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Posts Tagged ‘Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’

Sorry Kennedy, Being Anti-Vaccine Does Not Mean You’re Pro-Safe Vaccine

February 21, 2017 2 comments

Last week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of the World Mercury Project, orchestrated a major publicity stunt designed to question the safety of vaccines.  Since he had no real evidence to present, and the same accusations which have been repeatedly refuted for years, he attempted to garner attention by offering journalists a glimpse at a new anti-vaccine celebrity and the promise of a $100,000 challenge. 

During an hour-long press event on Wednesday, Kennedy was joined by other vaccine critics such as ‘Vaxxed’ movie producer Del BigTree, San Antonio District Attorney Nico LaHood, Tony Muhammed of the Nation of Islam and celebrity actor, filmmaker and father of an autistic child, Robert DeNiro.

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. addressed a small gathering of people at last week’s  press conference.

While each had their turn to suggest there was a worldwide scientific conspiracy to lie about vaccine safety, Kennedy concluded by announcing that he would give a $100,000 award to any American journalist who could produce a study that proved that the level of thimerosal used in vaccines was deemed to be safe.

(Of course, since he failed to mention the fee required to participate in the challenge, made no reference to a scientific expert(s) who would assist in evaluating the science, and refused to accept the mountains of studies that already exist on the subject, his promise of a payout was seen by many as an elaborate publicity scam.)

On Thursday, Kennedy continued his crusade on Capitol Hill by renting out a Congressional briefing room and attempting to lure legislators with the involvement of celebrity Robert DeNiro. While staunch vaccine refusers were invigorated by these meetings, hanging on the hope that Kennedy could possibly make inroads with the current administration and put an end to vaccine injury once and for all, the reality is that hardly anyone was listening.

With about 40 people in attendance on Wednesday, and not one member of Congress showing up on Thursday, it’s safe to say that Kennedy’s message is only echoing among those who already support him.  Even DeNiro appeared to have lost interest since he was notably absent from Thursday’s event on Capitol Hill.

As expected, there have already been dozens of commentary that address Kennedy’s misinformation.  However, there is still one statement he made that I feel the need to address.

Kennedy claimed, “I’m not anti-vaccine.  I’m pro-safe vaccines.”  

It’s understandable for people to say,“Yes, I vaccinate, but I don’t feel completely certain that vaccines are safe.” Since we’re unable to guarantee that vaccines will be 100% safe, this “pro-safe vaccine” battle cry is an effective way to appeal to parents who don’t have the time, the understanding or the inclination to delve into the science that supports the widespread use of vaccines.

cf8oebjwqaa6l2nBy using this “pro-safe vaccine” label, Kennedy and others like him play into the emotional need of parents to protect their children while dangerously misleading them into thinking that vaccines are far more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.  In essence, this statement is used to help anti-vaccine crusaders turn vaccine safety into a personal and anecdotal issue, when we should all be demanding that vaccine safety be investigated and addressed with scientific objectivity.

Kennedy continues to try to discredit his critics by questioning, “Why wouldn’t anyone be agreeable to studying vaccine safety?”  He seems to suggest that anyone who isn’t “with” him in arguing that vaccines aren’t safe, is simply against safe vaccines.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Vaccine experts ARE agreeable to studying vaccine safety. In fact, that is largely what they do. But unlike Kennedy, they don’t rely on anecdotal evidence.  They demand scientific evidence and they go to great lengths to get it. 

If we were to go back in history, we would see plenty of examples of how our current vaccine safety protocols have successfully identified problems and taken steps to address them.  Consider the history of the rotavirus vaccine.  The vaccine was withdrawn in 1999 after scientists associated it with a rare intestinal problem called intussusception.  This would not have been identified if it weren’t for the vaccine safety monitoring systems that we currently have in place.  And what about the nasal spry flu vaccine which was pulled just prior to this flu season?  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) decided not to recommend the vaccine based on low efficacy studies, especially among children.  Again, an example of action taken by one of our current vaccine oversight committees.  There are plenty of other examples of vaccines being pulled from the market – the whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP), Lyme vaccine, and oral polio to name a few. These instances occurred because of the vaccine safety protocols in place. Read more…

How Fake Vaccine News Is Dangerous to Us All

February 9, 2017 2 comments

Fake news is nothing new to vaccine advocates.

Happy senior asian couple working with laptopFor years we’ve been countering vaccine misinformation from a large number of sites such as Mercola, Natural News, Age of Autism and dozens of others.  They each have their own way of claiming that vaccine risks outweigh their benefits, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence from experts around the world that says otherwise.

Despite the fact that these sites fail to provide evidence to back up their false claims, the misinformation they routinely publish is widely circulated on social media and it’s likely that their efforts can contribute to the doubts that some Americans have about the safety and efficacy of today’s vaccines.

This is why day after day, and year after year, countless organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to provide the public with evidence-based information about vaccines through informative websites like Vaccinate Your Family, and social media accounts like the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page and @ShotofPrev Twitter account.

But this week, fake vaccine news has entered an entirely new realm and it is rather concerning.

Yesterday I woke to such headlines as, ‘Trump Orders CDC to Remove all Vaccination Related Information from Website’ and ‘President Trump Signed an Executive Order Banning Childhood Vaccinations for 90 Days’.

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These, and other outrageous stories that are circulating on the internet, signal a new level of hysteria that is dangerous for us all.

While it is comforting to know that these articles were irresponsibly inaccurate, I’m still left questioning the motives and intent behind these headlines.  What were the the authors’ and publishers’ hoping to achieve?  Read more…

Multiple Vaccine Oversight Committees Ensure Our Public Safety

January 11, 2017 120 comments
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This guest post has been written by Dr. Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law.  Dr. Reiss is a regular contributor to various blogs and law journals, where she utilizing her legal expertise to examine the social policies of immunization.

Regulating Vaccine Safety, by Dr. Dorit Reiss

According to yesterday’s news reports, long-time vaccine critic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. met with President-elect Donald Trump. 

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-56-35-pmFollowing their meeting Kennedy reported that an offer was made to lead a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. As one would imagine, this has caused concern for immunization advocates and elation among anti-vaccine activists. It is, at this point, unclear whether Kennedy’s statements are true, as a Trump spokesperson issued an email statement that Forbes reported as follows:

“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals.”

While Trump’s intentions in meeting with Kennedy may still be unclear, this is a good opportunity for us to review the specific ways in which vaccine safety is regulated here in the U.S., and the oversight committees that monitor vaccines pre and post licensure.

To begin, it is safe to say that vaccine safety is heavily regulated in the United States, with multiple systems overseeing the vaccine enterprise.

It would be hard to hide a problem if one existed. Further scrutiny reveals that vaccines are very safe and that when problems occur, they are quickly discovered and addressed.  It is important to also note that many of the same vaccines used in the U.S. are also studied and used in other countries. Even if the U.S. apparatus was completely flawed, it would be hard to hide any dangers in this age of global communications, intra-government collaboration and oversight.

Vaccine Regulation in the United States

The U.S. is a regulatory state and vaccines are no exception. The vaccine licensing process goes through multiple stages of vaccine testing and approval, as depicted in the CDC infographic pictured at right.journey-of-child-vaccine_sm.png

However, before a vaccine can even begin the clinical trial phase in humans, a request must be submitted to the FDA in the form of an Investigational New Drug application, which requires toxicology and animal data. (For more details on this regulation, you can refer to the resource here.)

This is followed by clinical testing, which is also heavily regulated as can be seen in a review of these references here and here.

While the FDA is underfunded and understaffed, and may not have the ability to constantly monitor all trials, companies know that FDA monitoring is to be expected and they must assume their trials will be reviewed.

Furthermore, once the clinical trials are complete, there is an additional layer of review. The sponsor and FDA present the results of the clinical trials to the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). Most members of this committee are not part of the FDA; instead the committee is comprised of consumer representatives, as well as experts in relevant fields, many of whom work in universities or hospitals.  The current roster for the Committee can be found here.  The committee is further governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires pre-announced public meetings.

After the licensing process is complete, there are several monitoring systems in place.  Read more…