Originally published on www.fearlessparent.org
Senator Mitt Romney
B33 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Dear Senator Romney,
My name is Louise Kuo Habakus. I was a Bain Consultant in the San Francisco office from 1986-1989, shortly after you co-founded Bain Capital. I worked closely with Meg Whitman who asked me to follow her to Disney. Alas, I went to Prudential instead, where I ran their annuity business and built a joint-venture mutual fund company with a Japanese trust bank and then to Putnam Investments, where I was Head of Corporate Marketing. You and I left the business world about the same time. I got married, had children, founded a non-profit, and wrote a book.
As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, you will participate in a full committee hearing tomorrow, March 5, 2019 - Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?
I have devoted 15 years of my life to this issue, working harder to "peel the onion" and challenge "straw dogs" than I ever did on my most challenging Bain cases. As the parent of two children who sustained serious injuries following vaccination, I did not accept pat answers. My Bain training taught me to cast a cold eye on sacred cows and "how it's always been done"… to ruthlessly hone the value proposition and protect strategic advantage… to respect markets. Understanding the implications of these lessons has served me to this day.
There are three things I ask you to consider as you participate in the upcoming hearing. Above all, this is a call for political leadership. There's a lot of talk of hysteria and irrational behavior. I posit that the actors are actually exceedingly rational.
#1: Parents are rational
Vaccine hesitancy is a rational response by parents in the absence of a free market.
The crux of the issue is that vaccines can and do harm. This is why there's a vaccine program, which tracks and compensates for death and catastrophic injuries caused by vaccines, with $4 billion paid out to 6,000+ petitioners to-date. Many more have seen their children slip away following vaccination.
The House report on the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act states: "… information has become available about the potential hazards of these vaccines and about the serious - and sometimes deadly - consequences they can have." H.R. REP. 99-908, 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6344
The problem is that we don't know how it happens, how often it happens, and who is susceptible. All three are vital pieces of information. Althen vs. Secretary of HHS, 418 F.3d 1274 (Fed. Cir. 2005) acknowledges that this is "a field bereft of complete and direct proof of how vaccines affect the human body."
The data are significantly understated. Former FDA Commissioner and pediatrician David Kessler, MD and others estimate that the voluntary VAERS system of reporting misses more than 90% of serious adverse events. See here and here.
The second crux of the issue is that we don't allow our system of checks and balances to work. Vaccine manufacturers and those who administer vaccines, including physicians, have virtual blanket liability protection. The 1986 Act transferred responsibility to the federal government.
When we removed the most important consumer protection - the right to sue - we eliminated the singular motivation that vaccine manufacturers have to make better vaccines.
We should not be surprised that there are lawsuits alleging misconduct in an industry already rife with corruption. In the Robi case, Merck is accused of fraud in the way it manufactured, tested, and promoted the Gardasil vaccine, leading to serious harm to an otherwise healthy young woman. In the Krahling case, Merck is accused of fraud in its representation of the efficacy of the mumps componentof the MMR vaccine.
#2: Vaccine manufacturers are rational
Eliminating vaccine exemptions is a rational response by Pharma.
Vaccines are a $34 billion global industry, expected to reach $58 billion by 2025, with a 8% CAGR. More importantly, Pharma's second patent cliff lies ahead with $251 billion in sales at risk by 2024.
It is logical that Pharma would turn to vaccines to smooth the ride. Vaccines have become a substantial and reliable component of profitability. The federal government recommends them. State governments mandate them. Virtually all children get them. There's essentially no liability.
In 2015, California signed SB277 into law eliminating the philosophical exemption to mandatory vaccination. There are currently similar bills moving in about a half dozen other states, with more on the horizon. Most of these bills seek to overturn First Amendment-protected religious exemptions.
If you examine the narrative that emerges from Merck's financials, as an example, you'll find a powerful corporation that counterbalanced its $4.85 billion Vioxx payout with a new vaccine. In an unprecedented unfoldment that bears much greater scrutiny, the Gardasil HPV vaccine was fast-tracked to recommended status under the aegis of CDC chief Julie Gerberding. Gerberding resigned from the CDC in 2009 and took the helm of Merck Vaccines in 2010. Today, Gardasil is Merck's third most important pharmaceutical product with $2.3 billion in 2017 sales.
#3: Lawmakers are rational
Legislators are rational, too. Coercion will backfire. You have a choice.
Who is calling for this? Lawmakers court voters every four to six years. The rest of the time, you pay more attention to lobbyists, PACs, and professional associations. There is no American Parental Association or American Academy of Parents.
I was appalled to read Adam Schiff's recent letter to Jeff Bezos. Schiff touts the importance of a free press, yet called for censorship of "anti-vaccine information." More alarmingly, Bezos complied. Amazon removed documentaries raising questions about vaccine safety from Prime Video.
Two weeks ago, then FDA chief Scott Gottlieb said the federal government might have to step in if states don't curb "lax" vaccine laws. In other words, get rid of parent-directed exemptions or we'll take the extraordinary step of hijacking the Constitution to do it ourselves.
This is not who we are. It seems these words are increasingly falling on deaf ears.
So I will offer another truth. This approach is counterproductive. It is coercive and authoritarian. Exemptions are a critical pressure relief valve. Compulsory vaccination without exemptions and with the full knowledge that some will die or sustain catastrophic injury is simply untenable. It will provoke even more distrust. It will produce greater resistance. It will erode your moral authority.
Incidentally, these actions to-date have propelled all vaccine safety books, including mine, to the top of the charts.
What most people cannot see is that this isn't really about vaccination. It's about the appropriate role of government in our lives. It's about the trustworthiness of government and industry. It's about politics. Should Americans, including the millions who vaccinate, give government carte blanche to unilaterally mandate one-size-fits-all medicine?
You are a father. How important has it been to you and Ann to make decisions regarding the upbringing of your five children? Natural law, religious laws, and common law affirm parental rights. John Locke warned of the threat to liberty from the state usurping parental authority. The Bible is clear that, to children, parents are God on earth. The Supreme Court attested to parental primacy in the upbringing of children, including in Pierce vs. Society of Sisters and Wisconsin vs. Yoder.
Protecting the public health
It is possible to protect the public health without creating an even bigger problem.
What you have is a product failure, a policy failure, and a public confidence failure. You can't solve this problem by blaming "anti-vaccine" parents.
It's not vaccine hesitancy that's causing measles outbreaks.
According to data reported by HHS' Healthy People 2020, the kindergarten two-dose MMR compliance rate is 95 to 96% every year. According to the CDC, the MMR vaccination rate for toddlers has been between 90% and 93% for the last two decades.
We've known that measles vaccination was going to cause more measles. See this 1984 paper (and here). Measles used to be a mildly irksome childhood rite of passage (like chickenpox), the natural contraction and resolution of which created robust, lifelong immunity. We no longer allow children to get these diseases when they're benign… in childhood. As the percentage of the population with natural immunity shrinks, outbreaks increase.
If you want to protect adults, let children get measles. It's not dangerous to children. They grow up to be adults with lifelong immunity.
If you want more people to get vaccinated, you must make better products. If you want better products, you must get rid of liability protection.
In the meantime, please don't succumb to measles hysteria:
- It's not exposure to an infected person or the receipt of vaccination that determines whether a person does or doesn't get sick. Diseases without vaccines still disappeared. Even during serious outbreaks, everyone who is exposed does not succumb. The unvaccinated do not spread disease. There's more to health and immunity than getting a shot.
- There are many vital components to public health. Think sanitation and hygiene infrastructure (clean water, flush toilets, sewers, hand washing). As these and other elements were prioritized, disease morbidity and mortality plummeted.
- Quarantine works. It has been effectively used for millennia.
- CDC says nearly all immunocompromised children can be vaccinated.
- Adults comprise over three-quarters of the US population. Most are not fully or even partly vaccinated. There has been a three-fold increase in the vaccine schedule in 25 years and a five-fold increase since the 1960s. Adults are not vaccinated at the same rate as children and diseases are not swamping us.
If you are concerned about the public health, there are important things you can do. But you must start with a basic reality. People are learning that today's vaccines are not safe products. Not everyone makes the same risk-benefit tradeoffs. You must address the root causes of our concerns and these are safety, transparency, accountability, and justice.
- Call for research to make better products
- Call for research to better understand vaccine injury
- Enforce zero tolerance of conflicts of interest
- Uphold informed consent relating to vaccination
- Restore due process and full legal recourse.
- Repeal the liability protections for those who make and administer vaccines
Better products. Litigation risk. Consumer choice. Let the checks and balances work. Only then can trust and public confidence return.
This is the real challenge. It's not an "anti-vaxxer" problem. It's a call for political leadership. Start there and please work in good faith with us, your constituents. Don't turn to censorship and coercion. Don't take away our rights and compromise the very foundation of who we are.
Louise Kuo Habakus
For research on the underreported, adverse effects of vaccination, visit the GreenMedInfo database on the subject.