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OPINION: Return of the Vaccine Juggernaut

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by Charlotte Gilruth

“Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship.”

—Noam Chomsky

Early in 2012, the Department of Health falsely claimed a dangerous decline in Vermont’s vaccination rates. Media buzzed with the manufactured crisis, inciting fear of imminent epidemics in the minds of legislators and the public. Bills were introduced in the legislature to eliminate the philosophical exemption to vaccines, and for months parents fought to retain the right to make medical choices for their children. The House eventually voted 133 to 6 to keep the philosophical exemption.

Now, exactly as in 2012, Vermont’s vaccination rates are portrayed inaccurately. In truth, according to the Health Department’s own data, fewer than 1 percent (of the four grades tracked statewide) used the philosophical exemption last year to opt out of the M-M-R vaccine. And Vermont has had only one case of the measles in Vermont in the past 10 years.

To put the current measles “emergency” in perspective, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden states, “Antimicrobial resistance is one of our most serious health threats.” More than two million Americans annually get infected with drug-resistant bacteria and viruses, and of those at least 23,000 die — that’s 63 deaths a day from disease spreading in our communities. In stark contrast, there have been no measles fatalities in the U.S. in 10 years. Why no widespread panic over infectious diseases that pose much more real threat than measles?

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Pharma pays more than any other industry for lobbyists and advertising in an American media 90 percent controlled by five giant conglomerate corporations. In 2014, the Vermont Health Department spent $95,000 promoting the HPV vaccine and the childhood vaccination program.

Vaccines bear zero liability, either for manufacturers or those who administer them: In 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe,” and confirmed that vaccine manufacturers cannot be sued in a court of law. Many drug companies which also sell vaccines — including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Merck, Pfizer, and Sanofi — have recently been found guilty of fraud. Can they be trusted to make children’s health their top priority?        

The vaccine industry has perfected a fear-based marketing plan. The Centers for Disease Control, the nation’s most powerful promoter of vaccination, employs behaviorists and “communications specialists” to find ways to increase vaccination compliance. A 2010 survey sponsored by the CDC found that three fears spurred participants to get the flu vaccine: “news that flu is spreading in their community; news that flu is causing serious illness/death; and evidence that by getting vaccinated they can help protect others from flu.” This template is successfully used now to hype the fear of measles.

Particularly insidious is marketing disguised as public service announcements, which, says Pharma critic Dr. John Abramson, “just seem to emerge spontaneously, usually with no obvious connection to a commercial source. Public relations firms earn their keep by skillfully blurring the line between independent news and commercially planted ‘information.’”

Fake grassroots (“astroturf”) groups created and funded by the vaccine industry, are “helping vaccine developers quash potential criticism from behind a thin veneer of citizen concern,” according to one observer. “Voices for Vaccines” purports to be a “parent-driven” group  providing “…clear, science-based information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease,”  but actually is an offshoot of a task force funded by Merck and Novartis, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with its global vaccination agenda. A CDC veteran serves as director.

Voices for Vaccines (V4V) creates a climate of suspicion and hatred against those who question vaccination. V4V pilloried Jenny McCarthy, co-host of popular talk show “The View.” (McCarthy vociferously blames her son’s autism on vaccine injury.)

Physician Marcia Angell, former editor of New England Journal of Medicine who extensively researched and exposed the abuses of drug companies, asserts that their “…PR is extremely slick, so education is the first thing consumers can do to protect themselves.”

Since 2011, starting in Washington State and extending to more states every year, erroneous information about vaccine exemption rates has been used to attack parental choice regarding children’s health. Vermont was targeted in 2012 and is under assault once again, as bills are introduced to eliminate its philosophical exemptions.

Public discourse about a basic human right is not served by fear-mongering and bullying, but rather should focus on transparency, safety and choice.

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