From the January 2009 Idaho Observer:

Tables turning: Vaccine proponents becoming increasingly on the defensive

Pro-vaccinators reacting to increased use of legal exemptions to

vaccine mandates while parents mobilize to change state vaccine laws

by The Idaho Observer

On January 9, 2009, newspapers across the country announced a federally-sponsored meeting would be held the following day in Ashland, Oregon, where doctors paid 80 parents $50 each to hear their reasons for not vaccinating their children. The Associated Press (AP) article claimed that similar meetings were taking place in Birmingham, Alabama and Indianapolis, Indiana, but that Ashland, population 20,000, was different because it has one of the highest rates in the nation for parents claiming religious exemptions to state-mandated vaccines for daycare and school. According to the AP, more than 28 percent of Ashland’s parents claim a religious exemption to vaccines for their children entering kindergarten and one alternative school has religious exemptions on file for 67 percent of its students.

It appears that vaccine proponents are getting desperate to curb the growing numbers of people opposing vaccine mandates. On January 13, 2009, several newspapers announced the release of Paul Offit’s latest book, "Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine and the Search for a Cure." In the article, pediatrician and vaccine patent holder Paul Offit claims to have written the book because he is infuriated by the claim that vaccines cause autism and is mobilizing a backlash against the anti-vaccine movement in the United States.

A United Press International investigation a few years ago found that vaccine developer/manufacturer Merck had purchased and distributed copies of one of Offit’s books to physicians with a "Dear Doctor" letter that stated: "Merck Vaccine Division is pleased to present you with a copy of the recent publication, ‘What Every Parent Should Know About Vaccines.’"

Often referred to as "Dr. Proffit," vaccine opponents dismiss Paul Offit’s one-sided articles and books due to his financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. For instance, Offit received $millions in royalties for developing the Rotateq vaccine and making sure it was added to the schedule of vaccines recommended by the CDC for children nationwide.

J.B. Handley, founder of Generation Rescue, is shocked by the release of Offit’s latest book saying, "We have hundreds of fully recovered children. I’m very frustrated that Dr. Offit, who’s never treated an autistic child, is spending his time trying to refute the reality of biomedical recovery."

In New York last year, citizens banded together and successfully defeated four "pro-vaccine laws introduced late in the legislative session. Among them was New York Assembly Bill A 10942, dubbed the "worst vaccine bill ever" by vaccine opponents since all CDC-recommended vaccines would have become mandatory for all children—including those too young to enter school—and all new CDC-recommended vaccines would automatically become mandatory.

One of the other proposed bills would have allowed minors to get vaccines for sexually-transmitted diseases without parents’ permission or knowledge.

This year organizers in New York are holding meetings to make sure the philosophical exemption bills sponsored by State Senator Frank Padavan and Assemblymember Mark Alessi are passed. And, in a new twist on vaccine rights, New Yorkers will be working to introduce legislation that will drop vaccines from the mandatory list. The first target will be hepatitis B, a shot given to newborns ostensibly to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.

Meanwhile, states that have the most stringent laws regarding religious exemptions to vaccines, or no exemptions at all such as Mississippi, are becoming more well networked and are fighting back. In Mississippi, one of only two states lacking a religious exemption for children entering school, parents have mobilized support for a philosophical objection to vaccine mandates to be introduced this year. Parents in Mississippi are encouraged by what other states have accomplished and are seeking advice to ensure successful passage of their proposed bill.

In the neighboring state of Arkansas, the legislature passed a law allowing a philosophical exemption to childhood vaccines in 2003. Since that time, the numbers of people claiming exemptions to vaccinations have increased dramatically nationwide.

Adding to the success of the vaccine awareness movement are the addition of numerous educational websites, quality resource books such as Saying No to Vaccines by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny and the Vaccine Safety Manual by Neil Z. Miller, and tools for grassroots activists such as the new Vaccine Fact Card produced by Avatar Products and Vaccination Liberation.