Call to Action As Minnesota Vaccine Safety Advocates Fight Proposed Rule Changes
Several months ago, it was brought to the attention of vaccine safety groups in Minnesota that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) was proposing to add more shots to their recommended schedule, and lower the recommended age for other shots on the schedule. Luckily, we have a really strong group of advocates here, and representatives from several groups came together to plan what to do. We knew we would have a battle on our hands, as attempts to fight changes a decade ago were unsuccessful. In fact, MDH’s recommended changes to the vaccine schedule have never been successfully stopped. But that would never stop us from trying.
The rule in Minnesota is that if at least 25 people write in to oppose the changes, then a hearing before an administrative law judge must occur. If not, MDH can simply adopt the changes that they themselves have recommended. So step one was to get at least 25 people to write in to the administrative law judge, opposing the rule changes. We sent out an action alert, and about 100 people wrote in contesting the rule changes. So a hearing was set up for June 27, 2013.
Next step for the team – what could we actually fight here? The administrative law judge’s job was to determine:
1. Did the MDH have the authority to make these changes?
2. Did the MDH follow all the required procedures when making these proposals?
3. Were the proposed changes necessary and reasonable?
Knowing they had the authority to make these recommendations (whether or not we believe this authority is justified in the first place), and knowing they had followed the necessary steps to propose the changes, we knew our strongest argument would be on whether these changes were needed and reasonable. As we pored over the lengthy SONAR document (Statement Of Need And Reasonableness) put together by an advisory group appointed by MDH, it became clear that their arguments were shaky. They made these proposals in order to bring Minnesota into alignment with the CDC recommended schedule, but of course the CDC schedule has never been proven to be safe, and has come under intense scrutiny recently by members of congress. And there is no need to mandate some of these vaccines, since the number of people getting the diseases is actually DECLINING in Minnesota in the age ranges for which they are recommending the new requirements.
Which begs the question – why? And why now? As we all know, there are fights heating up in many other states to take away individuals’ rights to opt out of vaccines. Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger has publicly stated that he supports removing the rights of Minnesotans to choose when and how to vaccinate their children. Perhaps these changes are simply a way to get more vaccines on the schedule before MDH then tries to remove our rights to refuse them.
So for the past several months, our little band of advocates worked tirelessly to hone our arguments, get the press involved, reach out to medical professionals to submit testimony, fact-check the SONAR document, write and submit our own testimony, and contact parents to urge them to attend the hearing. We had multiple meetings and conference calls, with representatives from several Minnesota groups attending when they could, including The Minnesota Natural Health Coalition, Vaccine Awareness Minnesota, DAMS (Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome), BEATMN (Biological & Educational Autism Treatments MN), The Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project, The Canary Party and the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota. We were contacted by concerned individuals from all over the country. Minnesotans I had not met before reached out to me through CP and VSCM, asking if we were involved and what they could do. Two of them came and testified.
We had two parents of children who were killed by vaccines (but were unable to travel here) submit powerful testimony that was read to the judge by members of our group. And when I called my friend Karen Kain to ask if she would come and testify, she did not even hesitate.
We reached out to attorneys with the National Health Freedom Action group, asking if they could analyze the legal aspects of the proposed changes, and I was excited to find out a few days before the hearing that Ann Tenner would come and testify for us on behalf of that group.
Friendly groups sent out our action alerts to their readership. And several knowledgeable doctors sent in their comments.
The day of the hearing we had two people planning to testify for us that had to leave before they were given an opportunity to speak. One of them had to rush home to take care of his severely vaccine-injured son with autism. I was afraid we would be outnumbered and overwhelmed. But surprisingly, there were more people testifying against the rule changes than for them. And we had far stronger arguments.
After hearing a recitation of all the rules and statute numbers being followed in this proceeding, we heard Kris Ehresmann, Director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Prevention and Control Division of the Minnesota Department of Health (and a proud voting member of ACIP) give a lengthy address. She mentioned a polio outbreak in Kenya to throw out the overused “Vaccine-preventable disease is just a plane ride away” statement. She spoke of the Vaccine Safety Datalink as if it held proof that vaccines were safe – but failed to mention that the public and independent researchers cannot access this database, so we really don’t know. She spoke of the decreased number of antigens children receive today in vaccines compared to the number in the 1960’s, but failed to mention additional adjuvants, preservatives, formaldehyde, and other vaccine ingredients. Interestingly, a law was just passed in Minnesota banning formaldehyde in certain children’s products, as it is a known carcinogen – except that vaccines were excluded from this ban.
There were many generalizations and omissions in Ms. Ehresmann’s presentation, and I encourage readers to watch the video of her testimony.
She spoke for 13 minutes, and then the MDH had two special “panel” members present their testimony. Remember, this was a public hearing, and all attendees had been instructed that our testimony should not exceed 5 minutes. The judge stated that once everyone had a chance to present, people could come back up if they had anything further to say, but until everyone in the room had had an opportunity to speak we were to keep our comments within 5 minutes. This seemed fair, but then why did the MDH and their panel members get more time to speak?
Dr. Robert Jacobson, president of the MN chapter of the AAP, gave expected testimony during his uninterrupted 17-minute speech, including stating that “babies still die from the measles” (although he failed to mention that the last known death in Minnesota related to measles was caused by a measles VACCINE, and that was 22 years ago). He repeated the “safe and effective” mantra, spoke of diseases being spread by the unvaccinated (despite the fact that during the small but much-publicized measles outbreak in MN in 2011, between 23% and 38% of those who got the measles WERE vaccinated), and he parroted the “plane ride away” statement. (Honestly, these people need to get some new catch phrases!) And note that when Dr. Jacobson introduced himself, it was as a pediatrician, AAP president and a father. He did not disclose his financial interest in the meningococcal vaccine – the one he is enthusiastically recommending we now require for all Minnesota 7th graders.
But here is what really struck me about Dr. Jacobson’s testimony: He gave a description of a child he treated who had contracted HIB (Haemophilus Influenza type B), which is a horrible disease where “Infants would come to the hospital in the middle of the night with high fevers, inconsolable, and not completely with it. Their skin was blotchy and discolored, and they could not feed”. (This is nearly an exact description of what happened to my son after he received seven vaccines in one visit) Dr. Jacobson then said “One such baby, really a toddler, recently walking and talking, now reduced to a red-faced, inconsolable terror. His mother could not comfort him, he did not seem to hear her voice, and her touch seemed to burn his skin” – a description eerily similar to thousands of reports of vaccine reactions. He went on, “The child never spoke again, never heard his mother’s voice again”. I sat in stunned silence. How did we get to the point where doctors are capable of showing such tremendous concern in the rare cases when babies contract these symptoms from a disease, but can turn around and be shockingly dismissive and indifferent when a child exhibits the exact same symptoms due to a vaccine?
Video testimony from Ms. Ehresmann, Dr. Jacobson and some of the vaccine safety advocates who spoke can be seen on the Canary Party YouTube channel. We made many excellent points, including the fact that there are actually more children ages 0-4 that are reported being injured or killed by the Hepatitis B vaccine than who actually get the disease itself. Conflicts of interest in the rulemaking groups were called out. And most importantly, the officials’ blanket statements that these vaccines “have a proven record of safety” ring quite hollow when you see and hear stories of children who were killed or permanently brain-damaged by them. The vaccines certainly weren’t safe for those children. I left the hearing feeling that we had done a good job of educating the judge and giving him some concrete facts.
So – what happens from here and what can you do to help?
Now that the hearing is over we move into the next phase: Until July 17th at 4:30 pm Central Time, anyone can submit further information – comments, studies or testimony to the judge. He has promised to read it all. Everything that has been submitted up until that point will be put on the MDH website for everyone to see. Then we will have 5 business days to specifically rebut anything submitted up until then. So from July 17 at 4:30 CT through July 24 at 4:30 CT all comments must be in reference to testimony, comments or studies already submitted by either side. No new arguments can be introduced during the final comment period.
Here is the link to the SONAR document: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/immrule/sonar.pdf
Please take the time to review this document, and watch the videos to take note of any erroneous statements. Send in your comments, supporting documentation or studies, or your own personal testimony. Anyone can comment – you do not need to live in Minnesota, or even in the U.S.
There was an issue with the email address provided below, and it appears emails were not getting through. We have updated the address and suggest that you please please send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the address below and I will make sure they get to the judge. Thank you.
Send your testimony to: Judge Eric L. Lipman – Assistant Chief Administrative Law Judge
Email address: email@example.com (updated email address.)
Be sure to use: Docket# 8-0900-30570 in the subject line of any correspondence
If you want to mail, deliver or fax your testimony, Judge Lipman can be reached at:
Office of Administrative Hearings
Street Address: 600 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 64620, St. Paul, MN 55164-0620
Telephone: (651) 361-7842
Facsimile: (651) 361-7936
Again, be sure to reference the docket number 8-0900-30570 in your submission, and be sure your comments REACH the judge no later than 4:30 pm CT on July 17, and that your rebuttals REACH the judge no later than 4:30 pm CT on July 24, 2013.
For other states that are or will be fighting similar battles, the Canary Party will put the documents that were submitted into a database on our website to help you easily access important information. And I will put out a post when a decision is reached here. Sadly though, even if the judge rules in our favor, MDH can go ahead with these rule changes.
Huge thanks to: Nancy, Chris, Jerri, Wayne, Jennifer, Paul, Leo, Jody, AJ, Lee, Karen, Kate, Ann, Diane, Deanna, Michael, Ginger, Sherri, everyone who wrote in, everyone who helped gather data, and to anyone who will join us in fighting these rule changes.
Will we win this battle in Minnesota? It’s hard to say, but if the judge hears the truth from enough sources and bases his decision on the facts instead of generally accepted medical dogma – we certainly should.
Patti Carroll is mom to two beautiful children, one of whom was permanently brain-damaged by his “Well Baby” vaccines. She has devoted over a decade to advocating for families dealing with autism, and fighting to expose the truth about the damage being caused by vaccines. She works as an ECFE paraprofessional, and volunteers for many autism advocacy organizations. Patti serves on the board of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota and is acting Executive Director of The Canary Party.