Deirdre Imus

Should Parents Be Forced to Vaccinate Their Children?

This week Time magazine's cover story "The Truth About Vaccines" carries an ominous suggestion ... "worried about autism, many parents are opting out of immunizations. How they're putting the rest of us at risk." (June 2, 2008). Finally, a major periodical puts a spotlight on the most emotionally charged and inaccurately reported medical controversy in modern history. And what does Time do? Blame parents for a crisis in confidence created by public health officials. If you were hoping to learn the "truth" about vaccinations, you are not going to find it in this issue of Time.

In her article, "How Safe Are Vaccines?" Alice Park attempts to address growing concerns about vaccines and asks the million-dollar question that parents around the country really want to know. Unfortunately, Park's version of the "truth" does a disservice to readers when it falls into the same trap that has plagued similar reports: gross inaccuracies, reliance on industry-funded spokesmen whose conflicts are not disclosed, and the all too familiar and constant beat of immunization dogma suggesting doomsday disease scenarios.

Those of you who have read my postings before know that I am very skeptical of both the public health officials' and the mainstream media's ability to objectively and forthrightly cover this issue. The Time article does nothing to change that opinion. If anything, it confirms it.

At the heart of Park's report, however, is the question about parental rights. Should parents be forced to vaccinate their children given the growing concerns about vaccine safety?

For over a year now, there has been a steady stream of articles about school districts and health departments' heavy-handed actions towards parents who choose not to vaccine their children. Intimidation tactics that included monetary fines, expulsion from school, even threats to call in child protection agencies were used to try and coerce parents into compliance with the current immunization recommendations.

In March, the New York Times ran two separate articles on the subject of parents deciding not to vaccinate their children ("More Families Are Shunning Inoculations" [March 2], "Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines" [March 21]). Other news organizations around the country ran similar stories.

Throughout the article, Park implies parents are too "confused" to do their own homework on this subject or lack the good sense to make an informed decision. In reality, parents are deciding to opt out of vaccinations because they are concerned that vaccines may put their children at risk for adverse reactions that they feel are more threatening than the diseases the vaccines are purported to prevent. Chief among these concerns is the possible association between vaccines and autism.

As the Time article details, concerns about thimerosal-containing vaccines is one of several concerns that continues to weigh on the conscience of many parents. In one sentence Ms. Park states, "Thimerosal can do serious damage to brain tissue, especially in children, whose brains are still developing" and then dismissively trivializes parental concerns about a possible link between the developmental neurotoxin and autism by saying "that link could be merely temporal, of course; babies also get their first teeth after they get their first vaccines, but that doesn't mean one causes the other." The absurdly of this analogy ranks with one of the most nonsensical comments I think I have ever read. This "temporal" association has been reported by literally thousands of parents across the country who have documented evidence of their normally developing child regressing into a world of silence and isolation. To consider these vaccines containing neurotoxins like mercury and aluminum, along with other toxins, would seem to be reasonable, absent any other logical explanation.

The article also inaccurately reports that thimerosal-containing vaccines were "replaced" with thimerosal-free formulas in 2001. Thimerosal-containing vaccines were not recalled as the article suggests and remained on clinic shelves well into 2003, according to government communications. In addition, the majority of flu shots, given to pregnant women and babies as young as six months, still contain 25 micrograms of thimerosal.

According to the article, "In the first four months of this year, 64 confirmed cases of measles were reported in the U.S., scattered across 11 hot spots ... the most by this date for any year since 2001; 54 cases had links to other countries, an only one of the 64 patients had been vaccinated." Interestingly, the map denoting the location where the outbreaks occurred show that in four of the 11 "hot spots" only 1 case of measles was reported and only three states had more than 10 cases.

So let's put the reports about the recent measles outbreak into some sensible perspective.

Out of the approximately 40 million children born in the last ten years, hundreds of thousands of which are not vaccinated, there have only been 64 cases of measles reported nationwide, all of whom recovered although 14 did require hospitalization.

Now let's compare this statistic with the one that really has parents frightened, the 1 in 150 children who have been diagnosed with autism for which the health agencies have no logical explanation.

Like other articles on this subject, Time attempts to reassure parents about the safety of vaccines based on very selective information from conflicted sources and fails to cite recent published research and independent voices that support parental concerns. Nowhere did we read about the study that suggests delaying vaccinations for just two months might reduce the risk of developing asthma by half.

The article cites a 2003 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report as showing "no scientific evidence to support the link" between vaccines and autism. Actually it was 2004, and the same report also said the committee could not rule out an association in a small susceptible sub-group of children. In addition, it has been four years since that report was released and there have been dozens of published, peer-reviewed studies to suggest there could be an association. Those studies did not make into the Time article.

Having spoken to literally thousands of moms, I know many parents are terrified of the dozens of vaccines given to babies today. They want to do what is right for their children and want to protect them from diseases. Ms. Park notes that 77% of children are fully vaccinated and therefore supposedly protected from the childhood diseases, the author fails to acknowledge that these same children are among the sickest children in the world in spite of being the most vaccinated. They may not get the chicken pox, measles or mumps but they are beleaguered with serious developmental and autoimmune disorders that last a lifetime.

This is where Time fails to really explore the reasons and the truth about why parents are opting out of vaccinations and examine the mindset behind a modern day medical dictatorship that will go to any lengths, including school expulsion and threats of taking children away from parents in order to carry out their mission.

Suggesting that the reason parents don't vaccinate is because "the illnesses kids are being inoculated against are rarely seen anymore," Ms. Park opines, "Once you've seen your neighbor's toddler become paralyzed, you're a lot more likely to worry that the same thing will happen to yours." There may be some truth to this but many parents would look at this suggestion another way. Once you see your healthy, normal toddler, or your neighbor's healthy toddler develop autism following a series of vaccinations, you are a lot more likely to worry that the same thing could happen to your child.

Parents are not "confused," Ms. Park ... they are concerned and have every reason to be concerned.

It isn't parents that created this crisis in confidence; it is the government and medical establishment for dismissing parental concerns and failing to make vaccine safety a priority. It is Congress' fault for failing to do proper oversight.

Parents who chose to vaccinate their children should have nothing to fear from the relatively few who are not vaccinated. But ultimately, the choice of whether or not to vaccine a child must be made by the parent who will live with the life-long consequences.

The government bears the burden of proving vaccines are safe. Not parents. And the government has not proven the number of vaccines given to children today are safe, or that injecting our babies with mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde is safe.

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