ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting – summary of August 2020 discussions

This article about the August 2020 ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On August 26, 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held an emergency meeting to discuss COVID-19 vaccines. This was an emergency meeting, as opposed to one of its three annual scheduled meetings, but it was not “emergency” in the sense of being unplanned – it was announced long in advance, and the announcement was repeated during the June and July emergency meetings.

The ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting consisted of four to five hours of presentations from the COVID-19 vaccines workgroup, convened in April, and one hour of public comments that included multiple pro-vaccine speakers and four anti-vaccine individuals.

The main takeaway most people would have from the meetings are, I expect, the same as mine – that COVID-19 vaccines safety is taken extremely seriously by the workgroup and the committee, that there is still a lot of uncertainty about which of the vaccine in the pipeline will be effective, and that there are thorny, hard questions in deciding how to allocate the first vaccine doses.

This will be a very short overview of the meeting. The next meeting is on September 22, and I encourage and urge people to listen and learn from it. The presentation slides for the previous meetings can be found here. Continue reading “ACIP COVID-19 vaccines meeting – summary of August 2020 discussions”

Catie Clobes – legal harassment from an anti-vaccine activist – Take 10

This article, about anti-vaccine activist Catie Clobes legal actions against Karen Ernst, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease

It is not unusual to observe anti-vaccine activist harassment of those who challenge their claims, by threatening legal action.  Most often, the legal threats are baseless but can seem threatening. Because such episodes are not uncommon, I have decided to describe the latest, explain why the threat it made is unfounded, and offer some guidance on what to do if you face such a threat. Continue reading “Catie Clobes – legal harassment from an anti-vaccine activist – Take 10”

Vaccine adjuvants – another misguided FOIA request from ICAN

vaccine adjuvants

This article about an FOIA request for information about vaccine adjuvants was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In August 2020, the anti-vaccine organization, the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), posted on their site a letter from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dated July 19, 2019, under the (misleading) title that “NIH Concedes It Has No Studies Assessing The Safety of Injecting Aluminum Adjuvants.”

As in the past, ICAN’s use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request result is highly misleading, in at least three ways. First, FOIA is not a mechanism for science query, only a way to get existing administrative records, and this is a misuse of FOIA. Second, there are abundant scientific studies on the safety of aluminum vaccine adjuvants, but this request was not a way to get them. And third, even if there were no studies on the safety of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, vaccines are tested as a whole, and the safety data on them cover all their ingredients. Continue reading “Vaccine adjuvants – another misguided FOIA request from ICAN”

Evee Gayle Clobes – another tragedy incorrectly blamed on vaccines

Evee Gayle Clobes

This article about the tragic death of Evee Gayle Clobes was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On March 1, 2019, Evee Gayle Clobes, a six-month-old baby, died in her mother’s bed. Because Evee had received her vaccines 36 hours before her death, and with the urging, courting, and support of anti-vaccine activists eager to use her and her story, her mother blamed vaccines.

However, this tragedy is even less appropriately blamed on vaccines than most, because there is a clear other cause for Evee’s death: According to the evidence detailed in a letter from the medical examiner, Evee Gayle Clobes, sadly, tragically, suffocated to death because of unsafe sleep conditions.

It is horrible to lose a child, and no parent should have to pay such a heavy price for a choice that could be mistakenly thought to be a reasonable one. But blaming vaccines incorrectly here can actively hurt others in multiple ways. Continue reading “Evee Gayle Clobes – another tragedy incorrectly blamed on vaccines”

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program facts

national vaccine injury compensation program

This article about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In this post I explain how one goes about proving a case in the  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), and how that differs from proving a case in the civil courts, focusing on what it means to have a no-fault program and proving causation.

I will use a case that started with the tragic death of a young child after a vaccine to illustrate the complexity and operation of the program, and also to address the idea of federal preemption, and how it limits the ability of those claiming vaccine injuries to use state courts for their claims.

Continue reading “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program facts”

Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine

christopher bunch

This article about the tragic story of Christopher Bunch was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On 14 August 2018, fourteen-year-old Christopher Bunch died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), leaving his loving, devoted family reeling. The family blamed his death on the HPV vaccine that Christopher received, and they were quickly surrounded and courted by anti-vaccine activists.

My heart goes out to Christopher’s family. I followed the case since he was in the hospital, hoping and praying with them for a good outcome, and I feel their heartbreak. I was also deeply impressed by their initial reaction, which was to create a positive legacy for Christopher, making him visible and famous.

I would rather not write about this, which is why this post is so long after the fact. But Christopher’s death is since being used to try and scare people away from HPV vaccines or vaccines generally, putting others at risk of cancer and death. With very little basis: the timing and the epidemiological evidence do not support a link between Christopher’s death and HPV vaccines. Christopher Bunch deserves a better legacy than that. Continue reading “Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine”

Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate

Robert F Kennedy Jr

This article, about an anti-vaccine fake debate between Robert F Kennedy Jr and Alan Dershowitz was used to promote anti-vaccine misinformation, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On July 23, 2020, anti-vaccine activists aired what they described as a heated debate between Attorney and Professor Alan Dershowitz and anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr. The “debate” was a good example of why debating anti-vaccine activists is a bad idea.

Basically, Kennedy did most of the talking, and most of his talk was not – as initially suggested – about the law, but a recitation of anti-vaccine talking points, most of them either misleading or blatantly untrue. Dershowitz, who is not a public health expert or a debunker of anti-vaccine misinformation, was not prepared to address them. While he did push Kennedy on some issues, with Kennedy’s misinformation left unaddressed, viewers may come out with the impression that Kennedy’s points had merit.

The points do not. Robert F Kennedy Jr consistently misrepresented the facts, and was not quite accurate on the constitutional law, though he was closer. He misrepresented the regulatory framework on vaccines. In essence, Kennedy used this as an opportunity to share misinformation while using Dershowitz’s comparable legitimacy to give weight to his claims. Continue reading “Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate”

Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes

Andrew Wakefield

This article about the Andrew Wakefield movie, 1986: The Act, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In 1986: The Act, Andrew Wakefield has created a very long parade of anti-vaccine claims from the past forty years or longer. The movie combines half-truths, facts taken out of context, and blatant misrepresentations to try and mislead people into refusing to vaccinate and protect their children.

In his post on the topic, my friend and colleague Dr. Vince Ilannelli addressed the potential motivations behind 1986: The Act from Andrew Wakefield, the problems with the credibility of the director and many of the main actors, the problematic nature of the sources in the movie, and some of the inaccuracies surrounding DTP.

In this post, I will cover some of the same ground, but my main focus will be to show why the film is unreliable. Obviously, I cannot cover every detail of the long film and keep this manageable, but I can cover many of the highlights, and I hope to make it clear why I think it’s unreliable.

Before starting on those, however, readers deserve a reminder that Andrew Wakefield, the creator of the film, has a well-earned reputation as a dishonest scientist. Wakefield misrepresented information about MMR and hid conflicts of interests, and as a result, outbreaks of measles in Europe and the United States harmed and killed children.

And Andrew Wakefield has continued to misrepresent information in ways that harm children. 

Andrew Wakefield is not a reliable source, and his previous movies show this, too. 

1986: The Act is no different.

The movie is framed as a discovery journey of a couple from the point where the woman discovers she’s pregnant to the point where she gives birth, during which they go through a lot of anti-vaccine sources and become thoroughly and extremely anti-vaccine, ending the movie as participants in an anti-vaccine event. It is, as I mentioned, a parade of greatest hits of the anti-vaccine movement – mostly claims that have been addressed again and again over the years, some twenty years old, some almost forty years old, some older still. There is little new in 1986: The Act. Continue reading “Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes”

June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines

June 2020 ACIP meeting

This article about the June 2020 ACIP meeting was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

During June 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held its second annual meeting for the year. Because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and traveling is challenging for many – including, I suspect, for several of the Committee members, not all of which live near Georgia – the meeting, like most conferences this year (those which were not canceled) was held virtually. The CDC still provided an opportunity for oral comment, though there were some logistical challenges with their new system.

The June 2020 ACIP meeting discussed meningococcal vaccines, influenza vaccines, and then had the opportunity for public comment. The entire afternoon was devoted to COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.

As with previous meetings, ACIP is a geek’s dream meeting and everyone else’s – except the experts, and I suspect – hope – most experts are geeks –  boredom feast. I learned a lot.

One of the most important lessons is that the committee takes vaccine safety very, very seriously. The other is that decisions on vaccines – like most policy decisions – are always made on incomplete knowledge. We never know everything. That is where expert judgment comes in. Incomplete knowledge does not mean there is not enough knowledge to assess benefits/risks, though any such assessment should be reassessed when new knowledge comes in.

Finally, it’s important to remember – and something the anti-vaccine observers of these meetings seem unaware of, but that doctors treating patients likely are not – that a decision not to use a vaccine is a decision with costs and risks – the costs and risks of the disease the vaccine prevents.

The choice is never between no risk and the vaccine because we don’t have vaccines unless a disease causes substantial mortality and morbidity. The choice is always whether, given the information, an informed decision can be made and which risks that information suggests are higher – those of the vaccine or those of not vaccinating.

Finally, my notes are over 14 pages of text for the June 2020 ACIP meeting, and that’s because my computer crashed at the end and I lost my last two pages of notes, which is really frustrating – and I have 153 screenshots of slides (yes, I am surprised too). I really want this post to be shorter. So I’m going to try and be very brief, and I’m happy to share my full notes, just email me at [email protected] Continue reading “June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines”

Colorado vaccine bill – Gov. Jared Polis signs SB163 into law

colorado vaccine bill

This article, about the 2020 Colorado vaccine bill, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On June 7, 2020, Colorado’s House Health Committee heard testimony on SB163, a bill to improve vaccine rates. In spite of the pressure and aggressive – and dishonest – tactics from bill opponents, the committee voted to move the bill forward to the appropriations committee, from where it would go to the House floor and, if passed, to the governor’s desk.

On June 26, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law. 

Continue reading “Colorado vaccine bill – Gov. Jared Polis signs SB163 into law”