Vaccines: The Greater Good?
November 15, 2011 8:58 AM   Subscribe

"if you don’t have the science and evidence to back up your point of view, in order to persuade someone, make a movie." Science-Based Medicine reviews "rational and scientific" vaccine skeptic film, The Greater Good.
posted by the young rope-rider (34 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey now, my strongly-held beliefs are every bit as valid as your carefully-researched facts!
posted by Aquaman at 8:59 AM on November 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


It can be hard to understand that "rational and scientific" are not in the eye of the beholder.

That includes many proponents of reason and science - including professional scientists - who at times willingly extrapolate from evidentiary arguments and make dogmatic assertions and "science proves that ... " statements. In a recent FPP we learned that a 2011 Nobel winner was once referred to by Pauling as a 'quasiscientist'.

It appears that we're all potentially vulnerable to such excursions. RAW called it 'reality tunnel'.
posted by Twang at 9:19 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


At first read, I thought this was gonna be another Atlas Shrugged post ... I guess this is better ... ?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Petition for philosophical exemptions from mandatory vaccinations in all 50 states."

"The Greater Good"? I am allergic to the pertussis vaccine and so I basically rely on herd immunity. The greater good is potentially infecting babies and children and adults with dangerous, life-threatening diseases? Mumps is the greater good? Awesome. Good thing you let us know!
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:33 AM on November 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


"if you don’t have the science and evidence to back up your point of view, in order to persuade someone, make a movie."

I sure hope this doesn't become the go-to line for dismissing all documentaries. Inconvenient Truth, Michael Moore's films, etc.
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2011


Ugh. The British papers are currently covering the very unfortunate case of Lucy Hinks in a highly irresponsible way, particularly since what she has sounds an awful lot like a particularly serious case of conversion disorder (very common in teenage girls after vaccinations), which is easily 'communicable' via news stories...
posted by Acheman at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2011


Hey now, my strongly-held beliefs are every bit as valid as your carefully-researched facts!

Well, if the research is done by the pharmaceutical companies making billions of dollars with these programs and who are not accountable for deleterious side effects that clearly do occur?

Should you strongly believe in pharmaceutical companies?

Or demonize people who want to look more closely at what's going on here?
posted by emmet at 9:50 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Monkey Virus
posted by hortense at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2011


> "There have, however, been isolated reports of serious adverse reactions to the jab, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. In 2009 Natalie Morton, 14, from Coventry, died hours after having the Cervarix jab. However, a post mortem discovered she had an undiagnosed heart tumour and an inquest found she did not suffer an adverse reaction to the jab."
Irresponsible? I'm waiting for the Bachmann campaign to run the headline "Previously Healthy 16 Year Old Ohio Boy Succumbs To Hemorrhage Within Hours of Receiving Gardisil Shot" to have the article reveal that an unrestrained motor vehicle accident and the subsequent ruptured aorta sustained immediately prior to hemorrhage 'might' have had something to do with his death as well.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:55 AM on November 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Or demonize people who want to look more closely at what's going on here?

I want people to look very closely at the side-effects and efficacy of vaccines. More specifically, I want scientists who are respected and trusted by their peers to look more closely at what's going on here.

This movie isn't about those people. It's instead about people driven mad with anxiety and grief being exploited by snake oil salesmen, to the detriment of us all as once-extinguished diseases have started re-appearing.

What drives me mad with anxiety and grief is the thought that smallpox could make a comeback, or an influenza pandemic, because of these lunatics.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:58 AM on November 15, 2011 [30 favorites]


Or demonize people who want to look more closely at what's going on here?

No, we demonize the propagandists that masquerade biased viewpoints and lies as objective skepticism. We don't need a pseudo-populist rehash of Lysenkoism in this day and age, thanks.
posted by griphus at 9:58 AM on November 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Has there been a study on whether vaccine-deniers are the cause of some diseases coming back vs things like evolution of antibiotic resistance?
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on November 15, 2011


Measles, rubella, smallpox, mumps are all viral. Antibiotics have nothing to do with them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


emmet: “Well, if the research is done by the pharmaceutical companies making billions of dollars with these programs and who are not accountable for deleterious side effects that clearly do occur? Should you strongly believe in pharmaceutical companies? Or demonize people who want to look more closely at what's going on here?”

I appreciate a distrust of pharmaceutical companies, and agree that that distrust is often warranted. But placing that distrust on vaccines doesn't make much sense. Pharmaceutical companies actually do very little study into vaccines; they prefer to work on ever-more-ubiquitous medications that they can sneakily have prescribed to millions of people.

Hardly any of the research and study grounding vaccines has been done by pharmaceutical companies. Most of it has been done by the World Health Organization and by government funding around the world. Moreover, most of the common vaccines we know now – MMR, for instance – actually predate the pharmaceutical complex.

So it doesn't make much sense to associate vaccines with pharmaceuticals. They don't make much money there, so they aren't very interested.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on November 15, 2011 [18 favorites]


the pharmaceutical industrial complex, I meant
posted by koeselitz at 10:20 AM on November 15, 2011


DU:

"The largest U.S. outbreak of measles to occur in 15 years -- affecting 214 children so far -- is likely driven by travelers returning from abroad and by too many unvaccinated U.S. children, according to new research."

(Not a published study, but it certainly wouldn't have anything to do with antibiotic resistance, as young rope rider noted above.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:21 AM on November 15, 2011


America was weird enough when people wanted outsiders to run the government, people who didn't know anything about law or government but sure sounded and looked sincere (and who could be the puppets of people who actually knew how to govern). But this outsider medicine shit has to stop. People will buy all sorts of unproven shit (magic teas, copper bracelets, bottles of shaken water, tiger penis, rhino horn, etc.) from all sorts of "alternative" providers without wondering about the profit motive, but they don't trust actually scientifically tested medicine because someone might be making money. It is not the case that vaccines are supported only by some giant multi-tentacled corporations who want to make money any way they can, babies be damned. The entire world scientific community is in favor of vaccines. And on the other side are some sad parents who need to blame someone (someone with deep pockets, by the way) for making their perfect babies sick.
posted by pracowity at 10:50 AM on November 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


pracowity: "People will buy all sorts of unproven shit (magic teas, copper bracelets, bottles of shaken water, tiger penis, rhino horn, etc.) from all sorts of "alternative" providers without wondering about the profit motive, but they don't trust actually scientifically tested medicine because someone might be making money."

Very well put.
posted by brundlefly at 10:53 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The CDC has done significant research into the Autism link, as stated here. What's interesting is people will prosecute Pharma companies, but buy the latest Nutrional Frontiers mountain wild flower of Guatamala B+ pill to fight off a headache when a simple Aspirin would do that job.
posted by amazingstill at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The largest pediatric group in my town has recently started firing non-immunizing parents from the practice.
posted by headnsouth at 11:05 AM on November 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


As the CEO of Iron Lungs International, I think we should look much more closely into these supposed "vaccines" and the motives of "scientists" that push them onto unsuspecting children -- especially that rat bastard Jonas Salk. Our Iron Lungs have never caused a case of autism and they are certified mercury-free.
posted by benzenedream at 11:19 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


On a bit of a tangent, the science in the movie Contagion was startlingly good. A couple of fuzzy bits (they got a protein structure implausibly quickly), but nothing that was actually wrong and an impressive amount of detail slipped in that was right. Even the bits of nonsense seen briefly on computer screens and quickly spoken just to convey that "we're terribly clever sciency people doing terribly clever science" actually made perfect sense and was relevant to the scene. Good film too, I really enjoyed it.

emmet - Should you strongly believe in pharmaceutical companies? Or demonize people who want to look more closely at what's going on here?
This is sort of a false dichotomy. However, it's fair to say that people who raise sincere questions about vaccines can tend to get lumped in with the more loony end of the spectrum.

Firstly, as koeselitz says, a lot of government and academic labs do a lot of research into creating vaccines, and do their own monitoring of the outcomes of vaccination programmes. I have plenty of problems with the way that the pharmaceutical companies carry on -- wavering as they do between amoral and outright evil -- but we're not just taking their word for it. No-one is demanding that you have unwavering faith in Big Pharma.

Also, patients that actively "look more closely" at their health, their lifestyles and the medical interventions that they occasionally need is what every medic wants. The trouble is that consistently rejecting mainstream medical advice is somewhere between a fashion statement and a faith position for a lot of people, and most of them use some variation on that argument to justify their wholesale rejection of evidence-based medicine. Additionally, people without a bioscience background often find it hard to identify reasonable questions and concerns against a background of marketing crap and superstition. Because encouragements that people should "look more closely" / "don't blindly rely on orthodoxy" are so reasonable and powerful, they can be -- and frequently are -- deliberately used to draw well-meaning people away from conventional medicine towards bullshit.

So, those of us with an interest in medicine sometimes find it difficult to remember that people who say that might actually mean it. We unthinkingly lump them in with the people who have already decided, whether through sincere ignorance or deliberate deceit, that they're going disregard all available evidence and instead advocate "alternative" medical interventions that hover somewhere between useless and dangerous. On the whole, we want people to be able to make informed decisions about these medicines that we've spent decades working on, so that they can choose to use them (or not) as a tool to lead long, healthy, awesome lives. So that sort of thing riles us a little, and innocents occasionally get caught in the crossfire. Sorry.

midmarch snowman: I was going to post the same objection to that article. It's hard to know whether the journalist there (Stephen Adams) was being deliberately misleading or is simply a moron. Either way, I'm horrified to see that he's listed as their "medical correspondant". Yikes.
posted by metaBugs at 11:23 AM on November 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


My wife is suspicious of vaccines. I, on the other hand, think it's awesome to live in a world where people don't have to die from preventable illnesses. We have kids, who have had some but not all of their vaccines. It's an ongoing argument :^(
posted by richyoung at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


pracowity: “... this outsider medicine shit has to stop. People will buy all sorts of unproven shit (magic teas, copper bracelets, bottles of shaken water, tiger penis, rhino horn, etc.) from all sorts of "alternative" providers without wondering about the profit motive, but they don't trust actually scientifically tested medicine because someone might be making money. It is not the case that vaccines are supported only by some giant multi-tentacled corporations who want to make money any way they can, babies be damned. The entire world scientific community is in favor of vaccines. And on the other side are some sad parents who need to blame someone (someone with deep pockets, by the way) for making their perfect babies sick.”

I really don't think it's that simple, and I believe we need to be really careful about this if we hope to change minds and save lives. The trouble here is that pharmaceutical companies are largely out of hand. The anti-vaxxers are right about this point: there's a lot of funny business that goes on at the FDA and in the upper reaches of corporate medicine that should be questioned deeply. I'm of the belief that the whole system needs an overhaul; there are whole industries where there should not be money-making industries. My girlfriend is a doctor, and she spends a lot of time dealing with the rampant mistrust that this wholly unethical and unwarranted system has created in normal people all over.

In short, the monetization of science has caused incalculable damage to society in many, many ways. This is only one of those ways.

So, approaching this problem, I think the solution is emphatically not to call anti-vaxxers superstitious or lump them together with the alternative-medicine crowd. I've actually never met or even heard of an opponent of vaccination who disbelieved in science itself; where opponents of vaccination differ is in their mistrust of medicine as it is monetized today.

These people need to be reassured that there is a broad medical community which cares about evidence-based medicine, and which follows results ethically and scientifically rather than for the sake of the almighty dollar. These doctors are all over the place if we look hard enough. We need to seek them out and see them regularly, and recommend them to people who might have misgivings or might misunderstand what's at stake here. Most of all, we need to calmly and carefully demonstrate to opponents of vaccine that all of the standard vaccines in question today have long histories and millions of evidential cases backing them up, noting as always that correlation is not the same thing as causation.

I know sometimes it's hard to be patient when we're talking about such important things, but I really and truly believe that patience and facts are the only thing that can overcome these objections.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


amazingstill: “What's interesting is people will prosecute Pharma companies, but buy the latest Nutrional Frontiers mountain wild flower of Guatamala B+ pill to fight off a headache when a simple Aspirin would do that job.”

I'm not sure what those two things have to do with each other. I don't know what crimes you had in mind to prosecute pharmaceutical companies for, but they have done an immense amount of damage to the status of evidence-based medicine in society. Every honest doctor I know of has a deep disdain for the billion-dollar industry that has grown up as a leech, sucking public confidence away from them and making it more impossible for good doctors to do their jobs every year. I think we have to admit that first if we're ever going to convince those who are against vaccination.
posted by koeselitz at 11:36 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


@DU Generally speaking vaccines are against viral diseases and therefore antibiotics aren't a factor since antibiotics don't do diddly against virus.
posted by sotonohito at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2011


My wife is suspicious of vaccines. I, on the other hand, think it's awesome to live in a world where people don't have to die from preventable illnesses. We have kids, who have had some but not all of their vaccines. It's an ongoing argument :^(


Science-based medicine has a bunch of posts about vaccines, which might be helpful to you. Good luck figuring this one out.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:34 PM on November 15, 2011


It's fairly rational to believe that certain specific vaccines might do harm. Live vaccines are still used in some parts of the world; they're pretty unpleasant. Maybe if the science-based community could shift the conversation more in that direction, it would be more tractable.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2011


I don't know what crimes you had in mind to prosecute pharmaceutical companies for, but they have done an immense amount of damage to the status of evidence-based medicine in society.

Pharmaceutical companies have used the same channels every other big industry has used to exert influence in Washington, which has caused much of the mistrust. Pharma companies spend more on salespeople than on research. Some easy fixes:

1) Ban all direct sales to doctors. Pharmaceutical salespeople are pure parasites of the system, contributing nothing positive.
2) Ban all industrial supported CME (continuing medical education)
3) Ban pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising (like the rest of the world does)
4) Set up a pricing control system in exchange for longer patents (e.g. like Canada)

Make companies compete on the safety and efficacy of their products, not how inventive they can be at disguising holidays for doctors. It's no surprise people are skeptical when they know pharma companies can buy politicians. Lessig was right when he bailed on copyright reform to fight institutional corruption.
posted by benzenedream at 3:04 PM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, if the research is done by the pharmaceutical companies making billions of dollars with these programs...

This kind of got ambling - sorry about that.

If you're thinking that pharmaceutical companies are primarily motivated by money, I think you are making a mistake. I know this seems like an insane statement so bear with me. I worked in big pharma for ≈15 years and was recently laid off. For the next week as I tied up all my loose ends and gathered up all my crap, I was positively glowing - it was a madhouse in there! So I'm absolutely not going to tell you they were all about doing the very best science, or that they were full of goodness and altruism. I just don't think it's all about money.

I think it's worse than that.

I say this because it's hard to imagine someone more penny wise and pound foolish than big pharma. As you point out, vaccines seem like a pretty consistent and constant return on investment. But, with a few exceptions (notably vaccines against things that don't already have a vaccine, things that still kill people pretty regularly, or non-prophylactic vaccines to convince the immune system to modulate something modern medicine has done a crappy job with thus far) vaccines do not make enough money to get big pharma's attention. They want to develop amazing new things that make zillions of dollars a year and don't have time for this paltry 100 million here and 100 million there nonsense.

But contrast this with their habit of investing wildly and punting on second down. I worked on a drug that I was reasonably convinced was going to do for heart disease what penicillin did for bacterial infection. Then we hit a not particularly hard to overcome snag in Phase II and the powers that be decided to to unload it after spending $1.3 billion on it plus years of full tilt work, mostly in process development.

And they did this sort of thing again and again - spending lots of money on the next big thing, running the program at flank speed and then bailing out over the slightest sign of difficulty or the word that this particular endeavor might not be worth a zillion dollars a year but not wanting to devote any effort to anything dependable or that wasn't going to be a super mega blockbuster. As I said, consistently being penny wise and pound foolish in the way that people who want to make lots of money aren't.

The best I can figure is that Big Pharma is all about looking good to "the investor". Not any particular investor, mind you. More of an abstract construct who has no long term memory beyond the last financial headline, no concept of a future more than about a month away, a huge stimulus threshold, but who will, paradoxically panic sell at the slightest sign that anything is not going ideally. It's like the whole industry is in an abusive relationship with the Eater Bunny if the Easter Bunny was a sociopathic idiot-savant. Regulatory reform wouldn't hurt but really, they need therapy.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:35 PM on November 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Slap*Happy: What drives me mad with anxiety and grief is the thought that smallpox could make a comeback, or an influenza pandemic, because of these lunatics.

If smallpox ever gets out, I would really hope vaccinations wouldn't be voluntary. Not that there aren't important debates to be had about the right to refuse medical attention and the history of public-health initiatives that trampled all over them and caused backlashes of don't-trust-doctors we're still dealing with today, but yeah, let's have those debates in a smallpox-free world.

Although, smallpox has been on my mind a fair bit recently. My job at the moment involves reading a lot of 18th-century medical material, at a time smallpox was still very much alive and kicking. This is before Jenner amd the cowpox vaccination, so while there were inoculations against smallpox, it was far from ideal (in short, the idea was that you deliberately infected people with a 'good' type - ie, hopefully one of the weaker strains - of smallpox, after which they'd be immune).

There was a lot of controversy around inoculation, and a lot of uncertainty, particularly from parents wondering whether to inoculate infants and children. And you cant really blame them, because ironically, it's like the anti-vaxxers' worst vision come true: by choosing to inoculate, you're choosing to deliberately infect your child with an awful, painful, often-lethal disease which will absolutely make them ill. If it goes wrong, they will suffer a great deal and quite possibly die a very painful death - or maybe they'd live, but be permanently scarred, or brain-damaged, or blind. And if all goes well, you still have to watch your kid go through a milder form of smallpox - smallpox - and know you inflicted it.

And yet. It worked. People did keep doing it, and then vaccination once that was discovered (also not without controversy, although I don't imagine any anti-vaccination activists today would argue that infecting someone with cowpox would make them grow to resemble a cow), and now smallpox is gone. No longer kills millions of people every year; doesn't even kill one. Locked up in labs with armed guards. Not infecting anybody. Gone.

So when I do read anti-vaccination arguments today, my thought process goes something like: you know, we once lived in a world where inoculation actually was as dangerous as this person claims it is now, and as a result we ended up wiping out one of the most horrific diseases the world's ever seen.
posted by Catseye at 5:04 PM on November 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Petition for philosophical exemptions from mandatory vaccinations in all 50 states.

Until it has been conclusively demonstrated to me that the external world exists, I shall remain agnostic as to the effectiveness of vaccination. I demand absolutely indubitable evidence that vaccines do not cause autism in children, just as I demand absolutely indubitable evidence that children exist.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:18 PM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been meaning to write a fake anti-HPV-vaccine screed which argues against the immunization because it is not cost effective. It would end with "Is your daughter's life worth $500? After all, she's only a girl."
posted by miyabo at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've been meaning to write a fake anti-HPV-vaccine screed which argues against the immunization because it is not cost effective. It would end with "Is your daughter's life worth $500? After all, she's only a girl."

Fish in a barrel, but which is safer: Merck's Gardasil or GlaxoSmithKline's Cerverix? Seems to be the latter by a long shot, but surprise, surprise, which one was going to be mandatory in Texas and elsewhere? It's worth noting that Gardasil has killed women.

I'm all for vaccination (my daughters are both on the staggered schedule for the full list of shots) but I don't think it should ever be mandatory under the law, or at least not punishable by anything more than a nominal fine, about the same for not voting, maybe $50.

Once you make thing mandatory, you need to figure out what to do with the people who won't comply. Are you really going to take their kids, tie them down, and force them to be vaccinated? That seems a bit much to me.

Also, in general, there needs to be a LOT more transparency and education about what is in vaccines, the VAERS system, and what safety research is being done. Yes, vaccines are clearly a HUGE positive benefit for society as a whole and most individuals specifically, but then individuals also have very negative reactions to vaccines. GBS is a real thing and, yes, it is uncommon, and no, you shouldn't not vaccinate because of it, but still parents deserve to know about all the potential side effects. And those are often not mentioned for fear of non-compliance, which I think is a shame, because then it looks like you are hiding something, when you are not.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:29 AM on November 16, 2011


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