By Anne Dachel
We all know vaccines are a controversial topic. The claim of a link to autism never goes away, no matter how many times the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plays with the numbers in their population studies to show no association between their vaccines and autism. I've been reading press coverage of this issue for over 10 years. I know who the worst of the worst are.
There is no major newspaper, magazine, or network in America where reporters are ever given the following assignment:
"We have to get to the bottom of the vaccine debate. This issue affects every child in America. It's critical that we find independent evidence to show that vaccines are safe and not connected to autism or other serious side effects.
"Look at the science on both sides. Interview Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who's always being blamed for creating this controversy. How does he support his claim? Talk to some of the parents of the patients in his Lancet study.
"Find out how many researchers have drug industry ties that could influence their findings.
"Investigate the history of this mercury additive, thimerosal. Look at the studies that show it's safe. How is this different from the claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism?
"Talk to parents with autistic children. Ask them if their kids started out this way. If they were healthy and then developed autism, ask them why they think it happened. Did it follow routine vaccinations?
"Look into the CDC. Find out how many in the vaccine division have ties to the vaccine industry. Ask the head of the CDC, Thomas Frieden, why they've never done a studying comparing fully vaccinated and never vaccinated kids to see if they have the same health issues.
"Ask officials if they've ever researched to find out how many kids have the same mitochondrial condition as Hannah Poling--the girl whose autism was compensated. Find out how many kids with autism have been compensated by the federal government.
"Search for adults with autism. They're supposed to be out there somewhere. Find out if there's a rate among adults similar to what's happening among children. And don't just look for the high functioning ones. Find the adults who have all the severe symptoms. And find autistic adults who regressed into autism as children.
"Check out how many new vaccines have been added to the schedule in the last twenty-five years. Find out if the effect of all these combinations has been studied."
This is what the Bob Woodwards and Carl Bernsteins of the world would be doing. They wouldn't do a search of the CDC website or call up the local health department and blindly repeat the official line on vaccine safety.
Certainly no one ever assigned Jeffrey Kluger at TIME to honestly investigate the vaccine issue. Kluger is the TIME's most pharma-friendly vaccine promoter.
Here are samples of his work.
How to Change an Anti-Vaxxer's Mind, Aug 3, 2015
Meet the Heroes and the Villains of Vaccine Injury, July 29, 2015
Jim Carrey, Please Shut Up About Vaccines, Jul 1, 2015
Meet the Latest Driver of the Anti-Vaccine Clown Car, Jan 30, 2015
RFK Jr. Joins the Anti-Vaccine Fringe, July 21, 2014
That Moment When You Must Have a Word With Jenny McCarthy, Apr 12, 2014
Everything Kluger writes hinges on the premise that there's really no such thing as serious vaccine injury. In his latest piece on the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program he alleges that even if the government compensates someone for vaccine damage, it doesn't mean the injury was really caused by the vaccine; the government may just have wanted to settle the suit as quickly as possible.
Aug 19, 2015, TIME: Here’s How the Anti-Vaxxers’ Strongest Argument Falls Apart
. . . In order to ensure that vaccines would be as affordable and available as possible, Congress thus created the VICP, establishing a trust fund for awards financed by an excise tax of 75 cents on every vaccine administered. Under the program, cases are adjudicated on a no-fault basis, with attorneys for the government and attorneys for the families arguing before one of eight special masters. The goal is to settle the matter as quickly and fairly as possible, though petitioners (the no-fault system avoids the word “plaintiffs”) who are unhappy with the special master’s ruling are free to take their case to the traditional civil court system.
. . . The goal is to settle the matter as quickly and fairly as possible, though petitioners (the no-fault system avoids the word “plaintiffs”) who are unhappy with the special master’s ruling are free to take their case to the traditional civil court system.
The standard the petitioners must meet to recover any award is a comparatively low one—the “preponderance of the evidence” rule of civil law, rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement of the criminal court system. In practice, that standard has been even more liberally construed in the vaccine court than it is in ordinary civil court, a fact that generally benefits the petitioners. More frequently still, things don’t go that far. In 80% of all cases brought since 2006, the parties settle, meaning that the petitioner recovers an award with no determination being made about whether the vaccine even caused the claimed harm.
“Settlements are not an admission by the United States or the Secretary of Health and Human Services…that the vaccine caused the petitioner’s alleged injuries,” says the HHS website. Claims may be settled for a lot of reasons, including “a desire by both parties to minimize the time and expense associated with litigating a case to conclusion; and a desire by both parties to resolve a case quickly and efficiently.”
. . . Certainly, vaccine science is not fixed, and different circumstances lead to different law. The case of Hannah Poling, the 9-year-old Georgia girl who, in 2008, received a $1.5 million award when the court agreed that vaccinations contributed to her later-onset autism, rocked the medical community and only worsened the anti-vax panic. But Poling was a special case; she was suffering from an underlying disorder of the mitochondria, or the energy-processing organelle in the cells. This made her vulnerable to any oxidative stress that could, in theory, be caused by vaccines. Mitochondrial disorders are increasingly being cited in vaccine court claims, but the conditions are not common and are poorly understood. “The belief is that the vaccine triggers a decompensation,” says Krakow, “but this is controversial.”
Kluger once again shows himself to be clueless, cold hearted and deceptive when it comes to reporting on the safety of vaccines. (And he has to hope that his readers' knowledge is extremely limited in order to pull this off.)
Kluger's piece on the VICP gives the program a rousing endorsement. According to him, it's "well-publicized" and the standard of evidence is "a comparably low one."
And you don't even have to have a legitimate vaccine injury to win in vaccine court.
"Claims may be settled for a lot of reasons, including 'a desire by both parties to minimize the time and expense associated with litigating a case to conclusion; and a desire by both parties to resolve a case quickly and efficiently.'"
He dismisses the fact that vaccines can do harm by saying that your chances of having a vaccine reaction are "less than a one in a million."
Kluger ends the piece with this glowing summation: "For the literal one in a million who are harmed, the VICP stands by to help."
Kluger has to hope no one has read the news stories from November and December 2014 exposing the VICP as a system that doesn't work and has "heaped additional suffering on thousands of families," according to the Associated Press.
Dec 30, 2014, Associated Press: 'Vaccine court' keeps claimants waiting http://www.democraticunderground.com/1016110299
A system Congress established to speed help to Americans harmed by vaccines has instead heaped additional suffering on thousands of families, The Associated Press has found.
The premise was simple: quickly and generously pay for medical care in the rare cases when a shot to prevent a sickness such as flu or measles instead is the likely cause of serious health complications. But the system is not working as intended.
The AP read hundreds of decisions, conducted more than 100 interviews, and analyzed a database of more than 14,500 cases filed in a special vaccine court. That database was current as of January 2013; the government has refused to release an updated version since.
Caught in the middle are families that need help.
"The system is not working," said Richard Topping, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who defended the government against vaccine injury claims but resigned after concluding his bosses had no desire to fix the major flaws he saw. "People who need help aren't getting it."
Nov 21, 2014, New York Times: Feds Vows to Publicize Vaccine Injury Help Program http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/11/21/us/ap-us-vaccine-court.html?_r=0
Leaders of the nation's system for helping people hurt by a routine vaccination have vowed to better publicize the little-known program, while the judge who oversees the special vaccine court that handles injury claims worries that if more are filed, they will take even longer to handle than they already do.
The comments were made to government investigators, who released a report Friday about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program several days after an Associated Press story detailed the program's problems.
Congress created the program to quickly and generously pay for medical care in the rare cases when a shot to prevent one sickness likely caused serious health complications instead. The AP found that the program has heaped additional suffering on thousands of families, including delays that have stretched a decade or more.
The main point that Kluger never clearly states is that NEITHER THE VACCINE MAKER NOR THE DOCTOR HAS ANY LIABILITY AND THUS THERE IS LITTLE INCENTIVE TO PRODUCE/ADMINISTER A TRULY SAFE PRODUCT.
Attorney Robert Krakow is cited in Kluger's arguments in his latest piece.
“In cases in which there is a lifetime injury, the award will be the equivalent of many millions of dollars,” says New York-based attorney Robert Krakow, who has represented petitioners in hundreds of vaccine injury claims. “It could be $20 million over a lifetime.”
I contacted Krakow to ask for his reaction to what Kluger said about him. Here's what Krakow had to say.
You have asked me for a comment about Jeffrey Kluger's article, referenced above, in which he discusses the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Mr. Kluger engaged me in a brief interview, from which he used selected quotes in the article. Mr. Kluger's article is tainted by errors large and small. The questions he posed to me were, it is now apparent, targeted, for the purpose of plugging the responses into prefabricated arguments attacking advocates who argue that there exists a serious problem with vaccine safety in this country. I will address Mr. Kluger's claims in detail elsewhere, but I can best summarize Mr. Kluger's notions about the VICP as ill-founded, reeking of bias and plainly inaccurate. It is unfortunate that Mr. Kluger has chosen to abuse a respected journalistic platform to launch broadside attacks on straw man positions he lumps under the derisive "anti-vaxxer" label. It would more responsibly serve our community if Mr. Kluger used the Time platform to pursue a serious discussion about vaccine safety. Sadly, he has failed to do so.
Perhaps the most glaring distortion contained in Mr. Kluger's article is his claim that the VICP "was well-publicized at the time of its passage and is even better publicized today. Apparently Mr. Kluger is unaware that the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office strongly suggested in a November 2014 report to the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives, that the government has failed to adequately publicize the VICP, despite a mandate in the law to do so.
As soon as I read that Kluger said "the court" compensated Hannah Poling, I knew that Kluger was covering up the truth. IF he'd truly looked into this, he'd know medical experts at HHS, not a special master in vaccine court, conceded her claim.
The most telling aspect of the Hannah Poling story was the reaction of doctors and health officials. (Something totally ignored by Kluger.) Everyone reporting on Hannah cited her "pre-existing" condition. We were told it was rare. Experts of course were expected look into this since if it was true that mitochondrial disease and autism are related, shouldn't we know how many other kids are just as vulnerable?
And the government did go through the motions of pretending to address this at a meeting in June 2008 in Indianapolis. A lot of experts came and from the comments made, no one wanted to look into what happened to Hannah Poling. They wanted this issue to go away and that's why Hannah's case is never brought up in the controversy today.
June 28, 2008, New York Times: Experts to Discuss One Puzzling Autism Case, as a Second Case Has Arisen
June 30, 2008, ABC News: Gov't Examines Link between Autism and Vaccines
I was especially interested in this statement made by Kluger:
". . . The goal is to settle the matter as quickly and fairly as possible, though petitioners (the no-fault system avoids the word “plaintiffs”) who are unhappy with the special master’s ruling are free to take their case to the traditional civil court system."
I talked with Wayne Rohde who authored the book, Vaccine Court. He told me, "The Bruesewitz decision preempts all design-defects claims by petitioners seeking compensation against vaccine manufacturers."
Rohde said that a parent's chance of succeeding in civil court now was one in a million. "Basically an injured party cannot sue a vaccine maker as intended by Congress in 1986."
Of course there is no comment section on this TIME piece. Jeffrey Kluger can delude himself into thinking that he has struck a blow against the evil anti-vaxxers, but any informed reader knows exactly what TIME and Kluger are covering up.
Now here's the real problem Jeffrey Kluger, TIME and others in the media face when it comes to vaccines and autism:
They've never honestly and thoroughly reported on autism or vaccine safety.
They shut their eyes to Hannah Poling, they've never questioned why the agency that that runs the vaccine program is also in charge of vaccine safety, and they've eagerly assured us that each gigantic leap in the autism rate is always just more "better diagnosing."
They've relentlessly defended the safety of vaccines. (I can't tell you the number of times a reporter has said to me, "I stand by what I wrote," as if he or she were defending liberty.)
But the independent science, the parents who link their child's regression to their vaccinations, the aging out of a generation of disabled, dependent children who weren't here 25 years ago, and now a real-life whistleblower at the CDC raise too many questions. The phony population studies used to prove safety will not stand up to the mounting evidence exposing a corrupt system of vaccine safety testing and oversight, How long the media will continue to side with the perpetrators remains to be seen.
By Anne Dachel
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which is on sale now from Skyhorse Publishing.