Smallpox and Forced Vaccination: What Every American Needs to Know

by Barbara Loe Fisher

The terrorist attacks of September 11 and subsequent threats of biological warfare have prompted calls by public health officials for national vaccination campaigns against smallpox. How should we respond to this development? The best strategy is to become well informed.

Our World Has Changed. On September 11th our world changed very suddenly. More gradual but significant changes in health have occurred in the U.S. population since routine vaccination for smallpox ended in 1971. At that time, most American children were receiving only four vaccines. Mass anti-smallpox vaccination today would be given to children already receiving 37 doses of 11 other live virus and killed bacterial vaccines, including diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis and chicken pox. It would also occur in the context of a great increase in numbers of Americans suffering with autoimmune and neurological disorders. In the past three decades, the numbers of Americans with asthma, learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have doubled; diabetes has tripled; and autism has increased 200 to 600 percent nationwide.

Smallpox Vaccine for All Americans? Within a month of the terrorist attacks, DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson called for 300 million doses of smallpox vaccine by the end of 2002. Certainly, America should have enough vaccine for everyone who voluntarily wants to use it. The problem is that to achieve this goal by the end of 2002 or even 2003, manufacturers would have to bypass standard safety and efficacy requirements. NVIC is calling for full testing of both the old and new smallpox vaccines before either is released. The old smallpox vaccine was never tested in clinical trials, and the CDC admits it is too dangerous to use on a mass basis today.

All Mass Vaccination Campaigns Result in Casualties. Every vaccine carries risk. Evidence in injury cases shows that doctors cannot predict which individuals will react to vaccines and die or be left with mental retardation, seizure disorders, paralysis, learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, chronic arthritis, or other brain and immune system dysfunction. Future bioterrorist attacks are a theoretical risk. Smallpox vaccine carries known, documented, risks in return for uncertain, undocumented protection. Comparing the two, some health officials have already concluded that the risks of a prophylactic mass vaccination program outweigh the theoretical benefits.

Smallpox Vaccine Reaction Rate Very High. The live virus anti-smallpox vaccine may be the most highly reactive vaccine ever used on a mass basis in humans. Its estimated reaction rate is 1 in 4,000 persons. Of 280 million vaccinated Americans, approximately 70,000 could experience severe reactions. Federal courts have already awarded nearly two billion dollars to families whose children have been killed or injured by mandated childhood vaccines. How many more will we sacrifice?

Industry Asks for Immunity From Lawsuits. Drug companies competing for multi-million dollar contracts to produce smallpox vaccine are asking for legislation shifting all liability for vaccine injuries and deaths to the government. Legislators are already drafting bills to create a federal fund to compensate vaccine victims.

Militarized Public Health System. Our government believes that a single suspected case of smallpox must be treated as an international health emergency. Model state legislation is now pending, allowing public health officials to mobilize government militia to isolate, quarantine and force vaccination and medical treatment on American citizens in states where a governor has called a state of emergency. (Read the law at

Freedom of Choice. The right to be fully informed about risks and benefits of medical intervention, and to make a voluntary decision about what to do, has been the centerpiece of bioethics ever since the end of World War II. While our country needs a sound, workable plan to respond to bioterrorism, we also have legitimate concerns about measures which force citizens to use vaccines without their voluntary, informed consent.

Act Now! Let your individual voice be heard! Contact federal and state legislators Write Attorney General Ashcroft, Health Secretary Thompson, and President Bush. Make sure your local newspaper, radio and television stations have a copy of my full report, available at Sign up for NVIC’s free Vaccine E-News . For more on immunizations read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children‘s VaccinationsWhat Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Childhood Immunizations by Stephanie Cave and Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent‘s Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and AlternativesVaccinations - A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide by Aviva Jill Romm, and visit The National Vaccine Information Center’s website,

Barbara Loe Fisher is Co-founder & President The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 7, Number 2 - Winter, 2001-2002]

All material in this web site is given for information purposes only and is not to be substituted for advice from your health care provider.

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