Above image: Bill Posey, R-Florida, a pro-vaccine advocate who says vaccine safety issues must be addressed scientifically
The following is a news analysis
It was an earth-shattering revelation from the government's world renowned pro-vaccine medical expert: in a sworn statement, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman said science proves vaccines can cause autism, after all, in "exceptional" cases. What's worse, he claims, government officials misrepresented and covered up his findings after he informed them a decade ago.
Dr. Zimmerman's testimony adds to a growing body of scientific evidence focusing attention on vaccine safety issues.
Pharmaceutical interests portray such evidence, and efforts to study or report on vaccine safety issues, as "anti-vaccine." Scientists and advocates on the other side argue it's actually "pro-vaccine" to investigate ways to make vaccines as safe as possible.
Clearly, the newly-public information from Dr. Zimmerman stood to sway public opinion more than other evidence and claims. After all, he is pro-vaccine and took part in defending the government against vaccine injury claims in court. The government's own chosen expert was now conceding a vaccine-autism link; something the government had previously told the public was impossible.
The powerful nature of Dr. Zimmerman's findings is likely what triggered an organized media campaign driven by vaccine interests to controversialize and censor vaccine safety questions. This campaign included hyping recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. and blaming "anti-vaxxers." As part of this campaign, a great deal of disinformation was distributed including the false claim: "There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases."
In fact, on that point, there is no scientific dispute: it is untrue. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and vaccine makers alike agree that vaccines-- like other medicines-- are associated with serious injuries and death. The risks are disclosed on vaccine labels that the public rarely reads. The only dispute is how often such injuries and deaths occur, and exactly which injuries can be blamed on vaccines. CDC and vaccine makers say the risk of vaccine injuries and deaths is lower than the risks of the relevant diseases.
Nonetheless, members of Congress got involved in the campaign to discredit those raising vaccine safety questions. The Senate quickly convened a one-sided hearing called "Vaccines Save Lives," in which vaccines were defended and promoted without mention of the multiple safety issues. A large group of advocates concerned about vaccine risks were locked in the hallway and not invited to appear.
The pharmaceutical industry influences Congress by spreading around enormous amounts of campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, effectively scuttling attempts to improve vaccine safety or hold hearings examining vaccine-autism links and other health issues. Drug companies earn billions from vaccines. Government-mandated vaccines are guaranteed billions in the bank. Vaccine safety questions mean the possibility of enormous sums of money lost to the industry.
One point the industry and its government partners effectively argue is the notion that if people stop vaccinating, it will mean the return of deadly infectious diseases. However, vaccine safety advocates and scientists counter that vaccines are not an all-or-nothing proposition and should not be argued on that basis. They say science can identify which children have conditions that make them most likely to be injured by vaccines. Those children can be separated out while the rest of the population is vaccinated safely.
After several weeks of the relentless media campaign and under pressure from members of Congress, Facebook recently announced it intends to censor "anti-vaccine" material. Vaccine safety advocates say this move is designed to protect the vaccine industry and prevent members of the public from reading scientific studies and other information about vaccine risks.
Congressman Bill Posey (R-Florida), a pro-vaccine legislator who is one of a minority on Capitol Hill defying the pharmaceutical industry and his own leadership by pursuing vaccine safety issues, has written a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In his letter, Rep. Posey asks whether Facebook has a relationship with vaccine makers as paid advertisers. He also asks for Zuckerberg's views on free speech. He points out that the government has paid $4 billion to vaccine injured patients and their families in recent years. Under a special arrangement approved by Congress, damages are not paid by the vaccine industry. They are paid from a government trust fund financed by a fee that patients are charged for each dose of vaccine given.
Read Rep. Posey's letter to Facebook below: