By Beth Clay
June 5, 2008
Yesterday, close to 10,000 families came to Washington, DC to join Jenny McCarthy, her son Evan and actor Jim Carey for the “Green Our Vaccines” Rally. Many of these families have children who developed an autism spectrum disorder subsequent to a vaccine injury. After marching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol grounds, these families participated in a rally to demand a safer vaccine supply and schedule. Many went on to meet with their elected officials to ask for their support on the issues.
Since the very first Congressional hearing looking at vaccine injuries, opponents to the vaccine safety discussion accused first Congressman Burton and then the families of the vaccine injured of being “Anti-Vaccine”. These families would better be portrayed as “Anti-Injury.”
These opponents typically have been representatives of vaccine manufacturers, doctors who have a financial stake in the vaccine industry, and sadly many individuals within the public health arena who seem more interested in protecting vaccine programs than preventing vaccine related medical injury. It is the only incidence I am aware where individuals who are asking for improved safety for a medical intervention are routinely accused of being opposed to the intervention.
Autism Community Driving the Train to Safer Immunizations
Since 1999, it has been the autism community rather than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the American Academy of Pediatrics that have been driving the train towards safer immunizations. Their ten year investment into investigation, advocacy, research and raising public awareness around the topic of vaccine safety has already stimulated improved communication between pediatricians and parents about both the benefits and risks associated with immunization. Autism organizations have raised money through walks, t-shirt and jewelry sales and from their own pockets to fund much needed laboratory and animal studies when the government failed or refused to fulfill this need.
Some of the families I talked to yesterday have children whose autism is not vaccine injury related. And yet, at their own expense often under extraordinarily difficult circumstances they traveled to Washington to fight for safer vaccines. The reality is that just as not all autism is related to vaccine injury, not all vaccine injury results in autism. There are dozens of other very serious consequences to vaccine injury that are recognized and seldom discussed by the media.
I believe raising awareness of these other injuries is overdue. Children and adults alike are routinely vaccinated. Many suffer no adverse event, some minor aches and pains, and some suffer serious and life altering or life ending adverse events. Some of the similarities found within the vaccine-injured autism community, may relate to other vaccine injuries. They include, a family history of auto-immune disorders, low birth weight, a mother who received MMR or Rho-gam during pregnancy, administration of vaccination while ill, and frequent ear-infections (with subsequent antibiotic treatment).
Medical Injury and the Constitutional Right to Seek Legal Recourse
The United States of America was founded on the premise of certain inalienable rights including the right to a free press and the right to practice the religion of our choice. Our Founding Fathers provided for the preservation of these rights in the Constitution and made provisions for individuals to seek legal recourse. From time to time Congress passes laws that abridge our freedoms for purposes they believe to be ‘for the greater good’. In the 1980s, because of ongoing vaccine related litigation in the civil court system, vaccine makers went to Congress and threatened to stop making vaccines if the government did not provide liability protection. Congress in a desire to protect the vaccine supply abridged the rights of Americans to seek legal recourse for a vaccine injury or adverse event. Legislation championed by Congressman Henry Waxman provided immunity to both vaccine manufacturers and medical professionals who administered vaccinations through the creation the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The US Court of Federal Claims website provides the following background:
The VICP originally covered vaccines against seven diseases - diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), and polio. Subsequently, coverage was extended to four additional vaccines - hepatitis B, hemophilus influenza type b (Hib), varicella (chicken pox), and rotavirus. In July 2005, the annual influenza (flu) vaccine became covered as well. An excise tax for each dose of vaccine sold funds a trust fund, which pays awards and administrative costs of the program.
As of May, 2008, over 12,500 cases have been filed, 5,365 representing autism cases. Of the total, 6,740 have been adjudicated, with 2,147 being compensated. Claims arising from vaccinations given prior to October 1, 1988, were paid from general fund appropriations. Petitioners filed 4,259 pre-1988 claims, with 1,187 being compensated. Over 890 million dollars of general revenue was paid for pre-October 1988 cases, including attorneys’ fees at the statutorily capped level. Payments for post- October 1988 cases come from a trust fund supported by an excise tax on each dose of vaccine that is covered by the Program. Thus far, 8,313 post-1988 claims have been filed, with 956 being compensated. Over 859 million dollars has been paid in compensation from the trust fund for the post- 1988 cases, including attorneys’ fees and costs. There is currently over 2.7 billion dollars in the trust fund. There is a wide range of awards depending on the severity of injury, with the highest award currently being $9.1 million in present dollars. (1)
When news of the first autism vaccine injury concession made its way to the public, there was major media attention. I have heard rumors that more than six and maybe as many as 19 autism cases have been settled and not made available to the public. A discussion about the fairness to the public as to why a publicly funded program does not provide all rulings (with names redacted where needed) on a freely available internet database is overdue.
Special Master Makes Award
A quick review of the Published cases from 2006 to 2008 in which Special Master within the Federal Court of Claims determines that a vaccine injury had occurred and that entitlement was deserved finds the following vaccine injuries:
1. Hepatitis B vaccination caused:
• Development of Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disease that eventually necessitated a kidney transplant
• Transverse myelitis leading to multiple sclerosis
• Optic neuritis and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
• Jaw and facial pain, headaches, confusion, memory problems, dizziness, joint pain, and depression
• An inflammatory response and reaction within an individual that led to or caused a significant aggravation of pre-existing Lupus
• Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Onset of a respiratory illness including bronchospasm and asthma and an immunological dysfunction involving sensitivity to various chemicals
• Onset rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
• Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
• Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
• Or significantly aggravated Multiple Sclerosis
• Or was a substantial factor in causing polyarteritis nodosa (PAN)
2. Varicella Vaccination causally connected to:
• Myasthenia gravis
• Resulted in fatal encephalopathy
• With HIB were substantial factors in causing a child’s fever, initial seizure, seizure disorder, and subsequent developmental delay
• And/or inactivated polio vaccine caused a lesion that partially obstructed the signals to child’s lower motor area, causing her left leg pasticity or monoplegia
4. Rubella Vaccination caused:
• Chronic joint pain
• Was the legal cause of an intractable seizure disorder that provoked a child’s death
• Was a substantial factor in causing a child’s opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome (OMS) also known as Kinsbourne’s disease. [This is a syndrome of movements of the eyes (opsoclonus) and trunk (myoclonus), occurring in conjunction with a number of conditions, including viral infections, trauma, drug toxicity, tumors, and hyperosmolar nonketotic coma. It also occurs as a paraneoplastic syndrome.]
6. Tetanus Vaccine resulted in:
• Brachial neuritis
• Was a substantial factor in causing a child’s aplastic anemia
• Led to onset of scleroderma
• Were a substantial factor in causing the onset of seizure disorder that has developed into epilepsy
Government Denies Injury But Agrees to Pay a Settlement
On a separate section of the Court’s website are “Unpublished” cases. In these cases the claim of vaccine injury has been ‘informally settled’ through a ‘stipulation.’ In each case, a short informal statement has been published in which the petitioner’s vaccine injury is stated, the government stipulates they do not agree that the illness is vaccine related but agree compensate the petitioner. In 2008, the following stipulated settlements were made public:
• Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
• With Diphtheria-Tetanus-Acellular Pertussis (“DtaP”), Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (“Hib”), Inactivated Polio vaccine (“IPV”) and pneumococcal vaccines caused the death of a male child
• Caused common variable immunodeficiency syndrome
• In combination with tetanus-diphtheria vaccine, an autoimmune disorder developed
• Onset of flu-like symptoms and myalgia
• In combination with DTap, Hib, and IPV, encephalopathy and resulting death of a child
• Rheumatoid Arthritis (multiple cases)
Tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccination
• Injuries to upper extremities and joint pain
Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) (multiple cases)
• Chronic arthropathy and fibromyalgia
• In combination with a diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (“DTaP”) vaccination, and an inactivated polio vaccine (“IPV”), the development of Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (“ADEM”) and optic neuritis
A Voice for Their Children – A Voice for the World
The autism families and organizations that traveled to Washington this week to ask our government to clean up vaccines and make them safer are not just the voices for their children; they have become the voice of the world. A world that envisions a time in medicine when vaccines are completely free of potentially harmful chemicals; a time in medicine when a comprehensive family history or diagnostic test will identify those at higher risk for vaccine injury and common sense is restored to the implementation of the recommended vaccine schedule. With the autism community driving the train to safer vaccines, we are on our way to achieving this world vision. We can all hope that sooner rather than later the Public Health Community jumps on the train and begins to add some fuel to speed us down the track towards this vision.
About the Author: Beth Clay led the health investigation team of the Committee on Government Reform Committee under the Chairmanship of Congressman Dan Burton and oversaw the vaccine injury, autism epidemic investigation. She is the co-author of the Staff Reports on Mercury in Medicine and Conflicts of Interest of HHS Vaccine Advisors. Now in the private sector, Ms. Clay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org