“There is no right to risk an injury to 1 person for the benefit of others.”
Henry K. Beecher, MD – New England Journal of Medicine 1966
As parents, we all come to this topic with one thing in common: the desire to do what’s best for our children; to shield them from as many dangers in this world as we can. But what if we are not told about certain risks and unwittingly leave our children vulnerable to harm? Vaccination is the one intervention that every healthy baby is expected to receive, beginning when they are only a few hours old. There is no debate that some children will be harmed, and yet very little has been done to try to identify and protect the ‘vulnerable child.’
The Center for Disease Control’s website states “The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.” But when the determiners of that risk are safety studies completed by a vaccine manufacturer who is indemnified from liability, how much reassurance can be taken from this statement? Mass vaccination is widely accepted as a “greater good” policy, or the newer ideology of one’s duty to adhere to “community immunity,” which can’t identify, or doesn’t care to identify, those who might be harmed in the process.
Yet, most people accept without question, the dominant idea that one vaccination schedule is safe for all our children. However, “safe” really means “safe on a population level.” In other words, there is some inherent risk due to the fact that vaccines are considered “unavoidably unsafe” by the US government. Under the current paradigm, it is accepted that some children will suffer serious adverse reactions, or even die, for the sake of others. As difficult as this is for some to believe, it is the reality of our current vaccination program.
When parents vaccinate their children, they are comforted by the many assurances of safety from their medical practitioner, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC. Rarely does a trusting parent read the package insert that comes with a vaccine, nor does the nurse or doctor explain all the known side effects. This means that in most instances, prior, free, and informed consent is not provided before a vaccine is given. Few practitioners know the ingredients of vaccines or what their functions are. The CDC only requires that parents receive a ‘Vaccine Information Statement’ (VIS), and even this guideline is rarely adhered to. The VIS is two pages long and does not give extensive risk information or clinical trial data. Few parents (or doctors) realize that babies in clinical trials are often followed for as few as five days, or at most 3 months, and rarely do trials have a saline control.
The belief in the program is so strong that, for most doctors, their role in vaccination has become similar to soldiers “following orders.” Medical practices face almost no consequences if there is an adverse event. Scientific consensus on vaccine safety is promoted and relied upon so heavily that it enables a lack of curiosity and critical thinking, thus preventing any challenges to the belief system.
Pharmaceutical companies are entrenched in the medical establishment and academia, ensuring continued funding of research into science that usually benefits the investor. There is a revolving door between industry and government, leaving little room for checks and balances. Under this system, conflicts of interest become the norm, rather than the exception. The biggest proponents of the modern vaccine schedule have benefited substantially from vaccine invention and promotion, to the tune of millions of dollars, without admitting any conflict to the public.
Parents are told that complications from vaccines are ‘one in a million’. This statistic comes from a quarterly report on judgments and settlements in “vaccine court” and is calculated by dividing the total number of doses of vaccines administered from 2006-2016, by the total number of cases resolved in the court. This is not an accurate way to determine risk, given that so few people are even aware of the court’s existence.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a government-funded system where medical practitioners and parents report suspected adverse events after vaccination. Since true saline controls are almost never used during vaccine safety trials, VAERS data is critical to monitoring safety of vaccines once they are on the market. According to VAERS, in 2017 there were 3,421 reports of babies under the age of three having a reaction to a vaccine: 548 of those were serious and 65 children died, mostly boys under the age of one. Babies accounted for 76% of all deaths reported to the system (there were 12 infant cases in the “age unknown” category, 9 were boys). VAERS is a vastly under-utilized system, and it is estimated that only 1-10% of actual adverse events are reported. While it is impossible to determine the exact number of adverse reactions through this passive surveillance system, the true numbers are likely exponentially higher than those reported.
People who are hearing this for the first time may wonder, “Why don’t parents sue the vaccine makers so this doesn’t happen to other children?” In truth, vaccine manufacturers are indemnified from liability and shielded from lawsuits by the US government.
In 1986, the US government passed a law called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA). This law shielded vaccine manufacturers from liability in the case where a child (or an adult) is harmed by a pediatric vaccine. The Act established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) to process claims of vaccine injury. This was to ensure that vaccine manufacturers would not be tied up financially in litigation and could pursue development of new vaccines without the risk of being put out of business by hefty settlements. The US government now assumes this administrative burden, funded by taxpayers. An injury has to fit the predetermined “table injury” definition set by the VICP, and if not, the onus is on the petitioner to prove her case. There is no judge or jury, and there is no discovery process. There is a fundamental barrier to seeking justice, which doesn’t appear to have the best interests of children in mind, whatever the good intentions at the genesis of the program, might have been.
Since 1989, this taxpayer-funded vaccine court has paid out over $3.8 billion dollars in compensation with another $3 billion dollars in reserve. This costs taxpayers almost $250 million dollars a year. The number of claims has doubled in recent years, and so too has the amount of compensation. However, this still only covers a small fraction of the injuries that have been reported to VAERS.
The reality is that there are vulnerable children who will suffer severe vaccine reactions, including death. How long are we going to live with 19th or 20th-century approaches to this problem? The number of vaccines has more than doubled since the Vaccine Injury Act was enacted. The current schedule has never been fully tested for safety. Vaccines are not fully tested in combination. When is it the right time to look at a retrospective cohort of unvaccinated children and compare their health outcomes to vaccinated children?
The vaccination debate is clearly one of the most emotive of our time and will not be easily resolved. It is the backbone of the American pediatric healthcare model and relies on the unwavering acceptance of the prescribed vaccine program.
However, cracks are appearing in the dam. One reason for these cracks is the failure to protect the vulnerable child. Evidenced-based medicine feels like ‘roll the dice’ medicine for many informed parents when it comes to vaccines. The lack of curiosity in healthcare professionals to question their own practices or ask fundamental questions about safety is astounding to the onlooker who has experienced the system from the vantage point of being harmed.
It is clear that we need a new paradigm. The vulnerable child must now be the focus of 21st-century pediatric medicine with a functional vaccination program tailored to each child, putting the onus on medical practitioners to take responsibility for their most at-risk patients. It will require research and retraining of all involved parties. It will require acceptance of uncomfortable truths and the adoption of a ‘prevent and protect’ policy for all children. What that looks like will depend on each child. Common sense approaches may include testing for inherent immunity issues, SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) mutations, mitochondrial dysfunction, and allergies to vaccine ingredients.
We need to challenge doctors to stand up for every child, and at the very least adopt a “first day do no harm” policy. Without proactive protection for vulnerable children, more cracks will appear in the dam. It is already too late for some families, but a collective push for research to identify which children might be at risk for vaccine injury could prevent many future tragedies from taking place.