Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Repeating something does not make it true

Earlier this week on the Huffington Post there was an the second in a series of articles written by Dr. Harvey Karp about vaccinations. The good doctor's basic point is that that vaccines are "very safe - and super important" and that there is no need to do more research into the subject.

Unfortunately the posts are filled with the same old arguments, the same old misinformation, and the same old "we know what is best" attitude.

Take for example the tired old line that just because some children regress into autism immediately following being vaccinated that doesn't mean the shot had anything to do with it. It is certainly true that just because autism follows a shot that doesn't necessarily mean that there is a relation BUT that doesn't mean by default that any relation is "just a coincidence".

As a matter of fact, some injuries are assumed to be caused by shots if they happen within a certain amount of time after the shot is given - at least according to the Vaccine Injury Table from the vaccine court.

Maybe instead of trying to find a relation in the entire population the approach should be to start with the subgroup who regress immediately following a shot and see if there is anything different about this group ?

Then there is the "asked and answered" style argument that says that "to date, dozens of studies -- examining over 1 million children -- have failed to find any credible association between shots and autism...none!".

This line of reasoning completely ignores the fact that there has been no large scale study that compares vaccinated to unvaccinated children to see if there is a greater risk of problems such as autism in vaccinated children - and if you are looking to see if one thing (vaccines) are causing another (autism) you really need to compare the rates between the groups exposed (vaccinated) and unexposed (unvaccinated).

It would be like saying smoking can't cause cancer because you compared people who smoking 1 pack a day against those who smoke 3 packs and found no difference in cancel between the two groups. Yet when you compare smokers to non-smokers the relation becomes apparent.

If we applied this same argument to other aspects of autism research then we should also stop searching for genetic causes of autism because hundreds of studies examining a huge number of children have failed to turn up any significant association. Yet, because "science" is convinced there is a relation (mostly on the basis of twin studies), the investigation continues.

Finally there is the misinformation and failure to mention certain uncomfortable facts. For instance, Dr. Karp makes a point of how much better the shots of today are when compared to earlier shots -
For example, in 1980, the DPT shot (Diphtheria/Pertussis/Tetanus) was made from a soup of blendarized bacteria (over 1000 different illness particles - antigens - all mixed together). And, the polio vaccine had live virus that actually protected children by triggering a minute case of...polio! Today, our modern DPT vaccine is highly purified, containing only 3-5 bacterial antigens and the polio shot has absolutely no live virus.
But he seems to forget to the mention that the DPT shot of the 1980s had some unfortunate and all to common side-effects, such as seizures and death, and was the reason that the Vaccine Court was created. If you look at the statics published by the court you can see this shot (listed under the heading DTP) has more claims awarded than all of the other vaccines combined.

And the live virus polio vaccine? It is still used in other countries and is actually responsible for outbreaks of polio. As for the scary "live virus" part - the most recent (and most effective) version of the flu shot is the same thing, a live virus.

So if these two shots are the basis for comparison then Dr. Karp is right - the modern cousins to these two look pretty good in relation - but that is only because the point of comparison is so bad.

However, I think the most disturbing idea that Dr. Karp puts forth that is that shots are a civic duty - that you have a obligation to inject your child because it is your responsibility to your neighbors children and society as a whole. This concept that we have to force the most vulnerable members of our society to undergo precautionary medical treatments that have the very real chance of causing them permanent injury just to possibly protect our neighbor's children is just plain scary.

What's next, trying to throw parents in jail for not vaccinating? Oh wait, that already happened.

As I have said before, the core of the current problem is a lack of trust. There are an increasing number of parents who do not trust the medical community when they talk about vaccinations and articles like these by Dr Karp are part of the reason.

It is long past time for this issue to be put to bed. We know that there are some small number of children who regress after getting vaccinations so the question isn't can this happen but why it happens. Answering this question is not going to be easy but if the medical community wants to regain the lost trust, they are going to have to find the answer.

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