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Children's Vaccines Health Center

Mandatory Vaccinations Undergo a Year Under the Microscope

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Fisher, who is a member of the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, says her organization, the NVIC, is not anti-vaccine. "We have always been about reforming the system, not destroying the system," she says, pointing out that her group's "mantra" is "show us the science, and give us a choice."

According to Fisher, controversy around vaccines is a very complex issue, with many shades of gray. "We have to take a sensible, reasoned, balanced approach to vaccination and not this militaristic, one-size-fits-all, 'the policy is more important than the individual' [approach]," she says.

Fisher would like to see more scientific testing of vaccinations before they hit the market, to determine the "biological mechanism" of the drug, and perhaps how it could cause injury or death to some individuals, no matter how few. "Everybody is not going to respond the same way," she says.

She would also like to make sure that parents are educated so they can monitor their child after vaccination to look for any health problems. And, along with other advocates, she would like mandatory vaccination laws to become more "flexible."

Jane Orient, MD, director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a 4,000-member doctor group, agrees. "Most of our members think that vaccines in general are a good thing, but we're opposed to mandatory vaccines. We believe that should be between the physician and the patient, and that decision should be made on an individual basis," she tells WebMD.

What are the risks, beyond immediate adverse reactions? Fisher admits there's no proof of cause and effect with some of the claims but a "tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence" pointing to an increase in autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, asthma, juvenile arthritis, diabetes, and "chronic immune and neurological dysfunction," she says.

Mainstream medical organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, back the status quo. Earlier this year, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, acknowledged while testifying before a congressional committee that vaccines "have risks," but the government is increasing spending for research into safety and tracking. Satcher said that vaccines are, from a risk-benefit perspective, "perhaps the safest and most efficacious medical intervention of our time."

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