VACCINATIONS: Hearing Looks at Safety Questions
Amidst contentions that some vaccinations are harmful to children, a slew of government officials and parents testified yesterday at a hearing called by House Government Reform Committee Chair Dan Burton (R-IN) on mandatory vaccinations for children. Burton himself said that his grandchildren had become ill after receiving hepatitis B vaccines, one requiring hospitalization and one later developing autism. "You can call that a coincidence," Burton said, "but I think it is more." Burton added that "there were reports last year of more than 11,000 cases of children getting sick after inoculations." Additional witnesses talked about "relatives who were harmed because vaccines were not used." But Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the committee's ranking member, "chided Burton for not having doctors who have studied vaccines for years and experts from vaccine manufacturers testifying at the hearing," AP/Nando Times reports.
Vacillating on Vaccinations
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, the hearing's lead witness, "defended the use of mandatory childhood inoculations." "When children are not immunized, outbreaks (of disease) occur," Satcher testified. "If states didn't have rules (requiring shots) for getting into school, then many would get sick." Satcher did concede, however, that vaccines are not "100% safe," saying, "They have risks. A small percentage of children do suffer injuries" (AP/Nando Times, 8/3). Representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterated their support for mandatory vaccines, noting that if parents chose not to vaccinate their children due to "unfounded, unscientific misinformation ... the nation will experience outbreaks of dangerous diseases" (AAP release, 8/3). The American Liver Foundation also announced its continued support for "routine infant immunization" against hepatitis B, noting that prior to mandatory vaccine some 45,000 infants and children contracted hepatitis B each year, and that "there is a large disease burden attributable to [hepatitis B] that occurs among children" (ALF release, 8/3). But in a reversal of its previous policy, the Association of American Surgeons came out against mandatory vaccines, "particularly for hepatitis B." In a letter to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, the group noted that the hepatitis B vaccine resulted in 48 deaths after being administered to newborns and young schoolchildren. "While we acknowledge that vaccines in the past have prevented many serious illnesses, they also have the potential to do great harm if given to the wrong individual," said AAS Executive Director Janie Orient, "That decision must be made by the patient (or parent) in consultation with their physician -- not through coercion by a government agency or school district" (AAS release, 8/3).