From the May 2000 Idaho Observer:

Vaccine forum attendees demand debate

SANDPOINT -- At least 40 people attended a Community Vaccination Forum at the Sandpoint Community Hall here April 21, 2000. A panel comprised of three pro-vaccine physicians struggled to adequately address concerns that parents voiced regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. The panel consisted of Dr. Joyce Gilbert and Dr. George Deland of Sandpoint Pediatrics and Dr. Sherilyn Smith, an instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Sandpoint Mayor Paul Graves was the meeting's moderator.

After introducing the panel, Graves asked if there was anyone who had a story to share. As if on cue, an elderly woman from the audience stepped forward and attempted to set the mood of the forum by sharing her story. She attested to suffering numerous health problems all her life from the repercussions of what are now vaccine preventable diseases she had contracted while growing up. She chastised those who would turn down the opportunity to prevent these dread diseases with a vaccination. She concluded by stating how much modern medicine has helped her mobility and ability to function normally.

Dr. Blaze Welch, a local chiropractor, changed the mood of the room. By using tetanus toxoid as an example, he questioned the wisdom of routinely vaccinating for diseases which are rare and no longer deadly (given adequate and appropriate medical attention). He ended by stressing the importance of education and the rights of individuals to have informed choice.

Another elderly woman read from her notes extolling the virtues of vaccinations and why she believes that childhood diseases are now but a memory due to the miracle of vaccinations.

From that point on it appeared that those who had reason to doubt the safety and efficacy of mass vaccination as sound public health began to tally points.

Internationally renowned author, lecturer and Sandpoint resident Dr. Len Horowitz eloquently shared his training in public health policy and how, as a public health educator, he used to advocate vaccination as sound public health policy. Dr. Horowitz explained how he and his wife's eyes opened wide when they began to research which vaccines they should and should not give to their first born child, Alena. Dr. Horowitz continued to research vaccines and ultimately wrote the best-selling book, Emerging Viruses: AIDS & Ebola - Nature, Accident or Intentional? He ended by telling us that both the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines were contaminated with the SV-40 virus; this same virus being the common denominator in the epidemic numbers of unusual cancers plaguing the nation.

Tina Jantz brought tears to the eyes of many people with her emotional description of how her third child began having seizures at two months of age shortly after being vaccinated.

The fact that her daughter's problems are typical of a vaccine reaction has her concerned that the vaccines are not as safe as we are told and believes that the decision whether or not to vaccinate is a personal one which should be honored. She also believes that the doctors are not telling their patients the whole truth about vaccines and that we should take the time to educate ourselves on the issue from all available resources.

“How can we trust information that comes from the purveyors of vaccines?” asked Sagle resident Kevin Tighe.

Dr. Smith responded by agreeing that most vaccine information relied upon by doctors is published by vaccine manufacturers. She agreed that the educational materials used and disseminated by health departments and doctor's offices were produced by the pharmaceutical companies.

Moderator Graves took control of the meeting at this point by insisting that we address the questions that were submitted ahead of time in a box that was placed in the lobby of Bonner General Hospital. The question/answer period proved to be extremely challenging to the panelists who must be commended for their grace under pressure.

The first question was: Is there a connection between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and vaccines?

Dr. Gilbert told us there were no scientific studies which have proven a link between SIDS and the vaccines.

The panel seemed to agree that any connection between SIDS and vaccines is merely coincidental since SIDS deaths usually occur during a child's first year, which is also the time frame within which most vaccinations are given.

A lady in the audience challenged the logic of the panelist's beliefs by informing them that the SIDS rate dropped by 73 percent in Japan when the Japanese government raised the recommended age of vaccine administration from two months to two years of age.

The second question involved natural immunity versus artificial immunity (from vaccines) -- which is better? The overwhelming response from the doctors was that natural immunity is superior. The doctors again reminded us that diseases such as polio and smallpox are deadly and vaccines are the only reliable means of preventing these dread scourges plaguing mankind.

The rest of the questions came from a list of seven submitted by Ingri Cassel, president of the North Idaho Chapter of Vaccination Liberation.

Graves posed the question addressing concerns that ½ the adult dose of vaccine is given to a newborn despite adults having a weight 15 to 25 times greater. Dr. Smith told the audience studies have been conducted to determine the optimal dose of each vaccine. Since a newborn's immune system is not well developed, they were shown to need the prescribed amount of the vaccine in order to have the optimal antibody response.

Dr. Smith's answer was adequate only if you believe that we are all born with the same genetic strengths and weaknesses.

One of the current controversies surrounding the vaccination industry is the link being scientifically established between the MMR vaccine and autism. Panelists diminished the validity of that link as well.

Vaccination advocates seem to rest their confidence on the use of antigens as sound public health policy based upon their belief that vaccines were responsible for irradicating polio and smallpox. Dr. Deland carried that banner into the forum and concluded confidently that the economic benefits of mass vaccination far outweigh the perceived risks.

Dr. Deland's position was severely challenged by Dr. Horowitz who has searched the world over for a legitimate cost/benefit analysis. Dr. Horowitz told Dr. Deland that “no cost/benefit analysis has ever been conducted.”

Dr. Deland's position, with or without a study, appears untenable when you use mandatory vaccination of all newborns with hepatitis B as an example. Drug addicts and people with a promiscuous lifestyle (and babies born to mothers who fit these categories) are at risk of getting the disease. How can it be more cost effective to routinely vaccinate all newborns when it costs nothing to determine whether or not the mother is a candidate for transmitting the disease to her baby?

Last spring it was determined that thimerosal, a product derived from mercury and used as a preservative in most vaccines, may be harmful. Dr. Smith cringed visibly when Graves asked a question regarding the presence of the known toxin in vaccines.

Dr. Smith explained that thimerosal was not an issue when children were only vaccinated against a few diseases. But now that they recommend children be given 33 vaccines before entering kindergarten, the FDA is concerned that the cumulative effect of so much thimerosal may be problematic.

Thimerosal was banned for use in over-the-counter medications but was present in all four strains of the flu vaccine this past winter.

Again, the panel stressed that there are no conclusive studies showing that the presence of thimerosal has made our vaccines less safe.

The final question challenged the core of vaccination policy. The goal of pro-vaccinators is to demand that all children be vaccinated because the unvaccinated may place the vaccinated at risk for contracting the disease.

Aren't vaccinated children protected from unvaccinated children?

Dr. Smith admitted that vaccines are not 100 percent effective. She skirted the real issue by insisting that even though they are only 70 to 80 percent effective, “herd immunity” is the goal.

Editor of The Idaho Observer Don Harkins got in the last word by stating to the panel that, “there wouldn't be an issue here if we had the right to choose.”

The overall feeling from those who attended was that this forum was a major win for those who choose to abstain from this ineffective and unsafe method of disease prevention. A majority of the people in attendance were interested in a true debate with a panel of pro-vaccinators versus a panel of anti-vaccinators.

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