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An Open Letter to State Farm
Mr. Edward B. Rust, Jr.
CEO, State Farm Insurance
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington, IL 61710
Note: if you would like Ed to see this letter, please e-mail it to him.
November 18, 2014
On behalf of concerned parents across the country, I'm asking you to reverse a recent business decision.
The resonance of your branding suggests that you should be responsive. State Farm is the ubiquitous "good neighbor," trading on trustworthiness and integrity at the highest standard. You're a corporate giant who claims to go beyond what's legal to do what's right.
State Farm grasps the power of cultural iconography.
Your Decision to Ditch Rob Schneider Shocked Us
When you dumped Rob Schneider as a spokesman because he believes parents have the right to decide what's in the best interests of their children ... our collective jaws hit the ground.
As reported in PR Week and widely covered, State Farm dropped Rob Schneider over his views regarding vaccine mandates after social media pages Food Hunk, Science Babe, and Chow Babe called on State Farm to help end the "anti-vaccination movement."
Your public affairs director, Phil Supple, said the State Farm ad featuring the Richmeister "has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide."
(Make no mistake, it wasn't unintentional.)
Bad Move For a Smart Company
It got me thinking ...
Why on earth would the nation's largest insurer of cars and homes choose to make such a big statement to the nation's 150+ million parents over an issue that you admit is unrelated to your business?
And then why would State Farm double down by repudiating a world famous, much loved comedian and Emmy-nominated actor who's also a conscientious and devoted father expressing an educated, courageous, and heartfelt opinion?
Insurance companies are conservative. I was a corporate vice president for a large insurer for ten years. It's pretty clear to me why State Farm thought it was a good idea to pull Rob's ad. A slam dunk, even. Maybe you were led to believe that concerns about parental rights, vaccine safety, and health freedom are radical and fringe.
Not even close. With your decision to unceremoniously cancel Rob, you telegraphed some very brand-damaging messages. Consider how many parents see it:
STATE FARM TOOK A STAND AGAINST PARENTS
You allowed your brand and ad platform to be co-opted for a highly visible and unrelated objective that parents find offensive. Are you really saying that parents shouldn't decide what's in the best interests of our kids? Do you truly want State Farm to come down on the side of censorship, suppression, and forced vaccination?
Rob was exercising his right to free speech, promoting an open discussion about a critically important topic and your response was to give him a public spanking and send him to his room. You slammed the door and shut down dialogue. That isn't socially responsible, good corporate citizenship. It's corporate McCarthyism and a big part of what's wrong with society today.
Sometimes, parents are presented with difficult options, each with its own advantages and risks. Children have different risk profiles based on family and medical histories, exposure history, lifestyle, geography, culture, and more. Parents are absolutely correct in rejecting one-size-fits-all diets, educational options—and medicine.
We parents do our best to make thoughtful, rational, informed decisions in the best interests of our families. It's difficult enough without heavy-handed corporate interference.
STATE FARM VALIDATED A FALSE NARRATIVE
There is no "anti-vaccination" movement. Calling parents "anti-vaccine" is a distorted construct created for the express purpose of labeling and dismissing legitimate concerns. To represent parents as ideologically opposed to an entire category of medical procedures is absurd and irresponsible. All diseases are not the same and neither are all vaccines. Just because a certain antibiotic can cause severe injury to some does not make them anti-antibiotic, any more than deciding not to drive a particular model with defective acceleration makes us anti-car.
In firing Rob, State Farm took the bait. You were used for a purpose that has nothing to do with your brand.
STATE FARM BEHAVED LIKE A CORPORATE BEHEMOTH
Your decision was neither neighborly nor trustworthy. It was a unilateral cheap shot and an institutional power play executed without discussion or remorse.
Americans are fiercely independent. How we raise our children is our business. We don't like it when powerful entities flex their muscles and tell us what to do. We don't care if bureaucrats and executives think something is good for us. More than that, we don't trust it. You're a corporation. Your job is to make great products and deliver outstanding customer service.
When it comes to parenting our children, you don't get a vote.
WHEN BIG MEDIA SLAMS THE LITTLE GUY ...
TIME magazine's hit piece on Rob Schneider is instructive. Rather than engage in an intelligent, serious discussion on a controversial subject, author Jeffrey Kluger resorts to ridicule, leading us to wonder if that's the best he could do:
"For the record Rob [sic], no, there is no government conspiracy to force vaccines on kids. No, doctors are not bought off by big pharma. No, vaccines are not filled with toxins. And no, this is not a free speech issue ..."
For the record, Jeffrey is wrong:
- Government wants all kids vaccinated. Conspiracy is his word, not ours. And it's not a useful word.
- Pharma has undue influence on doctors. There's no question. Relationships are tight and unethical. Stay tuned for the Sunshine Act.
- Vaccines are indeed filled with toxins. This is how they work and how they cause autoimmunity and other harm.
- You better believe this is a free speech issue. Could the media have lined up more quickly to shut Rob down? U.S. press freedom is appallingly low but something smells especially bad at TIME.
Find me a talented comedian and I'll show you someone who's fearless, astute, and one step ahead. Rob spoke out because he cares. Kluger's article flagrantly panders to industry.
As parents, we're doing the job we signed up for ... figuring out what's best for our kids. Whenever Big Media and Big Business slam the little guy, we know to pay very, very close attention.
Did You Do Any Due Diligence?
You liked Rob enough to ask him to represent your company. Is this how you treat people? Is this how you want people to treat you? Why didn't you sit down with him "like a good neighbor" and ask him about his views? Before making this decision, did you try to understand the other side?
Had you conducted a basic media search on parental views about vaccines, you would've learned that it's not so simple. Even with all the spin, it's evident that very large numbers of parents — including scads of State Farm customers — are incredibly concerned. It can't just be waved away.
1 in 4 parents believes vaccines cause autism: NBCNews.com
Twenty-five percent of the parents said they agreed "some vaccines cause autism in healthy children."
Vaccines, drugs top parents' research priorities: MedpageToday.com
A University of Michigan poll asked parents about eight topics, and the percentage of parents rating each as "very important" were:
- Vaccine safety: 89%
- Effectiveness and safety of medicines: 88%
- Environmental exposures that can lead to health problems: 72%
- Foods that might protect against cancer: 67%
- New treatment for rare childhood diseases: 66%
- Foods that might cause cancer: 64%
- New treatments for common childhood diseases: 64%
- Leading causes of injuries in children: 46%
Majority support parental vaccination choice: PR Newswire
These [Harris] poll data should be a wake-up call to the government and the media that a majority of American parents believe parents, not the state, should decide when and whether to vaccinate their children.
California parents are deciding against vaccinating their kindergarten-age children at twice the rate they did seven years ago...
Parenting isn't a democracy ... Never in a thousand years would I force my children to undergo a medical procedure simply for the sake of being a cultural team player. [45,500 likes]
Parents mount backlash to vaccine increases: Toronto Star
No vaccine is 100% effective or risk-free. And today's parents tend to weigh the odds differently than previous generations. They see vaccination as a matter of private choice rather than public responsibility.
I'm guessing State Farm heeded the advice of the three social media sites attacking Rob because you believe they wield social influence. Did you happen to check them out?
- Chow Babe claims to be "prettier and smarter than Food Babe" and calls for a ChowBabeArmy for bullying and intimidation
- Food Hunk mocks people who want to label genetically modified organisms in our food
- Science Babe features a BDSM inspired bio photo and more venom directed at Food Babe
- Food Babe: 860,788 Facebook likes
- Above three combined: 30,370 Facebook likes
If you care about social media influence, read Vani's article: Should I Get The Flu Shot? Her answer? "No. I'm not taking the Flu Shot. Ever." She also appears in the new documentary BOUGHT, about vaccines, GMOs, and Big Business. I recommend you watch it.
Here's What You're Missing
Ed, I see that you care about children — your issue happens to be the quality of education. When you speak with children, I hope you tell them that they must keep an open mind and be willing to do the work. Since you stuck your neck out on this issue and involved State Farm's brand to boot, I'm going to assume that you're willing to hear what your advisors may not have told you about the U.S. childhood vaccination program:
#1: IT'S UNPRECEDENTED
Children today get three times more vaccines than you or I received. The CDC recommends 70 doses of 16 different vaccines by age 18:
- 20 doses of flu vaccine (2 doses at 6 months of age then 1 dose annually)
- 6 doses each of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines
- 4 doses each of pneumococcal and polio vaccines
- 3 doses each of hepatitis B, rotavirus, HPV, and Hib vaccines
- 2 doses each of measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, meningococcal, and hepatitis A vaccines.
Babies are vaccinated starting on the day of birth and receive half of the above doses by 15 months of age.
We're talking about the administration, in our nation's children, of simultaneous and cumulative toxic exposures and the highly unusual and atypical manipulation of the immune system, in a manner that is completely unprecedented in the history of man.
Preemies and infants receive the same dosages as fully grown adults. But adults don't come close to being vaccinated at the same rate. If your doctor said you needed 35 doses of 14 vaccines over 15 months, I'm pretty sure you'd say: "Are you crazy?"
Babies can't talk.
#2: CHILDREN ARE NOT HEALTHIER
Vaccines are supposed to keep our children safe and thriving. But kids are not healthier for the 70 doses they receive. Today's children are the most chronically ill generation ever. Over half have asthma, ADHD, allergies, autism, OCD, tics, learning disabilities, diabetes, and more. Something is very wrong.
#3: VACCINES CAUSE CATASTROPHIC INJURY & DEATH
This is undisputed. Our government acknowledges a special responsibility to those harmed following receipt of vaccines used in public health programs. The Department of Health and Human Services administers the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This administrative program, funded by a $0.75 excise tax on every vaccine, has paid nearly $3 billion to over 2,800 families. The little-known Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System — a passive post-licensure data base — offers eye-opening details about death and injury following vaccination.
#4: NO LEGAL RECOURSE FOR DAMAGES
Did you ever wonder why insurance companies don't insure against vaccination?
Vaccines used to be a terrible business. Manufacturers were tired of paying multi-million dollar settlements for dead and brain-damaged children and demanded liability protection. In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that eliminated our most important consumer protection: the ability to sue in a court of law with due process, including the right to a judge, jury, and discovery.
Now, drug companies have no imperative to make safer vaccines. As you would expect, the 1986 Act paved the way for an extraordinary increase in the number of FDA-approved, CDC-recommended, and state-mandated vaccines. The Supreme Court recently upheld vaccine makers' rights to be shielded from design-defect liability.
And this is why the dangerous risks of vaccines never emerge as they do with so many other pharmaceuticals.
#5: VACCINES ARE BIG BUSINESS & BIG GOVERNMENT
Today, vaccines are a flourishing, multibillion dollar global export business with outsized growth and spectacular profitability, enhanced by the above protections and privileges. The World Health Organization calls vaccines "an engine for the drug industry." Hundreds of vaccines are under development; many are at the top of government agendas. Public-private vaccine partnerships, closed door proceedings, and a busy revolving door between government and industry suggest a system that's rife with conflicts of interest.
The pharmaceutical lobby is legendary and outspends the massive insurance lobby by 50%. Drug companies spend billions of dollars on direct-to-consumer advertising and donations to medical associations and pro-industry groups, including industry-funded non-profit organizations like Every Child By Two and the Immunization Action Coalition. They all say vaccines are safe (it surely helps to keep the money flowing).
Our government's goal is to get Americans vaccinated. The CDC engages in "the activities needed to assure vaccination of a population" and overcome resistance. These include "the integration of new vaccines into routine medical care" and "strategies to increase vaccination coverage rates." It spends far more on vaccine development, promotion, distribution, and compliance (about $4 billion) than it does on vaccine safety (about $20 million).
#6: MANDATES ARE COERCIVE
If vaccines were safe, effective, and necessary, people would line up for them at any price. All 50 states mandate vaccines for daycare and school admission via police power authority precisely because vaccines do not meet those criteria. Enforcing mandates and withholding information about legal exemptions are a sign of the failure of the childhood vaccination program. State by state, legislatures are passing bills making it harder for parents to obtain exemptions to compulsory vaccination for their children.
Industry spokespeople argue that vaccines are like seat belts and must be mandated to keep people safe. Vaccines are serious medicine. Vaccines are an invasive medical procedure done on healthy children. Our government compels virtually all children to get vaccinated knowing that some will die or sustain grievous harm. Children who are not fully vaccinated are denied daycare and a free public education.
Vaccines are nothing like seat belts.
#7: INDEPENDENT RESEARCH RAISES QUESTIONS
In a review of the scientific literature, we learn that:
- Government invests vaccines with mystical superpowers but they fall short. They're not a magic immunological bullet.
- Protection from vaccines is temporary and wears off before people realize it.
- Vaccine package inserts list devastating adverse events.
- Vaccines aggressively marketed to pregnant women are Category C pharmaceuticals, harmful to animal fetuses and untested in humans.
- With serotype replacement, non-vaccine strains prevail so we have to keep upping the antigenic ante. The bugs are always many steps ahead of us.
- Vaccines are "eminence-based medicine" (opinion trumps evidence), may not work at all (even for kids), and cause more injury and death than people realize.
The Institute of Medicine acknowledges significant data gaps and research limitations. There are no controlled, longitudinal studies comparing the health outcomes of vaccinated versus totally unvaccinated populations. Vaccines are not studied as they are administered, simultaneously and cumulatively.
#8: HERD IMMUNITY IS A HOUSE OF CARDS
Natural immunity from the contraction and resolution of disease is lifelong and robust whereas vaccine-induced immunity is temporary and wanes. The concept of herd immunity as a protective societal cordon is based upon natural immunity. Public health officials seized upon the untested hypothesis that vaccines could deliver herd immunity as a way to justify mass vaccination programs and mandates.
We're learning that vaccine-induced herd immunity is flawed. Outbreaks occur regularly in fully vaccinated communities. If it were valid, adults would need the same vaccines as children. We clutch to vaccines so, imagining we'd be a quivering mass of bloody pus without them. The truth is that there are so many more infectious diseases for which there are no vaccines and we're still standing.
#9: ADULTS, YOU'RE NEXT
Industry is eyeing the next growth target and it's you. Pharma is looking to gain market share in adult vaccines. Over 50% of adults decline flu shots and most health care workers refused vaccines, too, until hospitals started mandating them as a condition of employment. Teachers and first responders are next.
#10: WHY IS THE ANSWER ALWAYS A VACCINE?
Pertussis outbreaks are prompting health officials to consider a 7th dose of pertussis vaccine to the schedule. Babies already get 5 doses by age 5 and a 6th dose in 6th grade. When will we face facts that the pertussis vaccine isn't working? When the only tool in your kit is a pricey (and lucrative) hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Businesses promote vaccination to reduce employee absenteeism. Parents who vaccinate children to avoid a few days of lost work can end up dealing with far worse, including dangerously high fevers, convulsions, severe complications, or even death.
More people are skeptical about sequential pandemics and so-called deadly epidemics — with bizarre contamination stories and a fear-mongering press focused on human vulnerability — right before fast tracked vaccines arrive on cue to save the day.
#11 – IT'S ALL ON FAITH
You can never know whether a vaccine worked, would have worked, or didn't work. Just because your child didn't get sick doesn't mean the vaccine worked. Just because your child isn't vaccinated doesn't mean she's going to get sick. Just because your child is vaccinated doesn't mean she isn't going to get sick. Just because a vaccine is labeled "flu" doesn't mean it was the for the flu strains that are circulating. Just because the media says doesn't make it so.
Vaccination requires an extraordinary amount of public trust in government, industry, and medicine. Is there any wonder parents are concerned?
It's Not Too Late
You say that being a good neighbor is more than a slogan — it's a promise to be trustworthy, courteous, and helpful. State Farm, you dropped the ball. Your actions were anti-parent and validated a false narrative. This issue is more complicated than you were led to believe. You have a chance to make things right by apologizing to Rob Schneider and reinstating his ad. We'll take notice.
Louise Kuo Habakus
Note: the author thanks Alison Fujito for her assistance with this article.