The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: What Does the AP Report Really Show?

November 25, 2014 4 comments

This guest post has been written by Dr. Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of  the Law in San Francisco, CA.   Dr. Reiss contributes to various articles, blogs and law journals, utilizing her legal expertise to examine the social policies of immunization.

Side-Nav-one-third-VICPThis post responds to two articles. First, it addresses claims made in an article about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) which was created in 1986 by Congress through the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act.  The VICP is a no-fault alternative to the tort system designed to compensate those who claim they were injured by a vaccine.  The article draws on an Associated Press report which claims that the program is causing harm to Americans:  “[a] system intended to speed help to vaccine-injured Americans has instead heaped additional suffering on thousands of families.” This article itself highlights some important problems with the program, though its framing undervalues some of the program’s most important and claimant-friendly benefits – coverage of lawyer fees and lax evidentiary standards.

Worse, however, in an article dated November 18, 2014, The Northwestern used the story of Jeffrey McCord, a young man compensated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to suggest that petitioners to the program are abused by government lawyers. This latter story is much more misleading due to its inherent inaccuracies and lack of evidence-based support to the claim that the system is problematic.  Although there may certainly be things to improve about the program, they are not necessarily the issues highlighted in the article. The title claims that the court “keeps claimants waiting,” however, the reason for the program’s delays are not necessarily the fault of the defendants. In addition, Jeffrey McCord’s case is a poor example of a problem with the system.

I do not have the AP report (though I have recently received, and will address, a report about VICP from the Government Accountability Office, GAO; but AP claims to have their own report). I can therefore only respond to the stories’ depiction of it. I will address each of the criticisms in the report, and then rebut the inaccuracies from the Northwestern story: the problems with the McCord case, and the misuse of cases not compensated for autism.

The AP Reports Points, One By One

Read more…

Grassroots Fundraising Campaign Aims To Support Every Child By Two

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Written by Amy Pisani, ECBT Executive DirectorECBT Logo

Every Child By Two (ECBT) is thrilled to announce that a grassroots effort was recently launched to raise $10,000 in support of our ambitious mission to save the lives of children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Stephan N. of the We Love GMOs and Vaccines Facebook page created this Crowdrise fundraiser to help continue our critical work of sharing scientifically accurate information on the safety and necessity of life-saving vaccines with the public.

Please visit Crowdrise today to make a tax-deductible donation directly to Every Child By Two.  All donations made by December 31st will be DOUBLED by Every Child By Two Board Member Dr. Paul Offit (up to $10,000)!

Since Every Child By Two’s arrival on the social media scene back in 2008, we have been working to raise awareness of the need for timely immunizations through our Shot of Prevention blog, Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, and @ShotofPrev and @EveryChildByTwo Twitter feeds. ECBT continues to lead the way as one of the largest online sources of pro-vaccine information with nearly  seven million Facebook and Shot of Prevention blog views each year.

The successes we’ve seen are not just in the numbers of followers we have, but also in what our work has done to inspire others.  There are now dozens of pro-vaccine groups in existence throughout the world who share in our mission.   Our organization devotes a great deal of time sharing evidence-based vaccine information with our social media networks, which is used to educate individuals worldwide.  We hope that you will consider making a donation today to allow us to continue these efforts.

Beyond our social media endeavors, Every Child By Two has played an integral role over the past several decades in helping to set the standards for childhood immunization in America.  Our organization was founded by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers in 1991 as a response to a U.S. measles epidemic, which hospitalized and claimed the lives of many children.   Through nearly 25 years of service, Every Child By Two staff and cofounders have: 

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  • Visited every state in the U.S. to raise awareness about the critical importance of timely vaccinations; alert governors, mayors and community leaders about barriers to immunizations; and develop local and state immunization coalitions which continue to thrive today.
  • Helped to set and implement state and federal immunization policies that have had lasting impact on the health of our nation’s children.
  • Fought to establish the passage of laws mandating school-age vaccination requirements in nearly every state during the Carter Administration.
  • Helped implement and support the regular screening of vaccine records for the 50% of U.S. children and pregnant women served by USDA’s WIC program.
  • Served as a critical resource to local and national media reporting on vaccine-related issues, which has resulted in the proliferation of pro-science stories in both print and television.
  • Developed a number of public education campaigns including the Vaccinate Your Baby (VYB) initiative and the Immunize On Time, Every Time program.

Bus Shelter Emma

  • Educated healthcare providers and vaccine advocates about best practices and shared valuable resources for local dissemination.
  • Conducted regular briefings for federal legislators to ensure that public health policies and laws are based on sound scientific evidence and that the CDC and health departments are properly funded each year.

Every Child by Two has developed many successful strategies to ensure that every child in our nation is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases; however, there is still much to be done.  As long as a single person continues to fall victim to a vaccine-preventable disease, our work is not complete.

Visit the Every Child By Two website to learn more about our work. Please know that your donation will support our continued efforts to protect children and their families from deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.  

CDC Experts Address Flu Questions on Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook Forum

November 16, 2014 55 comments

FluEveryone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. This recommendation has been in place since 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination to expand protection against the flu to more people.  Since then flu vaccination rates have been gradually increasing, with the 20013-2014 season resulting in 46.2% off all people 6 months of age and older getting vaccinated.

While these rising rates are encouraging, there is room for improvement.  Last year, more than 105 flu-related deaths were reported among children, and nearly 60% of the flu-associated hospitalizations reported to the CDC’s influenza surveillance system were in people 18 to 64 years old.  Statistics like these serve as a constant reminder that the flu can be a very serious disease for anyone, including previously healthy adults and children.

This year we hope to do better.  If more people received their yearly flu vaccine, we could help reduce transmission of the virus and in turn prevent a great deal of loss and suffering.

To help educate the public about flu, the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page will be hosting a three-day flu forum to include CDC influenza experts.

VaxYourBaby Cover Photo - No KnockoutEach day we will focus on a different flu related topic. We’ll discuss ways to help protect expectant women and infants too young to receive their own influenza vaccination.  We’ll also discuss various chronic conditions that can cause flu complications and make existing health conditions worse.  And we’ll even discuss the steps you can take to fight flu each season.

  • Log onto Facebook Tuesday, Nov. 18th through Thursday, Nov. 20th.

  • “Like” and “Follow” the “Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook” page.

    (To follow the page, click on the grey “Follow” tab in the lower right corner of the Vaccinate Your Baby cover image.  This will help ensure that the status updates  are delivered directly to your Facebook news feed.)

  • Post a question under the flu status updates and a CDC influenza expert will provide a response which will post as a reply comment on the page within 24 hours.

We hope you will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get all your flu questions answered!

For more updates throughout the 2014-2015 influenza season, subscribe to Shot of Prevention (a CDC Digital Flu Ambassador), and follow @ShotofPrev and @CDCFlu on Twitter.

CDC Flu Ambassador Badge FINAL 2014-2015

Help Stop Pneumonia, the Leading Infectious Killer of Children

November 12, 2014 5 comments

Every 20 seconds a child dies from pneumonia.

This is the tragic reality we face, despite the fact that pneumonia is one of the most solvable problems in global health today.  As we mark World Pneumonia Day each year on November 12th, we commit ourselves to raising awareness about pneumonia’s toll and promoting interventions that can protect against, treat, and prevent the disease.  Today I ask you to support the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia in their fight against the world’s leading killer of children under age five.   Please help share key facts about pneumonia and ask others to take simple actions that can help combat pneumonia worldwide.

WPD_Logo_BannerKey Facts

Pneumonia is the leading infectious killer of children under five years old.

In 2013 alone, more than 900,000 children died from pneumonia, accounting for 15% of mortality worldwide in those under five years of age, and children in poor and rural communities are most affected.

Pneumonia creates an economic burden for families, communities, and governments.

Preventing pneumonia not only saves money that is spent on treatment, but it also allows children to become healthy, productive adults. The fact is that scaling up coverage of vaccines against Hib and pneumococcus in the world’s 73 poorest countries (2011-2020) would avert $51 billion dollars in treatment costs and productivity losses. This increase in vaccine coverage would also save 2.9 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness.

Ways We Can Protect Against, Prevent and Treat Pneumonia

To advance progress, we must continue to scale up interventions that we know will save children’s lives, including continued access to vaccines, proper antibiotic treatment, improved sanitation, as well as the promotion of practices such as breastfeeding, frequent hand washing, care seeking, and the use of clean cookstoves to reduce indoor air pollution.

Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring.  Meanwhile, other preventative strategies include zinc supplementation for children with diarrhea, prevention of HIV infection in children & antibiotic prophylaxis for HIV-infected children.  Additionally, we need to improve access to services and ensure effective and integrated case management strategies that provide children with proper and timely treatment.  For instance, antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, can prevent the majority of pneumonia deaths, and cost only about $US 0.21-0.42 per treatment course. Read more…

Dr. Harrison Explains Why Lyn Redwood of SafeMinds is Wrong About Genetic Research and Autism

November 5, 2014 210 comments

journalsEvery Child By Two is pleased to launch our new Expert Commentary Series which will be referenced here on Shot of Prevention with links to the in-depth articles that will be permanently housed on the Every Child By Two website. This series will feature guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.  Dr. Harrison has been closely following what he describes as “the so-called vaccine controversy,” and is eager to volunteer his time to provide his expert analysis of a variety of articles, research papers and books in order to systematically debunk the false claims made about the safety of vaccines.

Dr. Harrison’s passionate desire to combat false vaccine information is evident in his introductory bio and mission statement:

“Outbreaks of totally unnecessary vaccine-preventable diseases have been occurring as a consequence of misinformation and disinformation from anti-vaccine advocates who don’t understand science, don’t apply critical thinking, display poor scholarship….

I decided to devote time combating the misinformation and disinformation of the anti-vaccinationist by showing the level of poor scholarship, irrational, unscientific, and sometimes even lacking common sense claims made by anti-vaccinationists. My approach is quite simple. I will use accurate direct quotes from their articles and show, using accurate direct quotes from other articles and documents, together with clear explanations of scientific method, etc. that they literally don’t know what they are talking about. Each of my articles will contain detailed footnotes, including page numbers, and references with the URL/hyperlink to any papers available on the web.”

The idea for this new Expert Commentary Series was inspired by one of Dr. Harrison’s previous articles which was printed in The Open Vaccine Journal and featured here on the Shot of Prevention blog on May 16, 2014.  This article systematically debunked the claims regarding the dangers of vaccines made by Andrew Wakefield in his book “Callous Disregard.”

Today’s submission, written exclusively for Every Child By Two, is a review of Lyn Redwood’s ArticleScience as a Means of Social Controlposted by SafeMinds on August 23, 2013.  In his article, Dr. Harrison counters a series of arguments made by Lyn Redwood regarding genetic research and autism.  Redwood’s piece echoes the sentiments of another article she located on the internet which she believed validated her instincts that “science is being used as a means of exonerating industry and/or government for culpability by blaming the individual for having the poor luck of bad genetics.”  Dr. Harrison’s critique of Redwood’s premise is both thorough and quite insightful.

We are pleased to present this article, Wrong About Genetic Research & Autism, Lyn Redwood’s “Science as a Means of Social Control” as the latest piece in our Expert Commentary Series and we look forward to future articles by Dr. Harrison.

Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine Approved But Awaiting CDC Recommendations

October 30, 2014 67 comments

This mMeningococcalonth another college student succumbed to a strain of meningitis that is not covered in the currently recommended meningococcal vaccine. In 2013 and 2014 outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease occurred at Princeton University and University of California’s Santa Barbara (UCSB) campuses, prompting health officials to request special permission from the Food and Drug Administration to utilize a vaccine that is not currently licensed in the United States. More than 5,000 Princeton University students received the first dose of the MenB vaccine in December 2013, and more than 4,700 students received the second dose in February 2014. At UCSB, as many as 9,000 students received the first dose in February and March 2014 and more than 7,000 received the second dose in April 2014.

While some questioned the wisdom of using a vaccine that had yet to be licensed here in the U.S., clinical trials in other countries have shown that the same vaccine met safety and efficacy standards that cleared the way for licensure in the European Union, Canada, and Australia back in 2013. More than one million doses of the vaccine have since been distributed to over 30 countries where the vaccine was licensed, with little to no sign of serious adverse events. And, it has been determined that there have been no unusual patterns or occurrence of serious reactions reported among the students vaccinated here in the U.S.

Two different manufacturers (Pfizer and Novartis) have sought FDA approval of their MenB vaccines. Yesterday Pfizer received final approval and Novartis will be informed regarding the FDA’s decision in the next few months. In anticipation, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts that develop vaccine recommendations to help control diseases in the U.S., has been receiving reports from their meningococcal subcommittee. This subcommittee is tasked with investigating the epidemiology of this disease and the results of the clinical trials. These reports become critical in helping the ACIP to ultimately vote on whether the vaccines will be recommended to the public once approved and under what parameters.

Of course, this will be no easy job. It’s important to understand that there are five main serogroups (“strains”) of meningococcal bacteria: A, B, C, Y, and W. The most common ones that cause disease in the United States are B, C, and Y. Our current U.S. meningococcal vaccine covers the A,C, Y and W strains, but not serogroup B. The strain prevalence often varies by country. For instance, Australia and Europe see far more cases of serogroup B than we do here in the U.S. However, in 2012, there were about 500 total cases of meningococcal disease in the U.S, and 160 of those cases were caused by serogroup B. According to a presentation made at today’s ACIP meeting, in the years spanning from 1998-2012 there have been an average of 50 cases of serogroup B meningococcal disease per year in 18-24 year olds. When factoring in the recent outbreaks, serogroup B now causes 40% of all meningococcal disease cases among 11-24 year olds.

While statistically speaking, an average of 50 cases a year may not sound like a lot, how can one quantify the number of deaths, and life-long disabilities caused by meningococcal disease that is considered acceptable? Read more…

Fascinating Report on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

October 28, 2014 2 comments

Time and again I hear people on social media criticizing our immunization practices here in the United States.  Often they make suggestions that vaccine recommendations are made arbitrarily and without careful consideration.  Some even go so far as to suggest that vaccine recommendations are made for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of pharmaceutical companies.

My purpose in contributing to this blog has always been to inform people about immunizations and the various professionals and non-profit organizations working to ensure that timely immunizations are available to protect U.S. citizens from serious and often debilitating diseases.  What I’ve learned is that many people fail to recognize the great efforts that are made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)mmwrhead.  This committee consists of many dedicated immunization experts who are given the immense responsibility of providing external advice to the CDC and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Recently I read a detailed and fascinating MMWR report, written by Jean Clare Smith, MD, Alan R Hinman, MD, and Larry K. Pickering, MD, which summarizes the evolution of the ACIP over the past 50 years. I felt it was rather timely, given the fact that later this week the ACIP will meet once again, to discuss a variety of immunization related items. Read more…

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