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"What About Immunizations?" -- Q&A With Cynthia Cournoyer

Posted Oct 01 2011 12:00am

Q&A2 By Anne Dachel

I recently read the book, What About Immunizations? Exposing the Vaccine Philosophy, by Cynthia Cournoyer.  It’s an excellent account that explores the almost sacred status given to the vaccine schedule.  (At Amazon HERE.)

Cynthia mentioned Barbara Loe Fisher, head of the  National Vaccine Information Center in her book and I couldn’t help but notice Barbara on the  trailer for The Greater Good.   She is heard saying, “A number of prescription drugs have been licensed as safe and have been found to be unsafe.”

We’re willing to accept that medications that were tested, approved and prescribed by countless doctors ended up hurting and even killing people.  Vioxx is said to have killed tens of thousands of people and Crestor, Fosamax, Prozac, Yaz, Chantix, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexipro, Celexa and lots of other drugs are the subjects of ads for lawsuits over side effects.  “Have you or a loved one taken the drug…. and suffered a stroke, heart attack, or…. given birth to a child with congenital heart defects…”

Yet, when it comes to vaccines, it’s a whole different world.; First of all, vaccines are so important that they are mandated by the government and universally promoted by pediatricians. How could the government mandate something that ends up hurting certain children? How could doctors insist that your child have a vaccine that could damage them for life? It would mean that lots of people we have faith in can’t be trusted. This is the unthinkable for many,

There is this almost mystical aura that surrounds vaccinations. I’m sure lots of parents have had experiences similar to mine. You've been talking to other parents about your child’s autism and you mention that he or she was fine until they were vaccinated and that this led to the descent into autism. Suddenly, the conversation stops. The subject is changed. This is too much to handle. We can’t go there. Vaccines are responsible for eradicating life-threatening diseases. It’s impossible to believe that they might be bad for some kids.

Cynthia explores the world of the “vaccine philosophy” in her book. I interviewed Cynthia to find out why vaccines are the sacred cow of health care. Why is talking against vaccines like attacking motherhood in the minds of so many? Here are her answers.

Why is it that people seem so conditioned to accept the mandated vaccine schedule without question, at the same time countless drugs are found to have serious, even life-threatening side effects?

From the time vaccines first became incorporated into our society, we see a double standard. People readily accept that drugs have side effects, that some drugs are potentially dangerous, almost to the point that we are desensitized to hearing a litany of possible disasters. Meanwhile, some drugs are ultimately phased out, either because something better replaces them or because they are forcibly removed from the market. Whether legitimate or not, vaccines have earned a status in our culture that holds them apart from any other pharmaceuticals or medical procedures.

You hit it right by characterizing this problem as “conditioned to accept.” I submit that our collective acceptance of vaccines stems from cultural conditioning to embrace them without question.

Far more debate is tolerated in other areas of medicine. Far more debate occurs around politicsand religion, but our population has been taught not to question the procedure of vaccination.
Children’s literature is permeated with the idea that vaccines are good and necessary. It is so accepted that some people are extremely confident it can’t be controversial. I have a card I removed from a game of Apples to Apples Junior. The bold letters on the side say, “Getting a Shot” and the standard definition says, “It’s better than getting sick.” When parents question giving a vaccine, it is treated like a suggestion of withholding food and water from a child. No shots, no school is so ingrained in people’s collective consciousness that to them, it is the equivalent to believing that it is a good idea to stop at a red light. People tend not to question vaccines becausethey also tend to think they shouldn’t. The population in general is shielded from controversy on the subject because standard media outlets subsist on large amounts of advertising dollars from drug manufacturers, some of which also make vaccines. Stories of suspected vaccine damage don’t get the air time they deserve. Health-care workers are threatened with job loss (or worse) if they don’t go-along-to-get-along. Also, the government vaccine court has halted any natural mechanism that would have let the free market play out. In other words, lawsuits were beginning to drive vaccine manufacturers out of the industry, so they sought protection through the government. Can you imagine that if automobile manufacturers couldn’t be sued for unsafe vehicles? No matter what they manufactured, lawsuits would never affect their bottom line? No recalls, nosafety, just lots of dead and injured people while the industry went merrily along?
Describe the “vaccine philosophy” and how it came about.

The vaccine philosophy is the belief that vaccines are always safe and effective. It is this belief that perpetuates vaccine science and the unswerving acceptance of them as part of preventive health. I came up with this term after writing about vaccines, starting almost 30 years ago. I researched all available material on the newly-emerging vaccine controversy. I soon found out that no matter how much new information surfaced on the possibility of vaccine danger or failure, people still chose to believe in them. Contrary to philosophy, science for the most part, is a discipline with its basis in tested facts. Through observation and repeated testing, new discoveries are added to a body of knowledge that is not usually disputed. Vaccination has been questioned since its beginning over 200 years ago. There have always been controversies and objectors Since the controversy will not go away, and vaccine facts are constantly debated, we can more accurately describe this in the realm of philosophy, where opinions and beliefs carry more weight. Those who choose not to vaccinate believe they have very good reasons. Those feelings are strong and arguably based in fact. Those who choose to vaccinate believe that they are following established facts and are unaware of, or choose to ignore any controversy. When it’s boiled down you are left with a set of beliefs, both supported by “facts.” This is philosophy at its core.

 If we all can agree that certain people could be adversely affected by vaccinations, shouldn’t parents be concerned that there is no way to screen a child to find out if he or she may be vulnerable to vaccine damage?

I love the phrase “one-size-fits-all,” first applied to describing vaccine science, by pioneer Barbara L. Fisher. The strength of the vaccine philosophy is noticeable here because, unlike any other drug which might be given based on health history, weight, or regular blood screenings, vaccines are the only products given to all children on the recommendation they receive them at the exact vsame time in the exact same dose, without a careful health-history screening. The fact that you can now receive a vaccine in a grocery store without fitting the prescription to the very unique situation of an individual, proves again it is more about belief than science. I agree parents should be very concerned about the effects of vaccines. If vaccines can hurt some children very badly then maybe they hurt all children to some lesser degree. You suggest that we might all agree that certain people could be adversely affected by vaccinations. It is too bad that in reality, we don’t all agree to that. It is still an uphill battle for the two sides to come together. The vast majority of people believe that all vaccines are good for all people all the time. They believe one in a million reaction rate, and that a reaction is probably a coincidence. They believe that reactions are infinitesimal and worth it for the “greater good” of society. Part of the reason that it is imperative to cover up reactions, is that vaccination rates would fall if too many people were scared to get vaccinated. Then, they say, epidemics would come back. I believe this is a false choice because for one thing, other countries vaccinate less than we do, and we don’t see a bunch of epidemics. And those who have not lived through the controversies of the last 30 years may not understand that new vaccines have appeared, having nothing to do with an epidemic. We do not have an epidemic of chickenpox. It was a disease that we all went through, mostly unscathed Now, because a vaccine exists, it is somehow more scary than it used to be and the vaccine has become as necessary as any other. This doesn’t make sense to those who don’t believe the vaccine philosophy. The broad recommendation for vaccinating everyone from 6 months old to end-of-life on a yearly basis with the flu vaccine is very recent. The rates of flu have not changed over the years. Some years are up and then down again. A flu shot shortage did not turn into people dying in the streets. When my children were young we did not worry they would die from the flu. Yet, the recommendations have escalated. The California news about the Gardasil vaccine becoming available to 12 year old girls without parents’ permission erodes the confidence of the most ardent vaccine supporter. So I contend that recommendations for vaccines have nothing to do with preventing modern epidemics or avoiding vaccine damage. This is why there is no motivation to find ways for screening for reactions.

Are parents too trusting when it comes to the claims of health officials and doctors?

Parents want the best for their children. Parents would do anything to protect them. This is a very strong bond and one I believe is exploited to promote the vaccine philosophy. Parents want to believe that vaccines are safe and effective, otherwise they wouldn’t agree to it. Of course parents would trust health-care givers if it meant saving the life of a child. Doctors are highly educated, and understand things that most of us do not. They are steeped in a culture that promotes the vaccine philosophy and they are not likely to turn their back on everything they know. If the doctor says vaccinate to save a life, we do it. And there is huge pressure for parents to give in to routine vaccination. I have talked to some parents who say that they were yelled at on the way out the door after refusing vaccines, “Your child is going to die!” There are strong emotions on both sides. And the authority figure usually wins. The contradiction is that we consider it standard practice to get second opinions on suggested surgery or other medical procedures. To take the point further, we shop for a good mechanic and we don’t take the words of a salesman at face value. But the guy in the white coat is supposed to care about us, and have the kid’s best interest at heart. They are healers for heaven’s sake. I remember thinking that if I had my child vaccinated today, that I would take a healthy child in and take home one with a fever, red leg and fussy. It didn’t make sense to me. To the degree that vaccines actually cause damage or death, then parents were too trusting.

Why is the number of disbelievers in the vaccine philosophy growing?

As the vaccine schedule is expanded, an argument follows that reactions also increase. If there were ever any problems with vaccines, then you can safely say that as vaccine recommendations have doubled and tripled, the failures and damage would double and triple. This initiates many more into a world of forever helping a child deal with health conditions parents believe were directly caused by administering vaccines. Once a person witnesses first-hand what a vaccine can do to a susceptible child, he forever doubts the whole process of vaccinating. When I first started writing about vaccines, there were relatively few who suffered vaccine damage. Chances are back then, you may not have know anyone who was. Now, children are so severely chronically ill with a myriad of conditions not so pervasive a generation ago, that it just can be no longer ignored. Our ways of communicating with each other has also changed dramatically. We get information instantly and we share stories with the world with ease. If someone wants to find information about both sides of the vaccine controversy, it is much easier to do today. Also, as the schedule expands for things like Hep B at birth, HPV for 9 year old girls and boys, it hits the average person as possibly absurd. We are no longer talking about polio epidemics. If parents leave the doctors office after every limb has been punctured with 9 different vaccines, parents start to feel overloaded and question, why so many? If you could keep making vaccines with impunity, why wouldn’t you? If you have the most respected profession and the government behind you, why not load the pipeline with more?

What are some of our assumptions when it comes to vaccines?

People assume vaccines are safe and effective, otherwise they wouldn’t be so common place. The trouble is, most of our assumptions came about through constant reinforcement of simple explanations. For instance, that vaccines just give you a weakened form of a disease so you will be immune. The problem with that is that there are unintended consequences to so many vaccines. Vaccines contain ingredients that are proven to be harmful. Even if you assume that vaccines are able to prevent diseases, you have to ask, at what cost? Are we trading acute infectious diseases for less curable and more pervasive chronic and deadly illnesses? People assume that vaccines are so safe, that questions about them are stupid. People assume their children must be vaccinated in order to attend school. All states have vaccine exemptions, and as far as the law is concerned, in the vast majority of cases, the law requires that agencies and institutions must provide a form that either lists the vaccines given or shows that the parents requested an exemption. It is not against the law to remain unvaccinated, it is against the law for agencies to have incomplete forms. Signing the exemption completes the form in a vast majority of cases.

Why aren’t doctors like Harold Buttram, Mayer Eisenstein, and F. Edward Yazbak who challenge the vaccine safety claims of health officials able to make their voice heard in the press?

Physicians and scientists who question the use of vaccines are marginalized in the media. They are not taken seriously because the tide is going toward further promotion of vaccines. They are not taken seriously because there is no motivation for anyone to back away from what might be the worst case ever seen of technology gone wrong. Too many human frailties prevent the integrity of honest studies that use scientific methods of observation, done without conflicts of interest. If we could have these honest studies, the tide would turn away from more vaccines until fewer and fewer would eventually be the norm. Going against the status quo is difficult and often happens slowly. People who choose a different philosophy when it comes to vaccines may be correct about vaccines causing autism or chronic illness, they may be correct about vaccines damaging our immune systems, but they are relatively alone. We hear the vaccine philosophers point of view so often and so loudly, backed by most doctors, most governments and most people, that those few honest doctors and scientists are easily ignored. But, it will always come down to integrity, and I believe that the truth will someday become so glaring, that these pioneers, and others will be viewed as blazing a trail that will prevent endless suffering.
If we don’t believe the vaccine philosophy, what can we do to turn the tide?

Today’s vaccine controversy is far-reaching. Those who have been personally touched by vaccine damage or vaccine-caused death, go through the gamut of emotions and these emotions are eventually channeled into becoming activists in the debate. Some focus on changing the political tide, some focus on writing their stories as a form of catharsis and so others can learn. Most will warn their friends and family or casual acquaintances about the possible dangers of vaccines. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the more people become aware of vaccines’ possible dangers, and the more people choose not to accept vaccines unconditionally, the “push back” gets stronger. Executive orders, stiffer legislation, all frustrate the avid activist. I would like to leave you with the idea that the power is ultimately with us. We are the consumers, and that necessarily puts us in the driver’s seat. No buyer, no vaccine. If we stop purchasing vaccines, we create a healthier population. Exercising the freedom to opt out empowers people to take responsibility for their health. I live near an area (Ashland, Oregon) where up to 40% of the children are“religious exemption.” Parents have opted out. There are no epidemics. The same can be said for Mayer Eisenstein’s practice and the Amish population. It is possible to create pockets of health, and thatis some people’s chosen form of “activism.”

Cynthia Cournoyer is a mother of three adult children, two with ASD’s. She has been observing
the vaccine controversy since 1981. The 7th edition of her book. (HERE)
 What About Immunizations? Exposing the Vaccine Philosophy is available on Amazon
Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism.

Posted by Age of Autism at October 19, 2011 at 5:47 AM in Anne Dachel , Vaccine Safety Permalink

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