Measles has taken hold in Washington state and, as there are outbreaks in other states, bills are being introduced to affect positive change in immunization rates. One bill is House Bill (HB) 1638 in Washington and public comment was heard on it today in the house healthcare committee. Today was only about public comment. The bill will have a few more dates in the committee before they send it forward. You can see the schedule here:
Today, the bill was introduced in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee and Chair Eileen Cody heard public comment. Representatives Paul Harris and Monica Stonier introduced the bill by talking about how Clark County has been impacted by measles.
You can watch the committee meeting here.
The pro side began with John Wiesman, Secretary of the Washington Department of Health. He spoke about how this outbreak is larger and spreading faster than he has ever seen and the outbreak is not about a specific cultural group but about unvaccinated children. He spoke on how outbreaks are very expensive and a drain on resources. He spoke on the safety of the MMR vaccine and how measles is a serious infectious disease.
Next up was Dr. Rupin Thakkar, President of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He spoke about how the unvaccinated import measles into Washington state and spread it to other unvaccinated persons. He spoke about how measles is extremely contagious, even before one has symptoms, and how the measles vaccine protects not only the person immunized but those who are too young for the vaccine and those who have immune deficiencies. He explained the idea of community immunity, aka herd immunity.
Roy Magnuson, MD, spoke third. He is a Vice President at PeaceHealth. He spoke as the representative of Peace Health Medical System in Clark County, Washington. Peace Health is the largest medical provider in Clark County and the largest employer. He explained how Peace Health has been providing care for those with measles while protecting the public and staff from the disease spreading. Their infection control team has been working night and day and there are 51 cases now. He spoke about how this outbreak could have been prevented had the patients all been vaccinated.
John Blom, County Council for Clark County spoke about the safety of the MMR vaccine. He highlighted how 86% of those with measles in Clark County are completely unvaccinated. He explained how schools, businesses, and medical centers are all experiencing a diversion of resources to contain the outbreak. The cost has been great in that they have had to move resources from important programs to manage the outbreak. And, people have been quarantined at home, affecting school and wages.
Gary Goldbaum, from the Washington State Medical Association, spoke of his experience as health officer in Snohomish County and the value of vaccines. He spoke of his experience with polio, as a child, and how his brother suffered grave injury from polio infection.
For the antivax side, first was Dr. Toni Bark, Illinois MD. She claims to have treated patients suffering from vaccine injury and spoke about epigenetics and how medicines affect people individually. She is of the opinion that 1% to 15% of individuals are susceptible to vaccine injury but there is no evidence I could find to support this claim. She also claims vaccines are legally classified as “unavoidably unsafe” and vaccine manufacturers are not liable for the deaths and injuries they cause. She claims there have been only 2 measles deaths since 2003 but more than 400 deaths from MMR. She misquoted Dr. Gregory Poland as saying that measles cannot be eliminated by MMR and that most outbreaks around the country are in vaccinated persons.
She is completely wrong on all counts. First of all, according to CDC Wonder Database of mortality statistics, there have been 39 deaths from SSPE, a 100% fatal complication of measles, in the last ten years in the USA. And there has been at least one death from measles, which was an immune compromised woman in Washington state exposed to measles, in her doctor’s clinic, by an unvaccinated person. You can learn more about measles mortality here.
Secondly, vaccines are not legally classified as unavoidably unsafe. A Supreme Court case, Bruschewitz V. Wyeth, noted that vaccines, like antibiotics, are in the category of medicines that are not 100% safe but they are so necessary and vital that they are “unavoidably unsafe.” You can read about that here.
Thirdly, vaccine makers are liable for the problems they cause. If they knowingly put out a vaccine that has been prepared incorrectly, for example, they can be held liable for any injuries. They are not liable for rare reactions which are not their fault and there is no reason they should be held liable for health issues which arise as a result of a rare reaction. We have a law which covers all of this, NCVIA. Finally, Dr. Poland has written on the topic of how we might need a better measles vaccine to eliminate measles from earth but he has fully acknowledged that the current vaccine is very good and should be continued.
Also, as evidenced by MMWR measles outbreak data, the vast majority of measles patients in the USA since 2000 have been unvaccinated.
Is Dr. Bark lying? She claimed a New York City outbreak occurred a few years ago, started by a 22-year-old vaccinated woman and all the patients got vaccine strain. This is a total lie. A twice vaccinated woman got wild measles and spread wild measles to others. So, not only is Dr. Bark coming from out of town to talk about something which does not affect her at all, as a resident of Illinois, but she has misconstrued the data.
Brian Hooker, Ph.D. spoke about his research but he failed to mention the studies which have been retracted, such as his very bad take on the “CDC whistleblower” data. He claims he has a vaccine injured son but, in reality, he has an autistic son and lost his vaccine injury claim in court a few years ago because the child’s own medical records proved there were developmental issues in keeping with autism from a very young age, much earlier than MMR is given.
Dr. Hooker claims the vaccine does not work and that wild measles is benign. This is false. He claims he death rate from measles in Washington state was zero for years before the vaccine. He criticized state immunization data and quoted the student survey as valid data. (students take a survey but who knows if their answers are accurate). He claims the scientific literature proves the MMR is very unsafe.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, spoke on the ethical issues, asking if we want to be a country which forces parents to engage in a medical intervention without informed consent and he asked “will mandating vaccines cause more harm than good?” He said that the measles death rate is really 1 in 100,000, not 1 in 1000. He says that the Washington State Department of Health data indicates there were zero deaths per year from measles in the 12 years before school vaccine mandates. He stated that vitamin A cures measles and only immune compromised are at risk for death, which is not true. You can read about the limited benefits of Vitamin A for measles here. He says we do not know the risk profile of MMR, which he claims is deliberate. He claims NCVIA of 1986 gave pharmaceutical companies no reason to make vaccines safe. He implied vaccines cause ADD, ADHD, autism, and that now 54% of children are sick. Of course, I have addressed this issue in my blog post that children are actually healthy! He claims there is no safety testing, which is patently false.
Kennedy’s take is very strange to me. He is an attorney and perhaps he looks at issues from the point of view of how they can be litigated. I am not sure how else to interpret his extremely invalid point of view. Vaccines do not violate any international treaties designed to protect people from being used in experiments against their will. If they did, why would every government on earth be pro-vaccine? When you go to the doctor, you have the opportunity to ask questions, which gives you informed consent. The doctor does not have to sit down with you for an hour and go over every possible risk that could happen and detail every ingredient and describe clinical trial data to you. No doctor has time for that! Vaccinating is extremely ethical and to imply otherwise is to illustrate why most people don’t like attorneys – they look at the world as if there is lawsuit possibility everywhere.
Also, Kennedy’s take on the data is confusing. Where does he get the idea that measles kills 1 in 100,000 instead of the 1 in 1000 the CDC mentions? His idea comes from an antivax group called Physicians for Informed Choice. They put out a very badly done propaganda sheet on measles, which was debunked here by my pediatrician friend, Dr. Vincent Ianelli.
Kennedy’s take on the Washington State Department of health data comes from a misinterpretation of the facts by antivax group, Informed Choice Washington. As you see by reading the data yourself, here, which shows us that there were zero deaths a year from measles between 1973 to 1983. But, if you average the deaths per year from 1952 to 1983, you do get 1-2 deaths per 1000 rate.
Therefore, Kennedy’s statements are completely false.
Lastly, Mary Holland, professor of law from New York State, spoke about community immunity. She has a son with autism and believes vaccines are the reason. Of course, we know vaccines do not cause autism and there is no autism epidemic. She thinks we cannot achieve community immunity with vaccines so we have to focus on control and quarantine. She also mentioned that those who do not vaccinate are not going to vaccinate if the personal belief exemption is taken away. But, she is wrong. We have seen vaccine rates rise in California since SB277 was passed.
This brings me to a concluding thought. Why did Informed Choice Washington bring in “experts” from out of state to talk about community immunity in Washington state? The answer is money. Informed Choice Wa is registered as a charity in Washington state as “American Citizens for Health Choice DBA Informed Choice Washington.” This means the antivax group, Health Choice, is doing business as (DBA) Informed Choice Washington. A check at the IRS website gives us access to their 2016 990-EZ form which indicates they were given $83,000 in donations that year. One can presume their donation base has increased in recent years. Their leadership base is made up primarily of parents who believe their autistic children are vaccine injured and that vaccines cause autism. Many of them were part of the Autism Omnibus group or they lost their case in vaccine court due to lack of evidence. I find this tragic. Autism is not a vaccine injury and the belief that autism is vaccine damage is ableist and leads to parents subjecting their children to unproven and dangerous “cures” to remove the autism or train their children out of the behavior. That they are using their influence and money to lobby against public health legislation is doubly tragic, in my opinion. They not only do not accept neurodiversity but they are putting public health at risk with their beliefs.
I mince no words: the belief that vaccines cause autism is the driving force behind the anti-vaccine movement.
Always verify your claims!
PS Join us here to fight for neurodiversity, sound science, and protecting the public from preventable diseases: www.vaxwa.com