The chance to educate parents in Oklahoma of the risks associated with products advertised for children known to have side effects was recently squashed. As a former consumer of these products, learning about the decision to withhold information was disturbing. It reminded me of a time when I traded my ignorance for blind trust.
When I’m shopping and see something that I want for my children, I take a few things into consideration before putting the item in my cart. I ask myself if it is child-friendly and something my kids will like to use or play with. After determining if it is, and that I can afford to make the purchase, I look over the product and review its quality. Is it well made? Does it meet safety standards? Does the company who manufactures it have a good reputation? If I discover that a flaw in the product after purchasing it, will I be able to return or replace it? Simple questions, as a consumer they are valid and serve a purpose.
Now, if I’m at the grocery store shopping for my children, I ask myself different questions when I see something that I want to buy them. As I scan the ingredient list, I ask myself, does the product have nutritional value? Is the particular food healthy – not by industry standards, but my family’s standards? With the information right there on the box, I can easily choose to put the item in my cart or not.
My kids don’t love how much I scrutinize products that come into our home, but since I’m responsible for their health, safety and well-being, when it comes to food, technology and health care products, I like to get as much information as I can about the things I’m choosing for them. Most of the items I purchase list exactly what I wish to know and what I need to know.
The right to know what’s in a product is a basic yet necessary concept all consumers should be entitled to. It should extend to all products marketed and sold to parents, but I find that it does not always happen in the medical world.
Instead of gaining access to information, parents and their rights quickly get brushed aside.
The Right to Know
When a child undergoes a medical procedure, which include vaccinations, consent is given by the parent or guardian. Consent is the green light to make things happen. For some, giving a vaccination is a no brainer and consent is given quickly. Those parents want their child to be vaccinated and don’t need any extra time, education, counseling, or documentation to help them with that decision. Not all parents are quick to decide though.
Other parents, especially those who have concerns or reservations about vaccines, may need extra time, education, or counseling to aide them in their decision.
Image seen on the NVIC FB page.
If it’s an ingredient concern, parents may want to see a complete list of ingredients. If it’s a concern about which company makes the vaccines they’ve been offered, parents may want to investigate that company’s track record before deciding to use their products. If it’s a side effect concern, as each vaccine are known to have them, parents may want to investigate those further. That way they can weigh the pros and cons of each vaccine product. Looking things up isn’t a bad thing. Knowledgeable consumers are their own best advocate.
Doctors, or their staff, have the means and the time to fully inform their patients. Some choose not to though. They use a “less is more” approach – instead of offering all of the information, which includes cons, they provide the bare minimum. Giving less info about a product that comes with risks keeps parents in the dark. That’s not the best way to treat parents nor do I think it the best way to practice medicine.
Keeping valuable information away from a customer isn’t a wise idea. When that happens, the customer, in this case the parent, is left making decisions about products that they may not be ready to make. That should never happen. But that’s what happened in Oklahoma.
Opponents of the bill that Governor Fallin recently vetoed cited that parents would be “confused” if they were given more information regarding vaccines:
Sen. Ervin Yen, a cardiac anesthesiologist, had argued for defeat of the measure, saying the list of ingredients is confusing and could deter parents from getting immunizations.
“House Bill 3016 does nothing to encourage vaccination and most likely would discourage it by scaring parents with a list of all possible ingredients, including many words they would not comprehend,” said Yen, R-Oklahoma City.
That bill aimed to ensure that certain vaccine information was put into parents’ hands. Giving parents vaccine information isn’t confusing; it’s the parents right to know it!
Some information is included on the sparse one-page Vaccine Information Sheets (VIS) that doctors are required to share. But the limited information on the VIS documents doesn’t include the outcome of safety studies or a list of vaccine ingredients, which is important information that parents should be made aware of and would benefit from knowing. Something else the VIS doesn’t include is the fine print.
Parents contemplating vaccines should read the fine print especially when that fine print includes words like risks, adverse reactions, injury or death. That particular information, as well as facts about vaccine exemptions and how to file them, requires further reading. Besides knowing that all vaccines come with risk, vaccine consumers should take time to read up and educate themselves on the law.
Schools claim that children coming to school must be vaccinated in order to access their education. While that is true in some states, in quite a few others across the country, parents can opt out of vaccines. I was reminded that I had that option just a few days ago.
All too often, when schools send vaccine notices home, only part of the law is included in the notice. In states where they exist, information about exemption should be included on any and every vaccine notice going home.
A few days ago, I received a notice from my child’s school. It stated that my son was required to get a booster shot for the upcoming school year. If my child already had that booster though, all I needed to do was send in documentation of the date that he’d received it. Knowing what I know, I knew that information to be untrue. Something important was missing from the form letter I’d received: the right to use an exemption.
One of three vaccine exemptions exist in each of the 50 states: religious, philosophical, or medical. But school administration and school nurses, who become the vaccine gatekeepers for school-age children, rarely offer that information. When that happens, parents, even me, a parent-in-the-know, are left in the dark about their rights. That’s why it is imperative that parents look up that information up themselves. When armed with all of the information, parents can make well informed decisions.
It’s Up to You
The first step to being informed is for a parent to know that they have rights.
But, with others working overtime guarding vaccine information, glossing over it, withholding it while also dismissing parents’ valid concerns, using those rights can be difficult. That’s because it’s clear that some doctors and some politicians don’t want parents to use their rights or gain access to basic vaccine information.
It’s Up to Me
It was only after accepting vaccines for my children – and watching some of my children suffer the consequences from them, did I think to learn all there was to know about vaccines. Before I set out to learn more, not once was I ever offered the box nor the “label” (package insert) by our providers. Not once was I counseled on all of the risks. Not once did I expect a negative outcome beyond a red make at the site of the injection. That’s because I was told only the benefits of vaccines and that they were required for school. My child never reaped the benefits, and as it turns out, vaccines have never been a prerequisite for any of the schools or programs that he’s attended.
I don’t claim to know all there is to know about them, far from it, but because of my son’s vaccine injury, I can share the other side of the vaccine story.
That side isn’t published in pharmaceutical ads thousands of consumers are exposed to on a daily basis. It should be, but my bet would be that the vaccine industry would crumble if more people knew just how very negative vaccines can be.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.