January 5, 2001
American public health leaders would do well to study the recent efforts of their British counterparts - we have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. And their mistakes have been back-to-back whoppers. Whoppers, literally -- the mad cow revenge of the hamburger. This is a public health disaster that has reached France and Germany and maybe beyond. British critics charge that Public Health officials were stubborn and too slow to react to early signals. This tragic disaster spreading across Europe could have been minimized. These critics also say that the same mistakes are being made in their badly hemorrhaging national inoculation programs.
Hundreds of thousands of UK parents are withholding their children from vaccine "jabs." Parents simply do not trust the assurances of safety made by their public health leaders. But rather than addressing their concerns heads on, the public health leaders instead have opted to avoid, spin, and discount parent's objections. Parents argue for having the MMR vaccines separated and administered individually over time. The theory being that young children may not be able to handle so many assaults at once to their immune systems, resulting in immune failures leading to autism and other disorders.
How does the government respond to this plausable speculation? Incredulously, they ban the use of the separated single vaccines. There is no proof that the MMR given separately will be of any effect on autism, they argue correctly. The breakup would result in even less compliance by parents they see as incompetent who don't care to make so many unnecessary trips to the clinic for the additional separated jabs. The trouble is that there are no studies that show that taking all three vaccines together are safe, either. Where is the proof of safety of combined vaccines, parents demand? "Do as we say: three at once or none at all" is the pedantic response. Parents point to mountains of anecdotal evidence and a few scientific studies suggesting there may be a connection between vaccines and autism. How does the government again respond? By sponsoring a counter study which itself is rife with controversy and dubious methods. One lousy study is suppose to wash away the fears of thousands of people who have seen first hand their own, or their neighbor's children disintegrate shortly after getting the MMR shots? This arrogance can only serve to further discredit the vaccination promoters.
Instead of taking parents seriously and launching into independent scientific research to find convincing results one way or the other, public health leaders choose to launch a pithy scare campaign, apparently to get the ignorant, hysterical vaccine resisting rabble to come to their senses. Resistance is futile -- you will be assimilated into the herd or you'll be sorry.
In the last two days, there has been a gush of media reports in the UK promoting vaccinations fueled with dire warnings about the growing numbers of the non-complying public and the disasters that await as a result.
Yesterday, we clipped and presented three such articles for this newsletter:
* Vaccine 'Does Not Cause Autism' From BBC News online.
* Centre Calls for Increased Immunisation
* The MMR controversy is Continuing in the UK
But then today, more copy appeared fast and furious.
* Measles Vaccine Fear Puts Thousands at Risk
* The Horror That We Are In Danger of Forgetting
* Measles and Morals - The MMR Immunisation is a Collective Responsibility
* Measles: The Irish experience
* Measles Warning Renews Calls For Single Vaccines
* Concern Grows at Reports of Measles Epidemic
* Measles Cases Soar as Vaccinations Drop
For the most part, these articles focus on benefits of inoculation as contrasted to the harm that contagions bring in their absence. Again, very little attention is given to the expressed concerns of the growing number of those resisting vaccination. Where these concerns are briefly mentioned, they are flippantly dismissed as so much blame seeking, pedestrian thinking silliness.
The hysterical among us need only be reminded of the horrors of a rubella epidemic, as this strategy seems to suggest, for the strayed sheep to be successfully counter-frightened back into joining the inoculated herd. American public health officials should study the results of this current campaign over the next few months, hopefully to avoid making the same mistakes.
Alas, American public health officials have already started to make the same mistakes - but still have an opportunity to correct their strategies before things reach to the levels of public rebellion now spreading in the UK. Here's how to avoid growing a UK-like vaccine rebellion in the U.S.
1. Resolve to take vaccine critics seriously. They are not fringe political dilettantes seeking to weasel themselves into government influence by shilling good causes for political gain. They are a bi-partisan cross section of American families whose educated, professional core are over-represented in the autism community. They are looking for proven answers to autism and many strongly suspect vaccines as the environmental culprit.
2. Do not suggest that the appearance of late onset autism right after the taking of vaccines is merely coincidental. You have no science behind this assertion. Parents do have a significant amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest there might be just such a connection. If you continue chanting this baseless mantra, you will only further discredit yourselves. This matter can only be settled by science, not spin.
3. Stop the assertion that the hypothesis of a vaccine-autism connection has been settled unproven due to the results of the Brent Taylor study. That study is controversial and the criticisms of it are yet to be answered. This is just not persuasive enough for you to be announcing such a conclusion. Do not discredit yourselves by saying there is now enough science to settle the matter. Again, what is needed is more science and less spin.
4. Address directly why there are no long-term studies on the safety of vaccines. The more you duck answering this, the more you add to your discredit.
5. What is being done to minimize the prevalent conflicts of interests of the vaccine regulators - government regulators who are also on the payroll of the vaccine manufacturers? If nothing, say so and why.
6. Do not make the mistake of over-relying on scare campaigns to shore up public compliance to vaccination programs, like your UK counterparts are attempting. Address the reality that people are becoming ever more afraid of autism than they are of measles. If the cause of autism is not vaccines, then what is? The problem with such scare campaigns is that they rely on your own failure to prove themselves - a dubious achievement that temps backfiring. Let's see how this form of public education plays out in the UK. Not good, so far.
7. If you don't like the idea of noisy activist parent groups driving the public health agenda, then assert some leadership and come up with some proactive short-term solutions. Consider promoting as an option, rather than resisting, the breaking up of the administration of MMR vaccines into three separate shots. There is room for compromise here.
Finally, there is a moral argument against mandated vaccinations that needs to be addressed. It is a crass expediency to measure the numbers of those harmed by mandatory vaccines against the numbers of those who might be saved. Is it not immoral to forcibly sacrifice some of the innocent for the benefit of society as a whole, no matter how compelling the math? The individual has fundamental rights of life and liberty not to be violated by the will of the majority. This is not radical philosophy in the new century.
Just how many people need to be saved to justify destroying the health or life of an innocent child? Since public health officials routinely use this argument to justify mandatory programs that knowingly harm some children, there must be some set point of diminishing returns. Just what exactly are the numbers to the sacrifice children-to-save human lives ratio? Is it one to one hundred, one to one million? How many crimes against humanity do you get to commit in order to preserve the health of humanity?
If there is to be sacrifice, it can only be voluntary not mandatory. Vaccination must be a matter of choice. If fewer people are saved as a result, then so be it. I'd rather have God calling the shots in this case, and not public health doctors. (There is a difference.) The heinous practice of mandatory child sacrifice to the gods should have died a long time ago in the middle ages along with the Aztec civilization.