On the Costs of Vaccination
Questions for Barbara Loe Fisher
[By Arthur Allen.]
Many people consider vaccination one of the great medical successes of
the 20th century. Do you disagree with that assessment?
BLF: Certainly with the implementation of mass-vaccination policies in the
last 40 years we've seen a decline in infectious diseases of childhood.
However, we have at the same time seen a doubling of asthma and learning
disabilities. A tripling of diabetes. Autism is affecting one in 500
children. We need to look at whether an intervention used with every child
is perhaps contributing to the background rate of chronic disease or
The F.D.A. says that in most of the cases, there's no way to prove a
connection between a vaccine and the adverse reaction that's attributed to
it. How much of a case can be made
BLF: Less than 10 percent of all doctors report serious health problems
following vaccination, and the F.D.A. doesn't have the money or staff to
investigate the ones that are reported. So we don't really know. It's
scientifically and ethically irresponsible to write off most of these
injuries as "coincidental" to vaccination when the government has funded
very little research into biological mechanisms of vaccine injury and death.
Take autism. It seems to be on the rise, and there's a theory that the
measles-mumps-rubella vaccine can trigger it. But several recent studies
show that reports of autism are rising in areas where M.M.R. vaccination
rates remain steady. Isn't this proof that vaccines are not to blame?
BLF: We have never felt the M.M.R. was the only vaccine implicated in
autism. The larger question is whether there is a group of genetically or
biologically susceptible children who not handling the ever-increasing
number of vaccines. If you have biologically susceptible children and give
them three vaccines, that may not trigger dysfunction. But if you give them
37 doses of 11 different vaccines, including M.M.R., you could be creating a
larger and larger group of genetically susceptible children, tipping them
into neuroimmune dysfunction.
You're not a doctor, but you are an established expert on this topic.
And you have three children. Did you have them vaccinated? How did you make
BLF: In 1980, my healthy, precocious 2 1/2-year-old son
convulsion, went into shock and lost consciousness for six hours a few hours
after his fourth DPT shot. He was left with minimal brain damage that took
the form of learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. In 1982, I
joined with other parents of vaccine-injured children and founded the
National Vaccine Information Center with the goal of preventing vaccine
injuries and deaths through public education and safety reforms. I got my
second and third children all their vaccines with the exception of
whole-cell pertussis -- because it had hurt my oldest son. At age 4, my
younger son developed a pseudo-tumor of the brain after getting two other
vaccines. Thankfully there was no permanent damage. In 1993, he and my
5-year-old daughter both got whooping cough. She had a particularly bad
case; she coughed until she was blue in the face. It was terrifying. After
these experiences, I don't underestimate the effects of infectious diseases
or vaccine reactions on young children.
But in recent years outbreaks of just those infectious diseases have
been attributed to pockets of unvaccinated children - including those who
were not vaccinated on principle. Does it worry you that your message of
personal choice might be contributing to the spread of these diseases?
BLF: Many of those outbreaks are not solely in unvaccinated children.
You're seeing organisms that are becoming resistant to the vaccines no
matter how high the vaccination rate is. It's not just the less than 1/2 of
1 percent who choose not to vaccinate who are causing outbreaks.
Still, isn't discouraging vaccination more harmful than the occasional
BLF: The vaccine-safety and informed-consent movement
has never been about
telling parents not to vaccinate. We're pro-education and pro-informed
consent, not antivaccine. There is a difference. It is immoral to write off
an unknown number of children as expendable in the name of the greater good
to justify public health policy.