Senate File 125 would require a medical examiner investigation form for infants 0-3 years of age to include a request for information regarding the date and type of the decedent’s last immunization. If the child received more than one immunization at the time of the last immunization, the information provided shall include all types of immunizations received.
Madeline Wilcox with the Iowa Department of Public Health said the department has some concerns.
“We already have a national database to track adverse reactions to vaccines,” she said.
VAERS is a database run by HHS federally.
“So, in some ways, the data reporting requirements may be duplicative in this nature to be putting these on a death certificate,” she said.
Wilcox also claimed it would be a violation of health privacy.
“When things are put on death certificates, death certificates are public-facing informational documents,” she said. “Any information published on that, the public has access to.”
Medical professionals already have access to medical records and are reporting information to VAERS, according to Wilcox. In an instance where a medical examiner believes a vaccine may be linked to the death, they can access the information.
Dr. Jonathan Thompson, who is with the state’s medical examiner’s office, said the office has subpoena power to receive any medical records on individuals who fall under their jurisdiction.
“It’s just our standard of practice right now that anybody we autopsy, no matter what the age, we always subpoena and receive the decedent’s medical records,” he said.
Thompson said if there was any concern about a child dying or potentially dying from a vaccine, they’d report it to the appropriate authorities.
“Getting a child’s medical records is not difficult and is something that we do in everyday practice,” he said.
Republican State Sen. Jim Carlin, who chaired the subcommittee, asked Thompson how many pediatric autopsies he has done in the last year.
Thompson estimated between 10-15 for kids 0-3 years old.
“The vast majority of those are SIDS cases, which would be 0-1,” Thompson said.
Carlin asked how often Thompson documented the vaccinations of those children.
“As far as documenting them in an autopsy report,” Thompson asked.
“Where was it noted,” Carlin asked. “Did you, in any of those autopsies supply vaccination information to that database?”
“No,” Thompson replied.
Angelique Gilbert, who testified as a “mom who is paying attention,” said she has a 15-month old child and SIDS is a big concern, along with safety.
Gilbert said according to the Vaccine Safety Manual for Concerned Families and Health Practitioners, 70 percent of children who die of SIDS received the Pertussis vaccine within three weeks before that death.
VAERS, which Wilcox and Thompson brought up, is only a voluntary reporting system. Data shows only one percent of potential vaccine reactions are reported to VAERS.
The CDC’s Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Investigation Report form, it was updated in 2020 to ask whether a vaccine had been given in the last 72 hours.
“All I’m asking as a mother is for the collection of this information,” she said. “I don’t see how information is harmful. I plan to have more children. I want to continue making the safest decision possible for them.”
Lina Tucker Reinders, the executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, said the group is against the bill because the information is already accessible to the medical examiner through medical records when the autopsy is done.
“Including it to the death certificate what we feel this does is falsely links a correlation of death and allows that data to be accessible by the public for data mining for purposes of increasing vaccine hesitancy amongst parents,” she said. “We know from epidemiological research done on SIDS that vaccines, contrary to being a predictor of SIDS, have a protective factor.”
Reinders said that information comes from the National Institute of Medicine.
“We know that the majority of SIDS deaths happen between the ages of 0-6 months and that is indeed a time when many children are being vaccinated and having several different vaccinations,” she said. “By math alone, by statistics alone, you would expect to see a correlation.”
However, Reinders said research for the cause of death excludes vaccines from SIDS causes of death.
Democrat Sen. Joe Bolkcom spoke before having to leave for a different subcommittee. He said the medical examiner already has the authority to do an extensive review of the death of a child.
“We also have the child death review team, which is kind of another layer of scientists and experts and Iowa medical doctors that review every one of those deaths,” he said. “The purpose of this bill is really to deceive people. It’s to scare people to try to discourage people from getting vaccines that we know save lives.”
Bolkcom said the data is not going to be used for any “scientific purpose.”
“This is really going to be phony science where people are going to basically mine these death certificates, contact parents that had a tragic death of a child and try to convince them that possibly a vaccination had to do something with their child’s death,” Bolkcom said.
Lindsay Maher encouraged people to take another look at the bill.
“This is not going on the death certificate, this is going on the medical examiner investigation form,” she said. “It is the simple expansion of questions on that form only. It is not going on the death certificate.”
Maher said the public will not have access to the information. While studying microbiology, Maher said she didn’t learn much about the actual safety testing of vaccines.
Maher had both National Institute of Medicine reports that were referenced earlier in the meeting.
“While they do state in that document that there is no causal relationship between SIDS and vaccinations, they also have many other statements in that document,” she said.
One statement said the committee concluded from one study that the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between the DTaP vaccine and SIDS. There was an identical outcome when inspecting other vaccinations.
While they did state there was one strong methodological study that concluded multiple vaccines and SIDS was not related, there was a correlation between multiple vaccines and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy in the same report.
The 2011 report cited similar outcomes.
“They need more concrete data from actual, reputable sources,” Maher said. “Not just the passive surveillance system, they need data from our medical examiners.”
Maher asked why the questions aren’t being asked, which is what good science does.
“This isn’t just an issue that us parents are dealing with, it’s actually something that other doctors have mentioned as well,” she said.
Dr. Heidi Larson said:
“There’s a lot of safety science that’s needed. Without the good science, we can’t have good communication. So, although I’m talking about all these other contextual issues and communication issues, it absolutely needs the science as the backbone. You can’t repurpose the same old ‘science’ to make it sound better if you don’t have the science that’s relevant to the new problems.”
Maher closed by stating that if there are real concerns about vaccine hesitancy, then all the information should be put on the table.
Katie Adrian testified that the CDC already recommends the information be examined. While the information is accessible, that doesn’t mean it is being utilized by medical examiners, she said.
“Currently, in Iowa, despite that being the CDC’s bare minimum recommendations, our medical examiners form only has one question on this topic,” she said.
It asks if the child is up to date on vaccinations.
“As a parent, I feel strongly that this should be on all medical examiner report forms,” she said. “We can’t rule anything out when we don’t have the data.”
Adrian said it isn’t about vaccine hesitancy or pushing an agenda – it’s just about collecting good data.
Brei Johnson said Informed Choice Iowa is registered in support of the bill because its members do not believe the CDC has not performed long-term safety studies of the current 69-dose schedule.
“Additionally, $4.3 million has been paid out by the vaccine injury compensation fund since 1986 to families of individuals who were one, informed of the program, two, fell under the increasingly restrictive qualifications for that program, and three, who were able to file a claim on time,” Johnson said. “Vaccine injury and death occur much more than what the public is being informed.”
Johnson said the collective goal should be getting the answers to these families who deserve them.
“It is a question to ask – how many hours or how much money would a grieving parent put on getting this closure,” she said. “I personally don’t know the answer to that, but I do believe that we need to move that aside so that this bill can continue to move forward to help get those answers.”
Dr. Jon Ahrendsen said this is a bill he suggested to Sen. Dennis Guth last year, but the session was cut short due to COVID.
“This does not go on the death certificate,” he said. “This is only on the medical investigation form done by medical examiners, not by the attending physician.”
Ahrendsen also reiterated less than one percent of adverse reactions are reported to VAERS.
“I can say as a practicing physician, most physicians are not aware of the obligation to report adverse events even that do not result in death to the VAERS database,” he said. “I think I’m the only person on this call who still vaccinates kids and performs as a medical examiner. I think that gives me a unique perspective and I don’t see why we don’t want to gather more information. What are we afraid of gathering information?”
The form has eight questions about the last meal of the child, Ahrendsen said.
“There should at least be a date and type of vaccination given to the child at the last time and this is only for those children on the medical investigation form between the ages of 0-3,” he said.
Emily Lewis testified as a mother whose son had a severe reaction to his six-month vaccines. At five years old now, he’s unable to speak for the most part.
“Before his vaccines, he was hitting all of his milestones,” she said. “At six months old he was already mimicking words that we said to him. His doctor at the time said that he most likely would be an early talker. He stopped trying to say anything and seemed to go deaf in the days following his six-month vaccines.”
Lewis said she’s thankful to still have her son alive.
“Had my child died, I would’ve wanted everything reviewed,” she said. “I find it extremely disturbing that so many are against this bill. If it were your child, would you not want all the information reviewed?”
Ashley, a registered nurse in Iowa, said she fully supports the bill. She highlighted the increase in vaccines from when she was a child to today.
“We just keep adding more and more,” she said. “I would strongly urge you to actually amend this bill to include the lot numbers to be on there as well just because if there is any specific lot that might be attributed to any child dying, that also needs to be picked up on so that the rest of that lot number can be taken care of.”
Ashley added that those opposing the bill all have “conflicts of interest.”
“Your main goal in this is you want to keep the vaccine program strong,” she said. “But those of us who have young children, we’re seeing the schedule grow and grow and we’re seeing all of these issues arise and nobody is collecting any data. You just continue to call us all crazy because we don’t have anything to back it up, but yet we’re all saying the same exact story.”
She pointed out that the vaccine program will still be strong even if data is collected and it shows no correlation.
“That’s what you should want,” she said. “You should want the data to show people to say, ‘look, this is safe’ instead of just saying ‘safe and effective, safe and effective.’ Because, frankly, as you keep adding more and more vaccines, you can’t keep saying that.”
Dennis Tibben with the Iowa Medical Society and American Academy of Pediatrics Iowa division said both groups are strongly opposed to the legislation.
Tibben said that the groups have had a number of conversations with family medicine physicians and pediatricians, who represent the majority of the physician community caring for patients impacted by the legislation.
“I can assure the members of the subcommittee and everyone on the call here today that they are acutely aware of their reporting requirements and it’s something that they take very, very seriously,” he said. “The health and safety of Iowa children is paramount among our pediatrics and among our family medicine physicians especially. We’re very aware of the need to utilize that system and the data that is being recorded in there. This legislation would be duplicative of that effort.”
Republican Sen. Mark Lofgren joined Sen. Carlin in supporting the bill out of the subcommittee.