“Offit suggests one way to raise vaccination rates is to make it harder for people not to get themselves or their children vaccinated. This could mean, for example, attending educational classes that teach the public what the safety profiles of different vaccines are, before they are allowed to opt out of vaccination. “You have to convince people that a choice not to get a vaccine is not a risk-free choice; it’s just a choice to take a different risk.” ”
- The Lancet
Vaccination is down. For Offit, that means a loss in future profits on his vaccine patents. The solution? Make people sit though vaccine propaganda lectures (complete with pictures of children with horrible rashes and in polio wards, I am sure) before they are ALLOWED not to vaccinate.
Because, you see, your body belongs to the government and you need their permission NOT to put mercury, aluminum, foreign DNA and viruses it in. After all, having a body, is like driving a car, you should have to take classes and pass an exam in order to use it... it is a privilege.
OH WAIT.... NO IT'S NOT.... YOUR BODY BELONGS TO YOU!!!!
A few months ago I heard a very accomplished physician, bemoaning the bias and pressure tactics at work in his own profession, refer to the public health power grab that is happening as a growing "Doctocracy". That immediately popped to mind when I read Offit's new ideas.
"Public Health" has gotten way out of hand. Doctors have always been accused of having a God complex, but few would actually go as far as suggesting that you legally need permission from them to exercise informed consent on whether or not you should take a pharmaceutical.
So if the health care bill passes, will they try to make full vaccination mandatory before you can access your health care coverage? Will only AAP member doctors be covered, and will AAP only allow docs that make their patients vaccinate according to the CDC schedule? Maryland already sent out letters to parents saying that they may be subject to imprisonment and child protective services intervention if they didn't vaccinate (and conveniently left out that Maryland is a philosophical exemption state and all they had to do what sign a form to be 'legal').
Now Offit has said, and Lancet has printed, that vaccines uptake should be coerced, so if this idea is accepted, what other methods of coercion will they come up with?
Say no to forced and coerced vaccination at the The American Rally for Personal Rights. Enough is enough.
The Lancet, Volume 375, Issue 9719, Pages 970 – 971, 20 March 2010
Experts concerned about vaccination backlash
Public health professionals are worried about the increasingly vocal anti-vaccination lobby in the USA and other western countries and their effect on immunisations globally. Priya Shetty reports.
Vaccination was one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Its success might now be its undoing, however. Around the world, vaccination rates are dropping, and the unthinkable is happening: children are dying from childhood diseases like measles and pertussis.
This fall in immunisation has coincided with an increasingly vocal anti-vaccination movement. Public health now seems more at threat than ever by anti-vaccination messages, and the reluctance to vaccinate has been affecting rates of uptake for other vaccines such as that for influenza A H1N1. Health experts are now faced with the daunting challenge of fighting these groups.
Anti-vaccination groups have been around for as long as the practice of vaccination has. Arguably, health watchdogs and critics are a vital part of checks and balances on the medical industry. But scientists are starting to become increasingly concerned about the medical misinformation that some groups are spreading.
Organisations such as the US National Vaccine Information Centre (NVIC), the Coalition for SafeMinds, and Know Vaccines, either oppose universal vaccination (on the basis that “all children are different”) or emphasise the parents’ right to choose whether their children are vaccinated. In a statement on the website of the NVIC, one of the biggest groups in the USA, its co-founder Barbara Loe Fisher says: “If the State can tag, track down and force citizens against their will to be injected with biologicals of unknown toxicity today, there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the State can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.”
Many groups use as ammunition alleged links between vaccines and diseases such as autism, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis. “At the heart of the anti-vaccine movement is the notion that we are merely substituting infectious diseases with chronic diseases”, says Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA, USA, and co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine.
Offit is one of several scientists who told The Lancet that anti-vaccination groups are unequivocally threatening public health, the evidence of which is the re-emergence of diseases that medical science had once beaten. “In 2008, we had a measles epidemic in the USA that was bigger than anything we had had in a decade, and that epidemic owed directly to the fact that some children had not been vaccinated. The parents were more afraid of the vaccine than they were of the disease, as a direct result of misinformation by anti-vaccine websites”, says Offit. Recent outbreaks of pertussis and haemophilus influenza B in undervaccinated communities in parts of the USA have resembled outbreaks from the prevaccine era, he says.
The geographical spread of people who refuse to vaccinate is important, says Saad Omer, assistant professor of global health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA. If these people are uniformly spread out across an area, then the herd immunity stays intact. “However, our group and others have shown that vaccine refusal clusters geographically (and perhaps in social networks). Anti-vaccination groups often ‘think globally but act locally.’ Therefore, even if only ten of 100 people refuse vaccines but most of them live in the same neighbourhood, the likelihood of outbreaks increases due to local breakdown of herd immunity”, says Omer.
The movement has tended to be most active against childhood vaccines, with the most forceful rhetoric coming from parents who say that they do not want to expose their children to “unnecessary toxins”. One in eight American parents has refused at least one vaccine recommended for their children by their family doctor, according to a study published in Pediatrics this month, which surveyed more than 1500 parents of children aged 17 years or younger. But the reluctance to vaccinate is now permeating other areas of health.
According to the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID), anti-vaccination messages have partly been responsible for the poor uptake of the H1N1 vaccine. As each influenza season progresses, “we don’t know whether the virus will stay the same”, says Giuseppe Cornaglia, former president of ESCMID, now at the Department of Pathology, University of Verona, Italy. “Because many people who could have been immunised haven’t had the vaccine, we are going to be starting from scratch”, he says.
Anti-vaccination groups have also affected the way governments responded to the pandemic, says Tevi Troy, the previous Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services. “The US decision not to use adjuvants, which effectively expands the supply of the vaccines, stemmed in part from concerns about how the anti-vaccine groups would have reacted to adjuvants. This could have been a problem had the H1N1 outbreak been more severe”, he says.
However ludicrous some of the anti-vaccination messages might seem to scientists, it is hard to deny that they do hold some traction with the public. Complacency about infectious diseases in the developed world, born out of the enormous success of vaccination, might be one explanation. “As the rate of illness goes down, and people mostly encounter real or perceived vaccine associated adverse events (instead of disease), there is a change in mental calculus in terms of benefit versus risk of vaccines”, says Omer.
The internet, and the forums and social networking sites it has spawned, has allowed anti-vaccination advocacy and influence to permeate deeper than ever. For example, says Omer, “a few years ago, vaccine-related rumours would be restricted to certain (mostly developed) countries. However, now a viral video made by a vaccine opponent in California can end up being discussed in an Indian web forum.”
The increase in anti-vaccination advocacy dovetails with a growing public mistrust of science that in recent years has manifested against genetically modified food, stem cells, and, most recently, climate change.
At last month’s yearly meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Ralph Cicerone, president of the US National Academy of Sciences, told delegates that recent controversies over climate change had damaged public faith in science. “There has been a widespread deterioration in the public’s attitude to science not only in the US but in many other countries in the past 3 months”, said Cicerone.
Against this background, global health experts are trying to ensure that people in developing countries can access life-saving vaccines.
Does anti-vaccination advocacy exist in these countries? “Unfortunately yes”, says Omer. “However, they are relatively less organised. Often there are entities that are organised for a different reason but end up providing a platform for opposing vaccines eg, religious and political groups in Nigeria.”
ESCMID’s Cornaglia says he is “seriously scared” about the prospect that anti-vaccination groups will take hold in the developing world. “Vaccines are the best weapon we have for the future.”
Not everyone shares this view. Offit still believes that there is much more public appreciation of vaccines in the developing world. Offit remembers taking the rotavirus vaccine to Nicaragua, and says “it was remarkable how happy people were to get a vaccine to prevent a common cause of diarrhoea and dehydration, and, at least in the developing world, death.”
Cornaglia was ESCMID’s communication officer at one time, and he believes that health agencies such as ESCMID and WHO “have to change their communication style”. “They have to address public health professionals like physicians and nurses, because if we don’t convince them, then we cannot convince the lay public at all”, he says.
“Public-health messages should be simple, honest and straightforward.” Sending a clear message, however scientifically erroneous it might be, is how the anti-vaccination movement scored big with H1N1, he says. Their message was simply: “vaccines are the devil”.
The anti-vaccination lobby has become so highly organised, says Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, UK, that “they do pose a threat and need to be taken seriously. NVIC in the USA now has a yearly conference and is becoming a kind of institution…They are not amateurs—they are making careers out of this.”
Like Cornaglia, Finn says that the anti-vaccination lobby’s communication skills have a lot to do with their influence. “They, unlike most doctors and scientists, are always willing to talk to the media and are good at doing it.”
Offit suggests one way to raise vaccination rates is to make it harder for people not to get themselves or their children vaccinated. This could mean, for example, attending educational classes that teach the public what the safety profiles of different vaccines are, before they are allowed to opt out of vaccination. “You have to convince people that a choice not to get a vaccine is not a risk-free choice; it’s just a choice to take a different risk.”