Freedom of Information Act and Adverse Vaccine Reactions
One of the biggest questions people ask when they hear about Lilly’s unfortunate and dangerous response to her recent rabies vaccine is this: How common / rare is it?
I promise you I’m trying to get a real, documented, publishable answer to that question (among others I hope to address either individually or in an upcoming FAQ).
Here’s the rub. In order to get information on actual, reported adverse vaccine reactions, I must file a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA is the regulatory agency for animal vaccines … not the FDA).
I believe it all goes back to pets as an outgrowth of agriculture.
The short and entirely anecdotal answer to this question is … pretty rare.
In 28 years, our family veterinarian, for example, has seen just 3 severe reactions to any vaccines:
- A straight up allergic / anaphylaxis reaction in a toy breed dog
- A case similar to Lilly’s (years ago) that at the time was deemed NOT vaccine caused but in retrospect likely was (She has since pulled the file, and the dog did get the exact same vaccine that Lilly did.)
I asked one of the neurology technicians about it, and she said that in all the years she has worked for our neurologist (either 7 or 9 years, I cannot remember for sure) that Lilly’s was the ONLY vaccine-induced case that she’d seen.
I’m in the process of trying to get real data via a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA.
The rules for doing that are pretty strict, so while I really want to ask for a lot of information, I cannot because each vaccine, each maker, each data request would have to be sent separately.
In the ideal world, I’d want to know:
- How many adverse vaccine reactions across all vaccines made by all companies over a certain period of time (1 year, 5 years)
- How those adverse vaccine reactions are categorized (by symptoms, severity, etc.)
Instead, I currently plan to ask for the following targeted information:
- All adverse reactions to the specific vaccine by the specific company that Lilly received (a three-year rabies)
- If I can get it, I’ll also ask for the one-year rabies vaccine (same product, different label) by the same company.
- If 5 years of data is too much info, then I’ll get just a single year (likely 2011).
- I really want all reactions that fit the above criteria, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ve said I primarily want those classified as neurological adverse vaccine reactions.
So, I’ll be submitting that official Freedom of Information Act Request this week, and I’ll let you know when I know.
CAVEAT! The data I get might not be that helpful in determining true incidence rates because reporting adverse events is NOT mandatory. That means a lot of them likely go unreported.
Also! Much of the information will be redacted (blacked out) since it includes identifiable information about the people and pets involved.
One more note! As media, I don’t have to pay for research time or the first 100 pages of information, but I will have to pay copying costs beyond 100 pages. I will tell them that I’m willing to pay up to $200 for additional pages, if necessary.