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The Raging War On Vaccine Choice: Is 2011 The Make Or Break Year?

By Barbara Loe Fisher

While the U.S. Supreme Court votes to protect Big Pharma from vaccine liability and states watch successful assaults on vaccine exemptions, the venerable consumer vaccine safety watchdog, the National Vaccine Information Center, organizes Americans to fight to protect exemp- tions with its new advocacy portal. Meanwhile, the Dallas International Film Festival hosts the world premiere of a groundbreaking documentary on vaccination.

On February 22, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court shielded drug companies from all liability for harm caused by vaccines mandated by government when companies could have made a safer vaccine. From now on, drug companies selling vaccines in America will not be held accountable by a jury of our peers in a court of law if those vaccines cause brain damage but could have been made less toxic. If you get paralyzed by a flu shot, or if your child has a serious reaction to a vaccine required for school and becomes learning disabled, epileptic, autistic, asthmatic, diabetic or developmentally disabled, you are on your own.

From now on—unless we stand up and draw the line on vac- cine mandates—the government can legally use police powers to force every American to get hundreds of vaccinations or be punished, while those hurt by vaccination can be more easily swept under the rug and left to fend for themselves.

On February 23, 2011, one day after the Supreme Court blocked lawsuits against drug companies for failing to make vaccines safer, the court cleared the way for lawsuits against car manufacturers for failing to make seat belts safer.

Civil liability is a consumer protection. In the past, civil liabil- ity has protected us from wealthy tobacco corporations selling cigarettes that were once endorsed by doctors and the U.S. gov- ernment. Civil liability has protected us from defective cars and toys and food and drugs that have passed federal licensing and safety standards. Civil liability put pressure on drug companies to develop and license a less toxic pertussis vaccine in 1996. Civil liability put pressure on federal health agencies to eliminate use of a contaminated, neurotoxic polio vaccine that could paralyze people, and replace it with one that cannot.

Thirty years ago the wealthiest and most powerful industry lobbying on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures—the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry—tried very hard to get total liability protection for every vaccine that government regulates, recommends and mandates. The only difference is that three decades ago, government officials were ordering doctors to give children 23 doses of seven vaccines; today, that direct order is up to 70 doses of 16 vaccines. The parent co-founders of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) worked with Congress back in the early 1980s. We refused to support any legislation that would legally let the pharmaceutical industry completely off the hook.

Parents successfully argued that if Congress was going to give drug companies partial liability protection through the creation of a federal vaccine injury compensation alternative to a lawsuit, then language had to be written into the National Childhood Vac- cine Injury Act of 1986 that protected a citizen’s right to sue drug companies. The Act allows lawsuits when federal compensation is denied, or when the company had the technological ability to make a vaccine less toxic but refused to do it.

Continued civil liability was the safety net for American consumers in that law. Continued civil liability was the leverage that gave some financial incentive for drug companies to make vaccines safer, and gave some political incentive for government officials to award federal compensation to those injured by vaccines.

Now, six activist Supreme Court judges have ripped the liability safety net from the U.S. mass vaccination system and written Big Pharma a blank check by deliberately ignoring the language and legislative history of the 1986 Vaccine Injury Act. Only Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, in accurate and brilliant dissenting opinions, stood up for the people. (Justice Kagan did not take part in the vote, having worked on the case while serving in the Justice Department.)

The Supreme Court has now given Pharma and evangelistic doctors a green light to lobby legislators to require every Ameri- can to get more than 130 doses of government-recommended vaccines, starting on the day of birth and continuing through the last year of life. That does not include use of any of the hundreds of new vaccines now being developed by drug companies with government approval.

This is not public health. This is exploitation of a captive people by a pharmaceutical industry seeking unlimited profits and by doctors in positions of authority, who have never seen a vaccine they did not want to mandate. It is a drug company stockholder’s dream, a health care consumer’s worst nightmare and a prescription for tyranny.

Americans are required by law to use more vaccines than any other nation in the world. In no other country—not in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan or in any other country—are citizens subjected to mandatory use of dozens of doses of vaccines under the threat of being denied a public education and health insurance and em- ployment. There is no other word for this but tyranny.

Vaccines are pharmaceutical products that carry a risk of in- jury or death, a risk that can be greater for some than others. If a vaccine is effective, then those choosing to use that vaccine will have nothing to fear from those who make another healthcare choice. If a vaccine is not effective, then consumers are being asked to take two risks: a risk they will be harmed and a risk the vaccine will not work at all.

That is not a product that should be legally required—especially when doctors cannot predict ahead of time who will be harmed by a vaccine and there is no civil liability for the company selling it, the person giving it or the government official mandating it.

If corporations are in business to make money; if doctors can make mistakes; if judges can get it wrong; if what is considered scientific truth today can turn out to be not true tomorrow; and if nobody is held accountable in the civil justice system for vaccines that could have been made safer, then now is the time for all Americans to stand up for health freedom.

There is no freedom more fundamental than the human right to decide the risks we are willing to take with our lives or our children’s lives.