Sunday, February 01, 2015

Vaccine propaganda about measles outbreak

The NY Times reports:
Measles anxiety rippled thousands of miles beyond its center on Friday as officials scrambled to try to contain a wider spread of the highly contagious disease — which America declared vanquished 15 years ago, before a statistically significant number of parents started refusing to vaccinate their children. ...

The anti-vaccine movement can largely be traced to a 1998 report in a medical journal that suggested a link between vaccines and autism but was later proved fraudulent and retracted.
No, that is false. I followed the anti-vaccine movement in 1998, and that report was just a minor conjecture based on a handful of cases.

Much bigger factors were:

* a rapid increase in vaccinations in the 1990s.
* giving a hepatitis B vaccine to all newborns at birth, when the population at risk was IV drug abusers, promiscuous women, and Chinese immigrants.
* vaccines that exceeded EPA guidelines for mercury consumption.
* a diarrhea vaccine that had to be pulled from the market for dangerous intestinal side-effects.
* pertussis vaccine with many worse side-effects than what other countries used.
* a lack of any public risk-benefit or cost-benefit analysis to vaccines.
* most of the experts on the FDA and CDC vaccine advisory panels had to get conflict-of-interest waivers because they worked for the drug companies making the vaccines.
* unexplained child health problems, such as autism and peanut allergy, seemed correlated with the increase in vaccines, and suitable study had been done.

I looked into the official CDC vaccine recommendation process myself, and found it very unscientific. Their meetings were closed to the public, and they openly stated that their main purposes were to promote vaccine use, and they would vote to require vaccines just because that made federal money available for poor kids to get them free.

The recent measles outbreak was caused by foreign tourists visiting Disneyland, and most of the cases have been unvaccinated adults. All the articles, such as the above NY Times article, try to blame the outbreak on parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids. Those parents have almost nothing to do with the outbreak. As long as measles is common in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and we allow thousands of unvaccinated foreigners in the USA every week, and adults are not required to be vaccinated, we will have measles outbreaks.

Update: The NY Times Retro Report has another article and video blaming the Disneyland measles outbreak on that 1998 report:
In the churning over the refusal of some parents to immunize their children against certain diseases, a venerable Latin phrase may prove useful: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. It means, “After this, therefore because of this.” In plainer language: Event B follows Event A, so B must be the direct result of A. It is a classic fallacy in logic. ...

An outbreak of measles several weeks ago at Disneyland in Southern California focused minds and deepened concerns. It was as if the amusement park had become the tragic kingdom. ...

While no one is known to have died in the new outbreaks, the lethal possibilities cannot be shrugged off. ...

This doctor, Andrew Wakefield, wrote that his study of 12 children showed that the three vaccines taken together could alter immune systems, causing intestinal woes that then reach, and damage, the brain. ... The British medical authorities stripped him of his license. ...

What motivates vaccine-averse parents? One factor may be the very success of the vaccines. Several generations of Americans lack their parents’ and grandparents’ visceral fear of polio, for example. For those people, “you might as well be protecting against aliens — these are things they’ve never seen,” ...
These are just irresponsible scare stories, because they do not address the actual risk. That is, foreign tourists at Disneyland could be infecting unvaccinated adults.

In the video, Wakefield expresses the opinion that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine should be split into 3 vaccines. If he were really so influential, then they could supply the separate vaccines for those concerned about it. If you are going to ask people to voluntarily vaccinate for the benefit of others, it seems reasonable to accommodate concerns that may not be well-justified.

Stripping dissenters of their medical licenses is not a great way to persuade conspiracy theorists.

The video also blames reporters for being too stupid to understand the scientific fact that "you cannot prove a negative." No, that is not a scientific fact.

Another NY Times column has similar pro-vaccine propaganda.

Update: I had forgotten that Barack Obama said in 2008:
We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.
Hillary Clinton said something similar. Surely they are to blame for the vaccine-autism association as much as Wakefield, but the NY Times does not mention them.

Update: I listened to this Science Friday broadcast mocking a mom who studied vaccine issues and came to her own conclusions that were contrary to the official schedule. She was portrayed and stupid and unreachable for being so anti-science.

Maybe some of her arguments showed an ignorance of some of the studies, but she did make some worthwhile points and was actually willing to give her child the vaccines on a slightly delayed schedule. I think that she should be allowed to do that without the nasty putdowns. That is her choice, and is no more harmful than a lot of other choices people make every day.

A reader says vaccines beneficial with very low risk. Okay, the great majority of the public accepts that, and there is no need to force 100% compliance with a rigid schedule.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm very sympathetic to all this, but as a parent, I can't think of anything that has a better risk-cost/reward comparison than vaccines.

Getting a mass of vaccinations has huge rewards and dramatically less risks than just about anything I ever do with my kids.

Giving them a bath almost certainly is more risky and less rewarding.

Putting them in a car and driving a mile to beach is dramatically more risky and far less reward.