Faced with making what should be a routine vaccination recommendation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released misleading documentation and is advocating its own agenda against the views of the public.
Over the summer months the CDC held four “public” meetings across the country, ostensibly to gather “public input” on whether the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a part of the CDC, should recommend a meningitis vaccine for infants.
However, after personally attending one of these meetings, it was clearly evident the CDC wished to frame participants’ opinions from the outset into agreement with its own predetermined message: that the vaccine isn’t “cost-effective.”
The CDC seems to assume this vaccine’s cost would not be worth the number of lives it would save. Although contemplation of cost is necessarily part of every government decision, it is parents, not a government agency, who should decide whether they consider it financially worthwhile to vaccinate their children.
If the CDC does not recommend the vaccine, it will not be covered by a majority of private insurance plans, which will make the vaccine too expensive for physicians to stock, and government programs will not cover it. Yet CDC representatives spent much of their time at these public hearings attempting to persuade participants that recommendation was unwise.
Meeting Results Depicted Inacurrately
Despite the CDC’s efforts, all four public meetings resulted in the majority voting for recommendation of the vaccine. But when Forbes contributor and Hoover Institution fellow Henry Miller asked the CDC for these figures, it refused to announce the results publicly.
Instead, the CDC posted documents stating its own assessment of the meetings, and its account is drastically different from what I and three other Heartland Institute representatives witnessed. In fact, the CDC document baldly states “many didn’t believe disease incidence and/or protection provided by vaccines warranted universal recommendation,” when all four meetings resulted in votes favoring exactly that.
The document includes other instances of misleading rhetoric. For example, it states it is “important to note that wanting option or access to meningococcal vaccines for infants is not the same as wanting or believing there should be a recommendation.” Yet at the Chicago meeting, CDC senior advisor Dr. Glen Nowak explained exactly how recommendation, universal or permissive, would affect access.
Ignoring Providers, Then Hiding It
The CDC covers up the fact that they did not allow health care providers to participate in the meeting. An entire section of the CDC document falsely claims provider voices and values were heard. The document claims providers expressed a concern the vaccine schedule was “already very crowded,” and that recommendation would further complicate the schedule.
What the CDC neglects to mention is that these words were not spoken by providers, as they were not even allowed to participate. They were expressed, and are quoted verbatim, by one Dr. Amanda Cohn, the lead CDC scientist on the subject.
Public Hearing or Push Polling?
The CDC officials’ document states, “many noted that a vaccine that prevents a rare but serious disease is more important when prevention is achieved at a relatively low cost.” But at the meeting I attended, 44 percent of participants stated they would be willing to pay more than $500 out of pocket for the vaccine. And when the CDC specifically asked how much tge cost of a vaccine should matter when making a decision about recommendation, only “2 in 10 said it should matter ‘very much,'” according to the CDC’s own measure.
Ironically, under the document’s section entitled “commonly expressed views,” there is more than one reference to a wish for parents to have choice and authority as well as options. Yet the content before and after those points works to completely negate the validity of those statements, using vague terms such as “many” to indicate a majority was in agreement with the CDC opinion when the opposite was true.
Time for a New Name
When this document was presented to the ACIP in October and made available to the public online, what was heard was actually CDC opinion under the guise of provider input.
Writing at Forbes, Miller said, “The CDC’s entire approach to this issue is marked by poor judgment and lack of leadership, traits that seem endemic in the federal government these days.” The fact that an agency would go to such lengths to disguise the actual sentiments of American citizens is disturbing indeed.
Historically, the CDC has never chosen to not recommend a vaccine. Yet access to this life-saving immunization could be essentially eliminated as the CDC adopts a new rule that vaccines meet its own arbitrary opinion on what is cost-effective. With such shockingly deceptive conduct, it is evident that the Centers for Disease Control are actually rotting from within.
Glen Nowak, “Stakeholder and Public Engagement: Meningococcal Vaccines and Infants,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/acip/downloads/mtg-slides-oct11/05-PublicEngagement-Nowak.pdf