Category: History of Vaccines

Did the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 Cause the Immunization Schedule to Triple?

Why do some parents think that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 caused the immunization schedule to triple?

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act did not cause the immunization schedule to triple.

The usual suspects…

Did the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 Cause the Immunization Schedule to Triple?

It is not just folks holding anti-vax propaganda signs though.

“In 1986, Congress—awash in Pharma money (the pharmaceutical industry is No. 1 for both political contributions and lobbying spending over the past 20 years)—enacted a law granting vaccine makers blanket immunity from liability for injuries caused by vaccines. If vaccines were as safe as many claim, would we need to give pharmaceutical companies immunity for the injuries they cause? The subsequent gold rush by pharmaceutical companies boosted the number of recommended inoculations from 12 shots of five vaccines in 1986 to 54 shots of 13 vaccines today. A billion-dollar sideline grew into the $50 billion vaccine industry behemoth.”

Robert F Kennedy, Jr on The Harlem vaccine forum

It is a common anti-vax talking point that the immunization schedule ballooned in 1986, with passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.

It didn’t.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act did not cause the immunization schedule to triple.

In fact, it is very easy to see that most new vaccines weren’t added to the immunization schedule until the late 1990s and after.

  • hepatitis B – 1981
  • Hib – 1985
  • hepatitis B vaccine (improved) – 1986
  • Hib (improved) – 1988
  • Varivax – 1995
  • DTaP – 1996 (replaces DTP)
  • hepatitis A vaccine – 1996
  • RotaShield – 1998 (quickly withdrawn)
  • LYMErix – 1998 (later withdrawn)
  • Prevnar – 2000
  • FluMist – 2004
  • Menactra – 2005 (replaces the Menomune vaccine approved in 1981)
  • Tdap – 2006
  • RotaTeq – 2006
  • Gardasil – 2006
  • Trumenba – 2014

And the immunization schedule did not change very much at all after passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.

What about Bobby Kennedy‘s other point? Why did we need the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act if vaccines are safe?

Protection from frivolous lawsuits.

What we need now is protection from this kind of misinformation that continues to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids!

More on the Immunization Schedule

Can You Go to Jail for Not Vaccinating Your Kids?

Believe it or not, parents have been jailed for not vaccinating their kids.

In a recent Michigan case, a mother was jailed for refusing a court order to vaccinate her son. The court had agreed with the boy’s father that the child should be vaccinated and protected.

So this case was not just about vaccines, but about divorced parents who disagreed about how to care for their child…

Can You Go to Jail for Not Vaccinating Your Kids?

Although it isn’t common, historically, there have been other stories of parents going to jail for not vaccinating their kids.

Parents in Maryland were surprised that they might face jail time for not vaccinating their kids.
Parents in Maryland were surprised that they might face jail time for not vaccinating their kids.

Recently, in 2007, parents were warned that they might be sent to jail for not vaccinating their kids. The problem wasn’t just vaccines though, as these parents could have gotten exemptions. And they had several months to do so before the Judge gave his warning…

No one went to jail in Maryland in 2007.

Have you ever heard of John (Jack) Marsh?

Going to jail for not vaccinating his kids became routine for John Marsh.

In 1946, he was put in jail and his daughter, Betty Jane, was taken by child welfare services so that she could get a smallpox vaccine. His son Marlin was also to be taken, but couldn’t be found.

What happened next? We don’t know. That was the last report about John Marsh and his family.

We do know a lot about what happened before this though…

John Marsh was first jailed in 1937 for not vaccinating his kids.

John Marsh’s story started nearly 12 years earlier!

In 1934, he spent 7 months in jail because he wouldn’t vaccinate his children Daniel and Lorna. As in 1946, those children were taken and vaccinated and Marsh was released.

John Marsh was again jailed in 1937 for not vaccinating his kids.

He was also put in prison in 1937 over getting his son Eugene vaccinated.

John Marsh was jailed over and over from 1937 to 1940 because he wouldn't vaccinate his kids.

Why was he against vaccinating his kids?

John Marsh believed that his nieces were vaccine injured.
John Marsh believed that his nieces were vaccine injured.

He believes that a smallpox vaccine caused two of his nieces to go blind. One of them became blind about two weeks after getting her smallpox vaccine. Two weeks later, her sister also became blind. And then another.

What could have affected these girls in 1925 besides Mildred’s smallpox vaccine? Trachoma was once a common cause of blindness in the United States and it was quite contagious.

Even though two weren’t even vaccinated, the family still thinks that they all suffered from some kind of vaccine injury.

“The infrequency of eye involvement following vaccination is very striking when we consider the number of vac­cinations, the doubtful handling that many receive, and the ease with which infection may be transferred.”

Arthur J. Bedell, M.D., F.A.C.S. on Multiple Vaccination of the Eyelids

Interestingly, ocular vaccinia is a known, rare complication of getting a smallpox vaccine. It could occur if you touched the site of vaccination and then touched your eye, and so could also occur if you were in close contact with someone who was recently vaccinated, as the Marsh sisters.

Unlike these girls though, the infection typically only involves one eye, would cause lesions suspicious for vaccinia in or near the eye, which were never mentioned, and often leaves obvious lid deformities.

And doctors did not believe that those girls had a reaction to the vaccine.

John Marsh never won any of his cases and his kids always ended up getting vaccinated...
John Marsh never won any of his cases and his kids always ended up getting vaccinated…

Are there any other cases of parents going to jail instead of vaccinating their kids?

In 1899, apparently there wasn't a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.
In 1899, apparently there wasn’t a religious exemption to getting vaccinated.
Yes, we had anti-vax chiropractors way back in 1926.
Yes, we had anti-vax chiropractors way back in 1926.
In 1942, Bowser's two children were admitted to a county Children's home and vaccinated, as they had never been to school.
In 1942, Bowser’s two children were admitted to a county Children’s home and vaccinated, as they had never been to school.
This was in 1924, but just like today, these parents didn't win their court case.
This was in 1924, but just like today, these parents didn’t win their court case.

Could any of this happen now?

We still have truancy laws and laws about kids getting vaccinated…

Jack Marsh had an alternative to going to jail over not vaccinating his kids...
Jack Marsh had an alternative to going to jail over not vaccinating his kids…

But no one wants parents to go to jail over vaccination decisions.

And no one wants kids to be forced to get vaccines.

Vaccination laws were being strictly enforced to try and control outbreaks and epidemics of smallpox, which still occurred in the 1920s and 30s.
Vaccination laws were being strictly enforced to try and control outbreaks and epidemics of smallpox, which still occurred in the 1920s and 30s.

We also don’t want kids to get sick and disease to spread because of ignorance and unnecessary fear of vaccines.

Who is scaring these parents in the first place?
What is scaring these parents in the first place?

Unfortunately, anti-vax folks create a viscous cycle.

As they scare more and more parents, they create pockets of susceptible children, and larger and larger outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, which eventually require stricter vaccine requirements and mandates to control.

More on Jail and Vaccines

Did Pediatricians Ever Encourage Parents to Have Measles Parties?

While the idea of chickenpox and measles parties now seems ridiculous to most people, in the pre-vaccine era, it might not have been so strange. Since getting these diseases was inevitable, it might make some sense to try and control when your kids got sick. Did did pediatricians actually encourage parents to have measles parties?

Did Pediatricians Ever Encourage Parents to Have Measles Parties?

Some folks think they have evidence that they did!

This is not evidence for measles parties...
This is not evidence for measles parties…

Wait, did they really have measles?

As most folks know, German measles is another name for rubella or 3-day measles.
As most folks know, German measles is another name for rubella or 3-day measles.

Not exactly…

These kids had German measles – better known as rubella. Of course, that is not the same thing as measles or rubeola.

Measles vs Rubella

Why do we worry about rubella? Unlike measles, it’s not because it can make kids very sick, but rather because if a pregnant woman gets rubella, then it can be devastating for their baby.

The idea for rubella parties started in the UK in the 1950s.
The idea for rubella parties started in the UK in the 1950s.

That’s why some folks tried to get rubella when they were kids, well before they reached the age when they could become pregnant.

How did that strategy work out?

Many articles advocating for rubella parties (German measles) appeared in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Of course, those rubella parties didn’t prevent the rubella epidemics that came in 1964-65 and caused 12.5 million rubella virus infections and “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome.”

In addition to spreading rubella to pregnant women, at these parties, younger children could get exposed to other diseases that are more serious, like measles.
In addition to spreading rubella to pregnant women, at these parties, younger children could get exposed to other diseases that are more serious, like measles.

It was the rubella vaccine that was developed in 1969 that helped control and eventually eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in the United States. And eliminated all of the risks of the measles parties that some folks used to have.

More on Measles Parties

Are There Generic Vaccines?

We are used to drugs becoming generic once they have been around for a while, which may have you wondering if we have generic vaccines too.

“Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Jonas Salk

In addition to vaccines that don’t have patents, others have lost their patent protection, which typically lasts for only 20 years, so it seems like we could have generic vaccines.

Are There Generic Vaccines?

And we have.

Consider that once upon a time:

  • the Texas Department of Health Resources made up to 7 different vaccines
  • the University of Illinois made a BCG vaccine
  • the Michigan Department of Public Health made up to 8 different vaccines
  • Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories (Mass Biologics) made several vaccines

These included many generic vaccines, including DPT and IPV.

In addition to Tenivac, made by Sanofi Pasteur, MassBiologics makes a generic Td vaccine.

In fact, the Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories continues to make the last remaining generic vaccines, DT and Td.

Why Aren’t There More Generic Vaccines?

Couldn’t more pharmaceutical companies make vaccines, including more generic vaccines, so that they could be less expensive?

“In sum, although patent protection remains the major barrier to the production of affordable small-molecule generics, access to trade-secret–protected information and know-how present major additional obstacles to generic production of vaccines.”

Improving Global Access to New Vaccines: Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and Regulatory Pathways

Unfortunately, unlike drugs, patents aren’t the only issue when making a generic vaccine. You also need the expertise, investment, and studies to prove that your generic vaccine is as safe and effective as similar vaccines.

More on Generic Vaccines