Immunization Risks Are Too Serious To Be Ignored
Fort Worth Star Telegram
April 4, 2001
By Dawn Richardson
Special to the Star-Telegram
It is time to stop dumbing down the vaccine safety debate by calling parents concerned with vaccine
reactions and parental rights "anti-vaccine." An Op-Ed column on Monday by Russell Tolman
and Dr. Mark Shelton oversimplified and misrepresented a serious issue.
Parents love their children and want to protect them, but vaccines, like the diseases they are
designed to prevent, carry an unpredictable risk of injury or death.
Texas parents want the Texas Legislature to pass proposed legislation to give them the same freedom
that parents already have in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan,
Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and
Washington to make their own informed, voluntary vaccination decisions
without being subjected to government sanctions.
All diseases and vaccines are not the same, and neither are all children.
Yet current Texas mandatory vaccination laws, which treat chickenpox like smallpox and hepatitis B
like polio, don't contain a parental rights exemption provision. More than 200 new vaccines, which
are being developed for everything from cocaine addiction to sexually transmitted diseases
including AIDS, will be candidates for future mandates.
Some children are at greater biological risk than others for reacting to vaccines. Texas'
one-size-fits-all mass vaccination policies don't take these differences into account, and they fail
to minimize the risk of vaccine-induced injury and death for too many children.
Annually, 12,000 to 14,000 reports of hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following vaccinations
are made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and yet about 90 percent of doctors
fail to report these reactions.
A study published in the February issue of `Pediatrics' revealed that 40 percent of doctors admit to
not even mentioning vaccine risks to their patients.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out more than $1.2 billion in damages and
yet still turns away three out of four vaccine victims to cope on their own. Meanwhile, because of a
complex network of state and federal laws, doctors and the vaccine manufacturers continue to profit
while taking no financial responsibility for vaccine injuries and deaths.
Some parents are trying to save their children from doctors who are unwilling to acknowledge past
vaccine reactions with a medical exemption and are willing to literally vaccinate a child to death.
A statutorily guaranteed conscientious exemption provision, like the one being considered
by the Texas Legislature, is the only hope that these parents have.
Public health involves more than Tolman and Shelton's myopic fixation on high vaccination rates and
low infectious-disease rates.
The rate of chronic disease and disability in children is at an all-time high. Texas children get as
many as 39 doses of 12 different vaccines by school entry -- while the brain and immune system are
developing at the most rapid rate. There is growing evidence and a groundswell of scientists,
doctors and parents who believe that overzealous vaccination policies have contributed to the
dramatic increases in asthma, allergies, learning disabilities, autism, attention-deficit disorder,
diabetes and other chronic neuroimmune illnesses.
Recent congressional hearings have raised eye-opening questions about inadequate vaccine licensing
and safety standards; conflicts of interest involving drug companies and vaccine policy-makers; and
huge gaps in scientific knowledge about how vaccines affect the body.
Based on the epidemic of doctors and public health officials who mislead parents by exaggerating the
risks of the diseases and the benefits of the vaccine while minimizing and often denying the risks
of the vaccine, it is becoming clear why a growing number of educated parents are pushing during
this legislative session to reclaim their rights over what vaccines their children will receive and
when they will receive them.
Vaccination is a medical procedure that carries an inherent risk of injury or death, and it is time
to let our legislators know that every Texas parent deserves to be given truthful, unbiased
information about diseases and vaccines and be allowed to make informed, voluntary, vaccination
decisions for their children.
Dawn Richardson is president and co-founder of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education (PROVE).
The group's Web site is www.vaccineinfo.net.