Shocking revelation. Bad medicine. Alarming discovery. Dangerous conditions.
These are snippets I heard on the news last week. The subject? The improper handling and storage of vaccines.
WHAT STARTED ALL THIS?
So, what happened? What prompted last weekâs âbreaking investigation?â
First, a little background.
The CDCâs Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, which includes more than 44,000 providers, offers free vaccines to eligible children. âThis program plays a significant role in improving access to vaccination for millions of children,â says the CDC.  As a matter of fact, in 2010, 82 million doses, for a cost of $3.6 billion, were given to 40 million children. The Department of Health and Human Servicesâ Office of the Inspector General (DHHS OIG) outlines, in a 52-page report , the investigation that has sparked concern among parents as well as media attention.
The OIG visited 45 VFC providers from the 5 grantees ordering the most vaccines in 2010. [Why are we just hearing about this in June 2012?] They interviewed vaccine coordinators, observed vaccine management practices, and measured vaccine storage unit temperatures for 2 weeks.
The temperature of vaccines stored by 34, or 76 percent, of the providers was either too cold or too hot for at least 5 cumulative hours during the 2-week period. These providers had 9,173 vaccine doses on the days of the visits, worth approximately $368,820.
Sixteen providers had vaccines that had expired, and 13 of those didnât remove them from the storage unit that contained nonexpired vaccines. âIf 3 percent of all VFC vaccines ordered during 2010 were allowed to expire, approximately 2.4 million VFC vaccine doses would be subject to waste during the year.â Plus, the expired ones could have been mistakenly given to children.
None of the 45 providers managed VFC vaccines according to requirements. None of the 5 grantees met all oversight requirements, and the OIG site visits to 25 of these providers did not ensure that they met the requirements over time.
WHAT IS BEING DONE?
The OIG report includes recommendations for storing vaccines properly, identifying and separating expired vaccines from nonexpired vaccines, and improving granteesâ inventory oversight. (One reason given for this is to reduce vaccine waste, and one way to do that is to increase the use of these vaccines through vaccination drives.)
The CDCâs response? âVaccination is one of the most successful public health tools in preventing and controlling disease.â They concur with all the OIG recommendations and will take steps to resolve the issue. 
The CDCâs Pink Book states that âsuccess against vaccine-preventable diseases is due in part to proper storage and handling.â It is filled with detailed instructions for doctors on vaccine storage and handling, including temperatures, types of thermometers and storage equipment, inventory management, and staff training and education. And this recommendation: âIt is better to not vaccinate than to administer a dose of vaccine that has been mishandled.â 
The agencyâs press release says they are not recommending revaccination. However, their Pink Book claims that errors in vaccine handling and storage can cost thousands of collars in wasted vaccines and revaccination. Dr. Paul Offit and anyone who buys into his claim that a baby can safely receive 100,000 vaccines in a day may ask, why not revaccinate? My question is this. Which is it? Revaccinate or no?
In closing: âCDC and our partners are working with a sense of urgency to address the problems identified in the OIG study.â  Where is their sense of urgency about vaccine-injured children and the rising rate of autism?
WHAT IS THE POINT?
Will doctors ever read and follow all the information about proper vaccine handling and storage? Do they know, for example, that their storage unit has to be at least 4 inches from the wall and be in a well-ventilated room? Do they know to read and record the temperature twice a day and post the logs on the storage unit? To stack the vaccines in rows according to type in uncovered containers with slotted sides or openings? To label them with the vaccine name and age indication? To never store them in the same unit as foods and drinks? To conduct a monthly inventory of the vaccines? To store other biologics below vaccines âto avoid contamination?â (Not sure whatâs contaminating what.)
Do they know not to pre-fill syringes in order to avoid the risk of âadministration errorsâ and âwasted vaccines?â To discard unused prefilled syringes by the end of each day? To never activate a prefilled syringe until theyâre ready to administer the vaccine?
Do they know to keep the vaccines with the shortest date in front so theyâre used first? To monitor the dates and never use one thatâs expired? To discard them as âmedical wasteâ when disposal is warranted?
Obviously, doctors werenât reading and following the directions before the you-know-what hit the fan. Why would they do it now? Even oversight visits from the OIG didnât gain compliance. So much for their recommendations.
WHAT DOES THE MEDIA HAVE TO SAY?
The media was all over this story. Funny the things they decide to cover and label as âalarmingâ and âshocking.â I donât remember the latest autism rate referred to as âalarmingâ or âshocking.â I only remember the constant reassurance that vaccines werenât responsible.
On the Nightline segment , the footage of a mom in a pediatricianâs office where her daughter Eve is being given multiple vaccines was accompanied by these statements:
âThe last thing public health officials need is a self-induced vaccine crisis.â
âExtreme temperatures can render the vaccines useless.â
â[An expired vaccine] may not hurt you directly, but it can leave whole communities unprotected.â
Ask your doctor: âAre your systems strong? Are you certain your vaccines are being stored at the right temperature?â
CDC will comply with IG recommendations so âbabies like Eve arenât crying for nothing.â
[Warning: The pro-vaccine slant in this broadcast will turn your stomach.]
SHOT OF PREVENTION
On the Shot of Prevention Web site , Christine Vara had this to say about Good Morning Americaâs coverage:
âItâs clear that this type of media language can potentially illicit fear and hesitancy among parents. However, Iâm not sure it was truly called for. While these are valid concerns that require a definite response, itâs important to put this in perspective.â
Thatâs what Dr. Richard Blesser, ABC News Medical Correspondent, does. âVaccines that are stored improperly are still safe, but weâre not sure that theyâre going to be fully effective.â And Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the CDC and Assistant Surgeon General for the U.S. Public Health Service, when asked âhow the public can feel confident amidst such concerning data,â answered:
âThe most reassuring piece is âŚ that most diseases that we vaccinate against are at record low levels. Even the ones that weâre seeing outbreaks of would be a hundred times more common if we didnât have such a heavily vaccinated population well protected by the vaccines. So we have lots of data that the vaccines are working.â
For anyone who criticizes the government about vaccine safety, Vara points out that âthis particular investigation was conducted by the DHHS OIG and that the results have been made public in a new government report, further illustrating that vaccine policies are overseen by an open and elaborate [and unbiased?] check and balance system. Dr. Schuchat even accepts responsibility, on behalf of the CDC, for making positive changes. âWeâve really got to do a better job. âŚWeâre committed to taking this seriously and improving the situation.â
CDC PRESS RELEASE
Excerpts from the CDCâs media statement  released June 7, with my own comments interspersed:
âThe main concern with improper storage temperatures is that they can make vaccines less effective rather than less safe.â But itâs not âa common or widespread problem.â Vaccine refusal and waning of immunity over timeânot improperly stored vaccinesâare to blame for recent measles and pertussis outbreaks. [If this is true, why are they making such a big deal about improperly stored vaccines?] âOur vaccine safety monitoring also indicates that we continue to have the safest vaccine supply in our history.â [The CDC is monitoring vaccine safety? How? Since when?]
And, finally, âCDC continues to encourage parents to vaccinate according to the U.S. recommended immunization schedule to provide the best protection for children from 16 serious and deadly diseases.â [Even if those vaccines, by their own admission, may not be effective.]
WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON?
The first thing that popped into my head when I heard this story on the news: red herring.
A red herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to âwinâ an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of âreasoningâ is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim. 
The real issue is the safety of vaccines and the vaccine-autism link. The fallacy is the improper handling and storage of vaccines which may render them less effective but not unsafe. This has absolutely nothing to do with the many reasons vaccines arenât safe. Maybe its purpose is to draw attention away from the issue of safety and autism?
I can picture it. The CDC is scrambling for some damage control. Not that they admit damage. Not to our kids anyway. But they are concerned that their vaccine program is losing popularity which, in turn, will cause them to lose money. Oh, letâs find some valid reasonâsomething the public will buyâthat could possibly explain why some vaccinated children still come down with diseases they were vaccinated against.
Hmmm âŚ we canât say that they just donât work. That would be admitting that âthe anti-vaccinationistsâ galaxyâ has been right all along. What could possibly lessen or completely ruin vaccinesâ effectiveness but not make them unsafe? Oh. I have an idea. Maybe theyâre not being stored properly. Maybe the temperature is too hot or too cold. Maybe the doctors are even using vaccines that are expired.
So far so good. This could also explain the recent whooping cough and measles outbreaks. Andâas another bonusâsince some of our vaccines havenât been entirely effective, they couldnât possibly be causing autism. Letâs go for it!
What a bunch of hypocrites. Do they really think this latest scheme is going to make them look good? Or like they care? Maybe even restore the publicâs faith in their integrity and the integrity of our vaccine program? If so, they are sadly mistaken. Thereâs zero chance that parents of vaccine-injured children are going to abandon the real issue. Not now. Not ever.