Childhood Vaccinations: The State of the Debate

by Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D.

Although the public debate over childhood vaccinations began in the 1970s and early 1980s, it intensified after the 1985 publication of DPT: A Shot in the DarkA Shot in the Dark, co-authored by Barbara Loe Fisher and me, and the 1989 publication of my book Vaccination, Social Violence, and Criminality: The Medical Assault on the American BrainVaccination, Social Violence. and Criminality. Today, a decade later, what has been achieved? Where are we heading?

An organized movement against childhood vaccinations has emerged. The public today is more educated and realizes that the vaccination issue is complex. Also, the medical community now acknowledges some of the damage that vaccines may inflict on children. However, many physicians still refuse to admit that vaccines are overused in American society and should be curtailed, suspended, or abolished - or at least made voluntary instead of compulsory. In general, physicians still cling to their central thesis that vaccinations are, on balance, a great benefit. This medical stance coincides with the economic interests of physicians, pediatricians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the whole alphabet soup of federal, state, and local agencies that administer vaccines, monitor vaccines, study vaccines, and even sometimes register the extent of vaccine damage. The result is a standoff between the pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination forces, an irresistible force encountering an immovable object.

What are some of the concessions made to date? First is the overall recognition that vaccines can be dangerous contrasting with the pre-1985 position that they were entirely safe. This is due to several federal initiatives taken in 1986 in reaction to DPT: A Shot in the Dark. The VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) has already registered 33,000 serious adverse reactions to vaccines, and the estimate is that only 10 percent of these reactions were ever reported. So, in the past ten years there have likely been 330,000 serious reactions to vaccines. Since vaccine reactions leave their mark on the character, personality, and behavior of the individual, these 330,000 cases are a considerable burden on society. No one has yet factored them into any vaccine "risk-benefit analysis."

Second, the creation of the National Vaccine Injury Fund has also focused attention on vaccine dangers. To date, the Fund has paid out $755 million to the families of vaccine damaged children. How can vaccines causing that much damage be essentially harmless?

Third, recognition that encephalitis (encephalopathy) is widespread after vaccination also represents a breakthrough. Not so long ago, the AMA (American Medical Association) Journal called "pertussis vaccine encephalopathy" a "myth" (JAMA March 23/30,1990,263:12, pp. 1679-1680), but today the National Vaccine Injury Fund recognizes encephalitis/ encephalopathy as a possible consequence of both the DPT (diptheria, pertussis, tetanus) and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines. This recognition is important, because many of the long term side effects of vaccines are actually due to the vaccine-caused encephalitis.

Fourth, the idea that any baby could be killed by a vaccination was still considered ludicrous in 1985, but the compensation program has already made awards to 579 families where the baby‘s death was ascribed to vaccination. These deaths were invariably called "SIDS" by the coroner, thus deflecting attention from the vaccine. The medical community is still reluctant to acknowledge risk of death. The Public Health Service calls death after vaccination a "misconception" and writes, "of all the deaths reported to VAERS from 1990 to 1992, only one is believed to be even remotely associated with a vaccine." This cannot be taken seriously; the truth is more likely that, factoring in the 1:10 ratio, probably 5,790 babies have died, not just 579.

Fifth, persons with severe developmental disabilities and autism have also been compensated under the program, and it seems likely that these two categories will be the next to obtain official recognition. For many of us, this recognition is long overdue.

After that, I see violent behavior recognized as a consequence of vaccine-caused encephalitis. It is not an exaggeration to say that some of our most pressing social problems today are caused by the rising tide of vaccine-damaged children (now vaccine-damaged adults) in American society.

Individuals who are interested in filing for compensation should contact the following agency for information: US Federal Court of Claims 717 Madison Place, NW Washington, DC. 20005 Telephone (202) 219-9657. Ask for a copy of their booklet, The Vaccine Rules, which gives directions for proceeding further. Parents can also contact the National Vaccine Information Center, www.nvic.org

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 3, Number 1 - Summer, 1997]

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