By Louise Kuo Habakus
Late last night, a dozen of us were online, e-mailing about the ECBT-AAP press conference that we had just learned would take place today. We shared notes, compiled information and put out the word to get parents to NYC by 10:30am. I couldn’t make it but I prepared a statement and my good friend and fellow parent and health practitioner, Lisa Rudley, said she’d try to read it.
It’s Tuesday at 12:40pm and Lisa called.
“Louise, it was worse than the AMA seminar we attended.” We had started calling ourselves “Thelma and Louise” after attending that seminar in June, intended for doctors seeking Continuing Ed credit. That seminar was bad. I asked her, could this really have been worse?
“I arrived at the Gramercy Room on the third floor of the Peninsula Hotel, walked up to the first person I saw, stuck out my hand and introduced myself.”
And that’s how Lisa met Paul Offit.
The press conference was many things. But it was mostly horrible. There they were, the panoply of The Vaccine Establishment, all scrubbed and shiny, smiling behind their multi-million dollar industry, government and Hollywood armor. Smug, arrogant and entitled.
The parents and grandparents arrived from all over, Westchester, Long Island, Lancaster, PA, New Jersey and even Arizona, to bear witness and stand firm. Most of them didn’t sleep much the preceding night because they were busy making last minute arrangements to attend. Our parents did not arrive in limos. And some, including Katie Wright and Rita Palma, didn’t get to attend the event at all. They weren’t allowed in the room because they posed a security risk or their attire wasn’t deemed appropriate.
“During the Q&A, I didn’t say a thing, Louise. Not one thing. There was too much to say. How do I break through when their ears and eyes are closed to all that we see and hear? How do I communicate in a sound bite world?”
I could hear the frustration in Lisa’s words and that familiar anger boiled up inside. Lisa talked about courageous parents such as Mary Holland, and reporters from Spectrum Magazine and Insider Edition, who were able to ask the challenging questions we all wanted to ask, demanding Offit and others to address the science, the egregious conflicts of interest, the sheer numbers affected, the words of Dr. Bernadine Healy and others who are breaking ranks with their colleagues to speak out. After Mary and others spoke, the relief felt by Lisa and others was palpable, to finally hear the truth embedded in the questions asked, even though we knew to expect the well-crafted excuses and dismissals and rationales that predictably unfolded.
After Mary’s pointed questioning, there was a perceptible energy shift in the room. ECBT representatives took advantage of Rosalynn Carter’s early departure to reassert control. After parent Kevin Barry asked if the remaining panel members would continue to answer questions for the benefit of both press and parents, Ms. Peet and Dr. Offit happily assented but ECBT’s Amy Pisani swiftly declined, instead directing audience participants to ask their questions individually, away from the raised antennae and poised pen of the reporters. When Kevin proceeded to handout copies of research documentation related to questions that he was unable to put forward, Amy stepped in yet again and chided Kevin, essentially tell him that it was their event on their nickel and to cease and desist.
Another highlight of the press conference is a new quote from Dr. Offit. This morning, he shared with participants and press alike that our children’s immune systems have the capacity to respond to as many as 100,000 vaccines at once, not the mere and oft-quoted 10,000 figure he offered to the press in 2002. He neglected to share, however, the details of this new scientific study upon which his revised estimate is based.
As Lisa stood up to leave, she was surprised by the emotion welling up and she held back tears. Stepping outside, she was immediately greeted by nearly a dozen parents, familiar faces including Rita and Katie and others who were barred from entering the press conference. They were carrying signs and photos and chanting “My Kids My Choice” and “Too Much Too Soon.” They were loud and they would not be denied. It was the perfect antidote to the morning’s messages of repression and denial.
We know too well that this morning’s press conference is not our only battleground. The battle is being fought across the country, with school nurses, doctors, legislators, work colleagues, family, friends and neighbors. Mainstream parents are hearing and talking about our very mainstream message. This is a grass roots movement and it is powerful.
In New Jersey and New York, I have been giving lectures on Vaccine Choices for Parents every month since April and the response has been phenomenal. We have four more scheduled in the next two months with many more on the way. We’re bringing parents together to watch Vaccine Nation. We’re forwarding our message far and wide through cyberspace and we won’t stop until the truth is told. Join us. Contact me at LKHabakus@verizon.net if you want to get involved or attend one of my talks.
Louise Kuo Habakus is a parent of two vaccine-injured children. She received her Master's and Bachelor's degrees from Stanford University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, junior year elect. She was a senior corporate executive for fifteen years. In her last position before retiring, she was a Managing Director and ran corporate marketing for Putnam Investments, one of the world's largest investment management firms. Louise received certification in Integrative Nutrition from Columbia Teachers College in 2007. She provides nutrition and wellness counseling to the parents of vaccine-injured children. Louise lectures, researches and writes about vaccination safety, parents' choices and informed consent. She believes that there is no single issue affecting our nation's children that is more important than mandatory vaccination and its myriad societal, political, medical and financial ramifications.