, consultation, strategic coordination, and public relations services to those harmed by medical and health products. He can be reached through his blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter @MiguelJaraBlog.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.