Barbara Loe Fisher is president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a non-profit charity she co-founded with parents of DPT vaccine injured children in 1982. For over 3 decades she's led a national grassroots movement and public information campaign to institute vaccine safety reforms and informed consent protections in the public health system. She has researched, analyzed and publicly articulated the major issues involving the science, policy, law, ethics and politics of vaccination to become one of the world's leading non-medical, consumer advocacy experts on the subject. She's co-author of 'DPT: A Shot in the Dark' and author of 'The Consumer's Guide to Childhood Vaccines' as well as 'Vaccines, Autism & Chronic Inflammation: The New Epidemic'.
Barbara is keeping an eye on over 100 vaccine related bills and in 2015 and 2016 she monitored over 200 related bills. Are there common threads among these legislative efforts being put forth by the states?
When the U.S. Supreme Court completely removed all remaining civil liability for vaccine injuries and deaths from vaccine manufacturers in 2011, the pharmaceutical companies, medical trade groups and public health lobby banded together and decided they were going to take away vaccine exemptions in America. Things began to heat up in 2015 with the Disneyland associated measles outbreak. Since then, many vaccine bills were introduced in roughly two-thirds of the states.
The NVIC was able to defeat 29 out of 31 bills. In other words, 29 out of 31 states were able to defeat bills that took away vaccine exemptions. So in 2015 only 2 states lost the personal belief exemption. Those states were California and Vermont. Vermont still has the religious exemption and in California you can only get a medical exemption written by a doctor. This means California is in the same category as Mississippi and West Virginia with people not being able to get exemptions unless they can find a doctor to write one.
Currently there are 8 states where bills were introduced to eliminate or restrict vaccine exemptions. Arkansas is fine for this legislative season but there are alerts out for Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.
In some states there were expansions of exemptions. Those states include Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
If you're interested in protecting the exemptions in your state, Barbara suggests that you get connected with the NVIC advocacy portal at www.nvicadvocacy.org. You can contact your legislators through that portal and receive updates on your state as well.
Who's behind the push for mandatory vaccinations with no exemptions? Barbara noted that it's a large lobby with a lot of money behind them. It's the pharmaceutical companies both on Capitol Hill and in many state legislatures. She also included medical trade organizations. This would include the American Academy of Pediatrics and other associations that represent doctors. Also involved is the public health lobby. This includes several large organizations that represent public health officials at the federal, state and local levels.
The push is to have doctors or public health officials working for the state as the only sources that are allowed to give you or your child an exemption. Barbara included 'you' as in parents because the federal national vaccine plan that works with the states is moving from recommending children getting vaccinated, to adults as well. This amounts to a birth-to-death vaccination program without exemptions.
What might the incentives be for this? Barbara cited financial incentives that are being given to the states through federal grants to increase the vaccination rate involving all CDC recommended vaccines.
For more than 20 years, the NVIC has been warning people that we have to defend the ethical principle of informed consent to medical risk taking which includes the risk of taking vaccines. After all, they are pharmaceutical products that carry a risk of injury or death. That risk varies with each individual and doctors are unable to predict who's going to be harmed. Due to this fact, Barbara believes it's a human right to be able to decide what you're willing to risk when it comes to your life or that of your child.
Jim and Barbara present much more information as you'll hear, along with input from callers, when you review this edition of Crosstalk.