Friday, December 27, 2002

A recent JAMA article attempts to summarize "Current Controversies in Vaccination: Vaccine Safety". (If you have a paid subscription, you can access it here.) It doesn't mention big controversies like smallpox, but appears intended to rebut criticism of the routing pediatric vaccination program. The intended audience is pediatricians who might face controversy in their practices.

You would expect an article like this to honestly list the controversies so that clinicians can deal with them. But every single is so spun with official propaganda that it would be hard for the casual reader to figure out what the issue is.

Eg, it says, "The ACIP includes representation from pediatric and general medical organizations and community advocates." The ACIP is the federal committee chiefly responsible for setting the official vaccine schedule, and has been widely criticized for financial conflicts of interest, secretive meetings, flawed decision-making, and lack of public accountability. There are no "community advocates" on the ACIP. They are mostly drug industry lackeys and vaccine researchers.

The article states that "the risks of moderate-to-severe vaccine reactions are weighed against the benefits that vaccines produce ...", and then cites a CDC web page comparing the "risk of disease vs risk from vaccines". This comparison is fallacious. Smallpox has a high risk of death while the smallpox vaccine has a low risk of death. So does that tell us how to weigh the risk/benefit of smallpox vaccine? No, it does not, because it does not figure in the risk of getting smallpox. The risk of getting smallpox is probably extremely small, but the medical authorities really don't know because no one knows the capabilities of enemy countries and terrorists.

As the article mentions, US pediatric vaccination rates are at an all-time high (roughly 98% compliance), and criticism of vaccine policy comes from a small and vocal minority.

Here is a list of sites with contrasting views. The JAMA article does not even scratch the surface of the reasons for some people having skepticism. Since it didn't really explain the controversies, it ought to have at least included a reference to a vaccine policy critic. Of the 30 references, only 2 suggest vaccine problems that might imply that the official vaccine schedule is not what it ought to be.

I get skeptical when I see major medical journals like JAMA attempt to whitewash controversies like this. The vaccine authorities have done a pretty good job, but time and time again the critics have proven them wrong about some aspect of vaccine policy. The authorities are intolerant of any dissent. I have to figure that they know the critics have some very strong points, and they want to quash the critics before they get any significant influence.

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