Bill requires State report on adverse reactions
by Alison Despathy
H.189 would require the Vermont Department of Health to provide the General Assembly with an annual report of adverse reactions to immunizations. The role of data in guiding public health policy is well established and this bill will serve the people of Vermont.
I worked with my first vaccine-injured client in 2002. ‘Sarah’ was a 32 year old woman who suffered with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) from a flu vaccine received 8 months prior. GBS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the nerve tissue and victims suffer a wide array of neurological symptoms including: muscle weakness, degrees of paralysis and possible death due to breathing complications.
Sarah’s medical doctors acknowledged that her GBS was due to her recent flu vaccine. Typically GBS will emerge 2-42 days after a flu shot, for Sarah it was 12 days and began with severe muscle weakness which progressed to partial paralysis. The swine flu vaccine of 1976 brought vaccine- induced GBS to the forefront. Reporting for 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace provided an investigative report on this disaster.
Sarah sought my help because she had tried all of the medical approaches and was not improving. The first step we took was to work with her medical doctor to file a vaccine injury report with the Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
The Health and Human Services website states,
“Established in 1990, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines. VAERS is co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS accepts and analyzes reports for adverse events (possible side effects) after a person has received a vaccination. Anyone can report an adverse event to VAERS. Healthcare professionals are required to report certain adverse events and vaccine manufacturers are required to report all adverse events that come to their attention.”
Sarah’s doctor was not aware of this reporting system. This is not uncommon. In 2011, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care issued the Lazarus Report. Based on data gathered from Epic- the largest electronic medical records system at the time- this study identified the degree of underreporting in a passive surveillance system such as VAERS.
The Lazarus Report concluded that,
“Adverse Events from Drugs and Vaccines are common, but underreported. Although 25% of ambulatory patients experience an adverse drug event, less than .3% of all adverse drug events and 1-13% of serious events are reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Likewise, fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported. Low reporting rates preclude or slow the identification of “problem” drugs and vaccines that endanger public health…”
I have had a clinical nutrition practice in St. Johnsbury for over two decades and I have worked with 68 people struggling with vaccine injury. The majority of their primary care providers were not familiar with the Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. In addition to the lack of awareness regarding VAERS, entering reports can take 45 minutes, a barrier for many busy healthcare providers which also results in significant underreporting.
Throughout the past two decades, I have worked closely with many healthcare providers at Northern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH). With the ‘operation warp speed’ COVID injection roll out, my work with vaccine injuries and knowledge about the 1976 swine flu debacle, I reached out to colleagues at NVRH and asked about the protocol for monitoring and reporting possible vaccine adverse events. None of the people I contacted were aware of the Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
Upon hearing this, I called Laurel Ruggles, the Vice President of Marketing and Community Health at NVRH. Laurel recognized the significance of this situation. She immediately added a note about VAERS reporting to the weekly hospital update to educate and remind staff and healthcare providers. Without training, time, or data, it is impossible to know how this influenced vaccine adverse event reporting.
H.189 and its required annual report of VAERS data will help accomplish two primary objectives-
- It will allow Vermont to establish a record and identify possible statewide concerns regarding vaccine adverse events, specific vaccine batches, and noteworthy patterns.
- It will educate healthcare professionals and the public about the role that a surveillance system such as VAERS provides in order to gather data, inform public health policy and ultimately keep Vermonters safe.
H.189 is in the House Health Care Committee. If you agree that this bill will serve the people of Vermont – please reach out to your local representative and the Health Care Committee in support of this bill – clearly it is in the best interest of all Vermonters that H.189 and its resulting annual report is filed.
The author is a clinical nutritionist in St. Johnsbury.