What are The Advisory Council of Childhood Vaccines and the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
Posted Apr 01 2013 12:00am
By Wayne Rohde
Has anyone heard of the ACCV,
the Advisory Council of Childhood Vaccines to the Department of Health and
Human Services? Most people have not and
what’s worse, a large majority of the public does not know about the Vaccine
Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
The ACCV was formed as the
advisory committee to the program or specifically to the Secretary of HHS. There are several members, most serving as
representatives for industry and medical agencies, a petitioner attorney, and
two parent representatives, who have vaccine injured children. The meetings are held quarterly, the last one
Thursday, March 7th. The next
meeting will be Thursday, June 6th.
The general public is invited to attend via conference call. Currently, the meetings are held on one day, for
6 to 8 hours to discuss topics of concern to the committee. Status reports about the adjudication of
petitions are also discussed, as well as the report from DOJ attorneys on the
status of cases that are appealed or remanded back to the Vaccine Court. Lastly, workgroup reports on recommendations
that can be sent on to the Secretary of HHS are reviewed.
After reading the transcripts of
quarterly meetings for the past several years, I have noticed most of the
members are not advocates for the general public or vaccine safety. The attorney member and parent
representatives are the only ones to challenge the status quo of our nation’s
vaccine policy during this meeting.
A topic that should be important
to all of us is the committee’s charge and responsibility of conducting public
outreach, in other words, educating the general public and medical communities
about the VICP. But as with all issues
regarding vaccine policy, special interests and their political clout enters
the chambers of the committee and put a damper on what should be a clear and
laser focused effort to provide information to the general public about vaccine
In 2009 and 2010, the committee
made an attempt to develop a public outreach program. Heavy discussion and debate regarding the determination
of goals to inform the public was the topic during the meetings. Was the end result going to be attendance at
a few medical tradeshows and handing out a couple dozen brochures to a few
doctors who stop by the booth? Or
perhaps the development and expansion of the website to provide more information
and links to the program, or even developing a Public Service Announcement and
placing it on TV and Radio outlets, or use of social media?
The discussion of developing a
PSA was very interesting and telling of the motives of several members of this
committee. The discussion about a PSA
would actually scare more people not to vaccinate trumped the discussion of
educating them on what happens if you suspect a vaccine injury.
But what I find very
frustrating is what happens with most federal committees and commissions. The committee decided to spend $300,000.00 to contract with a private
vendor, Banyon Communications, to develop a public outreach program.
The end result was presented to
the committee a year later. For
$300,000.00, the ACCV decided to provide a couple of links on the website and
publish a couple of documents of their recommendations of reform measures that
were sent to the Secretary of HHS a few years earlier.
I think that many of us could
have thought about this type of recommendation in a couple of minutes, over a
cup of coffee, but over a year later and $300,000.00, here we are.
That was the extent of the
public outreach. Can’t modify the
Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) to make it more prominent about VICP. That is CDC territory. Handcuffed to produce a Public Service
Announcement for Radio and TV. That is taboo
because too many people will be scared about what might actually happen to
their children. And it will begin a slow decay of one of the cornerstones of
the vaccine industry. That vaccine
injury is very rare. But what is even
worse, is the compensation to a vaccine injury is even rarer. And that civil injustice is very rampant.
The current chair of the ACCV,
David King, is a father of a vaccine injured child. And he is a very qualified and effective
chairperson. He is a strong advocate for
many of our children. And he needs your
During the most recent
committee conference call, a few items popped up that are concerning. One, the announcement by Dr. Vito Caserta,
Executive Secretary of the VICP, that future meetings will be by conference
call. When asked by several members of
the committee if the opportunity to resume the traditional committee in person
meetings, Dr. Caserta told the committee that due to budget concerns and the
pending sequester, the quarterly meetings will be held via conference call. No more face to face discussions, interacting
with other committee members, and the ability for a member to look another
member in the eye and ask the important questions. So as new members rotate into the committee,
they will not have a sense of who the other members are, the inability to build
relationships to allow for collaboration of ideas.
Now it does not take a PhD to
figure out that something is at play.
The budget and expenses of the ACCV are part of an allotment from the
NVICP Trust Fund. Thus, not subject to
federal budgets or sequester. So what is
going on? Could it be a cash flow
problem since most of the trust fund is invested in Treasury Securities and
this coincides with some recent discussions of why the court might delay
payments for attorney fees or large settlements in the second half of the
budget year, which ends Sept 2013?
Another development that has
taken place is that the December 7th, 2012 meeting was the last
meeting to have a written transcript produced.
Thus, the March meeting and going forward, no written transcripts will
be made available. Hopefully an audio
recording will be made available. It has
been over 3 weeks since the last meeting and no audio recording has been
published on the website. A written
transcript is a physical record of the meeting.
Are there some currents under
the surface to slowly drift away from public transparency and scrutiny of the
Vaccine Program? On February 23, 2013,
the PACER (Pubic
Access to Court Electronic Records) was modified to eliminate a common but very
necessary method of searching for petitions by vaccine injury such as MMR
injury, HPV death, or Hep B injury.
And the most concerning was the
discussion about a report from a working group within the ACCV regarding the
increasing number of petitions filed from pregnant women. Most of them are filing injuries not only to
themselves but also to their unborn children.
And the government’s position, (HHS), is that the pregnant mother is
being administered the vaccine and the unborn child is not. So any injures to the child are not covered
by the program. Because of this current
precedent, petitions are dismissed because of “Lack of Jurisdiction” ruling. But this has a lot of people very nervous
within the program. NVAC has been
discussing this issue also. Look for
this topic to be front and center as our nation’s vaccination policy ramps up
promotion of vaccination of pregnant women.
So people need to start asking,
what is the real purpose of the ACCV? No
genuine public education of the NVICP. A
possible reduction in transparency of the program? No more face to face committee meetings with
questions submitted prior to the meeting.
As a result, topics like immunization of pregnant mothers are left
without a voice of the people.
Next ACCV Meeting is June 6th
Wayne Rohde lives in Woodbury,
MN. Father of Nick Rohde, a 15 year old
vaccine injured boy who later was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Wayne is currently writing a book about the
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.