The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), an Ally for Freedom of Choice
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has been a consumer voice for freedom of choice on the vaccination issue. Barbara Loe Fisher and her colleague, Kathi Williams, have been seen and heard at many chiropractic events over the past years. The organization they founded, the NVIC is supported by many chiropractors who have a similar passion for this subject.
The ICA was the first national chiropractic organization to pass a policy statement on the subject of vaccinations. The statement reads:
The International Chiropractors Association recognizes that the use of vaccines is not without risk, and questions the wisdom of mass vaccination programs. Chiropractic principles favor the enhancement of natural immunity over artificial immunizations.
The ICA supports each individuals right to select his or her own health care and to be made aware of the possible adverse effects of vaccines upon a human body. In accordance with such principles and based upon the individuals right to freedom of choice, the ICA is opposed to compulsory programs which infringe upon such rights.
The International Chiropractors Association is supportive of a conscience clause or waiver in compulsory vaccination laws, providing an elective course of action for all regarding immunization, thereby allowing patients freedom of choice in matters affecting their bodies and health.
The following is an interview conducted by Dr. Robert Braile, ICA Chairman of the Board with Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center which gives some idea of the extent of their work and how they have been fighting for parents and the health/lives of their children for the past 20 years.
Braile: First of all, on behalf of the ICA and all chiropractors, let me thank you for your courage and stance on an issue important and of significance to many chiropractors.
Fisher: Kathi and I feel privileged to have met and worked with so many chiropractors who have the courage to stand with us and defend the right to freedom of choice in health care, which includes the freedom to make informed, voluntary decisions about vaccination.
Braile: How did you both get involved with the issue of vaccination? And how did the NVIC come into existence?
Fisher: Kathi and I met in April 1982 after we both had watched the Emmy award winning TV documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette, which was produced by Lea Thompson, now the consumer health reporter for Dateline. That documentary, which focused on the dangers of the DPT vaccine, was the first time American parents were told that vaccines could injure and kill. As we were watching that show in our separate homes, both Kathi and I realized that our sons had had severe neurological reactions to their fourth DPT shots. We both contacted the television station so we could network with other parents and that is how we met. Kathi and I and another Washington, D.C. area parent, Jeff Schwarz, were the three most active founders of the national non-profit organization we created and originally called Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT) because one of our first goals was to get the whole cell pertussis (P part of the DPT shot) vaccine off the market. The mission we chose is to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and that is what our work has focused on for the past 20 years.
As we look back, I think there are several important early milestones that were instrumental in helping us achieve our mission. The first was the publishing of the book DPT: A Shot in the Dark by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1985, which I co-authored with medical historian Harris Coulter, Ph.D., and was the first well documented critique of the mass vaccination system. The second was enactment of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986, which was the first societal acknowledgement that vaccine injuries and deaths are real. We worked for five years with Congress to make that happen. The third was the day in 1993 in Boston that we were introduced to the world of chiropractic by the late, great Larry Webster, D.C., the grandfather of pediatric chiropractic.
Braile: I have heard you say that chiropractic has played a large part in the past survival of your organization. Can you give us a little history on the relationship between the NVIC and the chiropractic profession?
Fisher: When Larry Webster invited me to speak to about 200 chiropractors specializing in the care of children in the spring of 1993, Kathi and I had already decided to close the National Vaccine Information Center. We and the parents of vaccine injured children we worked with were very demoralized from so many years of fighting the wealthy and powerful alliance of big drug companies, government health agencies and medical organizations determined to silence our voice. There was only $2,000 left in the organizations bank account. I didnt really know anything about doctors of chiropractic when I flew to Boston but, because I felt there was nothing left to lose, I decided to forget about being politically correct and just tell the truth as I saw it. Little did I know that chiropractors were pioneers in the fight for freedom of choice in health care and old veterans at battling the very same powerful alliance opposing us. Not only did I get a standing ovation after I spoke, which brought me to tears, but I flew back to Washington, D.C. with $8,000 in donations, which was enough to convince Kathi and I not to shut down the organization. More importantly, we realized that we could tell the truth without being afraid. Soon after I was invited to speak to New Beginnings Seminar in New Jersey and then Dynamic Essentials at Life College, where many of the leaders of principled chiropractic came up on the stage to show their support for our message of informed consent to medical care, including vaccination.
That was probably the biggest turning point in our history because we understood our fight was part of a larger fight for freedom of choice in health care that was being waged by a brave and outspoken segment of the professional health care community. Because of both the tangible and moral support of doctors of chiropractic, NVIC did not just survive but our lifesaving message now reaches hundreds of thousands of people every year through our award winning website, publications, media relations program, local and state parent networks and other public information outreach efforts.
Braile: There are some groups in the chiropractic profession who say that chiropractors should give up their traditional opposition to compulsory vaccinations in order to be accepted into the Main Stream of health care. What would be your response to this type of thinking?
Fisher: D. D. Palmer once said Compulsory vaccination is an outrage and a gross interference with the liberty of the people in a land of freedom. That was a true statement when he made it in 1910 and it is true today. It is a big mistake to think that if you compromise on something as fundamental as freedom of choice in vaccination that you will buy acceptance from those who are trying to take away freedom of choice in health care. So I agree with BJ Palmer who said Conditions change, and our attitude towards them has changed, but principles remain the same.
Braile: In your years with the NVIC and the fight for this issue, what would you say were your highest and lowest points or times?
Fisher: Well, certainly, the lowest point in our history was when we almost gave up in 1993. But there have been enough wins and signs that have given us hope and encouragement along the way to keep our faith strong that we are supposed to continue to do this work, that is the right thing to do. It was a milestone for us in 1995, when the organization was financially stable enough that I could join Kathi in the office as a fulltime working President. In 1996, when the FDA finally licensed a less toxic pertussis vaccine after we had worked for 14 years to get the highly toxic old whole cell pertussis vaccine off the market, we felt we had accomplished something important. In 1997 and 2000 when we were able to hold the First and Second International Public Conferences on Vaccination and bring together distinguished scientists and health care professionals from the US, Canada and Europe, who were brave enough to stand up and challenge the status quo, we knew we were making progress. Our Third International Public Conference on Vaccination is being held November 7-9, 2002 and we know it will be another milestone in our continuing mission to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths and defend the informed consent ethic.
Braile: What do you see as the biggest threat to freedom of choice on the vaccination issue at present?
Fisher: There is no question that, right now, the fear and hysteria that is being whipped up by politicians and public health officials about bioterrorism in the aftermath of September 11 is paving the way for a serious threat to informed consent to vaccination. The passage of oppressive Emergency Health Powers Acts in the states will allow public health officials to use the state militia to arrest, quarantine and forcibly medicate and vaccinate citizens without their consent. It gives unprecedented power to public health officials who, in some states, will not even have to have a state of emergency declared by the Governor in order to detain and forcibly vaccinate whole families without a court order if they so choose. It is the most serious threat to civil liberties since the Constitution was written and NVIC has joined with a politically diverse coalition here in Washington, D.C. to try to work in states to oppose the passage of this kind of legislation, which was funded and drafted by the Centers for Disease Control with the help of lawyers and public health departments at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities. Once the precedent has been set that this kind of human rights abuse is acceptable in the name of disease control and protecting the public health, there could well be a fallout on current mandatory vaccination laws and the more zealous enforcement of them. So I am very concerned at this point in time that we are facing a huge public relations and legal battle to preserve what few informed consent rights we have right now when it comes to mass vaccination.
Braile: Can you tell us of any exciting and positive developments that are taking place in this fight for freedom?
Fisher: Before September 11, we were making headway on the informed consent issue in the states. In 1999, NVIC parents had the support of Texas chiropractors when we came very close to winning conscientious belief exemption to vaccination in Texas after successfully protecting the right to informed consent to enrollment in the states electronic vaccine tracking system. In the year 2000 in Iowa, we joined with chiropractors and parental rights and family values organizations and defeated an attempt in that state to take away the right to religious exemption to vaccination. In March 2001, Wyoming parents took state public health officials to the state Supreme Court, where the state high court ruled that public health officials cannot drag in parents and grill them and pass judgement on the sincerity of their religious beliefs opposing vaccination. The Wyoming high court also declared that the state public health department cannot reject a medical exemption to vaccination written by a licensed physician because the public health officials have judged the exemption to be unjustified on medical grounds. So the momentum was with us before the terrible events of September 11 and, hopefully, the American public will one day again be able to view disease control in a more rational and balanced way and realize that it is very important to protect and preserve the right to informed consent to any medical procedure that carries a risk of injury or death even in times of emergency.
Braile: What can chiropractors do to help you in this fight for freedom of choice?
Fisher: Stay with us. Stand with us in state legislatures and in the halls of Congress. Help us monitor the actions of public health committees at the state and local level. Go on our website and come to our educational conferences like the one we are holding in November and become knowledgeable about the science and politics of mass vaccination and then go out in your own communities and spread the word. I really believe that we are at a crossroads in our history and that what we choose to do now will define who we are as a nation for many years to come. The informed consent ethic, which guarantees our human right to make informed, voluntary decisions about what we are willing to risk our lives and our childrens lives for is an ethic that is well worth defending. Without that human right, the state can justify any kind of human rights abuse in the name of the greater good. So we are fighting for a freedom that is very basic and we are proud to be fighting that fight with doctors of chiropractic who understand how important it is to hold onto your beliefs and not back down.
Braile: I am personally a member of the NVIC and I have always recommended that chiropractors be members. How can the readers of this interview get more information and join the NVIC?
Fisher: You can go our on website, www.909shot.com , and become a member as well as sign up for our free NVIC email news which keeps you up to date on the latest developments in vaccine research, development, policy and changes in state laws. You can write to us at NVIC, 421-E Church St., Vienna, VA 22180 or call 1-800-909SHOT. We put out newsletters, news bulletins and press releases and have books and tapes that will inform your patients about vaccines and infectious diseases. Every NVIC member is one more person who can participate in local, state and national mobilization efforts when the time comes to mount coordinated responses to proposed legislation or other actions which threaten our freedom of choice in health care.
Braile: Once again, I just want to thank you for all that you do on this important issue. We owe you a debt of gratitude for your bravery and persistance. B. J. Palmer once said, You never know how far reaching something you may think, say or do today, can affect the lives of countless millions tomorrow. I believe you and your organization emboby this concept as you have had and will have a positive effect on millions of young lives.
Fisher: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to speak about what we do and to publicly thank every chiropractor who has ever supported NVIC in any way, whether it be financially or simply giving us moral support over the past decade. Without your support we would not still be here, able to continue to do the work we do. We will never forget that it was doctors of chiropractic who held out their hands to us when we were tired and broke and close to giving up and gave us a reason to go on.
You can become a member of NVIC via their website: www.909shot.com
Ms. Barbara Loe Fisher is one of the distinguished speakers on the program for ICAs
National Conference on Chiropractic & Pediatrics to be held, November 22-24, at the
Wyndham Hotel at Canal Place in New Orleans, Louisiana. For registration information
contact ICA at 1-800-423-4690 or 703-528-5000.