From the February 2005 Idaho Observer:


SB 3 gives government a license to maim and kill

In his State of the Union address, the president failed to mention that if Congress passes a bill that would give government the authority to force us to take experimental pharmaceutical drugs with no legal recourse for damages and death, he will sign it. According to the president, a strong union is comprised of citizens whose most important duty is to be available for medical experimentation

by The Idaho Observer

 

Your lives are in jeopardy. Your children’s lives are in jeopardy. What is the source of this threat? Senate Bill 3 (S. 3), the Protecting America in the War on Terror Act of 2005.

The bill

S. 3 appears to be a virtual wish list for the pharmaceutical industry, including provisions for tax credits on vaccine research and development; building and facilities remodeling incentives; and bans on our ability to access vital vaccine information. It gives unprecedented liability protection to the entire pharmaceutical industry for vaccine injuries; and it provides no incentive for "quality" control of vaccines…. No "safety" incentives to reduce or eliminate potential vaccine or medication-induced injuries.

In fact, this bill even creates a seven-member commission made up mostly of drug industry and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees who are empowered to regulate themselves.

The sponsors of S. 3 are seeking to do tort reform, Vaccine Injury Compensation Act (VICA) reform, and vaccine development all under the Protecting America in the War on Terror Act of 2005. These are three "big picture" issues that deserve their own separate bill and attention.

Senators Bill Frist and Judd Gregg introduced S. 3 in the Senate Finance Committee and can now be viewed in its entirety at http://thomas.loc.gov/

A 1991 memo showed Merck knew but did not care

One of the provisions in S. 3 would provide drug makers with liability protection against civil actions involving FDA-approved products. On February 8, 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported that a 1991 memo showed that drug giant Merck did not act even though the pharma giant knew of the likely danger to the nation’s children from the accumulation of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines.

The memo, issued by Merck, said that 6-month old children who received their shots on schedule would get a mercury dose of up to 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish.

A full-disclosure of Merck’s findings in 1991 may have prevented millions of children from dangerous exposure to mercury, a known neurotoxin. Numerous studies, including a first-phase study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have linked the mercury-based preservative to neurodevelopmental disorders including autism. According to the CDC, autism now affects 1 in 166 children. Some reports cite that the rise in autism and ADHD correlates with the increase of thimerosal-containing vaccines added to the recommended vaccine schedule that Merck knew about almost 15 years ago.

The memo was issued eight years before the FDA acknowledged the overuse of mercury in vaccines and goes on to discuss safety concerns, and at one time states that the large use of mercury in their vaccines presents a "perception of hazard."

S.3 prohibits state bans 

S. 3 would prevent states from legislating bans for the existence of mercury in vaccines. Several parents and advocacy groups have been fighting for the removal of mercury in vaccines. California and Iowa passed bans in 2004. If passed, not only would the bill remove states’ rights, but it would further protect pharmaceutical companies like Merck from vaccine-related litigation. "Because drug companies like Merck are so easily protected by certain friends on Capitol Hill, they have no incentive to reveal such findings or right the wrong that’s been done," says one mother. "It is astounding that memos like this remain hidden and corporations that are supposed to be the benchmark of safety, end up covering up the dangers."

S.3 is the fifth piece of legislation Senator Frist has tried to pass on behalf of vaccine-makers. Parents believe that the bill, and any vaccine-oriented legislation introduced by Frist, will impede efforts to uncover even more important documents that could ultimately explain what happened to millions of American children. According to the website www.opensecrets.org, a public service watchdog, Senator Frist has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies since 1997. 

In a section entitled "Vaccine Injury Compensation and Litigation Reform," S. 3 states:

"(a) FINDINGS- Congress finds that—

(1) there are shortcomings in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and loopholes in that program that have been exploited in a manner that has contributed to a decline in the availability of vaccines generally in the United States and a decline in the number of manufacturers able to supply vaccines; and

"(2) the condition described in paragraph (1) presents a barrier to the development of vaccines needed for bioterror countermeasures.

"(b) RECOMMENDATIONS- After considering recent changes in the litigation environment with respect to vaccines as well as recent scientific evidence and reports by the Institute of Medicine and others with respect to the safety of vaccines and their components and ingredients, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General shall, not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, jointly submit recommendations to the appropriate committees of Congress concerning necessary modifications to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and Federal rules regarding litigation involving vaccines."

Two men with absolute power over vaccines and our children’s lives

Based on the May 18, 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the bill gives two men in America–the Attorney General and the Secretary of HHS–the authority to change the litigation rules of vaccine-injuries in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The autism advocacy community knows that the IOM report was based upon flawed studies, but the Attorney General and the HHS Secretary will be taking the report as gospel and applying what the IOM said to new rules that will apply to litigation of vaccine cases in the NVICP.

Parents will have no recourse when attempting to prove that their child’s injuries were caused by vaccines. It is a vicious cycle: Pharmaceutical companies have money to fund flawed studies, and then agency panels are convened at politically-convenient times to make significant life-altering determinations based upon faulty studies.

S.3 designed to block

future lawsuits

According to the new bill’s ambiguous language, S.3 will address "shortcomings in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and loopholes in that program that have been exploited in a manner that has contributed to a decline in the availability of vaccines generally in the United States and a decline in the number of manufacturers able to supply vaccines." This same language in past bills often developed into more specific language designed to block thimerosal-related lawsuits:

— In May 2002, Senator Frist introduced legislation that protected drug companies from thimerosal-related lawsuits. Parents acted and the bill died.

—In November 2002, a provision that would prohibit lawsuits against Eli Lilly, the maker of mercury-based thimerosal used in vaccines, was tiptoed into the Homeland Security Bill causing a "whodunit" scandal. Parents and legislators had the provision repealed.

— In March 2003, Senator Frist introduced the same legislative language as part of the BioShield Bill. The provision was removed after parents rallied in D.C.

— In April 2003, Senator Frist and Senator Judd Gregg worked with Senator Chris Dodd on a compromise to revamp the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. When the compromise leaned too much in favor of our children, Frist and Gregg pulled out.

— In February, 2004, Senator Frist introduced the Healthy Women and Healthy Babies Access to Care which prohibited lawsuits against any FDA-approved product or device including thimerosal-containing immunoglobulin products given to pregnant women with the Rh factor. According to past reports from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), vaccine manufacturers have not left the market for fear of liability; rather, they have become smaller in number due to mergers and acquisitions.

For years, Frist and Gregg have introduced legislation under the guise of protecting America and drug companies from frivolous lawsuits. Parents say it’s simply a shameful attempt to keep their pharma friends free of all liability.

Today we are witnessing several thimerosal lawsuits that have moved forward in civil court. Trials are beginning this year. Blocking these lawsuits would interfere with already successful efforts to see what drug companies knew about the harmful effects of mercury in vaccines. "It would be criminal to try and stop parents from learning valuable information about the cause of their child’s illness," said another mother from Missouri.

Another parent agreed, saying, "Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes. Harmful effects of SSRIs [anti-depressants] were swept under the rug. Thimerosal causes autism. The system is broken. In my opinion, Frist and Gregg continue to create an escape route for drug companies that have no incentive to put health before profit."

If S. 3 passes into law, not only will states not be allowed to warn the public about toxic vaccine ingredients, but there will be no right to legal redress for American citizens debilitated by FDA-approved drugs, devices, or vaccines.

Disturbing provisions

Here are some more key troubling provisions of S. 3:

— Providing drug and vaccine makers with unprecedented, total liability protection against civil actions involving FDA-approved products. This means that lawsuits involved with Vioxx, Celebrex, medical devices, and now potentially Adderall, would have no legal recourse.

— Expanding the definition of ‘countermeasure’ to include any drug or device the FDA regulates, with specific mention of infectious diseases.

— Repealing certain sunshine laws that protect us from favoritism in awarding contracts as well as creating secret meetings. In this way the government would not have to provide information to the public, even under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), about meetings, policy decisions, and contracts.

— Creating "Global Harmonization." CDC employees created the Brighton Collaboration to work on the international level in setting research and policy guidelines. If this bill passes, their international activities could be used to circumvent U.S. laws.

— Overriding already passed state legislation to ban thimerosal from vaccines and prohibit similar bans in other states.

— Restricting informed consent regarding toxic components of FDA-approved drugs and vaccines.

— Forcing families into federal court for vaccine-related damages that fall outside the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, in effect usurping states’ rights.

— Establishing a seven-member "Commission" to regulate the vaccine industry thus allowing drug manufacturers to regulate themselves at the expense of consumer safety.

— Bestowing significant tax credits upon pharmaceutical companies for purchase and/or refurbishment of manufacturing facilities.

— Extending patents on existing drugs, thereby preventing generic drugs from entering the market. This alone will give $billions to the industry each year.

More shocking reasons

to act now

If an "emergency" is declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services,

there will be NO CHALLENGE. There is NO concrete triggering mechanism.... This is at someone’s whim. There is NO hard and fast rule as to what could trigger an epidemic or emergency. 

Every countermeasure against terrorism is put under an umbrella that makes it legal.

If vaccines are mandated as "countermeasures," there is unprecedented protection for the vaccine manufacturers, and no protection for the vaccine-injured.

Non-elected individuals should neverbe given such sweeping power over matters affecting the lives of Americans.

AUTHORITY WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE BEING CONDITIONED TO THINK S. 3 WILL PROTECT THEM FROM DISASTER.... BUT S. 3 ACTUALLY INVITES DISASTER.

S. 3 is currently in the Finance Committee but the HELP Committee has traditionally dealt with these issues. The chairman of the HELP Committee, Senator Enzi, has stated this past week that the HELP Committee will be addressing S. 3 soon.

So, while your fax and phone calls are imperative to the Finance Committee right now, the HELP Committee should also be made aware of your concerns. We must ALL do our part to stop S. 3 in its tracks. It is imperative that we prevail in this ongoing war between our lives and the powerful pharmaceutical lobbyists.

Let them know how you feel

Below is a sample letter that you can customize and personalize.

You can FAX a copy of the letter to the Senate Finance Committee via Chairman Max Baucus (202) 224-4700.

For a list of all Senate Finance Committee members, their phone numbers, FAX numbers and an electronic version of the sample letter, go to www.vaclib.org

Dear Senator ___________:

Please vote "No" on Senate Bill S.3. Bill S. 3 will take away children’s and Americans’ rights to receive just compensation for injuries sustained through vaccines and other drugs.  This bill, called the Protecting America in the War on Terror Act of 2005, is disguised as legislation that is supposed to help families such as mine.  The bill appears to benefit only the pharmaceutical industry—and not our children.

The bill references the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as a reliable source of information regarding the vaccine component Thimerosal. At the February 2004 Immunization Safety Committee meeting, renowned independent researchers confirmed through sound science that Thimerosal causes autism and other neurological disorders. The IOM ignored these findings, proving themselves to be an unreliable source.

Please understand that families who are seeking restitution for vaccine-injured children are not engaged in "frivolous" lawsuits. They are only seeking what is fair for their kids. These parents believed the IOM regarding the safety of vaccines, and now their children are suffering.

I am one of the hundreds of thousands of citizens across this country who will be watching very closely how this bill is handled. I ask that you oppose this legislation for the sake of our children.

Sincerely, ___________________