Monday, March 21, 2016

SB-277 (Publishing My Own Vaccine Research Piece, Since Publications Are Too Scared To Do So)

Hello –––––,

Thank you for the response! I don't know if I'll be able to get this published since trying to put any information out there that is not completely pro-vaccine is near impossible.
However all the data I present in this piece is mined the same way I pull data for any research piece- carefully culling from reputable and documented sources, from experts
like Dr. Aaby, who I quote here, and who is one of the most highly respected vaccine scientists in the world. If editors had to be experts on every piece they ran, only niche
magazines would exist, instead of magazines and publications which publish journalism that presents research in an interesting way. I hope in the future you will reconsider 
placing some well-researched pieces about both the benefits and concerns of vaccines, for I believe deeply that journalism is at its finest and most crucial place in history when 
it illuminates subjects that are silenced, difficult and important.

Thank you,
Maggie Ethridge

Sent: Monday 10:21 AM
To: Maggie
Subject: Re: Freelance Pitch: SB-277

Hey Maggie, thanks for following up. We're going to pass on this—we tend to steer clear of the vaccine debate since none of our editors on staff feel qualified to pass medical judgements.



On Mon 1:14 PM, Maggie <> wrote:

Hello ____,

Good morning! I am wondering if you had a chance to review my below pitch and attached piece. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Thank you,

After the third or fourth refusal to even consider publishing something that is not entirely pro-vaccine, I am publishing the below piece myself.


“There are movements in almost every state to mandate vaccines and rob parents of their constitutional rights. Parents must retain the right to be informed first, and then consent to medical treatment for their children free of coercion, manipulation or fear of Government intrusion.
I have two beautiful granddaughters, both vaccinated, I vaccinated all three of my children…but I made the decision, not the State.
The current voluntary vaccination program is already proven effective at protecting Californians against life threatening complications and death associated with vaccine preventable illnesses.
There is no medically defined epidemic in or near California that warrants such legislation. The language of California Senate Bill 277 gives the government unlimited power to add new vaccines to the currently mandated school entry immunization battery without hearing or oversight, and removes the right of parental objection based upon sincerely held religious or personal beliefs.
I fight against Federal Preemption… I fight against Government loop holes for polluters… I fight against the use of the Public Drinking Water systems as medical dispensaries…and therefore, in order to be consistent… I am against Government mandated medical decisions for my children.”
-Erin Brockovich on SB 277

When There is Risk, There Must Be Choice

SB 277 is a bill that passed June 30, 2015 which enforces mandatory vaccinations for all children attending public and private school, child care center or nursery, family day care or development center in California. Introduced by Senators Pan and Allen, this bill erases parents's right to informed medical consent in order to be permitted to participate in what is legally every child's right: a free public education.

It was the small measles outbreak stemming from a California Disneyland that launched SB 277. Headlines across media channels were unavoidably hyperbolic: here's one from The Washington Post: Disneyland Measles Outbreak Strikes In Unvaccinated Hotbeds. US Measles Outbreak Reaches Critical Point- that one from CNBC. And anti-vaxxers ( that lumpy, lazy term ) are even to blame for Mickey Mouse being Stricken With Measles, according to Mother Jones. Or this: Vaccine Deniers Go To Disneyland, It's Pure Mayhem, from Healthline.

Collecting hell in a hand-basket from these headlines, we find the words: strikes, hotbeds, critical, stricken, and mayhem. These words for a disease that sickened just over 200 people and ended in zero deaths. The measles vaccine has been a life saver. Yet the headlines act as if the small portion of unvaccinated or delayed vaccinators were single handedly bringing something akin to ebola directly at our doorstep. The progoganda was swift and effective in whipping up fear:

Measles in California.
Measles possibly spreading in hotbeds, striking mayhem.
Will anyone die?
We have to act now, and create a law, forcing parents to vaccinate their children in order for their children to obtain a free educuation.

The online magazine SafeBee wrote what I saw repeatedly in my Facebook feed: "The bottom line is that children or adults shouldn't have to die from the measles in the U.S." And despite the fact that California's current vaccination schedule is working, and no children nor adults did die from the measles, SB 277 was created- as the answer to a problem that didn't exist, but a fear that most certainly did.*

The basis for SB 277 is coercion, via the removal of a right (the right to a free public education) unless following the vaccination schedule set out. The American Medical Association speaks to coercion as 'threatening or causing harm through physical or mental suffering'. Guidelines from the AMA supports patient rights, and condemn the use of legal intervention to force compliance with treatment.

Forbes, when summing up the core message of a bill like SB 277, wrote "Want to send your kid to school? Make sure he gets his shots, or have a very, very, very good reason not to have." And there is the core problem with this bill, and what should be every parent's most pressing concern: who gets to decide what a 'very, very, very good reason' is, and is it legal that if you- the parent- strongly disagree with a doctor who concludes your reason is not one of the very, very, very good reasons, you have to choose between allowing your child to have a vaccination that you believe may seriously harm your child, or losing your child's right to a free education?

SB 277 is coercive, as home-schooling or charter school is not a viable option for most parents, for a variety of reasons, including financial. That a parent who is being forced to choose between their child's education and a vaccine that they believe will seriously harm their child is experiencing 'mental suffering' can be proven through the stories of invidual families, families like the Aquinos.

Elizabeth Aquino is a Los Angeles mother of three and the author of  the memoir Hope For A Sea Change, the chronicle of her daughter Sophie’s idiopathic seizure disorder that she- and her current pediatrician- believe was triggered by her initial DPT shot in March of 1995 when Sophie was two months old, and then exacerbated by additional vaccinations at four and five months.

“Our daughter has had refractory epilepsy and severe developmental disability and is now 20 years old. She requires 24 hour care, is non-verbal, incontinent and is completely dependent on caregivers. She has been on 22 different medications and only recently found partial relief from daily seizures with cannabis oil. Her brothers, now 14 and 17, have been partially vaccinated in the last two years. As a seasoned parent of a child with severe special healthcare needs, I am appalled at the coercive nature of SB277 and believe emphatically that medical decision-making should be shared by caregivers and their pediatricians. I do not believe that my child should be the "rare" sacrifice for the "greater" public, and we need more and better research on current vaccine policy and scheduling.”

Luckily for the Mrs. Aquino, she is able to obtain exemptions for her sons. However, another doctor may not have signed off on this exemption, as Sophie was never proven to be vaccine injured through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Funds courts- courts that Mrs. and Mr. Aquino didn’t even know existed at the time of Sophie’s decline.

Many doctors would not allow exemptions without a specific diagnosis for the child in question, and this is the concern of D.K., a San Diego mother of two young boys. Her oldest son, now four, was fully vaccinated at two years old. He was struggling with severe aggression, sensory issues, hyperactivity, and inability to focus- despite the family’s healthy eating and lifestyle, which included strict media restrictions and plenty of outside play.

After becoming increasingly concerned about the causation behind her son’s health issues, D.K. began researching the vaccines that her son had received, and decided to abstain from further vaccinations. She was able to obtain an exemption for her older son despite lacking a clear diagnosis for his health issues, which have included severe sensitivities to environment and food, and have ended with D.K. implimenting the Fiengold diet for her son (a popular diet that claims to address various health ailments)

She explains, “If a single M&M caused a three day reaction, what issues might vaccine cause? Perhaps already had? Considering the amount of vigilance required for us to a achieve a livable level of calm in our home, I decided not to risk an irreversible cascade of more issues. I  know and have seen over and over again that chemicals and certain preservatives cause neurological and behavioral issues for my son, and I know vaccines contain those same chemicals and preservatives. How can I knowingly cause him harm?

Because of the issues with my first son, I have not vaccinated my second son per schedule. He has exactly none of the issues of my first born. My family, including me, has a history of autoimmune disease. Perhaps our immune systems react in a way that most normal kids don't? I am not sure what the answers are, but I do know that I vehemently disagree with the passage of SB277. I believe, thankfully, very few family need access to personal exemptions, but it is extremely important for those families that desperately do, to retain those rights. I know my child best, and as I respect the medical profession, they are partners in my child's health, not the directors.

To deny my {youngest} child's right to a free public education in order to force blanket vaccinate, despite having legitimate concerns based on health history and a family history of autoimmune issues, is frankly shocking.”

Proponents for the SB 277 bill cite that fear of 'incredibly rare' vaccine side effects should not be reason to partially vaccinate or use a delayed schedule, stating that as you use a seatbelt, so you should use vaccines they way you are told. This analogy is flawed for two reasons: the long-term side effects of vaccines (including sex-specific effects) are not researched and are unknown due to both lack of research and lack of time passing since the advent of the U.S. current vaccination schedule, and the the number of children who are reported as vaccine injured do not accurately reflect the actual number of children injured, due to the incredibly arduous and time consuming process- years, with endless paperwork and documentation and burden of proof in court- of vaccine court, all this for parents in the midst of struggling with their child's sudden and totally devastating health crisis. As you'd imagine, many parents never follow through with this process, and the stories of ones who do- even successfully- allow a glimpse into how unacceptably awful and lengthy the process is. 

In a Yahoo article profiling a series of parents with vaccine injuries, the Lawson family, whose baby daughter was vaccine injured after the MMRV shot, spent four years in vaccine court before being awarded $1.5 million dollars. A must-read article in The New York Times, written in 2011 yet perfectly relevant, highlights the disasters of our current vaccine court. The family featured in the beginning of the piece had allowed their baby, Jeffery, to have a precautionary brain scan due to a car accident, and the MRI results were normal. Days later, Jeffery had the DPT vaccine. Days after this, he began seizing. When new MRI’s were done, there was blackness where once there had been the gray matter of his brain. Jeffery’s family went through the vaccine court under the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and their claim took eleven years to resolve.

Jeffery and family were awarded $7 million dollars in cash and medical care, although it then took another three years for the family to receive the funds.

The Associated Press did an analysis of 14,500 cases in the vaccine court, conducted over a 100 interviews, and read hundreds of decisions made in the vaccine court. Their findings were a collection of serious failures and flaws in the vaccine court and compensation system, including the fact that many of the lawyers hired by the government to argue vaccine injury claims have ties to the pharmacutical industry, and this: “Lawmakers designed vaccine court to favor payouts, but the government fights legitimate claims and fails its obligation to publicize the court, worried that if they concede a vaccine caused harm, the public will react by skipping shots.”

Dr. Peter Aaby is a Danish vaccine scientist who heads the Bandim Health Project . This organization, located in Guinea-Bisseau, is deeply respected world-wide for their unprecedented body of research on the non-specific effects of vaccines, or NSE. The non specific effects of vaccines refers to effects on human beings from vaccines other than simply preventing the disease they are intended to do.  Dr. Aaby speaks and presents at WHO conferences and other vaccine research conferences, and has spent the large part of the last 30 years in Africa researching vaccines. All of his important research is available on line, in the Journal Of American Medical Association as well as categorized in the Bandim Health Project. A book which collects the body of research is also available on the website for free. He is one of the only scientists in the world researching the non-specific effects of vaccines, and his research shows that there are both surprisingly negative and positive effects of various vaccines, influenced by the sex of the child as well as the order in which the vaccines are allocated.

For example, his research finds that giving the measles vaccine- the singular vaccine- decreases overall cause of death for children. His work also found that when you give the DTP in conjunction with the measles, the result is the exact opposite- in fact, the death rate soars, especially in females. The implications for the U.S. vaccine schedule are clear: we don't know what the long term effects of our vaccine schedule are; we are not funding research to find out.

In the comprehensive BBB series, The Vaccine Detectives, Dr. Aaby’s historical research on the measles and DPT vaccine are chronicled. The series includes a number of interviews with vaccine scientists working at the time for WHO- the World Health Organization- as well as scientists working with Dr. Aaby’s team at the time. When asked why they believe the critical and scary research conclusions on the harm of the DPT and measles scheduling was not being actively pursued with follow up research by WHO, they responded with the same deduction the AP report in the New York Times article came to: that the scientific community was afraid of revealing or pursuing the information. Why? Because people might not vaccinate.

The then Dr. Mulholland- now a professor working for the London School of Hygiene, a widely respected institution- said “It’s worrying…some years ago I did a calculation of what this could mean in terms of mortality, locally, and it’s quite alarming. Why is it that the international community is sitting on their hands and ignoring this, that’s a good question.”

The work Dr. Aaby is doing- in addition to the answers it is providing- shines a light on all the missing answers, the facts we do not know about vaccinations’s long term effects on children's mortality and health.

Another concern that non-vaccinating, partially vaccinating or delayed vaccinating parents have is the question of whether the trace amounts of mercury in vaccines are causing health problems in children. The movie Trace Amounts highlights one man's journey with a vaccine injury that led him to investigate the trace amounts of mercury that remain in vaccines, and campaign for their removal. The are scientists who speak aggressively about this concern, such as Suzanne Humphries. Her short video explaining the concerns about the trace amount of mercury in vaccines is edifying.

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D, Co-Chair of Oregonians for Medical Freedom and the author of Your Baby, Your Way, writes on her website:

"According to research published in the Journal of Human Toxicology, America has the most aggressive infant childhood vaccination schedule in the world, and much poorer infant health outcomes compared to countries with fewer vaccines. Vaccines are so powerful, with so many long term unknowns, that only a parent can make this serious choice for their child, and it is is illegal for a parent to be coerced into compliance with threat of loss of public education."

Returning to the commonly used seatbelt analogy, we see that in forcing parents to vaccinate their children on the current U.S. schedule, we are asking them to disregard all their concerns- including, but not limited to, the ones I’ve illuminated above- for their child’s health and comply, or lose their child’s right to public education. We are not asking people the equivelant of  ‘put on a seatbelt’- an action that is almost universally accepted as safe and greatly reducing harm in the event of a car accident, accidents which are unfortunately common.

Instead, we are asking people to force an action- vaccination on the U.S. schedule- on their child that could have serious, negative effects on their child’s health. An action which has almost no research on the long-term, nonspecific effects on health, in order to reduce the chances of getting diseases, not all of which are deadly in modern first world countries (such as measles), nor proven harmful ( such as chickenpox); we are asking parents to take what they perceive is a large health risk to their child- parents like D.K.- for which research is not being conducted in the U.S. to allay these points of concern. This is a different discussion all together from debating if vaccines work. Like Dr. Aaby, the majority of parents I know are not concerned about the overall efficency of vaccines, but are instead concerned with the long-term non-specific effects.

The burden is on the state to provide the least restrictive measure possible to protect all children, and the burden of proof that this bill was necessary has not been met. In fact, vaccination rates in California are over the necessary percentage for herd immunity. Children with communicable diseases attend public school, protected by the ADA-the Americans With Disabilities Act- with strict laws that put the onus on the school system and physicians to handle the disease, including having a physician access the risk to determine how to avoid transmission. Yet a child who is perfectly healthy and never left the U.S. would not be able to attend school because they do not have the chickenpox vaccine.

Another concern those against SB 277 have is the machine behind the bill: money. This recent article in The Sacremento Bee highlights the facts: "Pharmaceutical companies and their trade groups gave more than $2 million to current members of the Legislature in 2013-2014, about 2 percent of the total raised, records show. Nine of the top 20 recipients are either legislative leaders or serve on either the Assembly or Senate health committees.

Receiving more than $95,000, the top recipient of industry campaign cash is Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and doctor who is carrying the vaccine bill." Senator Pan, who introduced SB 277.

Who led and pushed the creation of this bill? Not parents. Not even parent's representatives. Pharmacutical lobbyists created SB 277.

And then, we come to number eleven in SB 277, the slipshod wording allowing the dam to burst when it may. What diseases must your child be immunized against, according to SB 277? The bill lists ten, and then, this:

(11) Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Any vaccine, all vaccines, can be added to this bill.

Not only are there immediate problems with SB 277, but the bill poses serious questions for the future with no current answer. What measures will the state take to ensure that a child without the full demanded vaccination count does not attend public school? Will they physically pull children out of class if they become behind in their shots? What will the consequences be to parents who bring their child to school? What are the physician's specific standards of approval required to be to allow for partial or delayed vaccination? Who is creating oversight on these physicians? Who will advocate for parental rights when the decisions are debated?

It is not justifiable, neither through statistics of vaccinations rates for California, nor is it legal for a child being denied a spot in public school because they are missing a vaccine, or on a delayed schedule. And it wasn't necessary.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cover Story on Endometriosis in Marie Claire

You guuuuys. I'm very proud that a story I wrote on the financial cost of endometriosis made the front feature of! It's bumped now to the top and another story had taken its place, but I'm happy with this placement and the essential awareness on this disease that this story helped push.

Take a look!

Endometriosis has been taking from me since I was a teenager.
At 18, I lost my job as a waitress due to my sluggish behavior, lateness, and excessive sick days. I rarely felt well, and often I was so miserably tired, achy, and spacey that I would settle in and wait for a flu that never came. Instead, I would start to feel better and have a good handful of days—maybe even a week—before it all came back.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Truth About Married Sex

We woke on opposite sides of the bed, the blinds casting slants of sunlight directly in our eyes. In the early hours our daughter had woken us both, whining and climbing over our entangled bodies to wedge herself in the middle. She lay open mouthed and dreaming now. I sat up and smiled to myself; last night had been on fire. As I gazed at the curve of my husband’s muscled shoulder, arm thrown up over his face, I thought how sex after all these years was not anything I’d been afraid it was going to be: not boring, not remote, not lackingIt was still one hell of a good time...

Read the rest of my piece on the new online magazine, Together

Saturday, March 5, 2016

People In Your Neighborhood

take a seat and read!
1. If you've read my memoir can you leave a review? One sentence is fine. If I get 50, Amazon will promote my book for free, which might bump me into covering my advance! I'm at 36 reviews now. I would so appreciate it. Here's the book.

2. This is a serious overdose of heartwarming cuteness and made both Lola and I cry happy tears: I recognize this relationship.

3. My friend Sarah Fader wrote this great piece on gender-neutral bathrooms. 

4. This is the best writing I've come across in a while. Ellen Urbani 'There Is No Such Thing As A True Story'

5. I'm worried about our cat Maybelle. 25 Signs Your Cat May Be In Pain

6. I want to get this for Mr. Curry. He has a hard time sleeping through.

7. I'm reading Seabiscut right now (among three other books,  I have developed the habit of having one book for every room of the house), and came across this piece by Laura Hillenbrand on her onset and sickness from CFS. This is her distinct and powerful voice, that meticulously and relentlessly chronicles all her discerning eye can see. She is a powerful writer because no telling detail is left untold.

8. On Poverty by Alison Stine. I related to this, even though I live in San Diego in suburbia. 

9. Parents Question Vaccines As Epilepsy Rates Rise To 1 In 20 Children Under Five

10. This beautiful writing by Julia Whitty totally absorbed me: Grief And Wonder
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