When my team and I set out to make our movie about the vaccine controversy in America, The Greater Good, we knew we had to tell the story of vaccine safety and informed consent champion Barbara Loe Fisher. Forty years ago, Fisher watched her precocious, bright, happy two-and-a-half-year-old son suffer a convulsion and collapse into shock and a state of unconsciousness within hours of his fourth diphtheria, whole-cell pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccine. As a consequence, her son—who had said his first words at seven months and spoke in full sentences by age two—regressed physically, mentally and emotionally. Fisher says, he had “become a totally different child.”1
In 1982, the Emmy-award-winning television documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette profiled the damaging effects of the highly reactive DPT vaccine, but for Fisher and her family, this crucial information, broadcast to millions of parents, came too late. For them, life had changed forever eighteen months previously. She would spend years helping her son cope with illnesses and multiple learning disabilities, including dyslexia, fine and gross motor skill delays, auditory processing and attention deficit challenges and short-term memory delays so severe that officials “confined him to a special [education] classroom throughout his public school education.”2
After the release of the television documentary, Fisher and other parents of DPT-vaccine-injured children in the Washington, DC area came together to found Dissatisfied Parents Together, which would later become the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). Their aim was to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education. In 1985, Fisher was vice president of Dissatisfied Parents Together and co-authored her book, DPT: A Shot in the Dark, with Harris L. Coulter (published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).3 It was the first major well-documented critique of America’s mass vaccination program and called for safety reforms and the human right to informed consent to vaccination.
For the past four decades, as Fisher has continued to research, analyze and publicly articulate the science, policy, law, ethics and politics of vaccination, she has become one of the world’s leading non-medical consumer advocacy experts on vaccination and human rights. President of NVIC since 1993, she served as a consumer representative on federal vaccine advisory committees and public engagement projects at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Institute of Medicine for more than twenty years.4
WHOLE-CELL PERTUSSIS VACCINES
The DPT vaccine that Fisher’s son received included a crude whole-cell pertussis component. Although the whole-cell pertussis vaccine was licensed in 1914, it was not routinely administered until after 1949, when vaccine scientists combined it with diphtheria and tetanus vaccines to make the three-in-one DPT shot.5 By that time, the death rate from the once devastating pertussis disease (which peaked in the 1800s) had already declined by more than 99 percent.6
As far back as 1933, reports began surfacing that the whole-cell pertussis vaccine could kill infants without warning7 and, by the 1960s, evidence published in the medical literature confirmed that the three-in-one DPT vaccine could cause convulsions and brain damage in children.6 Concerns continued to grow in the 1970s, and by the early 1980s there was little doubt that the whole-cell pertussis vaccine was, as Fisher describes it, “the most reactive vaccine ever given to infants and children, second only to smallpox vaccine.”8
Fisher and NVIC have published information summarizing what most babies who receive vaccines with a whole-cell pertussis component are likely to experience. Short-term reactions that affect 50 to 80 percent of infants include fever, pain and redness at the injection site, as well as irritability and loss of appetite. More severe reactions include high-pitched screaming, hypotonic-hyporesponsive episodes (HHEs), seizures and brain swelling (encephalitis, encephalomyelitis or encephalopathy). Fisher further explains, “Between 25 and 60 percent of children who develop acute encephalitis or encephalopathy or have convulsions, including febrile convulsions. . . are left with. . .personality changes, developmental delays and learning disabilities, ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder], seizure disorders, lower IQ, speech, motor and behavior disorders and other disabilities.”8
For over a decade after her son’s injury, Fisher and other parents worked tirelessly to get the purified, less reactive diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine licensed in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first DTaP vaccines in 1991—but only for use in children fifteen months to six years of age and only following the administration of three earlier doses of the whole-cell DPT vaccine! It was not until 1996 that the agency approved the acellular vaccine for use in infants and children for all five of the recommended doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccination, and it was not until 1997 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended DTaP instead of the whole-cell versions.9 It had taken fourteen years of consumer advocacy by parents of DPT-vaccine-injured children to secure a less reactive vaccine for America’s babies.
Today, most African countries and many other developing countries as well as one European country (Poland) still use whole-cell DTP vaccines,10in part because they are much cheaper to manufacture. In contrast, Japan began using acellular DTaP vaccines in 1981 and immediately began observing far fewer serious reactions.11
THE END OF LIABILITY
Case histories of DPT vaccine injury and death had appeared in prestigious medical journals for more than fifty years prior to Fisher’s family tragedy, but it was not until the mid-1970s that people began to sue U.S. vaccine manufacturers for injuries and deaths caused by the extremely reactogenic whole-cell pertussis vaccine. Most often, the DPT vaccine seemed to affect young children like Fisher’s son, causing permanent brain damage or even death. As the number of lawsuits brought against vaccine makers increased dramatically through the 1970s and 1980s, vaccine manufacturers paid out millions of dollars to victims and their families, primarily in financial settlements reached outside the courtroom, settlements that required all case documents to be sealed from public view as a condition of the settlement.
In this environment of litigation, pharmaceutical companies manufacturing vaccines threatened to exit the childhood vaccine business and effectively blackmailed Congress into providing them with liability protection, alleging that if the federal government licenses and recommends—and state governments mandate—vaccines, manufacturers should be protected from vaccine injury lawsuits. As a result, the Ninety-Ninth Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA), signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.12,13 The goal of the NCVIA was to restrict lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers by creating a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system.
Fisher and NVIC’s co-founders worked to secure vaccine safety and research provisions in the historic law, which included a number of regulations related to informed consent and adverse event reporting. As a result of their efforts, for the first time “Congress acknowledged the reality of vaccine injuries and deaths, that safety reforms [were] needed, and that those who are harmed by vaccines should be financially compensated.”14
Within a year of the 1986 Act’s passage, in December 1987, medical trade association lobbyists persuaded Congress to quietly add an amendment to the Act, which gave civil liability protection to doctors and other vaccine administrators.15 In 1988, HHS began to implement the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) that was established under the 1986 Act. The program is funded by a tax of seventy-five cents collected per dose of vaccine administered.
Although Congress promised that the NVICP would be a “non-adversarial, expedited, less traumatic and less expensive administrative alternative” to lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers, this has not turned out to be the case.16 According to Fisher, by 1995 the NVICP instead not only additionally shielded doctors from liability for vaccine injuries and deaths but was moving toward becoming an “exclusive legal remedy that prohibited all product liability against vaccine manufacturers.”16 In fact, then-HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, along with officials at the CDC and attorneys in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), actively worked to weaken the NVICP’s compensation and safety provisions.14
After these parties pushed through amendments to the NVICP in 1995, the only events considered to be associated with DPT vaccination were anaphylaxis (a serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction) occurring within four hours and encephalopathy or encephalitis (brain damage) occurring within seventy-two hours of a DPT shot.14 By adjusting the government’s vaccine injury compensation table, any child who suffered classic reactions to DPT vaccination (generally due to the pertussis portion of the vaccine)—such as collapse, shock, high-pitched screaming, a bulging fontanelle, or seizures—was no longer presumed to have suffered a vaccine injury, even if the reaction occurred within seventy-two hours of vaccination and even if the child was left with permanent neurological damage and seizures.14 This left the children ineligible for uncontested, expedited compensation in the federal program.
The 1995 rule changes meant that whenever HHS and DOJ refused to award compensation for classic DPT reactions leading to permanent damage, attorneys were faced with the tall order of having to prove causation in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. In the intervening years, Fisher explains, “it has become extremely rare for any vaccine-injured child to qualify for uncontested compensation.”14 Most children (or adults) who file a claim come up against a DOJ with the resources to fight against them; as a result, vaccine injury claims typically take years to adjudicate and are often unsuccessful.14 Despite these barriers, the NVICP has paid out over four billion dollars to date to those injured and killed by vaccines.17
Fisher says, “The reality today is that nobody developing, manufacturing, selling, licensing, recommending, mandating or giving vaccines in the U.S. has real incentive to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths. The federal government has systematically betrayed the public’s trust by failing to keep the promise made to parents in the 1986 Act.”18
The liability shield given to vaccine manufacturers and doctors administering vaccines unleashed by the 1986 Act has had a profound effect. Whereas yearly U.S. vaccine sales amounted to only about one hundred seventy million dollars in the early 1980s,19 the current value of North America’s vaccine market is estimated at twenty-five billion20—a nearly one-hundred-fifty-fold increase. Analysts estimate that the global vaccine market now brings in close to sixty billion dollars annually.21
SUPREME COURT BETRAYAL
The government swindle did not end in 1995. The final blow came in 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court chose to misinterpret the legislative history of NCVIA. The original 1986 Act had left claimants with the option to sue in civil court if denied federal compensation. The Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth removed this option, fully eliminating vaccine-injured Americans’ right to sue vaccine makers—even if there was evidence that the manufacturer could have made a vaccine less reactive.22 The six-to-two split decision, with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissenting, completely shielded pharmaceutical companies from all liability from harm caused by a vaccine.14
Together, the 1986 Act and the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision freed vaccine manufacturers, doctors and other vaccine administrators from any legal accountability or financial liability in civil court for permanent injuries or deaths resulting from government-recommended or mandated vaccines. Moreover, 9/11 gave the government an excuse to take one further step. In the name of national security, a December 2005 act passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush (the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness or PREP Act) grants drug companies and vaccine program administrators full absolution from legal responsibility for vaccine injuries and deaths that occur under the umbrella of a HHS-declared public health “emergency.”23 The 2005 Act, which covers experimental vaccines and other medical countermeasures deployed during declared emergencies, is especially significant as our nation prepares to roll out fast-tracked Covid-19 vaccines.24
Vital statistics show that the threat from infectious diseases had fallen significantly long before there was a national vaccine program. This has not stopped the CDC from recommending that infants and children continue to receive five doses of acellular DTaP vaccine by age six. The vaccines are routinely given at two, four and six months; between fifteen and eighteen months; and between four and six years. The public health agency then recommends a follow-up booster dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) between the ages of twelve and thirteen and another Tdap booster between nineteen and twenty-six years of age, as well as further Tdap shots every ten years thereafter.25
The CDC recommends Tdap vaccines (or tetanus and diphtheria [Td] vaccines) for all adults, including pregnant women. For the latter, the recommendation is that the Tdap vaccine be administered between twenty-seven and thirty-six weeks gestation during each pregnancy, regardless of whether the woman has already received a recent dose.26 This recommendation comes despite the fact that product inserts for Adacel and Boostrix (the two U.S.-licensed Tdap vaccines for adolescents and adults) both state that the safety and effectiveness of their products have not been established in pregnant women.27,28 In fact, no vaccine administered to pregnant women has been tested for safety or efficacy before licensure. The Boostrix insert ambiguously states that the vaccine should be given to pregnant women “only if clearly needed.”28
COMBINATION VACCINES WORSE
The pertussis vaccine is a routine component of combination vaccines that include additional components against hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). For example, Vaxelis is a combination six-in-one vaccine manufactured through a partnership between Sanofi Pasteur and Merck. A pertussis-containing pentavalent combination shot of DTaP, inactivated polio (IPV) and Hib is also available, as are four-component vaccines with DTaP plus IPV.
Although the CDC claims that these combination vaccines are safe, research indicates that the risk of adverse events such as febrile seizures is greater for combination vaccines than for single vaccines.29 For example, a Danish study found that in some cases, the incidence of febrile seizures increased as much as six-fold for children receiving a pentavalent vaccine.30 Febrile seizures can later develop into epilepsy, and some types of febrile seizures are associated with an increased risk of developmental delays and subsequent neurological disorders.31 Children experiencing seizures can also fall or choke on food or saliva.
Worse yet, combination vaccines are associated with a significantly increased risk of sudden and unexpected deaths in young children. An Italian study published in 2011 showed a statistically significant two-fold increased risk of sudden infant death within fourteen days of the first dose of a hexavalent vaccine.32 Another study from 2006 confirmed during autopsies that children who died soon after receiving six-in-one vaccines had abnormal brain pathologies.33
ACELLULAR PERTUSSIS VACCINES: NOT OFF THE HOOK
The well-documented dangers of the original whole-cell DTP vaccines call into question how much safer the acellular DTaP and Tdap vaccines are when given to children and adults. According to Fisher, NVIC continues to receive reports of serious reactions and injuries from today’s acellular versions—reactions consistent with those reported following receipt of whole-cell vaccines—including high-pitched screaming, fever over 103 degrees F, collapse or shock, convulsions and brain inflammation.34
Although studies have reported that DTaP and Tdap vaccines are far less reactive than whole-cell vaccines, acellular vaccines contain chemically inactivated pertussis toxin (ten to twenty-five micrograms per dose), which still retain varying levels of bioactivity.35 This may induce brain inflammation in some individuals, although it is thought to occur less often than brain inflammation induced by the old whole-cell pertussis vaccine. In addition, clinical trial results and post-marketing data listed in vaccine inserts reveal a wide variety of possible acute and chronic DTaP and Tdap reactions—both localized and systemic—which include anaphylaxis, urticaria (hives), Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), myelitis and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), among many others (see Table 1).36
Fisher’s 1985 book details more than one hundred cases of brain inflammation and immune system dysfunction induced by whole-cell DPT vaccination, including in children who developed regressive autism after suffering post-vaccination encephalopathy.3 Of note, the CDC and other government entities continue to deny any link between vaccines and autism, even though federal compensation has been quietly awarded to children who developed brain inflammation after both the old and new DTP vaccines, whose permanent disabilities include autistic behaviors.37,38
Using the MedAlerts search engine, NVIC found that as of March 31, 2020, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) had received nearly one hundred ninety thousand reports of serious adverse events in connection with diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines since 1990, including over three thousand two hundred deaths.39 Nearly 90 percent of the deaths occurred in children under three years of age. Moreover, experts estimate that the vaccine injuries and deaths reported to VAERS represent less than one percent of all vaccine-related injuries and deaths.40 Not only do parents not know enough about what constitutes a serious vaccine reaction to report them, but vaccine providers often fail to report serious health problems following vaccination, even though the NCVIA legally requires them to do so.
Whole-cell DPT/DTP vaccines contain whole Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis) bacteria (heated and washed with formaldehyde) as well as neurotoxic aluminum and mercury, shock-inducing endotoxin and brain-damaging bioactive pertussis toxin. Pertussis toxin is believed to be the main component of B. pertussis “responsible for stimulating the production of protective antibodies during natural whooping cough infection and after pertussis vaccination,” as well as the main component responsible for causing brain inflammation.41
NVIC reminds us that pertussis toxin is “one of the most lethal toxins in nature,” capable of inducing lymphocytosis (abnormal lymphocyte count) and leukocytosis (abnormal white blood cell count), as well as stimulating insulin secretion and sensitizing histamine (another element of the immune system’s inflammatory response).41 Pertussis toxin is so lethal that researchers deliberately use it to induce autoimmunity and brain inflammation in lab animals.41 Pertussis toxin is also known to cross the blood-brain barrier “when conditions are right”—offering a logical explanation for vaccine-induced brain inflammation and permanent brain damage.41
Depending on the brand and manufacturer, acellular DTaP and Tdap vaccines may additionally contain varying amounts of diphtheria toxoid, tetanus toxoid, filamentous hemagglutinin, pertactin, fimbriae, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, gluteraldehyde, 2-phenoxoyethanol, aluminum and thimerosal (mercury).42,43 For children who receive four-in-one, five-in-one or six-in-one combination vaccines, the list of toxic ingredients will be even longer. The toxicity of vaccine ingredients has never been properly studied, either individually or synergistically, for their impacts on human health, with no studies of their carcinogenic and mutagenic potential or their effects on fertility.
BOMBARDED WITH ALUMINUM
In addition to the damage caused by the pertussis portion of DTaP and Tdap vaccines, many health experts have issued warnings about the role that aluminum adjuvants play in vaccine injuries, including autism and autoimmune disorders.44,45 Manufacturers add aluminum to vaccines to help stimulate “a stronger immune response and increase efficacy.” However, aluminum is neurotoxic—capable of destroying neurons needed for proper cognitive and motor functioning, and capable of making the blood-brain barrier more permeable. Whereas only 0.2 to 1.5 percent of the aluminum a baby ingests orally (for example, in breast milk) will be absorbed by the body, 100 percent of injected aluminum will be absorbed. The claims by pro-vaccine advocates that injected aluminum is rapidly excreted are false. Rabbit studies show that 78 to 94 percent is retained twenty-eight days after intramuscular injection; human autopsies reveal that aluminum accumulates and stays in the kidneys, spleen, liver, heart, lymph nodes, bones and brain.45
Babies who receive every vaccine on the CDC-recommended early childhood vaccine schedule end up getting injected with a total of 4,925 micrograms (mcg) of neurotoxic aluminum within the first eighteen months of life, and an additional 170 to 625 mcg by age six.35,44 Depending on the brand, each dose of DTaP and Tdap vaccine can contain up to 1,500 mcg of aluminum. In total, American children and adolescents may receive as much as 6,150 mcg of aluminum by age eighteen.35
Studies show that injected aluminum significantly increases the risk for autoimmune disease and neurological disorders in children and adults. Conditions associated with injected aluminum include macrophagic myofasciitis (MMF), chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, cognitive deficits (such as memory loss and sleep disturbances) and demyelinating central nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis. Aluminum adjuvants also contribute to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and autism spectrum disorder. Neil Miller’s excellent book, Miller’s Review of Critical Vaccine Studies, provides a summary of twenty-seven studies revealing the damaging effects of aluminum, as well as many studies showing the dangers of vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.46
When a person recovers from pertussis infection, natural immunity is thought to last between seven and twenty years. Conversely, estimates suggest that artificial vaccine-induced immunity wanes as soon as two years after getting vaccinated with either whole-cell or acellular pertussis-containing vaccines.8 This rapid waning of pertussis vaccine immunity is the reason that the CDC tells children and adolescents to undergo six rounds of vaccination; in reality, however, even half a dozen pertussis vaccinations are not providing protection against the disease.
The fact is that fully vaccinated children, adolescents and adults remain susceptible to pertussis, with cases of whooping cough rising steadily throughout the world since the 1980s, despite high vaccination rates. A 2013 study, titled “Waning immunity to pertussis following five doses of DTaP,” summarized the state of affairs, finding that the risk of pertussis doubled just two years after Minnesota children received their fifth dose of DTaP and increased nine-fold within six years of full vaccination.47 Another study from 2015, titled “Tdap vaccine effectiveness in adolescents during the 2012 Washington State pertussis epidemic,” found that within two to four years of receiving a sixth dose of acellular pertussis vaccine, the shot’s effectiveness in adolescents declined to 34 percent.48
Experts commonly quote the efficacy of whole-cell pertussis vaccines as being between 30 and 85 percent, and that of acellular pertussis vaccines as somewhere between 40 and 89 percent. However, an analysis of a California whooping cough outbreak that occurred in 2010 revealed that more than 80 percent of those affected were fully vaccinated, and another 11 percent were partially vaccinated.49 A study of a 2007 U.S. Virgin Islands pertussis outbreak found that Tdap boosters were ineffective in providing temporary immunity for at least a third of vaccinated teenagers and adults.50
Furthermore, the vaccines may be even less effective than we think. There is evidence that millions of U.S. children and adults asymptomatically develop pertussis each year without being diagnosed or having those cases reflected in government statistics.51 Whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, a person may be infected with pertussis and not even know it.
Transmission of pertussis by recently vaccinated persons is one plausible explanation for the worldwide resurgence in pertussis infections. In a study involving infant baboons, researchers found that acellular pertussis vaccines prevented clinical symptoms but failed to prevent colonization or transmission.52,53 After vaccinating a group of baboons at two, four and six months of age and exposing them one month later to pertussis, the researchers found that the baboons were not protected from B. pertussis colonization and had high levels of bacteria in their respiratory systems. Moreover, when the investigators placed unvaccinated baboons in the same cages twenty-four hours after the vaccinated animals’ exposure to pertussis, the unvaccinated group became infected even though the first group had no overt symptoms. The researchers suggested that the vaccinated group remained contagious for several weeks.
The baboon study and others like it provide evidence that people who have received whole-cell or acellular pertussis vaccines may become “silent reservoirs” of subclinical pertussis infection and may transmit the disease without even knowing it.54 This may be the reason why “cocooning”—the recommended strategy to vaccinate close contacts of infants and other vulnerable people to protect them from pertussis—is increasingly ineffective but also possibly counterproductive.55,56
Another explanation for the resurgence in pertussis over the past three decades has to do with changes in the pertussis organism away from targets of the vaccines, a phenomenon called “antigenic drift.”57 Pertussis outbreaks occur naturally in three- to five-year cycles—despite vaccination—but pertussis bacteria also mutate. In many regions of the world (including Europe, the U.S. and Australia), new strains of pertussis have replaced the common strains targeted by pertussis vaccines, not unlike the way indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. In fact, B. pertussis began evolving to become vaccine-resistant soon after public health authorities began recommending that children get multiple doses of whole-cell DTP vaccine.
In a 2014 study, researchers who analyzed a worldwide collection of three hundred forty-three strains of B. pertussis—isolated between 1920 and 2010—to assess the influence of pertussis vaccines on the emergence of new strains concluded that while antigenic divergence initially involved relatively few mutations, vaccination against whooping cough is now the “major force” inducing adaptive behavior in B. pertussis populations.58 These shifts are leading to reduced vaccine efficacy.
Vaccine-induced adaptation has also led to higher levels of virulence and new and increasingly dominant strains of pertussis toxins. A highly virulent strain of pertussis toxin called ptxP3, for example, did not exist in the pre-vaccination era but has emerged from within pertussis-vaccinated populations. It produces 1.62 times more lethal toxin than the former ptxP1 strain, and no vaccines are designed to protect against it. Researchers have observed a statistically significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths associated with ptxP3 when compared to ptxP1.59 Today none of the whole-cell or acellular pertussis vaccines administered to children or adults (including pregnant women) address any of the widely circulating, mutated B. pertussis strains associated with whooping cough in human populations.8
Studies have also found that DTaP vaccination, intended to protect children from B. pertussis, may increase their risk of whooping cough from another organism called B. parapertussis. One study found that by 2010, B. parapertussis—for which vaccines offer little or no protection—was associated with 16.5 percent of whooping cough cases.60
An earlier study by German researchers published in 2003, titled “Clinical and epidemiological picture of B pertussis and B parapertussis infections after introduction of acellular pertussis vaccine,” found a similarly significant effect of vaccination.61 The German study showed that less than five years after widespread acellular pertussis vaccine use, the proportion of whooping cough cases accounted for by B. parapertussis had increased from 20 to 36 percent. Eighty-one percent of the B. parapertussis cases were fully vaccinated.61
THE VACCINE INJURY EPIDEMIC
Fisher often points out that her son was one of the more fortunate victims of vaccine injury. Although his health deteriorated because he received a crude, highly reactive pertussis vaccine without her informed consent, her son’s reactions, while life-changing, did not leave him with severe and profound brain and immune dysfunction. As an adult, he works hard to compensate for his learning disabilities but lives independently as a productive member of society, in contrast to more severely vaccine-injured adults who require assisted care throughout life. Fisher describes her son as one of the “walking wounded” in what has become “an unprecedented and still unexplained chronic disease and disability epidemic now plaguing millions of children and young adults in America.”2
Nor is it only pertussis-containing DPT, DTP, DTaP and Tdap vaccines that can cause harm. All vaccines carry a risk of injury and death, a risk that can be greater for some people who have genetic, epigenetic and other biological and environmental susceptibility to vaccine reactions.62 Due to large gaps in vaccine science and research, doctors cannot reliably predict ahead of time which individuals will suffer an adverse response to vaccination that leads to chronic illness and disability.
Fisher asserts that we can no longer ignore “the epidemic of learning disabilities, ADHD, asthma, seizures, autism, diabetes, depression, and other types of brain and immune system dysfunction marked by chronic inflammation in the body that has perfectly coincided with the tripling of the numbers of vaccines given to children—from 23 doses of seven vaccines starting at two months through age six in the early 1980s—to the current 69 doses of 16 vaccines starting on the day of birth with 50 doses given before age six.”2
We know that we are not all the same and do not respond the same way to pharmaceutical products like vaccines, and we know that all vaccines are not the same either. That means vaccines are not “safe and effective” for everyone, despite what we are told by public health officials and doctors.
We also know that historically vaccines are not responsible for low disease rates in the U.S. Vaccine-induced herd immunity is largely a myth and, at least in developed nations, most childhood infectious diseases are rarely associated with injury and death. What is more, as the case of pertussis vaccination clearly highlights, we are messing with Mother Nature and creating new and more harmful forms of disease. Finally, we must remember that vaccines are far from the only disease prevention option available. Simply following a Wise Traditions diet could do wonders for a person.
The question that remains is this: What will you choose to do the next time a doctor tells you it is time for you or your child to receive a pertussis vaccination—or any vaccine, for that matter? Will the “rewards” be worth the risks in your mind’s eye?
DIPHTHERIA, PERTUSSIS AND TETANUS TODAY
The various DPT, DTP, DTaP and Tdap vaccines are meant to provide protection against three potentially serious conditions: diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Diphtheria, associated with strains of bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae, most commonly affects the upper-respiratory system, potentially causing weakness, sore throat, mild fever and swollen glands. In more severe cases, this form of diphtheria (as opposed to a rarer form called cutaneous diphtheria) can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis and sometimes death. Diphtheria is associated with poverty, poor sanitation and hygiene, crowded living conditions and chronic health conditions such as alcoholism.63 In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the respiratory version of diphtheria was the leading cause of childhood death around the world, including in the U.S.,64 but nowadays it is virtually non-existent in America, with an average of one to two cases per year.65 The World Health Organization (WHO) reported under nine thousand cases of diphtheria worldwide in 2017.66
Pertussis, commonly referred to as “whooping cough,” is a respiratory disease associated with the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and thought to be highly contagious. Initial symptoms are usually similar to those of the common cold, including hoarseness, watery eyes, runny nose, dry cough and fever; these can be followed by severe coughing fits that can make it hard to breathe. Following a coughing fit, a high-pitched “whoop” or gasp may occur as the person breathes in. The coughing phase can last for ten or more weeks (hence the other nickname, the “hundred-day cough”). Pertussis can affect people of all ages but is worse in those who are undernourished, lack clean water and proper sanitation or have chronic conditions such as asthma.67,68 Pertussis can be serious and sometimes fatal for babies less than one year old.69 The WHO estimates that about one hundred sixty thousand children under age five die from pertussis complications annually, mostly in Africa.70 In 2019, the CDC reported nine deaths and roughly fifteen thousand cases of pertussis in the U.S.71
Tetanus, commonly referred to as “lockjaw,” is a condition associated with a bacterium called Clostridium tetani. Spores of the tetanus bacteria are usually found in soil, dust and manure. The spores on contaminated objects enter the body through broken skin, usually through injuries sustained from a deep cut or even a burn. However, tetanus bacteria do not survive in the presence of oxygen, so puncture wounds which bleed do not provide a suitable environment for the disease. Symptoms of tetanus can include jaw cramping, sudden involuntary muscle tightening, painful muscle stiffness, trouble swallowing, seizures, headache, fever and changes in blood pressure and heart rate. More serious complications include involuntary tightening of the vocal cords, lung problems and death. An estimated one out of ten cases is fatal.72 Like diphtheria, tetanus is uncommon in the U.S., with only about thirty cases reported each year.72
ACUTE AND CHRONIC DAMAGE FROM WHOLE-CELL PERTUSSIS VACCINES
By the early 1980s, multiple studies had confirmed the outsized risks of vaccines containing a whole-cell pertussis component.8 In 1981, for example, British researchers published the largest case-control study ever conducted—the British National Childhood Encephalopathy Study (NCES)—to investigate causes of brain damage in children.73 The researchers concluded that the pertussis portion of the three-in-one DTP vaccine could cause acute brain inflammation and permanent brain damage and identified long-term brain dysfunction affecting physical, social, behavioral and educational outcomes in vaccine-injured children. The NCES researchers estimated that the risk of a previously healthy child developing a serious neurological problem or chronic brain dysfunction within seven days of DTP vaccination was one per one hundred ten thousand shots and one per three hundred ten thousand shots, respectively. A University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) study conducted that same year (1981) in the U.S. found that an astounding one in eight hundred seventy-five DTP shots was followed by either convulsion or shock within forty-eight hours of vaccination.74 Another early 1980s study from West Africa’s Guinea-Bissau found that all-cause infant mortality after three months of age increased by 212 percent after introduction of whole-cell DTP and oral polio vaccines.75
In the U.S., the British study conclusions were confirmed by two congressionally mandated reviews by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).8 IOM reports from 199176 and 199477 concluded that “evidence is consistent with a causal relation” between DTP vaccine and acute brain inflammation and “unusual shock-like state”; and that “evidence indicates a causal relationship between DTP vaccine and shock (anaphylaxis) and protracted, inconsolable crying.” The IOM also confirmed the possibility that some children without underlying brain or metabolic abnormalities might experience serious acute neurological illness within seven days of receiving a DTP vaccine.
Nor has neurological damage been the only type of outcome to worry about. In one of the very few U.S. studies ever to explicitly compare vaccinated to unvaccinated children, UCLA School of Public Health researchers reported in the year 2000 that DTP (or tetanus) vaccination was associated with a lifetime history of asthma or other allergy-related symptoms.78 Shockingly, they estimated that 50 percent of diagnosed asthma cases (2.93 million) in U.S. children and adolescents could be prevented if the DTP or tetanus vaccines were not administered.
1. Barbara Loe Fisher. Life University, May 9, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMysEPeRjt4.
2. Fisher BL. From Nuremberg to California: Why informed consent matters in the 21st century. NVIC, October 24, 2017. https://www.nvic.org/nvic-vaccine-news/october-2017/why-informed-consent-matters-in-21st-century.aspx.
3. Fisher BL, Coulter HL. DPT: A Shot in the Dark: Why the P in the DPT Vaccination May Be Hazardous to Your Child’s Health. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1985.
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This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2020🖨️ Print post