UPDATE: June 26, 2015 – This post was originally written when AB2109 was being pushed through in California. AB2109 passed. At the time, Dr. Richard Pan, the bill’s author, assured parents and lawmakers that they would always retain the right to parental choice when it came to vaccinations.
Dr. Pan is not satisfied. In January 2015, he proposed SB277. If passed, SB277 will remove parental choice and eliminate all non-medical exemptions for parents in California. SB277 will force parents whose children are missing even a single dose of any of the vaccines required for attendance in public or private school to be home-schooled. SB277 will result in the loss of the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for thousands of California children whose parents watched them suffer adverse reactions to vaccines. Those parents will now be forced to put their children at further risk of harm or death, or home-school. SB277 is discriminatory and cruel. It will have the most devastating effect on those families who are already struggling financially. Single parents cannot afford to home school. Neither can parents who live near or below the poverty level.
Dr. Pan is a pediatrician. He represents the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the lobbyists who are pulling his strings and lining his pockets on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, including vaccine-manufacturers. He does not represent the people of California, who elected him.
A recent article in the Sacramento Bee documents the $2 Million dollars paid to California lawmakers before the debate on SB277. Richard Pan topped the list, taking the most amount of money. He is, quite simply, BOUGHT.
SB277 has passed the third hearing and will go to the Governor of California next week. Governor Brown will face the decision of whether to sign the bill into law or to veto it.
I pray he remembers his words from 2011…
I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.
I believe parents have the ability and responsibility to make good choices for their children.
Governor Brown: VETO SB277.
The rest of this post is from September of 2012. I wanted to share it again because after watching the debates and opinions of those who voted in favor of SB277, some of whom are doctors, it is even more glaringly apparent than ever before that our doctors are uninformed about vaccines. They really do not know what they don’t know.
What follows is the original post:
In California, the law regarding vaccine exemptions does not differentiate between religious and philosophical beliefs. They are treated as the same thing and are referred to as “personal belief” exemptions. Personal belief exemptions are currently under attack in California and parents in the state are facing the very real possibility that their personal and religious freedoms will be severely restricted or even eliminated if a new bill, AB2109 is signed into law.
AB2109 has already passed through the California legislature. The only thing that will stop the bill from becoming law is a veto from Governor Brown.
AB2109 is not about the health of California’s children. It’s about money. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Pan – pediatrician Richard Pan.
Barbra Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has put together an excellent video that explains some of the conflicts-of-interest associated with AB2109. I urge you to watch the video.
If AB2109 is enacted, California parents who wish to exercise their legal right to exemption from vaccination will be forced to pay for an office visit with an approved medical professional at which the parent will receive counseling about the risks of childhood diseases and the benefits of vaccination. Additionally, parents will have to obtain the signature of the medical professional on an official form, stating that the counseling has taken place. There are many concerns with this proposed change to the existing law, among them the shortage of physicians willing to accept these types of appointments, the cost involved, particularly to low-income families, and the potential adversarial nature of such a discussion between concerned parents and the physicians who are charged with caring for their children. A recent change to the bill does allow school nurses to sign the forms; this is hardly an equitable “compromise” from Dr. Pan, since there are less than 3,000 school nurses employed in the more than 10,000 public schools in the state. With such a shortage, it is easy to see how some students will have access to this option and many will not, setting the stage for discrimination by virtue of the “luck of the draw.”
Problems with the Educational Message
A further concern is with the message that pediatricians and other medical professionals will be imparting to parents when they spend the ten or twenty minutes during an office visit on “vaccine education.” Personally, as the parent of a vaccine-injured child, I can state with complete conviction that there is absolutely nothing a doctor can tell me in ten or twenty minutes that would alter in any way the conclusions I have drawn from the many thousands of hours I have spent researching vaccines over the last sixteen years. I have personally engaged in multiple discussions with our own family doctor who was completely unaware that there is still mercury in many vaccines, and who was also unaware that my daughter, with a history of seizures, should not have been given the TDaP vaccine that nearly killed her. I have also had lengthy discussions with doctors who have proclaimed with confidence, “They took thimerosal out of the MMR vaccine years ago!” Ummm…. No, doc. Thimerosal was never IN the MMR vaccine because it would have killed the live measles virus. If physicians do not know even these basics about vaccines, how are they going to “educate” parents about the risks/benefits during the state-mandated consultation?
Who is educating the educator?
This article, published by the AAFP explains to physicians how to increase vaccine uptake in their practices, including methods of tracking patient information and sharing of personal patient data outside the attending physician’s office. Some of the tactics espoused in this document may remind you of Hitler’s Secret Police – “The Gestapo.” If you read through this entire article or scroll down to the end, you will see the author’s disclaimer: He is a paid spokesman for Sanofi-Pasteur and Merck; two major manufacturers of vaccines that are given to children in the United States. There’s your answer.
Who is educating the doctors who will be charged with educating parents about vaccines? The makers and sellers of vaccines.
The language of AB2109 makes it clear that Dr. Richard Pan (a pediatrician and the Assembly Member who introduced the bill) and the other sponsors of the bill want parents to be “informed by physicians about the risks of diseases and the benefits and risks of vaccination.” At face value, this seems like an appropriate and worthy goal… however, it is not likely to be accomplished in a single office visit. It is also not likely to be accomplished when the information necessary to make a true cost-benefit analysis is missing or inaccurate.
“Diseases are Bad. Vaccines are Good.”
Doctors in the media often overstate the risks associated with childhood diseases, in an apparent attempt to fear-monger parents into vaccinating. For example, in a recent article entitled Measles: Back to the Future of Public Health Dr. David Katz proclaimed that if measles were to make a comeback in the United States, “out of every 1000 kids who get it one or two will die.” According to the CDC’s own data, prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1968, each year there were between 3 and 4 Million cases of measles in the U.S. and an average of 432 people died each year. The “1 or 2 out of a thousand” number is not for the United States. That’s the number for measles deaths worldwide, where the death toll is significantly higher in Third World countries among adults and children who lack access to adequate shelter, clean water and nutritious foods. For a more realistic estimate regarding measles in the United States, please check out this article.
Doctors in the media (and in the exam room?) often overstate the benefits of vaccines, crediting them with wiping out illnesses that would have disappeared on their own. Not to pick on Dr. Katz, but… in his article he credits vaccines with wiping out smallpox, when the truth is that only about 10% of the world’s population ever received the smallpox vaccine. Any doctor who argues the myth of vaccine-induced “herd immunity” would know that there is a problem with the math here.
Why are Doctors not Telling the Truth about Vaccines?
The answer to this question is most likely, “They don’t know the truth about vaccines.”
The reason they don’t know is because they haven’t been taught. The reason they haven’t been taught is because of the huge conflicts-of-interest that exist between the pharmaceutical industry and medical education in this country. For a very enlightening (and frightening) expose on this topic, please read the following articles, written by Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor (for more than two decades) of The New England Journal of Medicine: Big Pharma, Bad Medicine and Is Academic Medicine for Sale?
Perhaps the most troublesome to me is that doctors often greatly underestimate the dangers of vaccines and the true risks associated with vaccination. This is a problem that is not going to go away just because a parent sits for 10 or 20 minutes and gets “educated” by a doctor. Why do so many doctors continue to deny the risks, even when they have witnessed vaccine injuries for themselves? Is it solely about money? Is it the need to be obeyed without question?
Physicians are taught in medical schools that receive millions of dollars in funding for research… money that comes from pharmaceutical companies. Medical students are taught by physician/instructors who often receive tens of thousands of dollars (in some cases much more) from pharmaceutical companies. The conflicts of interest have received SOME media attention, but in my opinion… not nearly enough. Is it so unrealistic to postulate that at least a percentage of California’s doctors who will be charged with “educating” parents about the safety of vaccines may not have the purest of motives?
Follow the Money…
When you look at the data compiled by ProPublica regarding the REPORTED amount of money paid by pharmaceutical companies to doctors in California it’s hard to imagine how there could not be a problem here. As you scroll through the 56 pages of reported payments to California medical professionals keep this in mind: At this point, the reporting of payments by pharmaceutical companies is still voluntary; it won’t become mandatory until 2013 and if the Healthcare Reform Act is repealed it won’t be mandatory then, either. (That’s not a plug for the Healthcare Reform Act… just a statement of fact.) When you look at the dollar amounts in the far right column, please also look at the period of time for which the amounts were reported. The information is only a fraction of what’s been paid out with many companies only reporting one or two quarters of 2009 or 2010. Also realize that since reporting is not mandatory, when this information was first compiled by ProPublica only 7 of the 70 pharmaceutical companies operating in the U.S. reported this information at all. According to the most recent information I was able to find, it is estimated that about 40 percent of pharmaceutical companies now report their monetary contributions to health care providers.
Inaccurate and Incomplete Data on Vaccine Injuries Means there Can Be No Informed Consent.
The number and severity of adverse reactions to vaccination is unknown. A big part of the reason for this is that physicians either do not know how to recognize vaccine-injuries, or they actively deny their existence even in cases where the child dies within hours of vaccination. It is estimated that between 1% and 10% of vaccine-injuries are ever reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS is a passive reporting system. It is “suggested” that physicians report adverse reactions to VAERS, but there are no consequences for those who fail (or refuse) to report. This brings up the very important question, “How can we make an accurate risk-benefit analysis when we don’t have accurate data on which to base our conclusions?”
It is clear to me that in light of the fact that there is no meaningful data regarding the true numbers of children and adults who have been seriously injured or killed by vaccines, it is literally impossible to have a meaningful or valid discussion about the benefits vs. the risks of vaccines. Until we have that information, there can be no informed consent, regardless of who is doing the counseling. It is also clear that as long as physicians are not trained or refuse to recognize vaccine-injuries they are completely unprepared to offer valid counseling about the costs vs. benefits of vaccines. And finally, as long as the physicians who are supposed to be doing the “counseling” are being trained about what to say by the makers and sellers of vaccines, there is no justification for the state requiring parents to jump through additional legal hoops. Afterall, all a parent really has to do in order to get THAT information is to listen to the morning talk shows.