Thursday, December 05, 2002

John sends this WSJ editorial defending thimerosal (mercury) in vaccines. It argues that the thimerosal in the vaccines was probably harmless, that the feds should have left it in the vaccines, that the big drug companies should be sheltered from lawsuits over it, and that the shelter was an appropriate part of the Homeland Security Bill (that just passed).

I don't buy it. There are still a lot of reasons for thinking that the thimerosal is harmful. The courts are lousy at resolving scientific or medical issues like this, and I think we need some tort reform, but putting a special break for Eli Lilly in the Homeland Security Bill really stinks. Let Eli Lilly get the same tort reform that everyone else wants. If it wants tort reform, let it use its multimillion dollar lobbying budget to get a tort reform that benefits everyone.

The WSJ says:
U.S. public health agencies ... worried that anti-vaccine groups would use the FDA information to scare parents away from immunizations. So they hastily recommended that manufacturers immediately remove the preservative -- a huge mistake.

"We took it out precipitously, which made it look like thimerosal is harmful -- when there is no evidence it is. I think we hurt the public trust," said Paul Offit, who sits on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and is chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

What the WSJ doesn't mention is that Offit is a paid lobbyist for the vaccine makers. He tried to conceal it, but Congressman Burton smoked him out during cross-examination in a congressional hearing.

What Offit is really arguing here is that it is better to stonewall the public on the risks, rather than admit error. He is more interested in avoiding risk to the credibility of vaccine officials, than avoiding risk to kids getting vaccines.

I got interested in the vaccine issue when my kid was born and the hospital wanted to give her an HBV vaccine. They didn't tell me that the vaccine had mercury in it, or that only babies from HBV+ mothers are at risk, or that HBV is largely an Asian disease. Just that people like Offit are forcing everyone to get it. I will not have confidence in the federal vaccine officials until they purge their committees of vaccine flacks like Offit, and use an open process to recommend vaccines.

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