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This is the second of a 3-part article excerpted from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) based in Vienna, Virginia. To read the other two parts of the article or see a great deal more information about vaccine safety, please see NVIC’s website,

Hepatitis B Vaccine: The Untold Story

Parents Question Forced Vaccination As Reports of Hepatitis B Vaccine Reactions Multiply

by Barbara Loe Fisher, author of DPT -- A Shot in the Dark

Hep B Vaccine Infant Deaths Reported In VAERS

Even though fewer than 10 percent of all doctors report health problems following vaccination, there are more than 16,000 reports of hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following hepatitis B vaccination that have been reported to the U.S. government Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) since July 1990. There are reports of deaths in infants under one month of age following hepatitis B vaccination in VAERS, with most of the deaths being classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), even though SIDS is not historically recognized in the medical literature as occurring in babies under two months of age.

One of those death reports was made for a 15-day old baby boy who died within 48 hours of his first dose of hepatitis B vaccine. His father testified at a 1995 Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Forum workshop. He described what happened:

"For the first 13 days of his life, Nicholas was no different than any other baby. He ate well. When he slept, he slept well. He acted just like my first son acted when he came home from the hospital." Nicholas was given a hepatitis B shot at his regular check up at the pediatrician’s office on the 13th day of his life. His father said:

"That night when I got home from work, I noticed that Nicholas was crying a lot more than usual. In fact, he was screaming some of the time. He was acting differently, but because we had just taken him to the doctor for a checkup and they told us he was a big healthy boy, we thought everything was OK. When he was just acting fussy, like babies sometimes do, we didn’t know anything about vaccines or that they can cause problems for some babies."

"Nicholas cried on and off for most of the night. When I got up and went to work the next day, he was still crying on and off. He continued during most of the day and into the evening. The next morning, his mother found him dead in his crib. From the way he looked, he had been dead for several hours."

An autopsy was done the next day. A couple of weeks later, our pediatrician told us over the phone that the autopsy showed Nicholas had died of sudden infant death syndrome. He told us Nicholas was one of the healthiest babies he had ever seen…. What I didn’t know then but I know now is that the pediatrician had made a report within 17 days of Nicholas’ death to the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, VAERS. In VAERS, Nicholas’ death is listed as SIDS. Even though I didn’t know anything about vaccines or SIDS, something told me that there was a reason why Nicholas died, and I had to find out why."

After seeing an article in the Washington Post about the Institute of Medicine report on adverse events associated with childhood vaccines, Nicholas’s father called the National Vaccine Information Center and began talking to experts and researching infant death and vaccines. Eventually a clinical professor of pathology, who had reviewed Nicholas’ medical records, autopsy and slides, stated in writing that Nicholas did not die of SIDS but died a cardiac death, caused by passive congestive changes with pulmonary edema and hemorrhage caused by the active immunization with hepatitis B vaccine. The pathologist stated "I do not believe this was a sudden infant death syndrome death. Sudden infant death syndrome is the most abused diagnosis in pediatric pathology. In this particular case, the infant was two weeks old. Sudden infant death at two weeks old is so rare as to be virtually unheard of."

The pathologist went on to say that Nicholas was at high risk for congestive heart failure because his mother had gestational diabetes, but that he would definitely have survived were it not for the stress induced by the hepatitis B vaccination.

Nicholas’s father, in his testimony before the Institute of Medicine, asked "How many other newborn babies are dying from the effects of hepatitis B vaccine, but are being wrongly diagnosed as SIDS and no one ever knows the difference? I looked at the computer printouts of VAERS reports at the National Vaccine Information Center, and I saw there were other reports of babies just a few days or weeks old, who have died shortly after hepatitis B vaccination. Many are listed as SIDS deaths, but are they?"

Adults Report Hep B Vaccine Injury And Death To NVIC

As hepatitis B requirements force more adults to get vaccinated as a condition for getting a higher education or working in the health care field, NVIC is receiving more and more reaction reports like this one from a disabled nurse, who recently wrote in:

"24 hours after my first [hepatitis B] shot, I had muscle pain in legs and arms - was told this was ‘normal.’ Same thing after 2nd shot. Six weeks after 2nd shot I had my first episode of Raynauds [temporary loss of blood flow to fingers resulting in tingling, throbbing, swelling, intense pain] and also began having rashes on arms and neck. At this point it was minor and not constant. I asked if it had anything to do with the vaccine and was told no.

"Six months after the 1st shot, I received the booster. From then (1995) to today, I have constant daily fevers up to 100.5, tormenting rashes and prickling on arms, hands, neck and legs, muscle degeneration, joint pain with restricted movement, difficulty swallowing and Raynauds has become severe.

"I was perfectly healthy until the hepatitis B vaccinations and still all the doctors tell me it has nothing to do with my illness. I had reactions to two of the drugs they tried to treat me with. I am on total disability because of these symptoms. I am an RN but was taught that the vaccines were perfectly safe."

Parents Oppose Hepatitis B Vaccine Mandate In Illinois

In the spring of 1997, a suburban Chicago mother of two daughters, ages 9 and 11, became concerned when she received a notice from the school system stating that her older daughter had to be vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine by September 1997 or she would be barred from attending school. Although both of Kathy Rothschild’s daughters were fully vaccinated with all other childhood vaccines, she didn’t know anyone with hepatitis B and couldn’t understand why her daughter had to get the vaccine. Her research led her to a public library and then to NVIC.

With the help of Kathy Rothschild’s State Senator, Kathy Parker, an agreement by the Illinois Department of Health to not voice opposition, and with support from NVIC members around the state, a bill passed the Illinois Senate 52-2 on March 20, 1997, allowing parents the right to philosophical exemption to vaccination. The bill also created a Task Force and required the Board of Health to hold public hearings to review how Illinois public health employees add new vaccines to state vaccination laws and how they implement those laws.

After the bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate, the Illinois Department of Health went back on its pledge not to oppose the bill and vigorously fought against the bill in the House, successfully killing it in committee before it had a chance to come to a floor vote. However, the health department did agree to roll back the hepatitis B mandate for one year (until September 1998) and to hold three public hearings, which resulted in testimony from physician expert witnesses and parents and reinforced the dangers of hepatitis B vaccine and the need for informed consent rights to be established within state vaccine requirements.

Doctor, Mothers Say Vaccine Safety Data Poor

In a December 1997 public hearing in Chicago before the Illinois Board of Health, Mayer Eisenstein, M.D., M.P.H., who is board certified in public health and preventive medicine, quality assurance utilization review, by the National Board of Medical Examiners and has recently completed a law degree, testified against the proposed hepatitis B mandate. He said: "The idea of giving this vaccine to a one-day old baby, a newborn, is preposterous. There is no scientific evidence for this. In fact, I called up the [hepatitis B vaccine] manufacturer and I had [a representative] come to St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, where I am Chairman of the Department of Medicine, and I asked him: ‘Show me your evidence on one-day old infants as to side effects [from the hepatitis B vaccine]’ – we have none. Our studies were done on 5 and 10 year olds....As a father, grandfather, a physician, as a lawyer, I want the option of not giving it to my children unless I believe the scientific evidence is there."

Later during the public hearing, a mother whose child reacted to the hepatitis B vaccine testified that "We were told unless we had the shot our children were not getting into school. In the past, I got the shots for my children. So I went and got the [hepatitis B] shot. First shot, my daughter got slightly sick. We didn’t associate it with the shot. We associated it with possible flu. Her legs hurt. Her back hurt...."

"The second shot, within two days of this shot, my daughter’s symptoms went from mild to severe abdominal pain around the clock. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t sleep. Her legs hurt. She broke out in a rash. She had eczema over most of her body. Going to the doctor, we were told it was in her head, that she needed a psychiatrist. Then we decided we would find out for ourselves.

"It was the people who gave me [information on the vaccine], the list that I should have gotten first that said what the reactions were, including severe abdominal pain, eczema, rash, hair loss. My doctor didn’t tell me that. I was given a piece of paper that said reactions would be a minimum, maybe a small fever. She had a fever the whole time.

"I never knew any of this existed, and this is $18,000 later, a child who [had to be] out of school for the first three months and was tutored at home. I don’t want to see other kids go through this. I think there should be more testing done. I think the parents should know that this shot isn’t for something that’s easily picked up. This is for sexual transmission or drug use. My child is ten years old. She plays with Barbie dolls and paints her fingernails. She doesn’t know about this stuff. I don’t want to give her a shot to protect her from something and someplace she’s not at yet."

Citizens Make Plea for Informed Consent

Before testifying at a Board of Health public hearing held in Springfield on March 26, 1998, NVIC held a press conference in the State Capitol building. Then, along with scores of Illinois parents who traveled to Springfield to make public comment, NVIC President Barbara Loe Fisher Reverend Robert VandenBosch, President of the American Research Foundation, and Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D., professor of cell biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, presented formal testimony.

Fisher told the Board of Health "There is a six year old girl named Katherine lying in a bed in Skokie, Illinois unable to lift her head off her pillow or walk to the bathroom. Just 13 weeks ago, Katherine was an ice skater with boundless energy and a dream of going to the Olympics. Her mother didn’t want her to get the hepatitis B shot but her pediatrician told her it was a political issue like AIDS and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was going to mandate the vaccine soon. Katherine got that hepatitis B shot and now she may never skate again. Where were her informed consent rights? And where will the doctors from the state health department and the CDC and the AAP be when her mother carries her up the stairs to the bathroom? And will the state of Illinois pay her medical bills when her insurance runs out after DHHS and the Justice Department oppose giving her federal compensation?"

During limited public comment time, all of the parents asked the Board of Health to allow citizens to follow the judgement of their conscience when making vaccination decisions for their children, including the right to exercise informed consent to vaccination without suffering harassment and punishment at the hands of state health and school officials. Some, like a young man who was kicked out of an Illinois college in the middle of the semester because of his sincere religious beliefs, asked for the right to follow his religious convictions without being punished by doctors employed by the state. He said:

"They have refused to give me credit for this semester and have told me not to attend class and have cancelled my appointment with my advisors. I applied for a religious exemption. Both my parents wrote letters identifying my objection. We were refused on the grounds that, in order for a religious exemption to occur, I must identify ‘a recognized church or religious organization.’ I don’t believe that anyone has a right to judge my religion. How does recognition of my belief by another human being make it more or less? I am confused by the word ‘organized.’ How does the number of people or the structure under which they operate validate my beliefs? This is a violation of my Constitutional right to religious freedom."

Rev. Robert VandenBosch, an ethicist, warned that "The First Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] clearly defines the free exercise of religious beliefs and the moral rights of individuals to obey the judgement of their conscience in matters of life and death. The Ninth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that governmental authority cannot override individual rights of conscience. It states: ‘The enumeration of the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’ One of the rights retained by the people is the right of conscience."