Researchers at the University of Missouri found that providing patients with too much information on possible vaccine side effects reduced both their likelihood of accepting that vaccine and their trust in the Centers for Disease Control. 1259 adults were divided into three groups and offered information about the HPV vaccine:
- Group ONE were given the CDC’s Vaccine Information Statement (VIS), a two-page document which focuses primarily on the risks of the disease and the importance of the vaccine, with some general information on rare, serious side effects.
- Group TWO were given the VIS documents, but received additional education about the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), the CDC’s efforts to closely monitor vaccine reactions, and some general information about VAERS reports on the HPV vaccine, including the fact that in 2013 there were 24 VAERS reports of vaccine-related disability and 7 deaths. This group showed the highest vaccine acceptance rate and trust in the CDC, even higher than group ONE.
- Group THREE were shown the VIS documents and general VAERS data as well, but were also given detailed information on every severe reaction reported in the VAERS system from the HPV vaccine that year. This exposure to more in-depth information significantly reduced vaccine acceptance and trust in the CDC.
In an interview with Infectious Diseases in Children, July 2016, study author Dr. Laura Scherer concludes that detailed “stories about vaccine harms can influence vaccine acceptance.” She shares how patients who only look at government data have more trust in vaccines; those who are exposed to the actual stories of the adverse reactions are much more likely to have a negative perception of vaccines.
To this end, some doctors are pushing to have the VAERS information be closed to the public, or to have such reporting end altogether. They would prefer to rely only on the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a private research database that monitors vaccine reactions in about 1% of Americans and monitored by a select group of researchers at the CDC.
Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the creator of the rotavirus vaccine, also commented on the new study:
“I think the VAERS system has done far more harm than good . . . It’s often misunderstood [by people] who think that the VAERS in any way gives important information about vaccine side effects, when it doesn’t . . . VAERS, for the most part, is a lot of misleading noise.”
When people hear real stories of vaccine reactions, they are clearly more impacted by the human element; they think, “Could that happen to me or my child?” When such reactions are simply a statistic on a data sheet, they are much easier to ignore. But doesn’t the public have the right to know? Doesn’t Informed Consent mean having access to ALL of the information before making a decision? And more importantly, could removing public access to VAERS reports be seen as a type of censorship used to influence a parent’s decision?