Tag: Congress

Why Did Anti-Vaccine Folks Applaud Rand Paul’s Testimony at the Senate Health Committee Hearing on Vaccines and Outbreaks?

Wait, what?

Why Did Anti-Vaccine Folks Applaud Rand Paul's Testimony at the Senate Health Committee Hearing on Vaccines and Outbreaks?

Anti-vaccine folks actually applauded Rand Paul’s testimony at the Senate Health Committee Hearing on Vaccines and Outbreaks?

Why Did Anti-Vaccine Folks Applaud Rand Paul’s Testimony at the Senate Health Committee Hearing on Vaccines and Outbreaks?

Surprisingly, many of the things he said weren’t anti-vaccine.

I guess they ignored those parts…

  • …given the choice, I do believe that the benefits of most vaccines vastly outweigh the risks.
  • I’m not hear to say don’t vaccinate your kids… if this hearing is for persuasion, I’m all for the persuasion. I vaccinated myself. I vaccinated my kids.
  • For myself and my kids, I believe that the benefits of vaccines greatly outweigh the risks…

So why were they cheering?

Because that’s not all he said…

“Today, instead of persuasion, many governments have taken to mandating a whole host of vaccines, including vaccines for non-lethal diseases.”

Sen Rand Paul

While some vaccine-preventable diseases are more deadly than others, they can all be deadly. From rotavirus and HPV to hepatitis A, these diseases can kill people.

Which vaccine-preventable disease does he think is non-lethal?

“Sometimes these vaccine mandates have run amok. As when the government mandated a rotavirus vaccine that was later recalled because it was causing intestinal blockage in children.”

Sen Rand Paul

That’s an interesting example of “the government” that has run amok…

Which “government” mandated that the original rotavirus vaccine be given to children?

As Senator Paul hopefully understands, the Federal government doesn’t mandate vaccines for anyone. And since it must be given at such a young age, even states don’t actually mandate that the rotavirus vaccine be given to children…

Even today, there are no mandates for the rotavirus vaccine.

If there were, it still wouldn’t mean giving up your Liberty, after all, vaccine mandates don’t mean forced vaccination.

“It is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines. Even the government admits that children are sometimes injured by vaccines. Since 1988, over $4 billion has been paid out from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Despite the government admitting to and paying $4 billion for vaccine injuries, no informed consent is used or required when you vaccinate your child. This may be the only medical procedure in today’s medical world where an informed consent is not required. “

Sen Rand Paul

No one says that there are no risks to vaccines. That’s a classic anti-vaccine talking point.

What folks actually say is that vaccines are safe, with few serious risks.

And the $4 billion that Rand Paul and anti-vaccine folks often talk about has been paid out over more than 30 years, during a time that we have given nearly 300 million doses of vaccines each and every year!

But what’s that he said about informed consent?

Why wouldn’t informed consent be given or be required before getting a vaccine?

Of course, parents get informed consent before getting vaccines.

They don’t get informed consent if they decide to skip or delay their child’s vaccines after getting bad information.

“Now proponents of mandatory government vaccination argue that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children risk spreading these diseases to the immunocompromised community. There doesn’t seem to be enough evidence of this happening for it to be recorded as a statistic, but it could happen. But if the fear of this is valid, are we to find that next we will be mandating flu vaccine?”

Sen Rand Paul

Lastly, why didn’t Sen Paul find evidence that intentionally unvaccinated kids are spreading disease to the immunocompromised community?

Maybe he didn’t look…

It happens.

Do we need it to happen more often so that it becomes a large statistic before he and others will advocate that folks get vaccinated to attend school?

Do you understand have a better understand now why anti-vaccine folks were cheering after his testimony?

“If you believe in Liberty, that’s fine, don’t get immunized. But I don’t think that you need to necessarily expose others to disease.”

Sen Bill Cassidy

It should give you a better understanding both of Rand Paul’s ideas and those of the anti-vaccine movement.

More on Rand Paul’s Testimony at the Senate Health Committee Hearing on Vaccines and Outbreaks

What Will House and Senate Lawmakers Do as They Investigate Measles Outbreaks?

In addition to an increased number of State Legislators looking at what they can do to stop the increasing number of outbreaks we have been seen each year, there is now news that House lawmakers will also see what they can do.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY) announced today that the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the current measles outbreak and response efforts on Wednesday, February 27. More information on timing, location and witnesses will be announced next week.

“Measles is a highly contagious, life-threatening virus that was previously eliminated in the United States thanks to the success of the measles vaccine,” the four bipartisan Committee leaders said.

“Unfortunately, measles cases are on the rise as a consequence of the virus’s transmission among unvaccinated groups. The reemergence of vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, presents a serious public health threat, especially for those who rely on ‘herd immunity.’ We look forward to learning more from public health officials on addressing the current outbreak, efforts to prevent the disease’s spread, and strategies to support vaccination efforts,” Pallone, Walden, DeGette and Guthrie concluded.

E&C Bipartisan Leaders Announce Subcommittee Hearing on Measles Outbreak and Response Efforts on February 27

So happened at this entitled, Confronting a Growing Public Health Threat: Measles Outbreaks in the U.S.?

This meeting doesn't mean that the Federal government is stepping in to change vaccine laws.
This meeting doesn’t mean that the Federal government is stepping in to change vaccine laws.

We heard from several witnesses, including:

  • Nancy Messonnier, MD – Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)
  • Anthony Fauci, MD – Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

And we will hopefully learn more in an upcoming Senate hearing, Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?, when we will hear from:

  • John Wiesman, DrPH, MPH, Secretary of Health, WA
  • Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD, Emory University
  • Jonathan A. McCullers, MD, Univerity of Tennessee
  • John G. Boyle, President and CEO, Immune Deficiency Foundation
  • Ethan Lindenberger, Norwalk High School

How is the Federal government addressing the current outbreaks, what efforts they are taking to prevent the disease’s spread and what strategies they are making to support vaccination efforts?

“And, unfortunately, the anti-vax movement in certain segments of the population, certainly not generalized, is just growing, and it’s getting worse. And it’s based fundamentally on misinformation.

You don’t want to denigrate people who make those kinds of decisions and essentially attack them. That doesn’t work. You have got to understand they have these beliefs. And the way you try and get them to understand the importance of getting vaccinated is talk about the facts, talk about the evidence. Don’t attack them.”

Dr. Fauci on the PBS Newshour

Just as importantly, we will hopefully hear more ideas on how to address the misinformation about vaccines that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

And what can be done about the alternative, non-evidence based practitioners that influence the decisions parents make about vaccines and other health care decisions.

More on Confronting Measles Outbreaks

Updated on March 3, 2019

Does Congress Really Agree About Vaccines?

Believe it or not, Congress has a lot to do with whether or not folks get vaccinated.

“As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly disease.”

Sens. Lamar Alexander et al Dear Colleague Letter

We saw what happened in the mid-1980s when Federal funding for vaccine programs went down – we got measles outbreaks.

Congress and Vaccines

But it isn’t just that members of Congress have their fingers on the purse strings.

Over the years, while the great majority of lawmakers do agree that vaccines work and that they are safe and necessary, a few have created unnecessary fear about vaccines and have likely scared parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Remember when Michele Bachmann went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and told her HPV vaccine story?
Remember when Michele Bachmann went on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and told her HPV vaccine story?

And then there are the Congressional hearings…

Remember Dan Burton?

The former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana (1983-2013) has been described as being “antivaccine through and through” and “organized quackery’s best friend in Congress.”

Dan Burton held over 20 Congressional hearings trying to prove that there was a link between vaccines and autism.

Because he thinks that his grandson developed autism from vaccines, Dan Burton continues to believe that vaccines are associated with autism.
Because he thinks that his grandson developed autism from vaccines, Dan Burton continues to believe that vaccines are associated with autism.

Hearings that gave a high profile platform to Andrew Wakefield and are best described as:

“carefully choreographed to generate as much negative feeling toward the vaccination system as possible.”

Arthur Allen on Vaccine The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver

Who replaced Dan Burton?

It seems to be U.S. Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), who has been described as “vying to take over the title of the most antivaccine legislator in the U.S. Congress since Dan Burton retired.”

He got a little help from Rep. Darrell Issa, who conducted a meeting of the Subcommittee of Government Operations in 2014, Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Okay. Let’s stop it right there. Because every time we have ever talked about doing one of those studies, some idiot in the media says I am suggesting that children intentionally don’t get vaccinated. And I don’t know that anybody ever has ever proposed that. But there are plenty of children whose parents will not allow them to be vaccinated. There are plenty of cultures where children are not vaccinated. And there are other reasons children are not vaccinated. And there are children who take large doses of vaccination, and children whose parents decide to have them take one vaccination at a time to avoid thimerosal. And I have not been able to ascertain that there has actually been a legitimate study done that wasn’t tainted by the touch of the international colossal scumbag Poul Thorsen.”

Rep. Bill Posey questioning NIH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. in the Congressional hearing on Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Who else might be joining him?

Since the verbal evidence she hears says kids are getting too many vaccines, Rep Maloney asks the CDC Director why we can't just space out the vaccines kids get...
Since the verbal evidence she hears says kids are getting too many vaccines, Rep Maloney asks the CDC Director why we can’t just space out the vaccines kids get…

There is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

Maloney also spoke at a 2012 hearing planned by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on the federal response to rising autism rates.

“Are you looking at vaccination? Is that part of your studies? I have a question. Are you looking at vaccination? Are you having a study on vaccination and the fact that they’re cramming them down and having kids have nine at one time. Is that a cause? Do you have any studies on vaccination?”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in a hearing on Rising Autism Rates

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was also a co-sponsor of Rep. Bill Posey’s 2015 Vaccine Safety Study Act bill, which called for “a comprehensive study comparing total health outcomes, including risk of autism, in vaccinated populations in the United States with such outcomes in unvaccinated populations in the United States, and for other purposes,” even though many experts have long pointed out the problems with using intentionally unvaccinated folks as a comparison group.

But Rep Maloney got her start long before Bill Posey ever came to Congress…

In 2006, in response to a series of articles by Dan Olmstead, who later created the website, Age of Autism, Rep Maloney held a briefing at the National Press Club where she proposed the Comprehensive Study of Autism Epidemic Act of 2006, a bill that sounds awfully similar to Posey’s Vaccine Safety Study Act.

Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) was another co-sponsor.

But we shouldn’t forget Rep. Dave Weldon MD (R-Fl), who introduced the Mercury-Free Vaccines Act of 2004 and the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act of 2007. Weldon also sent a number of letters to Julie Gerberding questioning a study about thimerosal by Thomas Verstraeten, a study that was investigated and cleared by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in 2005. Because he was a doctor, Rep. Burton also had Weldon do a lot of the questioning during his hearings.

And there is also Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), who was a cosponsor when  Maloney reintroduced the Vaccine Safety and Public Confidence Assurance Act in 2009.

Not surprisingly, many of these members of Congress have been getting donations from anti-vaccine organizations.

Henry Waxman was a featured speaker at the 2015 AAP Legislative Conference.
Henry Waxman was a featured speaker at the 2015 AAP Legislative Conference.

In contrast to all of the folks above, there was Rep. Henry A Waxman (D-CA), who retired after 40 years in Congress, but not before:

  • fighting back against Dan Burton’s misinformation in his hearings about vaccines
  • introducing the Vaccine Access and Supply Act of 2005
  • authoring the stand-alone Vaccines for Children legislation that was included in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 that created the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program
  • introducing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986

But his work on vaccines has probably been the most low-profile thing that Waxman did, which is why he is often described as “one of the most important Congressman ever.”

You’ll never hear that said about Dan Burton, Bill Posey, Dave Weldon, or Carolyn Maloney…

More on Congress and Vaccines

What Ronald Reagan Can Teach Us About Vaccine Policy

Many U.S. Presidents, even George Washington, worked to get people vaccinated and protected. Well, Washington got them variolated and protected against smallpox, but that still counts.

As can be expected, some Presidents did a better job than others.

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

Ronald Reagan

Do you have to run someone’s life to prevent outbreaks and help make sure folks get protected against vaccine-preventable disease?

Ronald Reagan’s Vaccine Policy

A lot happened in regards to vaccines when Reagan was President. After all, he was the President who signed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986, which created VAERS and the NVICP!

What else happened?

“…the Reagan Administration starved the Federal program for childhood immunization…”

The Shame of Measles

That’s right, Federal support for vaccine programs reached a low point during Reagan’s years in office, as rates of children living in poverty and without health insurance also increased.

That’s not a good mix!

“During the Reagan years, the price of vaccine went up and Federal funding for childhood immunization went down.”

The Measles Menace

Not only did the price of vaccines go up, but new vaccines were added to the immunization schedule in the mid-1980s.

So even if Federal funding for vaccines had stayed the same, it would essentially have been a big cut!

“Measles is a wholly preventable disease, and it was almost eradicated from the country in 1983, when only 1,497 cases were reported. But by 1990, after Federal budget cuts and the end of the Government’s monitoring of immunization programs, more than 30,000 cases of measles and more than 60 deaths were reported.”

Panel Ties Measles Epidemic to Breakdown in Health System

All of this followed President Jimmy Carter’s National Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1977, which reached its goal of immunizing over 90% of children!

Not surprisingly, this followed a growth in federal grants from $5 million to $35 million towards state immunization budgets. Yes, it costs money to get kids vaccinated and protected. But don’t forget that it costs even more money to control outbreaks once they start.

“Immunization policy during the Carter Administration demonstrated that when both an administration and key congressional actors viewed immunization as a priority and made sufficient funds available to support the public health delivery system and its infrastructure, coverage levels would continue to rise and disease levels continue to decline.”

Johnson et al on Federal immunization policy and funding: A history of responding to crises

Unfortunately, the coverage levels and growth during the Carter administration weren’t sustained for very long after Reagan took office in 1981.

As can be expected, neither were declines in rates of measles.

Instead, we eventually saw big outbreaks of measles across the United States. From 1989 to 1991, at least 123 people died among 55,000 cases, with another 11,000 hospitalized.

“The measles outbreak of 1989–1991 exposed many incorrect assumptions behind the belief that low levels of coverage were sufficient to control the transmission of infectious disease. The changing demographics of society, the mixing of young children in day care settings, new patterns of health care delivery, high rates of uninsured children, and the shrinking size and morale of health departments all fostered circumstances in which disease transmission occurred within major metropolitan areas even though disease reports were low, and state health officials believed statewide immunization coverage was at acceptable levels.”

Calling the Shots: Immunization Finance Policies and Practices

How did it get fixed?

President George HW Bush announced his own immunization action plan to raise vaccinated rates, and we once again put more Federal money into our immunization programs.

The result?

Immunization rates went up and the outbreaks stopped.

The President and the Children

Outbreaks that didn’t have to happen.

A 1987 op-ed in the New York Times warned about was coming and how to prevent it…

“Each dollar spent to immunize young children saves $10 in later medical costs. Yet in 1985, one of four children between ages 1 and 4 was not immunized for rubella, mumps, polio or measles and 13 percent lacked immunization for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Congress would increase funding by about $20 million, enough to immunize 600,000 more youngsters.”

The Reagan administration didn’t listen.

The Children's Defense Budget analysis details how Reagan proposed cutting $2 to $3 million a year from the immunization program beginning with his 1982 budget.
The Children’s Defense Fund budget analysis details how Reagan proposed cutting $2 to $3 million a year from the immunization program beginning with his 1982 budget.

Are we headed for something similar in the years ahead?

Consider that:

  • the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on September 30 and it has yet to be reauthorized
  • the short-term CHIP “fix” took $750 million cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides 40% of the total funding for the CDC’s immunization program
  • the Section 317 Immunization Program was already slated for a big drop in President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget

So we may have fewer kids with insurance and less money for immunization programs.

When did we last see that scenario?

Take Action and remind Congress and our President of the “critical role” they play in protecting our children and that they should #PutKidsFirst.

“As Members of Congress, we have a critical role to play in supporting the availability and use of vaccines to protect Americans from deadly disease.”

Sens. Lamar Alexander et al Dear Colleague Letter

“Supporting the availability and use of vaccines” does not mean decreasing funding for vaccine programs!

And protecting “Americans from deadly disease” certainly does not mean having fewer people covered on insurance plans.

What to Know About Ronald Reagan’s Vaccine Policy

Ronald Reagan essentially starved the Federal program for childhood immunization, which led to lower vaccine rates and deadly outbreaks of measles. Let’s not allow history to repeat itself.

More on Ronald Reagan’s Vaccine Policy