On Tuesday, March 5th, more than five hundred parents who traveled from across the country to be present at a senate hearing were shut out. The Senate HELP Committee hearing was titled Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks? The parents who showed up had the answers to that question, but they were shut out. They were shut out of the hearing, shut out of testifying, shut out of having experts testify on their behalf, and they were shut out by the media covering the event.
Not a single word was mentioned by the Senators on the committee or the panel before them about the two main drivers of vaccine-targeted infectious outbreaks: vaccine failure and vaccine dangers.
Not a single word was mentioned about mumps breaking out in fully vaccinated high school and college students. Not a word was mentioned about the utter failure of the pertussis vaccine to prevent infection, prevent the spread of infection, or that it increases lifetime susceptibility to infection.
No mention that the recent measles clusters have remained in small religious communities who are comfortable with their children experiencing measles, who are glad for the acquired lifetime immunity, and all of whom are now recovering or are completely recovered.
The truth was shut out.
This was occurring in the midst of a media and public health frenzy based on recent cases of measles in Washington State. The US House and Senate convened hearings to discuss mandating routine vaccination on the federal level and how to stop the spread of “misinformation” on social media. In addition, Representative Adam Schiff wrote a letter to the Chief Executive Officers of Google and Facebook calling on them to shutdown vaccine risk aware groups and postings on the company’s platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. He called for a modern-day book burning. In the days leading up to the Senate hearing, there was already evidence of a shift as people found it difficult to find previously available information missing from these sources and others.
In hopes of having the truth be heard, hundreds of parents, many of them with vaccine injured children, made arrangements to leave their families, spent hundreds of dollars in travel costs, and arrived in the wee hours of the morning to attend the Senate HELP Committee hearing. Parents were originally told there would be room for 100 and that no seats could be reserved in advance, and so in below-freezing biting cold, they lined up outside the Dirksen Senate Building in the hopes they would make it into the room to view a discussion that could have life-altering consequences for them regarding products which had already caused severe harm in their own children. In spite of the cold and seriousness of the subject, the mood outside was jovial as parents from across the country recognized each other from social media groups. Some lined up as early as 5:45 AM.
Doors opened at 7:30 a.m. and the eager crowd entered the warmth of the building, complied with security screening, and rushed to the fourth floor to line up for the long wait until the 10:00 a.m. hearing. First ten, then fifty, then a hundred, then several hundreds of parents, buoyed by the feeling of fellowship, streamed in to take their place in line, sharing their personal journeys of vaccine injury, healing, recovery, and loss. Those early in line peeked into the hearing room and saw it was set for around 60 people. The first in line were excited to see they would, indeed, be upfront and close, able to observe testimony, and also be seen on C-SPAN as bearing witness on behalf of so many who have been harmed by current vaccine policies.
They were also quick to realize there were several people in the front of the line who were unaware of the subject matter of the hearing and who were paid place holders. Place holders for who? As it got closer to the 10:00 AM start time, those placeholders left the line and were replaced by well-dressed cocky young professionals who refused to engage and were condescending in their exchanges.
Later, parents noticed that Reserved Signs had been placed in the Hearing Room on the first two rows of seats directly behind where the speakers would sit. A hearing staffer confirmed those rows were reserved, saying that only 25 to 30 members of the public would be allowed in the room.
Word quickly spread down the line and the mood began to change. Moms and dads who thought their place in the room was assured by their early arrival realized they would be relegated to an overflow room. Shut out. Urgent calls were made from constituents to their Senator’s offices, wanting those on the committee made aware of this. Capitol police arrived, at first a few, then one officer was placed every ten or so feet down the line. They had been placed on high alert. Zip-ties were evident at their waists. It was obvious they had been advised to expect trouble from the crowd of parents and children who had been promised 100 seats and were now learning they’d been shut out.
Media approached parents and were given thoughtful interviews which included peer-reviewed scientific data and references to public health’s own information. As parents thoughtfully and intelligently articulated their reasons for being there, the reasons for current outbreaks, and their concerns with vaccine safety learned through real life injury of their own children, they wondered if the interviews were in vain. Would the data and science be included in coverage of the event? Or would it once again be one-sided coverage spouting the CDC rhetoric that vaccines are “safe and effective”, “vaccines save lives”, and would these concerned parents’ words be spliced and diced in an effort to make them look like “crazy anti-vaxxers”? The experienced among them had been in this fight too long and suspected the outcome. Still, brave parents approached media and tried to register their concerns and educate.
The doors finally opened and it became apparent that not only were there not 100 seats, not 60 seats, not the 25-30 seats promised, but that the room had literally been filled with what appeared to be staffers so that less than two rows in the back, behind the cameras, were still open to the public. Only fifteen seats available to the more than five hundred concerned parents of vaccine-injured children who had travelled many hours and many miles to attend this hearing.
The fortunate fifteen grabbed their seats at the back of the room and couldn’t help but feel this echoed the past when people were relegated to the back of the bus. They looked to see who had been given the majority of seats in the room. Were they experts, people interested in and important to the topic at hand? No, they appeared to be bored and disinterested young staffers who chatted and laughed and played on their phones throughout the hearing. They had been ushered in through a side door and their only purpose in being there was as seat fillers. Hundreds of grieving and worried parents who spent money, time, and energy to attend the hearing were shut out. Hundreds of parents whose lives had already been altered forever by vaccine injury were once again barred from the discussion. Shut out of the room and shut out of the conversation.
Still reeling and incredulous at what had transpired, the select few who made it into the room squeezed together along the back wall and prepared for a difficult two hours. They looked to the Senators as they filed in and out of the room, hopeful they would ask intelligent questions in a true desire to learn the truth and understand.
Police officers lined the room with zip-ties at the ready and their hands on their guns. If one of the fifteen activists sat up trying to see past the cameras in front of them or murmured too loudly or held up a small sign for the press, they were warned they would be arrested. Arrested. Arrested for reacting to the lies and ignorance and mistruths and threats. Those in the back row struggling to see past the cameras tried to rise slightly and were quickly warned by armed police to stay seated. Shut out.
Senator Lamar Alexander opened the hearing by stating they had received copies of two reports the Health and Human Services (HHS) had given to Congress in 1988 and 1989 as required by the 1986 Act. This was clearly in response to the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) HHS notice which had been delivered to each committee member’s office the day before. In a two-hour hearing full of lies, this was one of only two highlights, and it was a highlight only because it revealed someone had been working behind the scenes in an attempt to counter the truth. Two reports and then not another word on vaccine safety for thirty years? It’s astounding that this meager offering was meant as a counter to the eighty-eight page document from ICAN proving HHS has failed in their duties to perform vaccine safety oversight as required by the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.
Parents had to sit silently as their elected officials spent two hours calling for censorship of parents and organizations, accusing them of disseminating misinformation for selfish and diabolical gain. Parents who have young adults in diapers had to sit through one senator’s bemoaning the dangers of polio and memories of how difficult it was for a parent to have to rub the legs of a toddler with polio. The parents relegated to the back of the room had children whose vaccine-injury include the inability to swallow, anaphylactic allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, and neurological and developmental injuries—all injuries acknowledged by the various agencies of HHS. It is the degree to which these injuries occur that is disputed, not that they occur.
Only autism was mentioned by any of the senators or panel members, and then only to deny any connection with vaccination. The hundreds of other injuries acknowledged and compensated for by the HHS in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program were shut out.
Parents in the room from Washington state had to sit silently as Senator Cassidy attempted to retell the story of a measles death that occurred in Washington State. It is unclear how, or why, but the senator erroneously said a previously vaccinated immune-compromised child had been exposed to measles by an unvaccinated child in a school setting. This is absolutely false. The senator then asked Secretary Wiesman, “Do I remember that correctly?” and Wiesman replied, “If we are thinking of the same child, yes. That child died a number of years later from a follow-up, um reaction.” But here are the facts:
- The fatality case was a fully vaccinated immune-compromised adult woman.
- The woman was exposed to measles by another adult in a clinical setting sometime in early 2015.
- The outbreak of 11 cases statewide was started by a 53 year old adult male.
- The clinical staff knew the woman had been exposed to measles, but they did not administer measles immune globulin, which is standard of care treatment for those with compromised immune systems.
- The woman was never symptomatic for measles. There was no rash or any other measles symptoms.
- Measles virus was only isolated during testing after an autopsy.
- It is unclear if the measles virus contributed to this already ill woman’s demise.
- This scenario describes a fatal hospital acquired infection, a medical error that is part of the 3rd leading cause of mortality in the U.S.
Since this was the only death potentially due to measles in Washington state in 29 years, and the only measles death in the entire country since 2003, it is implausible that Secretary Wiessman was confused. He should have corrected Senator Cassidy immediately. Senator Cassidy went on to say this—a non vaccinated child exposing an immune-compromised child to measles— should be a criminal offense. He thinks the parents of the unvaccinated child in this imaginary situation which did not occur should be arrested and tried as criminals.
Senator Cassidy also contradicted the usual messaging in addressing the teenager on the panel by stating, “You don’t have to be an MD or PhD or a masters of public health to understand these issues. Correct? You just have to bring a critical faculty to it and look at it and understand . . .” That remark bewildered the parents in the room who have spent hundreds of hours researching this issue, who present peer-reviewed science to state boards of health, and who are repeatedly scoffed at because they lack the essential initials after their names. Why is this same sentiment not applied to them? Apparently, respect for individual research and critical thinking only applies to 18 year old high school seniors who have their moment of teen-rebellion captured by the media.
In a hearing which included one false statement after another, and where the senators and witnesses used every opportunity possible to not only push for mandatory vaccination for measles, but to promote the HPV vaccine, flu Shot, and vaccinations for pregnant women and seniors, Senator Rand Paul was the only voice of reason. When he finished his statement that included caution for mandating vaccines that have the potential for injury, saying that force is not consistent with the liberty our forefathers came here for and that he “does not favor giving up liberty for a false sense of security,” the back row in the hearing room broke out in applause. Finally, one man had listened to their concerns. One man was open. One man was on the side of truth and freedom. The Capitol police looked around as if for direction, but they did not silence the applause or move to arrest those applauding. The moment was recognized for what it was, a spontaneous response to the only senator who had not shut them out.
There were so many lies and untruths passed along as fact in these two hours that it took Herculean effort for the parents in the back row to maintain decorum. Those lies will be addressed one by one in a separate article. The most appalling moment came when a senator asked the panel if they believed vaccines cause autism. One by one, the panelists said no. There was no mention of Dr. Andrew Zimmerman. No mention of Hannah Poling. No mention of the families compensated in federal vaccine court for their child’s autism being the result of injuries sustained from routine vaccination. That was expected. What was not expected was this senator continuing down the line and asking the 18 year old high student for his “expert” opinion on this important topic. This teen was asked for his opinion repeatedly at this hearing, from his thoughts on the causes of autism to how physicians can better address vaccine hesitancy to how to shut down “misinformation” on the internet. Really? The senators did not invite pediatric neurologist Dr. Zimmerman, or CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson, or neurologist and father to a vaccine-injured child Dr. Poling, or any of the many other doctors and scientist and researchers on the vaccine-risk aware side who have dedicated their personal and professional lives to this issue, but they listened to a teenager who told them when it came to vaccines, there is no debate, there are not two sides, the science is settled. Any questions must be shut down.
The gavel dropped and the meeting was brought to an end. The few parents packed in to the back row stood up in a daze, incredulous at what they had just witnessed. While being closely followed by Capitol police as a potential threat, a petite mom from Washington State attempted to talk with Secretary of Health Wiesman about why he had not mentioned the failure of the DTaP vaccine, or the mumps vaccine, or that the flu vaccine does not prevent mucosal infection and so cannot contribute to herd immunity. She brought up science, not hyperbole, but Wiesman ignored her and was ushered out a side door. She was shut down and shut out. Several moms approached media who lined the rooms and offered to be interviewed, to provide scientific reasons for infection outbreaks and vaccine hesitancy. They were met with bowed heads and ignored. Shut out.
It is not just courageous parents who are being ignored, marginalized, defamed, discriminated against, falsely accused, and shut out. It is the truth that is being shut out. It is scientific integrity. It is journalism. It is liberty. It is freedom of speech. It is critical thinking. It is the very foundation of our nation that is being shut out. We are losing not just our health, but our ability to be free and critical thinkers, our ability to question, our ability to stand up against tyranny and bullies. Everything we teach our children is being trampled in this current climate of hate, discrimination, derision, segregation, persecution, and censorship of the vaccine-risk aware movement.
It is likely to get worse before it gets better. Yet while this tyranny and control may limit the ability of courageous parents to communicate, it will not stop them. It will not stop us. Had the internet been a tool during the Suffragette or Civil Rights movements of decades past, its use too would have been shut down by those in power. Such silencing would not have stopped those brave men and women of the past who fought for truth and justice. It will not stop those in the fight for vaccine policies based firmly on scientific integrity and informed consent. We will not stop fighting. We will not stop educating. We will not stop shouting the truth one person, one conversation, one study at a time. Our message is too important. It is vital that we continue our mission. The health and future of our nation depend upon it.
We may be shut out. But we will not be shut down.