Where Is the Vaccine Safety Grey Area?
There may be no more volatile American debate than between the scientific community and anti-vaccine activists—or more absolutist. “Anti-vaxxers” are unscientific and putting the public at risk scream mainstream scientists. Pharma is overwhelming children with tsunamis of vaccines that are harming them in droves scream activists.
Even news sites that are so anti-mainstream they claim that ISIS was created by the U.S. government to advance its global mission bash anti-vaccine activists and call them “unscientific.”
Nowhere is the vaccine grey area even given an airing. What is the grey area? Not all vaccines are safe or unsafe. Not all vaccines are life-saving or necessary. There is no defensible reason for vaccines to be given all at once to a child, which many say heightens risks. And finally, disturbing financial conflicts of interest among pro-vaxxers do exist.
It is not surprising mainstream scientists would counsel unconditional trust of Pharma vaccines since their medical centers, hospital wings, universities and sometimes personal paychecks are funded by the drug industry. But a quick look at withdrawn drugs like Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Darvon, Phen-Fen, Raxar, Seldane and more shows that expensive drugs that harm is very much part of Pharma’s history. We ignore it at our own peril.
While vilifying anti-vaccine activists, mainstream scientists never mention the existence of the federal National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) which, since 1988, has settled more than 16,000 claims and awarded $3.18 billion in injury settlements. When I asked a vaccine expert why the court existed if vaccines are unremittingly safe he told me that vaccines are so basic to public health yet so non-lucrative (compared to billion dollar pills), the government does not want vaccine makers bankrupted by lawsuits.
By ignoring the court and the ghastly injuries it settles—I was told, off the record, about a woman who lost her fingers and toes from vasculitis caused by a vaccine—mainstream scientists do themselves a disservice. They should admit that vaccines do harm, even if only rarely, and also admit that not all vaccines are “life-saving.”
It is no secret that vaccines and other “biologics”—liquid drugs that have to be injected—are the new marketing focus of Pharma as its billion dollar blockbuster pills like Lipitor and Viagra have gone off patent.
The Case of Gardasil
A few years ago, Merck attempted to cast Gardasil, a vaccine against the HPV virus (which is linked to venereal warts and cervical cancer) as virtually life-saving. Merck even marketed it in poor countries where cervical cancer is hardly a leading cause of death compared to malaria or diarrheal diseases. (In developed countries, a Pap test is as effective as a vaccine in preventing cervical cancer.)
Last year, judges in India’s Supreme Court demanded answers after children died during a trial of Gardasil and Cervarix, GlaxoSmithKline’s counterpart vaccine, a few years earlier.
According to CBS News there was another cloud over Gardasil. “Merck gave $6,000 to [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry’s election campaign fund as part of a national lobbying effort to persuade states that it ought to require Gardasil as one of the vaccines all kids should have before attending school,” it wrote. The director of a Merck-funded pro-Gardasil group was also Perry’s then-chief of staff’s mother-in-law.
Nor did the departure of former CDC director Julie Gerberding to head Merck’s vaccines division look right to many ethics specialists.
Docs Gone Bad
Mainstream scientists have savaged Andrew Wakefield, a British medical researcher found to have conducted fraudulent research linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism with financial gain his apparent motive. His corruption is said to disprove any scientific doubts about vaccine safety.
Yet when researchers in the U.S. have been so dishonest they have gone to jail, the science they published still stands. Scott Reuben published fraudulent research on Lyrica, Effexor, Celebrex and other drugs for Pharma. He went to prison for six months but the “science” behind the drugs he promoted stands. Richard Borison, former psychiatry chief at Augusta Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center and Medical College of Georgia, went to prison for 15 years for using clinical trials of the antipsychotic Seroquel to line his own pockets. The drug went on to earn billions and the “research” still stands.
What is the Middle Ground?
As a reporter I have interviewed a man whose blindness was caused by a 1976 flu vaccine for which the government compensated him. More recently I interviewed a parent whose normal toddler was never the same after a vaccine and is now institutionalized. “He cried hysterically for 24 hours,” the parent, who is a medical practitioner, told me.
Pharma is unwise to cast such parents, of whom there are many, as “nuts.” The degeneration of their child is not their imagination. Why doesn’t Pharma improve its credibility and say, “yes there are dangers but they are usually worth it?”
But anti-vaccination activists also need to honor the “grey area.” Would anyone refuse a rabies vaccine after being bitten by a rabid raccoon? A tetanus shot after a serious wound? Would responsible parents deny their child a whooping cough or polio vaccine? Vaccines save lives.
Like all drugs marketed these days, patients and parents need to weigh benefits and risks and do their own research—never forgetting Pharma’s spotty safety record.
Martha Rosenberg is author of the award-cited food exposé “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency,” distributed by Random House. A nationally known muckraker, she has lectured at the university and medical school level and appeared on radio and television.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Epoch Times.