Tami Wahl, ANH-USA’s legislative director, attended the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination, held in Reston, Va., October 2-4, 2009. The conference was hosted by the National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1982. The oldest and largest consumer organization advocating for the institution of vaccine safety and the protection of informed consent in the mass-vaccination system, NVIC is an independent clearinghouse for information. Consequently, it does not promote the use of vaccines; nor does it advise against their use. Rather, it supports the availability of all preventive healthcare options, including vaccination, and the right of consumers to make educated, voluntary healthcare choices. NVIC’s work aims to ensure that public-health policies are based in science and not influenced by industry.
At the conference, hundreds of parents, grandparents, health practitioners, medical doctors, former pharmaceutical sales representatives, concerned citizens, community activists and members of the media heard a variety of noted speakers. The topics covered included the history of vaccination, the status of the H1N1 and HPV/Gardasil vaccines, legal matters (including manufacturer liability), constitutional law (including protections against mandatory vaccination), informed consent, pet vaccination, homeopathy and immunization. There were also sessions that allowed for interaction with the speakers.
An especially compelling presentation compared how Japan and the United States handle vaccinations. For example, Japan completes vaccinations for infants over an extended period of time (as opposed to the tight “schedule” implemented in the United States) and does not vaccinate infants under 3 months of age. Since 1994, Japan has utilized a “voluntary vaccination” plan and found it to be highly effective. In short, mandatory vaccinations don’t always mean higher rates of true immunization. The Japanese government has pulled certain vaccines from the schedule when these were deemed unnecessary or not completely safe. As a result, the Japanese have a high degree of trust in their vaccine schedule.
The conference also addressed the problem of studies that fail to compare a tested vaccine with a true placebo control-group. Often, the placebo contains mercury or some other toxic substance. Sometimes another vaccine is used in the control group in lieu of a true placebo.
Several speakers gave pointers for individuals who want to get involved at the local level: 1) Become informed about the side effects of vaccines; 2) be familiar with your state’s laws (e.g., is a religious exemption available?); 3) educate others, such as legislators and family members (www.nvic.org).
On a related note, a New York state Supreme Court judge has granted a temporary restraining order against the requirement that all healthcare workers get the H1N1 vaccine. The restraining order, granted October 19, 2009, will be in effect until New York’s Supreme Court reviews the case in a hearing scheduled for October 30. The original order indicated that workers not vaccinated against seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus would be subject to disciplinary action after November 30. A 1990 court ruling rejected healthcare workers’ opposition to mandatory rubella vaccination.