"Right now, what's on the line in this country is whether or not we're going to have the legal right in the future to make choices about federally recommended vaccines." -Barbara Loe Fisher

On this edition of Real Politik James speaks with Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit charity established in 1982. For the past three decades, she has led a national, grassroots movement and public information campaign to institute vaccine safety reforms and informed consent protections in the public health system.

Loe Fisher has researched, analyzed and publicly articulated the major issues involving the science, policy, law, ethics and politics of vaccination to become one of the world's leading consumer advocacy experts on the subject. NVIC is not "anti-vaccine," as mainstream news media might encourage the public to believe. Rather, it is pro-safe vaccines and exists to ensure the informed consent of the parents and patients who chose to vaccinate.

One of the most important things parents can do is recognize the clinical signs of an adverse reaction their children may exhibit to one or more vaccine administrations. Understanding, for example, the symptoms of brain inflammation is essential "because brain inflammation has been associated with vaccinations since small pox vaccine" since the early 1900s. "Almost any vaccine can do that."

When Loe Fisher's son was two-and-a-half, he suffered an adverse reaction to the DPT vaccine.
I knew what my child was before the reaction. My son was extremely bright. He was saying words at seven months. He was speaking in full sentences by the age of two. He knew his upper and lower-case alphabet. He knew his numbers up to 20. He could identify the words in the books we read together.
Yet after the DPT shot, "he regressed, physically, mentally, and emotionally," she recalls. "He no longer knew his alphabet. He could no longer identify words. He became very, very chronically ill, with constant diarrhea, respiratory and ear infections. He became emotionally fragile [with a] low frustration level, no concentration - he couldn't concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time."

Despite being well-educated and coming from a family of medical practitioners, Loe Fisher lacked sufficient information to identify the symptoms of her son's adverse reaction. Not until she viewed the 1982 documentary, DPT Vaccine Roulette and consulted the professional literature did she realize how the medical community was well aware of the dangers the vaccine posed to children.

"There in the pages of Pediatrics, The New England Journal of Medicine, and The Lancet, were clinical descriptions of exactly what I'd seen that day. So the doctors were discussing with each other in the medical literature about what DPT vaccine could do to the brains of babies, but they didn't tell the mothers, and that's why I felt strongly that there needed to be an organization that would educate people about things like recognizing a vaccine reaction, so it can be written down in the medical record [and] reported to the government."

The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which Loe Fisher was instrumental in the passage of, required that parents be informed of potential adverse reactions and that documentation be maintained and collected of such reactions, yet this is often ignored because there are no penalties for healthcare practitioners who fail to abide by the Act.

The United States is one of the wealthiest and most technologically-advanced countries in the world. It also has the most highly-vaccinated children and adolescents, with at least 95% of children entering kindergarten today following the full vaccine regimen consisting of several dozen shots. Yet such aggressive vaccination policies don't translate to a healthier nation. "We have the largest number of children in our history who are suffering with chronic diseases and disabilities," Loe Fisher notes.
I'm not saying that all of this is due to vaccinations, but you certainly can't leave off of the research table the big question, which is, Has the increase in the number of vaccines children are getting in the last thirty years been a co-factor in the rise of the number of children suffering with things like learning disabilities, asthma, autism, and diabetes.
The major news media have made raising vaccine awareness a constant struggle because they typically frame the vaccine awareness issue in simplistic terms. "It's been very difficult to do this work," Barbara notes, because there's been so much opposition from those in positions of power - in government, in industry, and in the medical trades. With the media, it's gotten very, very ugly since about 2007-08. At one point in 2009 the Secretary of Health and Human Services gave an interview with a journalist, and that journalist reported that [HHS] has instructed the media to not cover people who criticize vaccine safety, which would include me.

Indeed, the Department of Health and Human Services wields tremendous power in its oversight of vaccine recommendation and safety, while also maintaining close ties with the pharmaceutical industry. The NVIC has since 2011 been calling for vaccine safety oversight to be vacated from HHS, because in the Department of Health and Human Services these public health officials are in charge of not only vaccine safety oversight, but they also license vaccines, they take money from drug companies to fast-track vaccines, they partner with drug companies to develop and share profits from vaccine sales, they make national vaccine policies that get turned into state vaccine laws, and they also decide which children will and will not get a vaccine injury compensation award. Our point is that it's too much power for one federal agency.

About the author

Barbara Loe Fisher is co-author of the seminal book DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1985); author of The Consumer's Guide to Childhood Vaccines (1997); Vaccines, Autism & Chronic Inflammation: The New Epidemic (2008) and Reforming Vaccine Policy & Law: A Guide (2014). She is also a video commentator for the NVIC Newsletter and Mercola Newsletter, and a blogger at Loe Fisher's long public record of vaccine safety and informed consent advocacy was featured in the 2011 award winning film documentary, The Greater Good.