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A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars
May 30, 2009 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Researchers long ago rejected the theory that vaccines cause autism, yet many parents don't believe them. Can scientists bridge the gap between evidence and doubt? A five-thousand-word article, via Danny Yee.
posted by cgc373 (282 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can scientists bridge the gap between evidence and doubt?

Optimistic evolutionary biologists and climatologists would probably say maybe.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [16 favorites]


Ben Goldacre wrote more than 5000 very wise words on this in his book Bad Science.

[Goldacre's website, and more specifically the posts on his website related to the autism/vaccination scare in Britain.]
posted by ijsbrand at 4:45 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The trouble is that it only takes one wrong person in a room of 100 right people to turn a "consensus" into a "debate".
posted by WPW at 5:07 AM on May 30, 2009 [82 favorites]


You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason their way into.
posted by Skorgu at 5:17 AM on May 30, 2009 [69 favorites]


I read that as "a five-thousand year old article" which would also work.

Look, pretty pictures!
posted by Eideteker at 5:25 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


The trouble is that it only takes ten unvaccinated people in a room of 100 vaccinated people to turn herd immunity into a measles party. My pre-MMR-vaccine-aged 7 month-old got measles with a terrifying fever of 41C (106F) last month.... On the bright side everyone at daycare went out and vaccinated their kids.
posted by dongolier at 5:28 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not when Oprah gives Jenny McCarthy her own show to spew nonsense.

And not when people like RFK, Jr. use their name and reputation to willfully mislead millions for the sake of publicity.

There will always be kooks who believe kooky things. But when someone famous or respected takes up the cause and tries to bring those beliefs into the mainstream, then it's trouble. The only option is to make McCarthy and Kennedy look as crazy and unhinged as the people who drink silver.
posted by billysumday at 5:32 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I liked this quote:

Offit has turned down requests to appear on any show with McCarthy. “Every story has a hero, victim, and villain,” he explains. “McCarthy is the hero, her child is the victim—and that leaves one role for you.”
posted by Slothrup at 5:56 AM on May 30, 2009 [28 favorites]


The only option is to make McCarthy and Kennedy look as crazy and unhinged as the people who drink silver.

Well, but we can surely also accept that many of the people who have dangerous and wrong beliefs about vaccination, whether ordinary parents or celebrities, are well-motivated in their dangerous wrongness. And that this might require a different kind of approach (although of course not one that entails accommodating their dangerously wrong beliefs). There's a screeching tone in lots of the pro-MMR writing and blogging that may play a useful role in some cases - it may work to make some people who don't get their kids vaccinated to realize that they are acting deeply irresponsibly - but I wouldn't mind a bit more of the other approach. Accept that anti-MMR folks deeply love their kids and have become convinced that they are acting in their best interests. They're not, but their convictions deserve some kind of respect in the way information is communicated, surely?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:58 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


People who drink silver, I can assure you, are doing so for the benefit of their own health, surely.
posted by billysumday at 6:03 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The DHHS conceded in November 2007 that vaccines aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder in the baby girl of a Georgia couple, Terry and Jon Poling, ultimately causing “regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder.” Their decision was in line with previous table injury rulings that a measles-containing vaccine can exacerbate an existing encephalopathy—in this case, caused by a mitochondrial enzyme deficit. The condition shares symptoms with ASD, but is distinct.

The previous year, a case study published in the Journal of Childhood Neurology [17] described developmental regression and mitochondrial dysfunction in a child with autism. Jon Poling, a neurologist, was the lead author. He failed to disclose that the patient was his daughter or that he had a claim pending before the vaccine court [18]. Although the DHHS did not concede that vaccines contributed to autism, the Polings told CNN in March 2008 that the “case may well signify a landmark decision with children developing autism following vaccinations.”


Hmm, but is it proof?
posted by kuatto at 6:16 AM on May 30, 2009


What has started working for our small corner of the moonbat world is that our local pediatricians have begun refusing, one by one, to treat any child whose parents will not vaccinate on the AAP's schedule. These parents are a little loony, but not that loony. They fall in line when they face the prospect of raising a child without professional medical care.
posted by palliser at 6:18 AM on May 30, 2009 [31 favorites]


They're not, but their convictions deserve some kind of respect in the way information is communicated, surely?

It's fun to play "let's entertain the crazy people and their beliefs" when the lives of people who haven't been given the choice regarding vaccination have their lives put at stake.

Why don't you go ask a cancer patient who's immune system has just been demolished by chemotherapy what they think about vaccination? Because the answer won't be "I believe my precious little flower will get the autism boogeyman". It'll actually be "if I get exposed to these diseases it puts me in a situation where I might die".
posted by Talez at 6:19 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


Since the current climate is to indulge people's beliefs, no matter how irrational, would it be entirely unethical to have a kind of "black ops" public health ministry? I'm thinking the same sort of thing as those mobile phone charms that protect you from radiation: buy your baby this magnetic bracelet to protect against the side-effects of vaccination! Or better still, do a deal with some cash-strapped churches for a "traditional" vaccine to be offered.

I mean, it doesn't solve the deeper problem of testable reality vs liberal pluralism, but it would result in fewer dead/disabled babies.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 6:19 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is one of those things where the involuntary nature of compassion, empathy, and superstitious fear do not work well for homo sapiens. They've got their benefits, sure, but for stuff like this, those emotional responses are incredibly counterproductive.

Antivaxxers might as well be pushing spectral evidence from the Salem Witch Trials. Here's the playbook:

Step 1) Look at the trembling victim of this terrible crime.
Step 2) I am the Parent; surely you would not want this to happen to your child.
Step 3) *points finger* They did it!

By the time the finger goes a-pointing, all reason has been lost. Humans already suck at crunching the numbers related to risk; throw in some "Look, Seymour, this could happen to you!" and you might as well resign yourself to people thinking that there's a correlation between vaccination and autism for the next century. By the time that is thoroughly stamped out, it'll be vaccination and something else.

Preventative medicine is a fairly hard sell with humans, probably another evolutionary blind spot that factors into the equation, hitting at least a few of the notes in this famously aged chord that tells us if we just lived our lives "perfectly naturally" we'd be "perfectly healthy." The odd cognitive flakinesses which go into the vaccine/autism nontroversy ought to be teased out into a book we can hand to aliens, and it could be titled Understanding Why Humans Have Technology But Behave So Completely Irrationally: An Outsiders' Guide To Not Getting Nuked By Angry Monkeys.
posted by adipocere at 6:23 AM on May 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


It's fun to play "let's entertain the crazy people and their beliefs" when the lives of people who haven't been given the choice regarding vaccination have their lives put at stake.

Your apparent failure to read the comment of mine you quoted pretty much demonstrates exactly the tonal problem I'm identifying here. Nobody should suggest entertaining or indulging the crazy people's beliefs. But if you just screech at them for being crazy and hope tat'll solve the problem, well... how's that working out so far, MMR-wise?

The idea that the anti-MMR people have stepped over a line whereby they have abandoned all capacity to reason whatsoever is just silly. Maybe some have; maybe others haven't, and maybe we'll save more lives by not just yelling in their faces.

None of which means we shouldn't also be pursuing excellent policies like the one palliser mentions, ie, "Nudge"-type ways to make the non-vaccinating option an uncomfortable and awkward one to pursue.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:41 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


it's perfectly possible to have an autistic child without looking for something to blame it on - sometimes, shit just happens and you learn to deal with it

i know, it happened to me
posted by pyramid termite at 6:47 AM on May 30, 2009 [14 favorites]


What has started working for our small corner of the moonbat world is that our local pediatricians have begun refusing, one by one, to treat any child whose parents will not vaccinate on the AAP's schedule.

Yes -- I was pleasantly suprised by this when I recently enrolled my newborn for care. I recieved two sternly worded pieces of paper along with the insurance ID forms essentially saying -- "We vaccinate per the AAP schedule. If you do not wish to have any of these vaccinations, you need to find somewhere else to care for your baby." It was worded more smoothly, but I think that's a start.
posted by cavalier at 7:04 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


As someone who, for some reason through no fault of my own, has never developed the immunity to Rubella as conferred by the MMR vaccine, I live in terror that one day one of my students, or colleagues, or their children, will be unvaccinated and contract the disease, and spread it to me. And while Rubella is decidedly the less severe of the three, the older you are, the worse the symptoms are, and in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases even more severe, and I honestly DONT want to catch it.

Of course, if CRS isn't enough reason to scare anyone into vaccinating, then surely SSPE is.
posted by strixus at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can scientists bridge the gap between evidence and doubt?

Fail. The correct question is:

Can parents bridge the gap between blind faith and scientific evidence?
posted by splice at 7:35 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Deep down, I really want medical science to one day discover that autism is actually caused by a weird effect of an in vitro viral infection, and can be prevented with a vaccine. I'll buy popcorn to watch all the heads explode.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:36 AM on May 30, 2009 [20 favorites]


Maybe insurance companies could tie premiums to vaccination compliance. The premium would rise as the child's vaccinations reached one year out of compliance, then two, etc.
posted by palliser at 7:42 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I favor quarantining the anti-vac people in the newly seceded Republic of White Texas.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:48 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


YOU PEOPLE ....

look, those of us with kids who have gotten extremely sick after following blindly vaccination instructions from pediatricians and people like you are actually doing the society at large a favor by questioning the conventional wisdom.

the US and other governments in Europe relaxed dramatically safety standards in the production of drugs. in the past 20 years. it's why we have the VIOXX numerous other cases involving the lies of pharmaceuticals --aided and abetted by the US government in the name of neo-conish free-markets.

Jenny McCarthy has said numerous times that her fight is about production safety of vaccines not vaccines themselves but a lot of wankers in METAFILTER have never read her book or articles can't believe that a woman like her would actually have half a brain in her criticism of the governments lack of standards in pharmaceutical oversight.

do you know that a pharma company can change the formula of a drug and not conduct clinical trials as long as the active ingredient(s) dont change? it's why you can one day use the toothpaste you've used all your life and end up in the hospital with a near fatal allergic reaction. and these, believe it or not, happen all the time.

most people here dont understand that pharma gets away literally with murder thanks to the eviscerating of regulatory practices unleashed under the Republican Revolution back in the golden Reagan years and developed and pushed even by that most soft of republicans, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. also, remember that pharmas dont have to tell you what's in a drug. they only have to tell you what's the active ingredient. 'trade secrets' should not be used in the manufacturing of drugs. for open source freaks on Metafilter that ought to be reason enough not to demonize anti-vaccine activists because if you really knew what we are talking about (open sourcing drug 'recipes', new clinical trials on old drugs) you'd ... i don't know ... probably shut the fuck up and listen more intelligently.

so really, stop demonizing people who want better safety standards for vaccines and all drugs in general. in my case (knock on wood) my son is not autistic but he has a whole host of chronic illnesses that only appeared after he was vaccinated. i happen to have also worked at a pharmaceutical/cosmeceutical company dealing with safety issues in their consumer affairs department. i actually wrote the company's book on how to handle persona injury cases due to the company's change of formulas and lack of clinical trials protected under trade secret laws.

trust me when i say that there's a lot that pharma companies get away with lots thanks to "free markets" and "no regulations" governmental policies and politics of the last 20+ years.
posted by liza at 7:48 AM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


game warden to the events rhino: The idea that the anti-MMR people have stepped over a line whereby they have abandoned all capacity to reason whatsoever is just silly.

The thing is, w/r/t this particular issue, they have.
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on May 30, 2009


liza: So where's the evidence? If this is as common as you say it should be trivial to come up with a reasonable double-blind study to shut us wankers up permanently.
posted by Skorgu at 7:51 AM on May 30, 2009 [31 favorites]


If I ever write a story about a gang, one of the characters will be a 500 pound badass named "Big Pharma."
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


liza, what chronic illnesses? Often, autism becomes evident at around the age that kids are vaccinated, which is why a lot of parents think there's a link when there isn't one.

Seriously, I think you're full of shit.
posted by kldickson at 7:55 AM on May 30, 2009 [16 favorites]


liza, people questioning the conventional wisdom can't afford the kind of sloppiness and fearmongering (many) of the anti-vax proponents display.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:57 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coming from someone who can't have lots of vaccines because they're egg based, and I'm allergic to eggs, go out and get freaking vaccinated. I don't want your measles, mumps, rubella, or all that other crap you people that can purposefully be well won't ever have to suffer through.
posted by deezil at 7:58 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


It strikes me, after reading liza's comment, that a lot of the anti-vaccine people, and especially those like Jenny McCarthy, are quite similar to the activists in the intelligent design crowd. They can't prove anything, but they can continuously try to shoot holes in the other side's argument. So in the same way that a creationist can endlessly ask, "Well, where's the missing link between THAT fossil and THIS fossil?" to a scientist who is trying to excavate as many transitional fossils as possible, so too can the anti-vaccine crowd simply say, "No, I don't want it because it's not good enough yet." How about now? "Nope, not safe enough." And on and on, forever.

It's not that they're wrong but they do come off as unreasonably skeptical - one could even say a bit kooky. It always seem to be much, much more about distrust of science/medicine in general than it is about a specific problem they have with one specific aspect of discovery.
posted by billysumday at 8:05 AM on May 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


The thing is, w/r/t this particular issue, they have.

But look at, say, Liza's post above. She's clearly a highly literate, experienced person, and in no sense a moron; she makes points about regulation of the pharmaceutical industry and the uncontrolled free market in healthcare that almost certainly, in any non-MMR thread, most Mefites would surley vocally agree with.

Now, to be absolutely clear, I am 100% certain that she has also been led down a dangerous and irresponsible blind alley that is absolutely unsupported by the evidence, and we need to call people out when that happens. But she's not like the people you sit next to on the bus shouting incoherently, and treating the anti-MMR people this way is only going to be counterproductive.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:09 AM on May 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


Skorgu, i wish it were but it's not that easy. they would have to open up their 'recipe books' and show how the production of old vaccines like the MMRs have changed dramatically or not since the actual year it was approved for use.

if that were to happen that would open the doors to a level of regulatory and procedural oversight that these companies have never had thanks for their hard lobbying against it. remember, there's no way right now to know that the MMR formula of today is the same as the MMR formula of when it was first approved.

like, for example, there's been a push to use egg yolks for producing MMRs as opposed to animals. there's been no need, as per the FDA, to conduct clinical trials to see the difference between the two ways of production of the same vaccine. they've left that up to the companies themselves.

now, anybody dealing with allergies knows that albumin is a highly allergic protein. a lot of autistic kids happen to have also a lot of allergies. now, tell me, why isn't it necessary to see if producing MMRs on eggs might produce averse immunological reactions?

well, they don't have to because that has nothing to do with making sure the MMRs do what theyre supposed to do. and anyway, the percentage of people with reactions falls under the acceptable percentage of personal injury and/or morbity acceptable under the law for drugs and vaccines.

it's why when you go to a pharma their standard response about testing is that they comply with government standards by conducting the minimum amount of testing necessary for approval.

triclosan is an example of such drug. an "antibacterial" drug added to shitloads of cosmetic and household cleaning products. off the cuff i asked the scientists at my company if immunological tests were being conducted by the company to see if triclosan would change people's natural skin microbial flora. the answer? that's not mandated under the minimum amount of testing necessary for having all these cosmeceuticals approved.

so here we have a drug that kills bacteria on your skin regardless of whether it's good or bad bacteria being applied to tons of soaps, toothpastes and cleaning products. the pharmas don't have to test to see if they're creating products that could potentially change the natural way humans have their skins "house" they're own good bacteria. in effect, there's no way of knowing if these products are changing the way our immune systems cope with regular bacteria.

so no, it's not as easy as saying "let's do a couple of double-blinds". it's why i'd wish people in Metafilter understood not only the laws applied to pharmaceuticals but the politics behind them.
posted by liza at 8:22 AM on May 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


game warden to the events rhino: But look at, say, Liza's post above. She's clearly a highly literate, experienced person, and in no sense a moron; she makes points about regulation of the pharmaceutical industry and the uncontrolled free market in healthcare that almost certainly, in any non-MMR thread, most Mefites would surley vocally agree with.

Yes, but it's a broad condemnation about general Big Pharma practices, and has nothing to do with MMR vaccines specifically. It's bordering on Straw Man logic.
posted by mkultra at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


I got into a discussion, on Facebook of all places, when a friend linked to an article by Jim Carrey about how the verdict is not yet in on vaccines, after the verdict was in fact in. I wasn't shrieky at all, just tried to point out the public health angle of it and her argument was pretty similar to liza's. Oh, I'm not anti-vaccine, she said, we just need to be very careful about what we put in our little kiddos bodies, and you can't trust Big Pharma to do the research. She pulled out the but lots of parents have seen with their own eyes their normal child start to behave differently after MMR. I pulled out the old correllation=! causation, time of vaccinations coincides with onset of autism, then we both overly agreed that lots of research needs to be done to ensure that vaccines are safe.

It was all done in a very GEE IM SURE GLAD WERE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION sort of way. Pretty sure neither of us changed our position.
posted by bobobox at 8:26 AM on May 30, 2009


Unvaccinated kids are 23 times more likely to get pertussis (whooping cough) As I say everytime this comes up, as one of the many people in this country with a medically suppressed immune system, I would prefer not to be hospitalized or even die of a preventable disease just because you irrationally believed you were protecting your kid from a boogeyman.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:27 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


btw, to all the idiots who've just insulted me, this is all i have to say : many people like me want to have a choice of immunization. give me MMRs not produced on eggs. don't give me the MMRs all bound up --break them down into M-M and R so that each can be given within weeks of each other.

my son almost died because he is highly allergic to eggs and even though i asked the pediatrician about the albumin issue she scoffed at me and telling me my fear was irrational. and then my son ends up in the hospital right after he is immunized.

so fuck you.

you've never had a kid almost die because you were doing "the right thing" by following conventional wisdom and oh-so-smart people like you.
posted by liza at 8:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


game warden to the events rhino: She's clearly a highly literate, experienced person, and in no sense a moron... she's not like the people you sit next to on the bus shouting incoherently...

I agree with you, but do you honestly believe that any reply you or I could make to liza's comments, no matter how reasoned and supported by evidence, could ever change her opinion? I think the obvious answer is "no".

On preview: Also, what mkultra said.
posted by aheckler at 8:31 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eideteker - here's the link link to the original webcomic site, which everone should check out because Jorge Cham is brilliant and Phd is the only um, best webcomic about science and grad life in general. The next day's comic is pretty relevant too.
posted by jb at 8:31 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


liza with all due respect you haven't really addressed the question. If vaccines, or the inactive ingredients therein are causing autism at anything like an appreciable scale it should be trivial to point to at least a correlation.

I'm sure the pharmaceutical industry does all sorts of borderline nonsense w.r.t. regulation and side effects, that's the nature of all large industries. But you (or anyone else for that matter) haven't shown anything to connect that with autism.
posted by Skorgu at 8:33 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


The only option is to make McCarthy and Kennedy look as crazy and unhinged as the people who drink silver.

Not true. There's the simple option of using the power of the State to force unreasonable parents to behave like reasonable ones. There's no need to engage with their arguments at all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:37 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


While I do agree that profit driven pharmaceutical firms aren't the guardians of the public interest that we should want and that the whole vaccination production system should be a hell of a lot more transparent, campaigning for better safety standards by rejecting a statistically provable safeguard just seems like a weird way of going about it.

I mean, car seats don't prevent 100% of infant fatalities in car wrecks and I've heard stories of children who have been injured or even killed through product issues with car seats, but you wouldn't campaign for safer car seats by not using them, would you?
posted by JaredSeth at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [25 favorites]


liza has brought up some very good points - if drug companies are not required to notify health professionals when inactive ingrediants are changed, that is a very serious concern. Our food has ingrediants listed on the side - why not drugs?

I happen to be allergic to horse serum, something which only appeared briefly as an inactive ingrediant in booster shots produced in the late 70s and early 80s. I keep telling people because this is my only allergy, and I want to be special and answer "yes" to the "are you allergic to any medication" question, but also because you never know, there is a very slim chance that it might appear as an ingrediate again.

Of course, as brought up in this thread, unvaccinated children are a threat to others in society, because all children are little germ machines and they are even worse. But the solution is not to simply dismiss concerns, but to strongly regulate the production of vaccines, including the disclosure of all ingredients.
posted by jb at 8:40 AM on May 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


(Clearly my babyhood reaction against the horse serum destroyed the spelling centre in my brain.)
posted by jb at 8:41 AM on May 30, 2009


my son almost died because he is highly allergic to eggs and even though i asked the pediatrician about the albumin issue she scoffed at me and telling me my fear was irrational. and then my son ends up in the hospital right after he is immunized.

so fuck you.

you've never had a kid almost die because you were doing "the right thing" by following conventional wisdom and oh-so-smart people like you.


I'm sorry to hear that, liza. But if you're pediatrician is laughing at your concerns you need to be taking that up with the pediatrician. You did the right thing by your child notifying her, and her dismissal nearly cost your child's life. It would be no different if there was a penicillin allergy at play. I hope you reported her to whatever patient advocacy service is available to you.

However, we are discussing MMR and the claims that it causes autism. There has been a lot of work looking into the alleged links between the two, a lot of money spend and a lot of non-pharma investigation. And no link has been found.

I do not think you can use "you never had a kid almost die" as a rational argument. This is the very definition of an appeal to emotion. While I have every sympathy for you, this experience should not qualify as a dismissal of the years of work a lot of very qualified people have put into checking the MMR vaccine. Many of them have children too, I'm sure.
posted by Jilder at 8:44 AM on May 30, 2009 [56 favorites]


i understood your question and the answer lies exactly as i stated it : they have never had to test if it causes autism because thats not in the minimum amount of testing necessary for approval of the drug.

i am not of the school who says MMRs cause autism. i dont know what causes autism. i do know though that allergies is one of the many issues autistic children seem to share. my current family doctor said it succinctly. my son has all the common allergy-related illnesses that affect a lot of autistic children, the only thing he doesnt have is autism.

by seeing my son's extreme allergic reaction, i am of the school of thought that we need to go back and do some serious amount of studies and/or testing involving allergic reactions of a lot of old drugs.

where's the hurdle? Trade Law. by law it is not mandated by Big Pharma to open up their trade secrets so that independent scientists can debunk the vaccination-autism connection.

if you really listened closely the fight is not about autism but about how pharmaceuticals conduct business. this is a fight to OPEN-SOURCE pharmaceuticals. because you can't prove MMRs don't cause autism unless you have available all the big pharmas "trade secrets" on how they produce the vaccines in the first place.

and if you think this is something that only is an issue of autism activists you are dead wrong. ask any AIDS or cancer activist about the cost of medication and big pharmas trade secrets.

so yeah, ask the pharmaceutical companies to open their formulation books so you can prove Jenny McCarthy wrong.

go ahead, try it.
posted by liza at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2009


no Jilder, you are a condescending "sage" for not understanding

1. you cannot expect pharmaceutical companies to do the right thing on their own volition when profit is at stake.

2. my concern is not about vaccination by orthodoxy with which is it treated in this cuntry. why can't they have many ways of producing the MMRs? why can't the MMRs be broken up like in Europe? what exactly is so special and necessary about the way the US forces the 3 upon the general public

oh yeah, it's called collusion although condescending "sages" like you would call it open-markets.

and again, you are so dead set that i am wrong that you're a fucking idiot for not even taking into consideration that what am writing about has nothing to do about proving that vaccines are wrong.

so let me speak slowly : VACCINES ARE NOT THE ISSUE.

what's the issue? THE WAY PHARMACEUTICALS GET AWAY WITH TREATING VACCINES AS TRADE SECRETS.

if pharmaceuticals opened their vaccine production books so that smart people like you could prove wrong Jenny McCarthy, we wouldnt be having this discussion.
posted by liza at 9:00 AM on May 30, 2009


This discussion always perplexes me. To be sure, causality is not logical implication, but several of the same rules must still apply. If you find a case in which an unvaccinated child becomes autistic, haven't you proved that vaccines can't be the cause of autism? (They might still constitute a partial cause, given the meager information in this scenario, but vaccines simply can't be the sole cause.)
posted by voltairemodern at 9:01 AM on May 30, 2009


do you know that a pharma company can change the formula of a drug and not conduct clinical trials as long as the active ingredient(s) dont change? it's why you can one day use the toothpaste you've used all your life and end up in the hospital with a near fatal allergic reaction. and these, believe it or not, happen all the time.

liza has brought up some very good points - if drug companies are not required to notify health professionals when inactive ingrediants are changed, that is a very serious concern. Our food has ingrediants listed on the side - why not drugs?

The last time I read my toothpaste's packaging, it listed the inactive ingredients. Drug packaging also lists the inactive ingredients. So what in the fuck are you talking about?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:01 AM on May 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Is there really no alternative to mercury as a preservative? Inhalation of mercury vapor is proven to cause brain damage, no one even questions that. Not injecting it into peoples' bloodstreams seems like a good idea regardless. If I read this correctly it shows that it does end up in the brain and while levels are reduced in the body after seven days, the brain is an exception, with no reduction there.

I recall having a conversation with my dentist about mercury in fillings, where he asserted that the mercury is mainly lost to exhalation. When I asked, considering that respiration goes both ways, what actually makes it biased toward leaving the body rather than entering it, and what actually stops it from going into your tissues, he kind of waffled, ceased to address the issue directly and just said that I could have any kind of filling I wanted, it didn't have to be the "silver" one.

Is it really so fucking hard to not put mercury into peoples' bodies?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:01 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this is as common as you say it should be trivial to come up with a reasonable double-blind study to shut us wankers up permanently.

---
If vaccines, or the inactive ingredients therein are causing autism at anything like an appreciable scale it should be trivial to point to at least a correlation.

it's only trivial if someone's willing and able to pay for it - there seems to be a real lack of transparency here - if you want people to trust the process the big drug companies are doing, transparency would go a long way
posted by pyramid termite at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2009


liza, your position now is not reflective of what you said in your first post. There, you were defending McCarthy's position -- I assumed you included her loudly-voiced beliefs about vaccines causing autism. I see no reason to think you're wrong about the problems with pharmaceutical companies, but it had sounded to me as though you thought there was some connection between them and the original claims about the vaccines causing autism. (Something like, If big pharma isn't regulated, then vaccines cause autism. Which is clearly absurd, but that's how your first post read.)
posted by voltairemodern at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2009


i understood your question and the answer lies exactly as i stated it : they have never had to test if it causes autism because thats not in the minimum amount of testing necessary for approval of the drug.

Of course it isn't. You cannot expect anyone to test a drug to see if it causes any disease that we have no explaination for. They don't test to see if it causes MS. They don't test to see if it causes cancer, or any of the thousands of diseases we don't have a cause for. Because we'd never see the drug. And in the meantime, we'd be losing thousands of kids a year to preventable diseases.

Furthermore, lots of independant testing has gone into checking whether the link between the MMR vaccine and autism exists. And that's the important part of this - the testing has been independant. There is no space for fudging of results, no vested interests by the testing party to find that everything is peachy-keen. The most useful part of the peer review process is that anyone who has the relevant knowledge to actually understand a paper can review it, whether they work for big pharma or not.

And that's the catch here. Most of the MMR anti-vaccine crew have no idea what they're talking about. I got into an argument recently with a woman who was strongy anti-vaccine because of the mercury content. Never mind that the mercury based preservatives haven't been used here in quite some time. She'd heard the very loud, very emotional arguments of the antis, and any argument to the contrary was just "big pharma propaganda". She was unaware of the vast amount of work that has been put in during the last decade or two to refine and verify the safety and usefulness of the vaccines. Science is not shrill and shrieking , and very deliberately removes iself from emotuion. It makes it very difficult for a legitimate piece of research to get the same sort of publicity a weeping mother gets.

and if you think this is something that only is an issue of autism activists you are dead wrong. ask any AIDS or cancer activist about the cost of medication and big pharmas trade secrets.

The topic of this thread is the autism-vaccine debate. That's why we're talking about the autism-vaccine debate, not cancer patients or AIDS sufferers. Did you read the article in the orginal post, because that's what we're discussing here.
posted by Jilder at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2009 [29 favorites]


Holy shit. Blogdiva indeed.

There are some valid concerns in this absolute deluge of comments but jumping straight in with reasonable thoughts peppered with logical fallacies along with venomous ad hominem attacks?

Liza, people like you are why we can't have nice things.
posted by Talez at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


Optimus Chyme : believe it or not, that's not all what you need to know about how a drug or cosmeceutical is made. all cosmeceuticals are pharmaceuticals and under trade laws they can withhold information of how the toothpaste is made. what you see in the carton is not the whole story.

so you need to do a bit more research on how pharmaceutical companies use and abuse trade law.
posted by liza at 9:12 AM on May 30, 2009


you can't prove MMRs don't cause autism unless you have available all the big pharmas "trade secrets" on how they produce the vaccines in the first place

This study shows that rates of autism among vaccinated and unvaccinated children do not differ to a statistically significant degree. You don't necessarily need to examine the composition of a vaccine to study its effects.

That said, I'm sure nobody here would argue against greater accountability for pharmaceutical corporations.
posted by Bromius at 9:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


While it's true that the drug companies have never had to directly test that vaccines cause autism, they've never had to test that vaccines turn your ear into a foot in fifty years, either. The testing has to be reasonable or nothing would ever get approved, and sometimes, the connections will show up after the fact, like the cardiac risk with NSIADs. The best we can do is to continue to gather information after the release of the medications and review the data continuously.

In the case of autism, despite not being tested directly, the data has been examined very thoroughly after the fact and the link is not there. You don't even need the trade secrets, you can survey the populations and do statistical analysis.

There's no doubt that the drug companies have (and will continue) to put profits above human life and they don't deserve blind trust. But keep the fight on what is scientifically provable.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there really no alternative to mercury as a preservative?

Yes, and most (all?) vaccines are now Mercury free, and have been for awhile. IIRC there was actually an increase in autism rates after Timerasol stopped being used as a preservative. The current argument is "well then it must be something else in the vaccines causing all this autism". Zero proof of course, but Mercury based preservatives in vaccines are no longer a suspected cause by even the wingiest of wingnuts.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:22 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


oops, sorry about that

there is one thing that people like jb upthread and my son share with a lot of autistic children : allergies.

i cannot say vaccines cause autism. but i would love Love LOVE to see more studies trying to crack the many mysteries around allergies. i do believe there's a connection there.

and this is why i've chimed in this debate. yes you all want to prove the "crazies" your superiority. my point is that there's evidence there's way more we need to know about what you all consider the superiority of your conventional wisdom :)

if you want to impress me, change the trade laws. campaign to open source drug formulas. then go to town to prove us loonies wrong.

go ahead. i dare you.
posted by liza at 9:24 AM on May 30, 2009


you've never had a kid almost die because you were doing "the right thing" by following conventional wisdom and oh-so-smart people like you.


liza should understand that a lot of the people who comment on these threads are usually sophomore undergrads without a lot of real-world experience.

Anyway, I had no idea about the connection between vaccines and eggs. Still, your son's experience seems like more of an issue with your doctor rather than with "big pharma" or whatever.

When our son was born six years ago, the vaccination/autism linkage debate was just starting, but we vaccinated our son anyway and he's fine (although he very nearly died several days after being born from sepsis, so I know the fear liza has experienced).

Fast forward six years to the birth of our second son. When the public health nurse discussed vaccinations with us, it was clear she was prepared to discuss the (disproven) link to autism with us, but we were fine with it: vaccinate away! Which she seemed to find surprising.

This concept must have really taken hold over the past six years, which is sad.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know a woman whose first son died at birth after his kidneys failed to develop in utero. When I first met her, six years ago, her explanation for it was the high level of pesticide use by her neighbors; part of her evidence for this was that she knew a woman only a few miles away whose baby also died from this rare defect.

A couple of years later, her explanation had something to do with hormones in the public drinking water supply.

Now, she is convinced her baby died because of the mercury in her amalgam dental fillings.

Her theories change, but what doesn't change is that she really really needs her baby's death to be explicable, it needs to be somebody's fault, and it needs to be something that could be fixed if only people would stop using pesticides, clean up the water supply, or stop using dental amalgam (or whatever her next theory will be).

I see that kind of need in many anti-vaccine parents I know.

This discussion has been familiar and predictable, but thanks for the article.
posted by not that girl at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2009 [38 favorites]


if you want to impress me

I don't care about impressing you. I care about saving lives.
posted by grouse at 9:27 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


Is it really so fucking hard to not put mercury into peoples' bodies?

Nope. Not at all. That's why we stopped doing it. Y'know, years ago.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


there's way more we need to know about what you all consider the superiority of your conventional wisdom

hear hear
posted by sexyrobot at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2009


Wasn't there some contaminent in the MMR vaccine?

More importantly sometimes science does make mistakes. They all get corrected... eventually but they do happen.
posted by Pseudology at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2009


my point is that there's evidence...
No there isn't.
posted by PenDevil at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Optimus Chyme : believe it or not, that's not all what you need to know about how a drug or cosmeceutical is made. all cosmeceuticals are pharmaceuticals and under trade laws they can withhold information of how the toothpaste is made

i don't really care how the toothpaste is made because i don't have fake allergies to things like silica and baking soda
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


really?

that's my argument as well! so it is Jenny McCarthy's!

so why dont you join her or me in fighting for open sourced pharma?

why dont you fight to change trade law.

go ahead.

i dare you.

[[ crickets crickets ]]

yeah ...
posted by liza at 9:34 AM on May 30, 2009


liza: my point is that there's evidence there's way more we need to know about what you all consider the superiority of your conventional wisdom.

Please present this evidence.


so why dont you join her or me in fighting for open sourced pharma?

Kindly point to a single person in this thread disputing the need for this.
posted by Skorgu at 9:37 AM on May 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


The bit at the end of the article about studying the effects of fetal testosterone as a piece of the "what causes autism and stuff" puzzle sounds promising!

I wonder if they might find out that FT is also one of the variables that helps determine sexual orientation.

Does anyone else worry that the anti-vax sentiments might end up getting lots of people killed if (when) the next truly deadly pandemic occurs?
(Looks like it's gonna be sometime around August/September, if the 1918 pattern of going away for the summer then coming back much deadlier in the fall is followed.)
posted by mer2113 at 9:39 AM on May 30, 2009


What exactly is 'open source pharma'?

The ingredients of most drugs are pretty easily determined via a while bunch of chemical and spectroanalytical tests.
posted by PenDevil at 9:40 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Try to keep it civil. There is a world of difference between the screechy "ZOMG VACSEENS WILL GIVE UR KIDS TEH RETARDID" and questioning the safety of their ingredients due to reactions in some patients. With any pharmaceutical, there will always be a subset of "negative patient care outcomes".

The fact that this debate occurs at all is a backhanded testimony to the vaccines themselves. The vaccines scare people because the diseases they protect against don't. Most of us are generations removed from knowing a kid in an iron lung from polio or someone rendered deaf by the mumps.

That said, would it be impossible for a lab to analyze these vaccines to discover their non-active components?
posted by dr_dank at 9:40 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


TALEZ, i hope youre joking. and yes, am very wysiwyg. if am not at my blogging or microblogging am giving pluses to a lot of people here in MeFi. or chiming in and feeling people's orthodoxical wrath. heh.
posted by liza at 9:41 AM on May 30, 2009


if you really listened closely the fight is not about autism but about how pharmaceuticals conduct business. But the problem is "listening closely." If someone says anything about autism when talking about vaccines, many people will classify them in the "kooky anti-vac" category and stop listening.

If the issue is opening Big Pharma's cookbooks, that's rather big. Big Pharma gets big because of how it's funded, and to change that would require a system-wide change: no private funding. Because if private entities want to make money off of medicine, they can't share the recipes.

At some time, it comes down to balancing costs. Cost of vaccinating everyone: a small segment of the population gets increased allergies, very few might die. Cost of not vaccinating everyone: people with compromised immune systems can catch preventable diseases and can die. From what I've read, I believe more people would die from not vaccinating everyone than from the vaccines themselves. Of course, once those costs become personal, the focus shifts from the Greater Good to the good of my own children. But when it comes to the option of 1) lifetime of allergies, vs 2) fearing premature death due to a preventable disease, I'll go with allergies (I already suffer from year-round allergies: they are annoyances which require some planning, but I can live with them).

Big Pharma won't open their cookbooks, but disclosing elements that are known allergens seems like a reasonable middle-point. This could prevent some nasty allergic reactions.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:41 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course I am pro-vaccination, though our pediatrician suggested slowing down when we were figuring out some issues with my daughter's development.

However I would bet that the amount of judgment and snark on this topic is inversely proportional to the number of families with autistic kids you actually know.
posted by shothotbot at 9:45 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


smart people like you could prove wrong Jenny McCarthy

For this to happen, Jenny McCarthy would need to prove herself right.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:47 AM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


Anyway, I had no idea about the connection between vaccines and eggs. Still, your son's experience seems like more of an issue with your doctor rather than with "big pharma" or whatever.

The reason liza's physician was so, for lack of a better word, callous was probably because studies have shown that egg allergies are not related to severe vaccine reactions.

But what would I know. I'm just an undergraduate with no real world experience and a search engine. I just went out looking for the why rather than point and blame. But then again I've never had a kid so my opinion, despite being backed up by all my science voodoo, isn't going to be worth a damn in this debate.

Fuck I hate it when these threads go down the shitter. The word vaccine seems to make people shut off all critical thinking.

And no liza, I'm so not joking. This is a place for decorum and argument not fighting. You are not seeking to persuade. You are seeking to dominate by threats, emotion and intimidation despite some logic to your posting. If you seek to throw your weight around and rally the head-on fight against big pharma may I suggest the comment pages of an online tabloid rather than the blue?
posted by Talez at 9:48 AM on May 30, 2009 [44 favorites]


filthy light thief : EXACTLY. the problem is that's going to take legislation and a complete overhaul of the FDA.

it's why pharmaceuticals are pushing hard NOT TO BE REGULATED with the coming health care reform. expect a lot of mudslinging around this exact request for "trade secret" compromise.
posted by liza at 9:51 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


TALEZ: so it's reasonable for people in MeFi to call me a kook and dangerous. nice.

and i've written about this before. again, not about whether vaccines cause autism; but of the real concern over lack of regulatory oversight from the FDA since the years of the Reagan administration.

free markets and drug safety standards don't mix and my argument has been all these years that allergic reactions should be taken seriously as part of safety standards. allergic reactions seems to be what people like jb and my son have in common with a lot of autistic people.

so, let me repeat, from a public safety and drug regulation POV, allergies need to be taken more seriously.
posted by liza at 9:57 AM on May 30, 2009


>Is it really so fucking hard to not put mercury into peoples' bodies?

Nope. Not at all. That's why we stopped doing it. Y'know, years ago.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:30 AM on May 30 [1 favorite +] [!]


"Stopped" is overstated: "the majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the United States currently contain thimerosal as a preservative..." and "Thimerosal preservative-free influenza vaccines are available, but in limited quantities."
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:04 AM on May 30, 2009


"Stopped" is overstated: "the majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the United States currently contain thimerosal as a preservative..." and "Thimerosal preservative-free influenza vaccines are available, but in limited quantities."
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:04 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


Way to cherry-pick the quotes there. We are talking about infant vaccines here right? From the same paragraph where you pulled your second quote:

"Today, all routinely recommended licensed pediatric vaccines that are currently being manufactured for the U.S. market, with the exception of influenza vaccine, contain no thimerosal or only trace amounts."
posted by Who_Am_I at 10:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


good choice =)

on that note, wanted to point out something that is missed in these conversations : Under public safety laws and especially FDA regulatory practices there is a percentage of "personal injury" and death expected from all drugs including immunizations.

what you are asking people with autistic children or health scares like jb''s and my son's is to shut the eff up because they fall into the minimum of damaged or dead people expected under the law and hence to be expected as socially acceptable.

hey! at least their autism, near death experiences or actual deaths from drugs or vaccines come with the blessing of the scientific community. why would we have a problem with that? right?

i wish this is something people really kept in mind in these discussion.
posted by liza at 10:22 AM on May 30, 2009


Way to cherry-pick the quotes there.

Nope. He made the blanket statement that we'd "stopped" using thimerosol years ago. I countered that "stopped" was overstated and pointed out the major exception using appropriate quotes.

Cherry-picking is when you ignore evidence that contradicts your argument. My argument was that "stopped" was overstated and there is no evidence to the contrary to ignore.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:22 AM on May 30, 2009


There is no space for fudging of results, no vested interests by the testing party to find that everything is peachy-keen.

Jilder,
I have a lot of contempt for Jim Carrey's SO and I'm 100% pro-vaccines. Your comment (about the vaccine in question) most certainly does not apply across the board however.

I deplore the rough ride liza is getting here.

There is not enough funding of the regulatory bodies, there are too few researchers to make the studies we all rely upon worth the absolute trust we put in them and Big Pharma will do all the lobbying possible to prevent a poor side reaction to a valuable drug from entering the warning literature.

They don't have to "fudge" results. All they do is set the bar for listing unwanted side effects too high.

If you've ever left the doctor unsatisfied, after complaining you thought you had a funny reaction to a prescription, god help you if that reaction is not "listed". Officially, you didn't have it.

If liza is being emotional about this, she's explained why.
If we get snotty back - what's our excuse?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:28 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I also dare you to change trade law! I double-dog dare you. Bloodletting and leeches were always more effective against disease than vaccination and less dangerous, but Big Pharma doesn't sell leeches, do they?

I think skepticism is great. It causes us to reevaluate things - are we breeding superbugs by feeding antibiotics to livestock? Do chemicals in certain plastics give us man-boobs? But in an ideal world, skepticism and what we learn from investigating, causes us to reduce, not increase public health problems.

As a society, we agree to many things in the interest of public health, and vaccination (in the vast majority of cases) should clearly be a prerequisite for participation in the public sphere where lack of vaccination poses a risk to others.

That said, people can clearly have totally irrational beliefs on specific subjects without being totally crazy in general.
posted by snofoam at 10:36 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If the issue is opening Big Pharma's cookbooks, that's rather big. Big Pharma gets big because of how it's funded, and to change that would require a system-wide change: no private funding. Because if private entities want to make money off of medicine, they can't share the recipes."

Of course they can. They patent their recipes.

Look, I'm not going to defend Liza's coy questioning of an autism link with vaccines. I think that's going down the rabbit hole. But the pharmas actually make money from patents, not from trade secrets with their finished formulas. For instance, Adderall XR just came onto the market in generic form. It's still pretty expensive, because the delivery mechanism is under patent, so the generic manufacturer has to pay for the use of that mechanism, which is really the only thing distinguishing it from regular Adderall. There is no trade secret involved, as the value in this case is in the delivery mechanism.

I don't care so much if they release how they do it. That's a trade secret. But the final ingredients should not be. To be fair, I'm not really sure how much of an issue this is, but I do know that patents are where the money is made, and patents have to be explicit.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:38 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


on that note, wanted to point out something that is missed in these conversations : Under public safety laws and especially FDA regulatory practices there is a percentage of "personal injury" and death expected from all drugs including immunizations.

what you are asking people with autistic children or health scares like jb''s and my son's is to shut the eff up because they fall into the minimum of damaged or dead people expected under the law and hence to be expected as socially acceptable.

hey! at least their autism, near death experiences or actual deaths from drugs or vaccines come with the blessing of the scientific community. why would we have a problem with that? right?

i wish this is something people really kept in mind in these discussion.


And on the flip side of the coin are the neonatal, the immunocompromised and those who have severe reactions to vaccines (like your own son) who rely on the herd immunity that mass vaccinations provide so that they don't die from otherwise preventable diseases.

The thing is, people like you like to use emotive arguments like "my son almost died". And really, they're really persuasive on Oprah and I'm sure that thought makes you giddy with delight that you're going to be convincing all of those previously big pharma loving sheeple over to the cause. But in a proper medical setting with access to epinephrine, vassopressors and mechanical ventilation the chances of someone dying from anaphylactic shock go from rather large to nearly insignificant. It still happens, yes, but it's typically the result of massive amounts of human incompetence rather than the treatment protocol itself.

The fact that they make allowances for people dying is because sometimes things become completely FUBAR. And that's really a fact of life. But I fail to see how there's a net societal gain by allowing what would be thousands or even tens of thousands of young children to die or become deaf or disfigured from otherwise preventable diseases just because someone thought a much smaller amount of collateral damage was somehow the depth of evil companies profiteering. It's difficult for me to comprehend little alone respect as a valid reason to stop mass vaccinations of the population.

I'm not saying big pharma isn't evil. I'm just saying it's a shitty excuse to stop vaccination because, even if things are as completely fucked up as you make them out to be, it's still a shitload better than the alternative.

If we get snotty back - what's our excuse?

Because quite honestly, I personally don't care for appeals to emotion, appeals to false authority or even the tone of her first two words in this thread, "YOU PEOPLE" in the course of a rational argument. But that's just me.
posted by Talez at 10:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [31 favorites]


And I forgot: Ben Goldacre also spoke out on the MMR scare in Newswipe, Charlie Brooker's critical program on the media. [SLYT]
posted by ijsbrand at 10:44 AM on May 30, 2009


Talez,

You've defended the tone of your reaction to liza by saying:


The thing is, people like you like to use emotive arguments like "my son almost died". And really, they're really persuasive on Oprah and I'm sure that thought makes you giddy with delight that you're going to be convincing all of those previously big pharma loving sheeple over to the cause.

So your answer, then - is to continue to belittle, condescend, lace your comment with deadly sarcasm and offer - by way of pointless fellow feeling: "I'm not saying big pharma is evil"

Who is the bigger problem here? Idiots like Jenny McCarthy - or people like us (I am snotty sometimes too), who create a market for the Jenny McCarthys?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:52 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


You want to know exactly what's in vaccines? Here you go. This is all published information. The sources for that document are given at the bottom.

You want to know how the vaccines and other drugs are made? They're subject to FDA regulations, particularly the Good Manufacturing Process regulations. The important parts are in 21 CFR 211.

Most vaccines and drugs are covered by patents or were at one time, and those patents, which actually disclose quite a lot of information and often point to peer-reviewed journal publications, can be read online for free as well. The patents that a drug is covered by are available online and are typically on the packaging as well.

I wish there were a free online database of Investigational New Drug applications, but what we have is pretty good. The INDs have to disclose a lot of detail about the manufacturing process. Many drugs and vaccines are made in one facility but sold in multiple countries, so you can cross reference with the data from European countries, Canada, Australia, Japan, etc. All of them have quality and safety standards on par with the US.

Re: allergies in general. Allergies only cause several hundred deaths annually. Of those, about 150 are due to food allergies of some kind and about 400 are due to penicillin allergy. All insect stings, whether in allergic people or not, cause about 40. To put those numbers in perspective, deer kill about 130 people each year. So deer are much worse than stinging insects and almost as bad as food allergies.
posted by jedicus at 10:53 AM on May 30, 2009 [34 favorites]


if you want to impress me, change the trade laws. campaign to open source drug formulas. then go to town to prove us loonies wrong.

I really don't care about impressing you or proving you wrong anymore. I really don't. What I would like to do, at this point, is to be able to tell you: no pediatrician will treat your child, no school will enroll your child, no health-insurance plan will cover your child, until you get them vaccinated, unless you get a medical exemption. I feel like everyone's all done with the reasoning and the logic and the gentle persuasion, and it's time for the stick.
posted by palliser at 10:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sorry - meant to quote: "I'm not saying big pharma isn't evil"
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:55 AM on May 30, 2009


If we get snotty back - what's our excuse?

I got a note from the CDC last month saying a child with measles -- a child whose parents elected not to vaccinate -- had visited an indoor play area the same time I was there with my then-10-month-old, who had not gotten the MMR because it's given between 12 and 15 months. That's my excuse.
posted by palliser at 10:57 AM on May 30, 2009 [16 favorites]


I deplore the rough ride liza is getting here.
...
If we get snotty back - what's our excuse?


Maybe if she didn't come in here to derail a discussion about vaccines and autism into her personal crusade against the FDA (which is only related to autism by the thinnest of threads), and respond to criticism with remarks like "to all the idiots who've just insulted me", "so fuck you", and "oh-so-smart people like you", this wouldn't be quite the brouhaha it's turned into.
posted by mkultra at 10:59 AM on May 30, 2009 [27 favorites]


Big Pharma won't open their cookbooks, but disclosing elements that are known allergens seems like a reasonable middle-point. This could prevent some nasty allergic reactions.

Wait, what? You can't get a patent without disclosing, in detail, exactly what's in your product and how you make it. What are we talking about here? How did we all just accept liza's statement on this issue of "trade law" (actually "intellectual property law"; "trade law" has to do with, um, trade, but whatever)?
posted by palliser at 11:02 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you believe vaccine safety is a clear-cut issue, you have never taken a serious look at vaccine safety. The tone of the frequent mefi threads on this particular issue (which I've thought and read a lot about) leave me feeling like I've fallen into a circle of terrified, group-think fundamentalist religious true believers, recoiling in collective fear at the suggestion their cherished beliefs (in this case about the completeness and perfection of science) could be in any way wrong.

As a favourite writer once said: "Political correctness is a fear of complexity."

This issue is swimming in complexity, scientific as well as moral.

To portray it as simple is knee-jerk, ignorant, fearful and, frankly, immoral.
posted by namasaya at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The way to determine whether a medical treatment is appropriate for the populace is to examine the costs and benefits of each side. Vaccination costs some amount of money, perhaps makes a few kids sick. Not doing it costs no money up front, but causes more to become sick, including the elderly and other immuno-compromised people.

The important thing to note is that even if vaccination caused autism, it still might be good to have each and every kid vaccinated, as the societal benefit would out-weigh the societal cost. There are things that we all do, risks we incur, burdens that we shoulder, to make society better at the cost of ourselves. Whether it's at the familial level, the community level, the state or national level, it is important, as a human being, to chip in. Economically, it comes as taxation, and to evade your taxes is to say that you wish to benefit from society, but not give back or share.

Make no mistake, there is always room for improvement in science, and we shouldn't become complacent. Liza, you make some good points, however, to not vaccinate your child is to say that the minute risk to your child is more important than the over-all greater risk your unvaccinated child poses to society. It is a selfish, terrible thing to say that any one person is more important than another in the realm of public health. Agitate to have open standards, ask the government to increase funding to pediatric vaccination research, but for the love of society and country, get your kid vaccinated.
posted by explosion at 11:23 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


the completeness and perfection of science

... er, what?

"Political correctness is a fear of complexity."

*tip-toes out of this trainwreck*
posted by joe lisboa at 11:24 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What a fucking depressing thread.
posted by maxwelton at 11:29 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Maybe if she didn't come in here to derail a discussion about vaccines and autism into her personal crusade against the FDA (which is only related to autism by the thinnest of threads),

Not the thinnest of threads. You are asking people to trust the authorities that vaccines are safe when it is clear that the industry isn't to be trusted.

I am exceedingly pro-vaccine. Heck, I get extras just because Kaiser gives them out for free. But the system is really broken. I have a lot of sympathy for the parents who feel they're erring on the conservative side by leaving their kid as-is.

1) More options should be made available (like giving the M, the M & the R separately if you'd rather.) 2) More big pharma transparency should be required. 3) And parents should be required to see what these diseases look like, just as a reminder of what the point is.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing that some things are worse than Autism

(Warning: not visually nice)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:34 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually do know a couple with an autistic child, and they believe that the vaccine-autism link exists. I'm with y'all, that's an unsupportable position, scientifically. Still, I don't try to argue them out of that viewpoint.

I've come to the conclusion it's probably better for them, emotionally, to have something to point at. My suspicion is that for most of the anti-vaccination people, it really has more to do with needing some kind of scapegoat than anything else. Most people just can't really handle the thought that their kid has this terrible disorder for no discernible reason at all. If the vaccine/autism timeline didn't match up so well, it would be something else.

What's crazy is that even if you believe that vaccines have a chance of giving your kid autism, it still seems like the risk should be worth it... In the same way that I still cross the street even knowing it carries a low chance of getting me killed, because the benefits just outweigh the risks.
posted by axiom at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2009


I'm not saying big pharma isn't evil.

Ok, I'll say it: Big Pharma isn't evil. I just can't wrap my head around calling a group that has saved and improved more lives than any other bunch of people in human history a blanket "evil". How many people reading this thread are alive today only through the efforts of pharmaceutical companies, past and present? A rather large percentage I'd wager.

They aren't as good as they could be. But, really, who among us is? This is not to say I don't want to see some major changes made but I refuse to call evil the people who saved my life, my brother's life, my sister's life, and the lives of most of my friends.
posted by Justinian at 11:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


Never mind that the mercury based preservatives haven't been used here in quite some time.

Then why the "need" for HR 2617?

From that bill:

(5) Considerable progress has been made in reducing mercury exposures from childhood vaccines, yet 10 years after the July 1999 statement, thimerosal remains in several nonroutinely administered childhood vaccines and many pediatric and adult influenza vaccines.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2009


explosion, if your kid gets sick due to something government mandated (as is being suggested in this thread) as far as you're concerned the error rate is 100%. If someone gives you an "acceptable risk" explanation, as far as I'm concerned you're completely within you're right to knock them to the ground.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the same way that I still cross the street even knowing it carries a low chance of getting me killed, because the benefits just outweigh the risks.

Me too, axiom.

Liza, however, had a very nasty scare once when she stepped off the curb with her kid.

So she's dithering - angry and shook up.

And it's no use at all to describe her in this thread as "giddy with delight" because maybe now she can be on TV and talk about her fright. That's just obnoxious.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:42 AM on May 30, 2009


The reason liza's physician was so, for lack of a better word, callous was probably because studies have shown that egg allergies are not related to severe vaccine reactions.

This is true of the MMR, polio, DTAP, hepatitis, and varicella vaccines, but the influenza vaccine is made from eggs and so can cause severe allergic reactions.

But since the influzena vaccine isn't required for kids (and usually only required for hospital personnel and first-responders), we can say that required childhood vaccines don't tend to cause severe allergic reactions.
posted by dw at 11:42 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another fine metal is being used in place of Mercury - Aluminum
posted by rough ashlar at 11:45 AM on May 30, 2009


Talez,

You've defended the tone of your reaction to liza by saying:


The thing is, people like you like to use emotive arguments like "my son almost died". And really, they're really persuasive on Oprah and I'm sure that thought makes you giddy with delight that you're going to be convincing all of those previously big pharma loving sheeple over to the cause.

So your answer, then - is to continue to belittle, condescend, lace your comment with deadly sarcasm and offer - by way of pointless fellow feeling: "I'm not saying big pharma is evil"

Who is the bigger problem here? Idiots like Jenny McCarthy - or people like us (I am snotty sometimes too), who create a market for the Jenny McCarthys?


Yes, belittling and condescension is sometimes necessary, because no matter how much emotion they've got invested in this, no matter what happened to their precious little snowflake, they are still wrong and they've got to grow the fuck up and figure that out; the truth can be harsh as fuck for some people but it's still the truth. And yes, we can call for more transparency in pharmaceutical production, and yes, we can make sure that, for example, there are egg-product-free vaccines for people with egg allergies, and yeah, we can regulate the shit out of 'Big Pharma', but to paraphrase Scotty, 'ya canna change the laws of biology'.

Whether you judge me as having no compassion or not, I have to side with Talez here: I'm really fucking fed up with making accommodations for people's weird-ass emotionally-fueled irrationalities when they have no grasp on fact. Science is science, whether one has had a child or been out in the 'real world' or whatever the fuck a person has done.

And think of the people who actually CAN'T get vaccines, because they're immunocompromised and have a legitimate reason to be dependent on the rest of us who are vaccinated.
posted by kldickson at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


mothering.com is like timecube, only with more estrogen.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


mothering.com is like timecube, only with more estrogen.

So rather than pointing out that Aluminum is not "toxic", or that their math is wrong - the response is that?

At least they are being reasonable
A Call for Better Research
There is good evidence that large amounts of aluminum are harmful to humans. Because no meaningful research has specifically been done on aluminum in vaccines, there is no existing evidence that the amount in vaccines is harmful to infants and children. However, no one has actually studied aluminum levels in healthy human infants after vaccination to make sure it is safe.

Science is science

Yes. And Mercury is a nasty heavy metal. Rather well established "science".

But hey, if science is science - then lets see the science on the Aluminum.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, then let's do the freakin' research! I never said I had any qualms about that.
posted by kldickson at 12:01 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My son has been diagnosed autistic. The official diagnosis came right before his fifth birthday. However, we noticed something was different about him before he was even a year old. He wasn't like other babies far before his first vaccine. Yet at least once a week, someone asks about the whole supposed autism-vaccine hoo-ha, and then act like I have no idea what I'm talking about when I say it wasn't a vaccine that caused this.

To date, these are things that have not caused my son's autism:

1. vaccines
2. being accidentally dropped as a newborn
3. my diet while pregnant
4. drug/alcohol/tobacco use while pregnant
5. mine or my husband's DNA. [our and our son's genetics were tested]
6. rough sex or physical abuse while pregnant.
7. my son's diet as a newborn
8. something he picked up at day care
9. aliens

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but maybe you won't need to ask such insensitive and dumb-assed questions on a regular basis, and instead of focusing all our energy and money on fighting over what causes autism, maybe we can spare some god damned attention on helping the kids who have been diagnosed thus far. Because those are the kids being short-changed right now.
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:01 PM on May 30, 2009 [36 favorites]


Whether you judge me as having no compassion or not, I have to side with Talez here: I'm really fucking fed up with making accommodations for people's weird-ass emotionally-fueled irrationalities when they have no grasp on fact. Science is science, whether one has had a child or been out in the 'real world' or whatever the fuck a person has done.
And think of the people who actually CAN'T get vaccines, because they're immunocompromised and have a legitimate reason to be dependent on the rest of us who are vaccinated.


kldickson,

Actually, I judge you to be in a lousy mood with shit for brains when you wrote this sentence (but not at any other time, ever):

Science is science, whether one has had a child or been out in the 'real world' or whatever the fuck a person has done.

That's absolute garbage.

The whole POINT here is the comparative absurdity of liza's position overall.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:01 PM on May 30, 2009


small_ruminant: You are asking people to trust the authorities that vaccines are safe when it is clear that the industry isn't to be trusted.

I don't think anyone in this thread has said "trust the authorities." mkultra certainly didn't and I'm certainly not.

My issue with the arguments presented here is not that they attack the authorities or big pharma or the FDA or whatever. Rather my concern comes when, once they are pressed for evidence or facts with which those attacks may be substantiated they magically change topics.

There's no good faith debate here, just nebulous references to 'trade law' and 'inactive ingredients.' That's neither a compelling nor intellectually honest way to frame a position, when it's so easy to come up with sources as jedicus demostrated above.
posted by Skorgu at 12:02 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread is a fucking mess, and indulging batshit crazy people who don't want to discuss or argue in good faith and only want to angrily scream at everyone who questions them, treating them as good-faith participants in the discussion despite an absolute lack of any reason to do so is why. liza didn't come to this thread to discuss the topic. She came here to derail the thread of discussion, have a thread where she was the star, and spew misinformation about how the pharmaceutical industry works. (Do you people really believe that the chemical formulas and methods of making drugs are a secret? That's not how it works, folks.) At best she has presented an object lesson in how an inability to separate one's emotions from one's reasoning processes can lead to severely irrational (and hard to read) polemics; that's helpful to look at, but does she really have to do it here?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


Jody Tresidder, I agree that liza's position is comparatively absurd.

What I was trying to say is that no amount of emotional wangling is going to make the situation any different. Physics, chemistry, and biology do not give a shit about what human beings feel.
posted by kldickson at 12:14 PM on May 30, 2009


Ok, I'll say it: Big Pharma isn't evil.

But according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Merck & Co., the makers of several vaccines, knew in 1991 that the cumulative amount of mercury in vaccines given to infants by six months of age was about 87 times the level then thought to be safe.

(Not that you accept the mothering.com link - to you its 'like timecube'. )


Is what the LA Times is claiming 'not evil'? How many kilonazi's gets one to "evil" in your book? Because if there is going to be a discussion - its nice to have a benchmark.

Perhaps asking "why the Mercury was added?" is a useful question to ask.

"September 02, 2005 By: Evelyn Pringle - Independent Media TV
Since the 1930s, mercury-based Thimerosal has been added to vaccines as a preservative to boost drug company profits by allowing vaccine makers to package in bulk instead of individual doses. "

Hrmmm. Boosting the Profits of Big Pharma by adding a well known heavy metal toxin - still "not evil"?
posted by rough ashlar at 12:14 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


And for the sake of education - a table showing the Mercury in vaccines.

(Via the link declared as "timecube" in case one wants to therefore reject it)
posted by rough ashlar at 12:21 PM on May 30, 2009


then go to town to prove us loonies wrong.

I guess I'll never stop being irritated by loonies who think I have to prove them wrong.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:25 PM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


wanted to point out something that is missed in these conversations : Under public safety laws and especially FDA regulatory practices there is a percentage of "personal injury" and death expected from all drugs including immunizations. what you are asking people with autistic children or health scares like jb''s and my son's is to shut the eff up because they fall into the minimum of damaged or dead people expected under the law and hence to be expected as socially acceptable.

sorry to say it, but...yes, actually. the fact of the matter is, everything kills somebody. no matter how safely any product is engineered, there's potential for both misuse and adverse reations. (i heard once about 2 guys at a popcorn factory who died from inhaling too much butter-flavored topping). i'm really sorry about your son's allergies, and maybe they were caused by an egg-based vaccine as opposed to a horse serum based one, but unfortunately, these things happen, and from what it sounds like, your doctor seems much more at fault than 'big pharma'. the thing is (and though it may not sound like it, i do agree that most drug companies are flatly evil and greedy) drug companies don't really want to kill their customers...it's bad for the bottom line, and almost all of the changes that they make in their formulations are for either reducing mortality, or making their drugs more accessible (the switch to egg-based vaccines is being done because its sooo much faster to produce (weeks as opposed to months for horse serum based). making a flu vaccine more quickly available can save millions of lives. yes, drugs and vaccines can kill people. so can water. but they save sooooooo many more. i couldn't find statistics for mumps or rubella, but according to wikipedia (scroll down a bit) measles alone has killed ~200 million(!!!) people over the last 150 years. now, considering that for the last 50 years, that number has been near zero due to vaccinations, you're talking about a mortality rate of about 2 million a year(!). i actually sleep fine at night knowing that a few hundred people a year die from vaccinations. sorry.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:27 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Say what you want about inactive ingredients and such, empirical data indicates that since widespread adoption of vaccinations began at around 1850 (before we even really knew what was going on!), childhood mortality has dropped to near zero. What's the debate about? That the area under the curve is increasingly caused by the effects from the area above the curve? Maybe, but that's sort of like saying genetic diversity is bad because it produces mutations which do more harm than good, completely ignoring that genetic diversity is a result of the fact that many external factors which we simply can never predict are protected by this process.
posted by geoff. at 12:27 PM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Thimerosal has been added to vaccines as a preservative to boost drug company profits by allowing vaccine makers to package in bulk instead of individual doses. "

This is a ridiculous statement. How are individual doses less likely to spoil without a preservative? How is the need to preserve vaccines a mechanism to simply boost corporate profits?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:30 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Physics, chemistry, and biology do not give a shit about what human beings feel.

And again, kldickson (and thanks for taking my scold so well)...

No one is asking "science" how it feels.

The problem here is that untidy intersection of humans with science and misunderstood probabilities and that yearning to protect our young -which we value in parents in every other social sphere.

Science ceases to be theories and numbers and dosages and percentages when it's your kid.
And "we" create a horrible backlash when we forget it - or talk down from on high.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:30 PM on May 30, 2009


This is a ridiculous statement.

Because you say so? You'll have to better than that.

How are individual doses

The statement was Mercury was added to allow for BULK packaging.

"allowing vaccine makers to package in bulk instead of individual doses"
posted by rough ashlar at 12:43 PM on May 30, 2009


This is a ridiculous statement. How are individual doses less likely to spoil without a preservative? How is the need to preserve vaccines a mechanism to simply boost corporate profits?

This comment is emblematic of the bad faith in which people are arguing here: calling it ridiculous and then demonstrating that you don't know the facts in the next sentence.

Individual doses can be kept sealed for sterility until used, eliminating the need for a preservative. Containers with multiple doses have their seal broken when the first dose is drawn, and so sterility is compromised for the subsequent doses. The preservative prevents pathogens from contaminating the remaining doses. You could have found this out in ten seconds of googling.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:44 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bloodletting and leeches were always more effective against disease than vaccination and less dangerous, but Big Pharma doesn't sell leeches, do they?

I'm anti-bloodletting, but leeches are really great. Maggots are also useful.
posted by jb at 12:46 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Science ceases to be theories and numbers and dosages and percentages when it's your kid.
And "we" create a horrible backlash when we forget it - or talk down from on high.


And liza creates a horrible backlash when she forgets that her unvaccinated kid (and the army of fellow unvaccinated kids created by this nonsense) are threats to my health and life, as well as the health and life of every baby too young to be vaccinated, every senior citizen, and every person of whatever age who has a compromised immune system for whatever reason.

We're all supposed to feel her pain and fear? Her kid is fine now, correct? The only thing he has to fear is all the diseases he wasn't vaccinated against, which are now coming back in waves as our herd immunity fails due to this junk science being spread. Shouldn't she have to think about the pain and fear she is inflicting on the rest of us?
posted by hydropsyche at 12:51 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


rough ashlar : I have no idea what you think that blanket statement about mercury levels and Merck execs proves. Everybody in the medical field knew the vaccines usually had mercury as a preservative. Doctors knew it. Are doctors evil? There was no evidence that the preservative hurt people, and it was phased out just to be safe as soon as feasible.

Using vaccines as evidence that phara companies are evil is stunning. They don't make money on these vaccines. They do it as a public good. Vaccines are one of the ways in which pharma companies show they are one of the greatest boons in human history. Even, as I said, if they could be better.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on May 30, 2009


I know someone who knows people who do drug research and thus work with Big Pharma. Big Pharma is evil, if by evil we accept the generally accepted definition when applied to industries like the oil industry, car industry and Big Tobacco - worried about making money, and not much else.

They aren't as evil as Monsanto, but hey, that's a tough bar.
posted by jb at 12:58 PM on May 30, 2009


Yes. And Mercury is a nasty heavy metal. Rather well established "science".

Not all mercury is equal: like other notorious chemicals such as cyanide, there are very dangerous compounds (dimethylmercury or hydrogen cyanide, respectively) and fairly safe ones (thimerosal and Prussian blue, respectively.) Thimerosal and its metabolite ethylmercury aren't bioaccumulative like methylmercury or fatal in microliter doses like dimethylmercury. Other mercury compounds - mercurochrome, for example, or amalgam fillings - are comparatively safe, and thimerosal probably belongs in that category. By no means things I'd swallow by the liter, of course, or gulp by the gram, and as long as thimerosol isn't necessary in vaccines (which under most circumstances, it isn't), I'm happy to avoid it. In typical amounts, though, I'm no more concerned about being exposed to it than I am about the statistically small dangers of most medications.

As to why it was used as a preservative in the first place, and still is in some places and for some vaccines: shipping vaccines in bulk is useful for more than profit (particularly since vaccines in general are generally the least profitable products of pharma companies.) Getting vaccines to people in rural areas and third-world countries can be logistically pretty difficult, and if you can make those vaccines available in a form that is cheaper (less packaging, and less waste filling vials) and easier to store (less refrigeration space required), that can make a big difference. Of course, vaccine distribution was more difficult earlier in the 20th century, when preservatives were first added; in first-world countries, there is little need for multidose vials, and even in third-world countries, multidose vials are not the best answer for all vaccines and all situations.

But according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Merck & Co., the makers of several vaccines, knew in 1991 that the cumulative amount of mercury in vaccines given to infants by six months of age was about 87 times the level then thought to be safe.

Note that the guidelines you talk about were formulated for methylmercury, not ethylmercury (the thimerosal metabolite), and recall again that the former is considered to be much more dangerous. The FDA's page on thimerosal has more detailed information; even if you don't trust the FDA, they provide many citations from many different sources, which you, if you so choose, can also take a look at.
posted by ubersturm at 1:01 PM on May 30, 2009 [18 favorites]


Bloodletting and leeches were always more effective against disease than vaccination and less dangerous, but Big Pharma doesn't sell leeches, do they?

actually, they do. they've turned out to be really handy at getting bloodflow restarted. when they re-attach fingers and do skin grafts over damaged tissue and such, it's near impossible to reconnect all the little capillaries, so they'll put a leech on to suck blood slowly through the area to promote healing. cool, huh? /derail

also, as a side note to the effect that "rising rates of autism" affects this debate, i remember learning way back in elementary school that the rates of autism were much higher for women choosing to have children later in life, especially after 40, though i don't seem to see much mention of it as a possible cause nowadays (after googling 'autism causes'). i did find some mention of 'genetic errors' being a possible cause, which do tend to accumulate in your dna as you get older. in addition to the 'expanding definition of autism' explanation, could increasing rates of pregnancy later in life be contributing to the overall rise in the incidence of autism? bueller?
posted by sexyrobot at 1:01 PM on May 30, 2009


Also for all that research that saves lives - a hell of a lot of it is done by universities and other non-profits. Then Big Pharma buys the ideas for pennies and sells the products for pounds. (yeah, I know people who had sold their patents too). And they aren't above strong-arming academics who find problems with their products.
posted by jb at 1:01 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're all supposed to feel her pain and fear?

Nope - that's a step too far, I agree.

But we should listen very carefully - and lay off the bullying. If only because bullying doesn't seem to work.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:09 PM on May 30, 2009


If I think I can do a better job of understanding what my daughter needs when it comes to vaccines or medical care why would I ever take her to a doctor for anything?

I take her to the doctor because I don't know shit about the science of medicine. This is my only option as a parent, and it's really your only option too. The alternative is to make health decisions in ignorance
posted by nola at 1:12 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


There was no evidence that the preservative hurt people

It's been established that you consider mothering.com "timecube" - so it should be no shock that you'd also consider that adding Mercury (a known heavy toxic metal) "just fine"

don't make money on these vaccines. They do it as a public good.

Really? You get that from the PR department? And, do you have actual proof of this because I'm betting such a behavior would open 'em up to a shareholder lawsuit for not maximizing shareholder value.

Since 1986, the development, production, and sale of vaccines has changed from a minor part of pharmaceutical sales to one of a hugely profitable multibillion dollar industry and has become a guaranteed money maker for global pharmaceutical companies.

(and notice what I've been doing - including links to support my claims. You, not so much. )
posted by rough ashlar at 1:21 PM on May 30, 2009


and as long as thimerosol isn't necessary in vaccines (which under most circumstances, it isn't)

*clap* *clap*

Yes - its not needed. Just switching to single use vaccines would address things like Mercury and Aluminum as additives in the US of A because we have electricity, refrigeration and a shipping system

But it is sad to see people defend the practice with claims of "timecube" or that the pharmaceutical firms don't make the vaccines for profit.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:29 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]



As to why it was used as a preservative in the first place, and still is in some places and for some vaccines: shipping vaccines in bulk is useful for more than profit (particularly since vaccines in general are generally the least profitable products of pharma companies.) Getting vaccines to people in rural areas and third-world countries can be logistically pretty difficult,


Wanted to highlight this because when everyone talks about the evils of big pharma-- and they certainly can be evil like any other big corporations-- what they miss is that vaccines are typically *not* profitable and the government has to incentivize them to produce many of them at all.

The other important thing to note here is that autism is probably caused in the womb, rather than suddenly appearing in toddlerhood-- by the time a child is diagnosed, as Funky Helix points out, the fact that something unusual is going on has often been evident for quite a while. I think Hopkins can diagnose kids at *six months*-- at which point, very few vaccines if any have typically been given.

Many studies suggest that whatever is going wrong is happening much earlier in development than symptoms become visible in most cases-- and this seems to be true even in "regressive" cases. For example, drugs like valproate, when taken by pregnant mothers, dramatically increase the risk that a child will develop autism.
posted by Maias at 1:32 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I take her to the doctor because I don't know shit about the science of medicine. This is my only option as a parent, and it's really your only option too.

Yea - heaven forbid one educates themselves!

Its well known:

* Autodidacts are dangerous.
* Autodidacts cause chaos where they roam.
* Autodidacts should never be hired.


Best to remain powerless and not learn. Trust people who are using the "power of the market" to give you advice. They'll always give you the correct info because of the "Power of the Free Market!"
posted by rough ashlar at 1:34 PM on May 30, 2009


Between this and that thread about the Fed I had no idea rough ashlar was a loon on multiple fronts. It's like being a Renaissance man of crackpot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:38 PM on May 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


And again, kldickson (and thanks for taking my scold so well)...

No one is asking "science" how it feels.

The problem here is that untidy intersection of humans with science and misunderstood probabilities and that yearning to protect our young -which we value in parents in every other social sphere.

Science ceases to be theories and numbers and dosages and percentages when it's your kid.
And "we" create a horrible backlash when we forget it - or talk down from on high.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:30 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


It works both ways, Jody. The intersection is REALLY fuckin' untidy. But the thing is, again, nature is an unfeeling entity. How a person feels does not make, for example, viruses not become the little pathogen machines they are. It does not make rain not fall. My point is that the universe is not driven by human feeling. More people need to realize that the universe works on logic.

How a parent feels about their kid's autism is not going to change the fact that vaccines didn't cause it and nor did anything any other human being did. Maybe if more people realized that, they'd, for example, donate more to research on figuring out just what autism is instead of getting uppity about vaccination. (Which has nothing to do with, for example, egg allergies.)

So yes, we have to have a degree of compassion, but people need to have a degree of smarts.
posted by kldickson at 1:41 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean, seriously, somebody takes the time to explain that not all forms of mercury, particularly the kind put in vaccines, are toxic, and there you are, screaming about how toxic mercury is being put in vaccines. That's dedication to batshittery.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I take her to the doctor because I don't know shit about the science of medicine. This is my only option as a parent, and it's really your only option too.

Yea - heaven forbid one educates themselves!

Its well known:

* Autodidacts are dangerous.
* Autodidacts cause chaos where they roam.
* Autodidacts should never be hired.

Best to remain powerless and not learn. Trust people who are using the "power of the market" to give you advice. They'll always give you the correct info because of the "Power of the Free Market!"


rough ashlar, you are a fucking loon. There is a difference between someone who teaches themselves how to code and someone who is poking around your insides.
posted by kldickson at 1:43 PM on May 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


My point is that the universe is not driven by human feeling. More people need to realize that the universe works on logic.


You keep making this point, kldickson.

And I keep hoping you're not a family doctor!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:45 PM on May 30, 2009


Nobody's saying that human feeling is valueless or bad, Jody. That's your projection into the discussion.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank your lucky stars I'm not, then. (Incidentally, I was going to be a neurosurgeon before I decided I'd rather do research than do clinical crap.)

Human feeling only has value to human beings. I do not understand what you're not understanding about what I'm saying, Jody - I'm saying that yeah, it's okay to feel bad for someone because their kid's got autism or something else, I'm saying those parents are being idiots and digging themselves and the rest of us into a hole if they don't recognize that it's not vaccines or anything else but genes and circumstances that are causing the problem and that attacking the wrong thing MIGHT MAKE THE SITUATION WORSE.

We really need more societal scientific literacy to prevent these kinds of problems. How I'd like to force Jenny McCarthy to sit with her eyes glued open through a year of biology classes, non-stop.
posted by kldickson at 1:50 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Liza, as I said earlier in the thread, I'm highly allergic to eggs. My pediatrician knew better than to try the MMR with me, because he knew it would react. Your pediatrician made a piss-poor choice, and I think that's where your anger and militant stance on all this started. Take it up with them first. When I was 12-13, mom told me they had thought about pumping me full of epinephrine and trying it, but the choice was either immunize and possibly die, or go through the world taking care of myself. Mom made the smart, informed decision about me and my wellbeing, getting the immunizations I could take, and forgetting the ones that might react. And while I'm paranoid by all the non-vaccinated kids, I've grown up just fine. Please, for not only your son, but also for me who is affected by the same allergy, become an advocate FOR vaccinations because I don't want your son or I to die because someone else gave us an illness that they could prevent and we can not.
posted by deezil at 1:57 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


>Nobody's saying that human feeling is valueless or bad, Jody. That's your projection into the discussion.

Slightly unfair, Pope Guilty!

It's pretty much the kernel of my mini-chat with kldickson here.

(And I had to smile at the latter's last aside: "Incidentally, I was going to be a neurosurgeon before I decided I'd rather do research than do clinical crap".)

The "crap" in "clinical crap" = humans!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Though they've probably been lost in the fray, I'll clarify that my comments were made without knowing allergy statistics (thanks jedicus!), and I am thoroughly uninformed on how drug patents work. My notion was that if someone knows they have an allergy to egg proteins or some specific element in a vaccine or other medicine, medicine could be labeled with some food-like label: This item was made with eggs. Ideally, doctors would know the contents and know of possible conflicts, but if parents are worried, the "made with egg protein" label would make things clear.

I've come to the conclusion it's probably better for them, emotionally, to have something to point at. My suspicion is that for most of the anti-vaccination people, it really has more to do with needing some kind of scapegoat than anything else.

And that's the problem. It's not just making parents of autistic children feel better about their own parenting skills. The scapegoat of "vaccines make kids autistic" is leading to scaring more parents, which leads to new outbreaks of previously contained diseases.

If someone has issues with public disclosure methods of the FDA, or wants to use viable alternative methods of administering vaccines, stick to those issues. Tossing in autism is making the discussion a mess of feelings vs science.

We really need more societal scientific literacy to prevent these kinds of problems. Add to that: mathematical literacy, which would help for reading statistics and probabilities.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


The only option is to make McCarthy and Kennedy look as crazy and unhinged as the people who drink silver.

I, for one, welcome our maniac, blue-skinned Playboy Playmate overlords.
posted by jonp72 at 2:09 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jenny McCarthy has said numerous times that her fight is about production safety of vaccines not vaccines themselves but a lot of wankers in METAFILTER have never read her book or articles can't believe that a woman like her would actually have half a brain in her criticism of the governments lack of standards in pharmaceutical oversight.

You mean Jenny McCarthy, Indigo Mom?

Or Jenny McCarthy, whose son has "recovered" from autism caused by vaccines (in her own words).

My son has autism. And Liza, it is people like you and McCarthy that not only put millions of people at risk by scaring ignorant parents from vaccinating their kids but also prevent research done on the REAL causes of autism and possible cures.

So from my son and I: A hearty Fuck You to you and the horse you rode in on.
posted by cjets at 2:12 PM on May 30, 2009 [14 favorites]


The "crap" in "clinical crap" = humans!

Your efforts to paint doctors and scientists as inhuman, unfeeling robots is absurd. Some do research, and don't really have to worry about feelings because feelings aren't part of their work. Some do clinical practice, and do worry about feelings because feelings are, in fact, part of their work. You're taking this strawman and generalizing it, and your ability to accurately describe reality suffers for it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:13 PM on May 30, 2009


I mean, seriously, somebody takes the time to explain that not all forms of mercury, particularly the kind put in vaccines, are toxic,

And to claim "not all forms of mercury are toxic" shows any readers how little you understand.

Mercury is a toxic substance which has no known function in human biochemistry or physiology and does not occur naturally in living organisms. Inorganic mercury poisoning is associated with tremors, gingivitis and/or minor psychological changes, together with spontaneous abortion and congenital malformation.

When your "best" is claiming "batshittery" or "crackpot" - I'm not shocked that you'd also believe "not all forms of mercury are toxic"

Some forms are more bio-avialable than others, but they are all toxic - it is the nature of the atom.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:19 PM on May 30, 2009


I can't stand humans as a group as much as the next misanthrope (for generally unrelated reasons, but including the fact that most of them are irrational kooks), but, uh, seconding, thirding, and nthing what Pope Guilty said. We are humans as much as you are, and we're not inhuman, unfeeling robots; we simply don't take the easy way out. We take the right way out, the one that is supported by scientific fact. As I said, reality can be harsh, but it is reality.

Do you want to know how much I'm capable of feeling?

You think I felt great when my father went under the knife five years ago because he had a brain tumor? No. But I knew the only thing that could be done was to operate, do radiation, and do chemotherapy, not any homeopathic bullshit. My father would have died if his cancer had not gone into remission.

Don't think I haven't seen people I care about nearly die because of things that are terrible and horrible; but I also knew they were entirely out of control of anything in the universe except medical intervention and the cancer's own spread.
posted by kldickson at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2009


rough ashlar, you are a fucking loon.

Maam, I do not fuck loons.

I didn't include the sarcasm tag. But when someone says

I take her to the doctor because I don't know shit about the science of medicine. This is my only option as a parent, and it's really your only option too.

Really? You can't be BOTHERED to go out a LEARN something?
(going out and learning something yourself is called autodidact BTW. So now you've learned something today!)

The sarcasm then points to a link about how autodidact's are dangerous.

Part of the problem in the medical world comes from not being willing to learn a bit about what is going on - then making a decision.

To say "only option as a parent, and it's really your only option" is bull. I note how you (and others) are accepting of such a position. Or at least not calling bullshit.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:31 PM on May 30, 2009


My son has autism. And Liza, it is people like you and McCarthy that not only put millions of people at risk by scaring ignorant parents from vaccinating their kids but also prevent research done on the REAL causes of autism and possible cures.

This reminds me of when an executive vice president of autism advocacy group Autism Speaks resigned earlier this year:
"Dozens of credible scientific studies have exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism," [Alison Singer] wrote in a statement. "I believe we must devote limited funding to more promising avenues of autism research... In general, I disagree with a policy that says, 'Despite what this study shows, more studies should be done.' At some point, you have to say, 'This question has been asked and answered and it's time to move on.' We need to be able to say, 'Yes, we are now satisfied that the earth is round.'"
People who advocate diverting scarce research funds to again investigate one of the few well-understood aspects of autism—that it is not caused by vaccination—are responsible not only for avoidable deaths due to communicable diseases, but also the autism of countless kids who perhaps could have prevented it had we spent the money and effort on one of the poorly understood aspects.
posted by grouse at 2:33 PM on May 30, 2009 [36 favorites]


People who advocate diverting scarce research funds to again investigate one of the few well-understood aspects of autism—that it is not caused by vaccination

And the comparison to the Amish will eventually lead to the even more complex field of epigenetic effects. And that will tie back to diet and the chemicals in the life (or not in the life of) the Amish and non-Amish populations - that can go back as far as the grandmother of the subject. None of us reading this thread on the posting day will have the proof due to the 3 generation+ cycle in play.

Still no excuse for adding heavy metal toxins to vaccines in a society that can provide proper handling and single servings of vaccines. No matter what the jacklegs defending the practice of adding metals as preservatives have said thus far.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:49 PM on May 30, 2009


Yes - its not needed. Just switching to single use vaccines would address things like Mercury and Aluminum as additives in the US of A because we have electricity, refrigeration and a shipping system

Still no excuse for adding heavy metal toxins to vaccines in a society that can provide proper handling and single servings of vaccines.


This line of thinking is bordering on racist, but in the least betrays elitism. What about the 4B people on this planet who don't have ready access to electricity, refrigeration, and a shipping system?
posted by dw at 3:13 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


liza: my son is not autistic but he has a whole host of chronic illnesses that only appeared after he was vaccinated.

liza, you realize this proves nothing, right? MMR vaccines typically start at 12 months old. Chronic illnesses almost always appear after that age. Because infants just don't get chronic (non-genetic) illnesses, not any more since we started vaccinating. (Back around 1900, though, my grandma had 3 of 7 siblings die from diseases we now vaccinate against.)
posted by msalt at 3:22 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Before polio vaccinations, 20000 dead and deformed kids a year.
Before measles vaccinations, millions of dead each year.
Before meningitis vaccinations, one in two hundred kids left severly handicapped.
Before rubella vaccinations, some 20000 physically and mentally damaged kids each year
Etcetera.

If the only negative outcome of vaccinations has been an increase in the number of autistic kids, it seems like one helluva good deal to me. Helluva lot better to have an autistic kid than a dead kid.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:25 PM on May 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


"I knew a guy who bought a used car once. Six years later, BAM! ...herpes."
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:25 PM on May 30, 2009 [27 favorites]


George_Spiggott:
I called that statement ridiculous because it was a blanket declaration of pharmaceutical company malfeasance, written as if greed and evil are the only thing that pharmaceutical companies are capable of. The preservative was added because single use vaccines were not practical, not simply to boost profits. That pharma companies are untrustworthy solely because of their profit seeking nature is the real bad faith argument here, as popular as the argument may be.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:46 PM on May 30, 2009


This line of thinking is bordering on racist,

Sure you are not confusing racist with economic class? There are 4+ billion for whom living in the streets of the US of A picking the garbage cans of McDonalds would be a step up caloric and personal safety wise.

Calling things racist when it is classism is quite common in the US of A - the myth that 'anyone' can 'rise to the top' with 'hard work' keeps a whole bunch of people voting against their self interest because 'they are gonna make it someday'.

but in the least betrays elitism.

Nope - a thing called REALISM. Like it or not, the US of A has been on the top of the heap via the crude oil that won WWII and the Federal Reserve note displacing others to be the global reserve currency.

What about the 4B people on this planet who don't have ready access to electricity, refrigeration, and a shipping system?

They don't get any or get stuff with Mercury - because the poor are also going to get the multi-shot. The lack of refrigeration is driving oral vaccines.

But if *YOU* wanna slap a "racist" label on allowing Mercury in vaccines when one doesn't *NEED* to, where the metals are added to pad the bottom line on pharmaceutical firms then go ahead.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:46 PM on May 30, 2009


She's clearly a highly literate, experienced person

Clearly.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:46 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]



posted by adamdschneider at 3:49 PM on May 30, 2009


*quietly hopes that "BAM!...herpes" becomes a meme.*
posted by adamdschneider at 3:53 PM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


New rule: if you self-identify as an autodidact you haven't really succeeded in teaching yourself anything.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:54 PM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


Quoth a former self-identified "autodidact."
posted by joe lisboa at 3:58 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The preservative was added because single use vaccines were not practical

Got proof? Did it suddenly become 'practical' when due to pressure over Mercury? In under 18 months - it became "practical"?

http://www.wfaa.com/localnews/investigates/stories/wfaa020521_am_vaccine2.b7e9f53.html used to have
"Siegel said. "Nevertheless, a call for Thimerosal removal was made. Within two months of the publication of that statement, the Hepatitis B vaccine for infants was free of Thimerosal. Within 18 months, there was on the market all Thimerosal-free vaccine."


That pharma companies are untrustworthy solely because of their profit seeking nature is the real bad faith argument here

Sure. They are all sweetharts! Rofecoxib was just a simple misunderstanding!
posted by rough ashlar at 4:00 PM on May 30, 2009


And you know, if you hate Big Pharma and think they're "evil" people out to kill as many as they can in pursuit of a buck, I suggest you not avail yourself of any further conventional medical care, or your kids either. Go off the grid and live in the woods. But do keep your unvaccinated kids away from mine. Far away.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:02 PM on May 30, 2009


Big Pharma is evil, if by evil we accept the generally accepted definition when applied to industries like the oil industry, car industry and Big Tobacco - worried about making money, and not much else.

I'm not sure that definition is "generally accepted" given that it requires that we consider virtually every industry in existence to be evil. Amgen? EVIL! Nabisco? EVIL! Parker Brothers? EVIL! Hewlett Packard? EVIL! Activision? EVIL!

Industries like Big Tobacco may be "evil" because they are a massive net harm to humanity. Pharmaceutical companies have, over the course of the last century, been a gigantic net gain for humanity. That isn't to claim that specific things that any company might do can't be harmful, but to say that an industry that has knowingly killed hundreds of millions of people is the moral equivalent to an industry that has saved hundreds of millions of people (and improved quality of life for hundreds of millions more) is, frankly, crazy,

rough ashlar: Since 1986, the development, production, and sale of vaccines has changed from a minor part of pharmaceutical sales to one of a hugely profitable multibillion dollar industry and has become a guaranteed money maker for global pharmaceutical companies.

Linking to an unsupported claim is not supporting your claim. I could slap up a web page with any old claim I want and then point to it on Metafilter, but that doesn't count as evidence. This is just some guy claiming that without actually pointing to any numbers.

That said, he's palming the card anyway. Saying that sales of vaccines are a part of a hugely profitable multibillion dollar industry is true in the same way that my bowl of frosted flakes is part of a healthy breakfast. Assuming I eat an entire healthy breakfast apart from the frosted flakes. Vaccines don't significantly contribute to profit of pharma companies.

For example: Wyeth Pharmaceuticals made flu vaccine until 2003. In that year, they lost $30,000,000 on the vaccine. Which meant they had to stop making vaccines. Yeah, a real money maker that was.

The only way to get to vaccinations being a profit center is if you start including things like Gardasil, the new HPV vaccine which is under patent. But that would be some craptastic palming of the card, since Gardasil is a completely distinct entity from infant vaccinations, which are not under patent.
posted by Justinian at 4:14 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Quoth a former self-identified "autodidact."

An autodidact is a mostly self-taught person, as opposed to learning in a school setting or from a tutor.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:15 PM on May 30, 2009


"Thimerosal has been added to vaccines as a preservative to boost drug company profits by allowing vaccine makers to package in bulk instead of individual doses. "

This is a ridiculous statement. How are individual doses less likely to spoil without a preservative? How is the need to preserve vaccines a mechanism to simply boost corporate profits?

I think it was in Autism's False Prophets that I read about this. It is indeed less costly to package vaccines in multi-dose containers, but apparently there were problems with people getting sick because of contamination as, say, medicine bottles were accessed by needle multiple times. The preservative thimerosal was effective enough that it allowed for multi-dose packaging while reducing those risks.

That doesn't mean it was just "to boost drug company profits." Lowering costs can also mean "allowing for more vaccines to be given more cost-effectively because the per-dose cost goes down."

I don't know whether the thimerosal-free vaccines now on the market are single-dose, or whether they've found another preservative that works just as well, or whether by removing thimerosal other risks have increased.
posted by not that girl at 4:15 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Big Pharma = evil] != [Vaccines cause autism]

... also, liza needs to stop making this all about her, jody needs to stop enabling this nonsense, and all of us would be better served without injecting personal attacks into this debate, and that begins with the "YOU PEOPLE" crowd. I'm out.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:15 PM on May 30, 2009


An autodidact is a mostly self-taught person, as opposed to learning in a school setting or from a tutor person technically capable of accessing and linking to wikipedia who nonetheless isn't smart enough to know when someone else uses the word "autodidact" in such a way as to indicate that they know what the fucking word means without needing a link to a fucking wikipedia entry on the aforementioned noun.

Try harder. Learn better.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:21 PM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


Mercury is a toxic substance which has no known function in human biochemistry or physiology and does not occur naturally in living organisms... [All forms of mercury] are all toxic - it is the nature of the atom.

I... wow. First off, lack of a biochemical function doesn't automatically mean that an element or compound is toxic (or non-toxic). We do not, for example, have any particular use for helium, but the only way it is apt to harm you is through asphyxiation.

Second, there's the question of what "toxic" means. "There is some amount of this substance that will harm or kill you?" Damn near everything will harm or kill you under certain conditions, or when ingested in certain amounts. We use sodium fluoride to brush our teeth, for example, but check out the MSDS:
Ingestion:
Toxic! May cause salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Symptoms of weakness, tremors, shallow respiration, cardopedal spasm, convulsions, and coma may follow. May cause brain and kidney damage. Affects heart and circulatory system. Death may occur from respiratory paralysis. Estimated lethal dose = 5-10 grams.

5-10 grams! And when exposed to acids, it can produce HF, which is incredibly nasty! Luckily, the daily recommended intake is 1.5-4mg, and despite the furor over the fluoridation of our water supply, there's little evidence that it's caused any problems beyond minor cosmetic dental fluorosis, and a fair amount of evidence that it's a great way to keep your teeth healthy... when you're using the recommended amount.

So what does "toxic" mean with regards to something like thimerosal? That there exists concentration at which it can cause damage? Of course not, because then everything is toxic. That almost any exposure to thimerosal will hurt you? Epidemiological studies don't seem to support this; the low amounts of thimerosal present in vaccines haven't been positively associated with health problems. So while thimerosal and ethylmercury may be bad for you at certain amounts - and no one is saying you should drink liters of either! - grouping them together with methylmercury etc. is misleading and ignorant at best.

Finally, claiming that the "nature of the atom" is to be toxic is bullshit. Again, look at the examples of Prussian blue. It's got that terrifying CN - and we can agree that "the nature of cyanide is toxic", right? - in its molecular formula: Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3. And yet, Prussian blue's very stable and safe, with an LD50 of grams per kilogram. It's actually used as an antidote for some sorts of heavy metal poisoning! Why the difference, when Prussian red and many other cyanide compounds are either very toxic themselves or can easily produce HCN? Well, different chemical bonds and structures have different strengths and weaknesses (very literally), and so what works on one won't automatically work on another.

So. Saying "mercury is toxic and therefore thimerosal is bad" is meaningless and misleading at best, and saying "in the 21st century we have money and refrigerators so we don't need it" is willfully ignoring the reason why it is still used: the unknown but probably tiny risk of thimerosal exposure is judged less than the risk of not being able to get vaccines to people, and in some situations, use of thimerosal makes mass vaccinations much easier.
posted by ubersturm at 4:21 PM on May 30, 2009 [34 favorites]


They don't get any or get stuff with Mercury

NO ONE gets the mercury, as per the very link you posted above.

But here you are going on about EEVL aluminum. And what you're saying is that the rich countries should have it because they need no preservatives, but those poor countries are fair game.

As for the aluminum in newer vaccines, it's aluminum hydroxide. It's been commonly used for years as an antacid. I think Sears' math is off, or at least he's missing something about exactly how much aluminum hydroxide we're talking about here. (Perhaps he's not taking exactly how much Al there is in Al(OH)3, which at 250mcg would be about 154mcg.)

Here's a list of known aluminum hydroxide poisoning side effects. If Al(OH)3 were a problem with infants, we should see increases in the rates of a few of these conditions in kids. Something like this would probably be picked up in a hurry in a medical review. But a quick turn through PubMed doesn't bring anything up I can see.

More interestingly, here's a quote from a 2004 NEJM monograph: "However, aluminum is a naturally occurring environmental contaminant, and the aluminum burden in vaccines is lower than that found in breast milk or formula." Dr. Weil concurs that the aluminum in vaccines isn't a concern.

So, in summary, you're all for taking out the preservatives out of vaccines for people in the "US of A", but are OK with people outside of the "US of A" getting them because they won't because "they get the multi-shot" which people in the "US of A" are already getting that does not contain thermisol but contains aluminum hydroxide which kids are exposed to every day in formula and breast milk in similar quantities and which there have been no obvious occurrences of aluminum poisoning since it became the primary preservative in the last five plus years, because "Big Pharma" is all about "profit" by putting these preservatives in to make money on vaccines they barely turn a profit on (if at all). Oh, and in saying all of this, I'm part of the problem, or something.

I withdraw my "elitism" statement earlier. I wish to substitute "mad as a hatter."
posted by dw at 4:44 PM on May 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


Vaccines don't significantly contribute to profit of pharma companies.

Which is a different position than "They don't make money on these vaccines.".

Linking to an unsupported claim is not supporting your claim. I could slap up a web page with any old claim I want and then point to it on Metafilter, but that doesn't count as evidence. This is just some guy claiming that without actually pointing to any numbers.

And I've learned YEARS ago that changing anyones mind on a subject is nigh impossible. Pope Guilty in this thread is an example of why I was NOT about to spend hours pouring over profit and loss statements for big Pharma just to back up a claim of another. Or the comment "that source is timecube".

Or even one firms loss in one year because they got FINED $30,000,000 by the FDA for repeatedly violating federal drug-quality rules at two of its manufacturing facilities. Or sued over other people's screwups. (Reyes VS Wyeth may very well have been a raw deal for Wyeth. But to cite "Wyeth took a $30 million dollar loss" as evidence that vaccine making is not profitable - I guess you believe the Wyeth spokesman Doug Petkus the company paid the $30 million fine and began making corrections at its Marietta, Pa., flu vaccine plant to bring it up to FDA standards but later decided to leave the flu vaccine business. Petkus said the huge fine did not influence Wyeth's decision to stop making flu vaccine after 20 years. )

Oh and that I'm actually providing links to source material. So far, you've been a bit lacking, yet have the nerve to complain about the linked material. How hard would a link have been to your $30 million claim?

The only way to get to vaccinations being a profit center is if you start including things like Gardasil

Based on what?

On this topic you've went from:
They don't make money on these vaccines (going with make money means profit VS we charge for vaccines) [Profit <> 0]
to:
your above quote. [Profit = ?]
posted by rough ashlar at 4:53 PM on May 30, 2009


Oh, and Sears thinks that 154mcg of aluminum in vaccines is EEVL, but he isn't 100% opposed to baby formula, which Dr Weil's article says contains 230mcg/L (the average older infant drinks about 24oz a day for roughly 165-170mcg of Al ingested a day). Yeah, yeah, ingesting vs. injecting, but still, you're pushing more than that amount of aluminum through your system daily.
posted by dw at 4:57 PM on May 30, 2009


rough ashlar: I have no idea whether Wyeth stopped making the vaccine completely because of the fine, in part because of the fine, or for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fine. But it's a fact as the very article you link to states that Wyeth constantly had to destroy millions and millions of doses of vaccines which cost them large sums of money. That's orthogonal to the issue of fines: even in the absence of fines they were losing money.

I hope you consider the Washington Post to be better than a random guy on a website. Here is an article in the WaPo stating that Wyeth lost over $50million in three years due to unsold flu vaccine. Good enough? Making the vaccine was a money losing proposition. Childhood vaccines are also unpatented.

I can't make make heads or tails of your last paragraph. Are you saying that you want to include things like Gardasil when talking about whether pharma companies make a profit on vaccines? Because Gardasil is nothing like the vaccines we're talking about. It is new and patented. It isn't given to infants. It... oh never mind.
posted by Justinian at 5:05 PM on May 30, 2009


Freon is toxic. It has also saved millions of lives, because we can now refrigerate food. Of course, when it destroys the ozone layer, it may cost us our species. But on balance, that may be good for whatever happens next for life on earth.

"Big Pharma" is like "Communism," a close-to-meaningless abstraction meant to demonize hundreds of thousands of people working for thousands of enterprises of widely varying quality and contribution. But on balance, without modern drug therapies, life for most of us would be a whole lot shittier, and a whole lot shorter. A little recognition of that fact would go a long way. You can't make these drugs in your home lab. And until we become a truly socialist society, the government isn't going to make them either, let alone develop them and assume the risks thereof. And even if the government *did* take over the manufacture and development of drugs, I bet you anything the same conspiracy-theorizing anti-science wackos would find plenty of fault with the Federal Drug Provision Agency, which I am sure would quickly be demonized as "evil" the way the FDA and CDC already are by the anti-vac and like-minded crowds. It's strange that we've become so spoiled by the huge benefits modern medicine has delivered that we have a) absolutely no sense of gratitude for these benefits and b) no fear of what would happen if they disappeared tomorrow and c) little sense of personal responsibility for our own health decisions.

Life consists of risks, known and unknown. And you know what, you die in the end anyway, and some people die younger than others, and most people get sick before they die, sometimes repeatedly. I'm not defending the obvious corruption and abuse introduced into our health care system by the glorification of profit over other purposes; the same could be said of almost any industry that serves our basic needs, and it's why the US, at least, is falling apart at the seams. But the black and white "Big Pharma is EVIL" (complete with the all-caps shouting Ms. Liza entertains us with) is such total bullshit.

We're damn lucky we have a few thousand cases of autism to worry about instead of 30 percent infant and maternal mortality rates.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:06 PM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


Whhhoooops, here is the WaPo article about flu vaccine.
posted by Justinian at 5:06 PM on May 30, 2009


aluminum hydroxide which kids are exposed to every day in formula and breast milk in similar quantities

[sarcasm]
Wow! What progress! Formula and breast milk is now injectable into the bloodstream and is the recommended every day exposure!

(I wonder - if there is a difference between injecting something into the bloodstream VS taking it orally? Injectable milk VS oral. Prussian Blue - oral or injected - is there a difference? My God - could there be a difference between Potassium Chloride injected VS that same amount on, say popcorn?)
[/sarcasm]

At the point where the defense:
- can't figure the difference between injection and oral
- calls a fine for safety violations (and the cost of said fine) "proof" that vaccines are not profitable
it's time to walk away for a while.

Before the name calling breaks out in earnest.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:19 PM on May 30, 2009


We're damn lucky we have a few thousand cases of autism to worry about instead of 30 percent infant and maternal mortality rates.

Damn straight.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:31 PM on May 30, 2009


Life consists of risks, known and unknown. And you know what, you die in the end anyway, and some people die younger than others, and most people get sick before they die, sometimes repeatedly. I'm not defending the obvious corruption and abuse introduced into our health care system by the glorification of profit over other purposes; the same could be said of almost any industry that serves our basic needs, and it's why the US, at least, is falling apart at the seams.

*clap* *clap*
Some things just need repeating.

As for the corruption and abuse - Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:33 PM on May 30, 2009


it's time to walk away for a while.

please please please
posted by bookish at 5:35 PM on May 30, 2009


rough ashlar: Oh and that I'm actually providing links to source material. So far, you've been a bit lacking, yet have the nerve to complain about the linked material.

Your source was a 9-year old article in a defunct, unknown web magazine (Impact Press). The author cites no sources but says that the vaccine market "is estimated to reap profits of 7 billion dollars this year, and up to 12 billion dollars or more by 2005."

Justinian quotes a Washington Post article from 2004, which says that the entire market (gross) for all vaccines worldwide in 2004 was $6 billion total, and that the industry is not profitable.

You lose.

(This June 2008 article says the vaccine market is growing, in large part due to Gardasil and other adult vaccines, which surpassed pediatric vaccines for the first time in 2007.)
posted by msalt at 5:36 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Still no excuse for adding heavy metal toxins to vaccines in a society that can provide proper handling and single servings of vaccines.

This line of thinking is bordering on racist, but in the least betrays elitism. What about the 4B people on this planet who don't have ready access to electricity, refrigeration, and a shipping system?


Even if everyone had refrigeration, does nothing ever go bad in your refrigerator? In the grand cosmic race of what's bad for you, I'll go with the heavy metal if my other choice is a big ass bolus of endotoxin (which isn't really toxic per se, it's just that it causes your innate immune system to go to 11).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:56 PM on May 30, 2009


am astounded at how MeFites assume i have not done anything to get my kids immunized outside of the conventional way.

and here you are calling me the loon because am not applauding your orthodoxy.

jesus christ.

depending on your doctor you will get a person who will not care, like our earlier pediatrician, about whether your kids are the sacrificial lamb for the rest of the herd. there's other doctors who will find other ways either through natural or jumping through hoops unconventional vaccination dosages.

i am not going to discuss my children's private health docket, but i can tell you this: our current family doctor is not a fool. he happens to be the head of pediatrics in one of NYCs hospitals. i trust his advice and expertise in getting us the right health care --and that incudes the right immunization that is best for our kids given their health history.

this proves though that for many of you this is about being on your "she's a loony because she's won't do what i believe is right" high horse when all am saying is that conventional wisdom almost killed my kid.

what i want are vaccinations and health care practices that will exhaust all positive and good options. right now the vaccine orthodoxy doesnt allow for variety of immunization options and if you question safety you get demozied like i have been here on this thread.

puerto rico is, for all intents and purposes, a third country. i know what it is to see kids die of common ailments that people in this country havent have to deal with in generations. i also grew up not fearing death.

what pisses me off though is that, if i cant have a doctor monitore measles play date, the give my kids the goddamn measles vaccine separate from the mumps and rubella.

why is that too much to ask? why do i have to jump through hoops to get other kinds of immunizations? am talking about people like most of you who have such an orthodox view of vaccination you cannot possibly believe theirs other ways for other people and that there's need for further testing and oversight.

you guys need to chill the eff out.
posted by liza at 6:04 PM on May 30, 2009


Just for the record, anywhere from an estimated 100 to 500 mcg of cationic aluminum is absorbed into the blood stream from a single dose of aluminum-based antacid. While true that only a small fraction of the actual oral dose is absorbed, the absolute amount absorbed is quite comparable it seems to what is being used in these vaccines.
posted by drpynchon at 6:06 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


CORRECTION:

what pisses me off though is that, if i cant have a doctor monitor a measles play date, then give my kids the goddamn measles vaccine separate from the mumps and rubella.

why is that too much to ask? why do i have to jump through hoops to get other kinds of immunizations?

most of you have such an orthodox view of vaccination you cannot possibly believe their are other ways for other people; or, for that matter, that there's need for further testing and oversight.

you guys need to chill the eff out.

##

and am again, amazed at how you assume that i'd be so careless as to risk my kids lives when they have suppressed immune systems to begin with.

i mean, really! you think i want my kids to die in an epidemic?

what the fuck.
posted by liza at 6:14 PM on May 30, 2009


if you question safety you get demozied like i have been here on this thread

I'm pretty sure nobody has indicated any desire to make you use IE instead of a mozilla-based browser.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:16 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


am done with this thread.

outside of the fact that i have too many spelling errors, am done being the screen to your projected fears. because, you obviously think am such a bad mother i'd deny my kids, who as i have noted have severe allergies and thus immunological depressed bodies, the health care they need.

yeah.

and am the fucked up human being in this thread.

here's one more thought: i feel for the people who dont have the money and the health care professionals to help them as we have been able to have for our family. about 50% of our money goes to health care and health related expenses. even when we didnt have health insurance our doctor never ever turned us away and he as far as i am concerned, walks on water.

i cant imagine not having the money and having to live without the health care options we have available to us. but we've made many sacrifices and jumped through hoops to get the health care we need. it shouldnt be this hard and that's what i am complaining about. that because of "science" options that are available to people outside of the US are not available to us. and of course, "science" is flinged at people like me (or Jenny McCarthy, for that matter) to shut us up, belittle us and tell the world the problem is with people like us and not the US health care system (which includes the FDA and a virtually self-regulated pharmaceutical industry).

and now am done.
posted by liza at 6:26 PM on May 30, 2009


i do know though that allergies is one of the many issues autistic children seem to share.

Is this like standard IgE driven allergies? What are they allergic to. And don't say "eggs" or some such, if we're going to check this we need to identify proteins, or even epitopes.

Has anyone tried to affinity purify antibodies from a blood sample against the known allergen and your suspect vaccines and then run probed a western of the other with the collected immunoglobulins? Better still, do this with a two channel fluorescence system probing with anti-human IgG and anti-human IgE.

I'm shocked that you haven't taken the open source thing to heart and already done this, but I'll tell you what, you collect the samples, get me a couple boxes of Lego, and a couple thousand for reagents, oh, and one of these and I'll grind this out over the labor day weekend.

I mean, hell, I've already got the blood borne pathogens training.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:28 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


liza, you misunderstand. People are trying to ensure that as many people as possible get vaccinated so that, in instances like yours where compromised immune systems are involved and vaccination is not an option, your kids are still relatively protected through herd immunity.

The above commenters are arguing for protecting kids like yours, not hurting them. That's part of why encouraging vaccinations is so important; so that the elderly and immuno-compromised can live a safer life.

No one is telling you to vaccinate your kids if doing so would kill or harm them severely. We want parents to do so whenever possible, though, because in most cases (not yours) the benefits outweigh the risks.

It's obviously something that should be discussed with a pediatrician and not decided solely based on the opinions of the people here.
posted by anifinder at 6:33 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok, I'll say it: Big Pharma isn't evil.

Damn you Justinian! I am too evil. And, uh, after Labor Day I'm going to build a giant death ray just to show you. So there!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:33 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is it that people who are so OUTRAGED have such difficulties with grammar and capitalization?
posted by chiababe at 6:42 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


you mean this. i stumbled upon their work years ago. the university of texas has been doing awesome immunological work. am not a scientist but try to keep up with what's being produced there.

and now am really done because am obviously not anti-vaccination nor anti-science. am just against the stupid orthodoxy of when and how to vaccinate.

that's why our doctor knows best. not you.
posted by liza at 6:48 PM on May 30, 2009


and you make assbackwards assumptions that i haven't which is why you all FAIL. seriously, what the fuck.
posted by liza at 6:50 PM on May 30, 2009


Wow! What progress! Formula and breast milk is now injectable into the bloodstream and is the recommended every day exposure!

Except that 154mcg directly injected into the bloodstream isn't going to do much of anything. If it did, there would be multiple cases of kids having aluminum-related problems in the literature. And there aren't. They're just not there, not in doctor's case files, not in studies.

Your argument, in the end, is down to whether 154mcg of Al all at once is going to cause as much or more damage than the environmental and ingested aluminum the kids are already taking in. And there's just nothing there to suggest it.

But but but, you'll sputter, they haven't done studies! They have. Here's something interesting: A study of the amount of aluminum in baby formulae. They find that infant formulae can have as much as 1000mcg per kg. They work out that the average infant takes in 250mcg/week in Al. Adding another 154mcg raises it to 404mcg for that week, but given that they say even their highest concentration number (453mcg/week) is 2 times below the WHO standard, I think it's pretty safe to assume that 404mcg/week is within reasonable tolerances.

So, end of the day, aluminum hydroxide in a vaccine is mostly harmless. Let it go.
posted by dw at 7:03 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I'm done here. rough ashlar is showing GOOGLERONPAUL tendencies, and now we have herpes.
posted by dw at 7:08 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


We have herpes now? Crap, that'll teach me to try to dispell painfully incorrect science on the int0rnets!
posted by ubersturm at 7:24 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Herpes? Oh no! If only there was some sort of vaccine....
posted by Hutch at 7:50 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why is it that people who are so OUTRAGED have such difficulties with grammar and capitalization?

FINALLY! Here I am with my newborn (again), breathing into a paperbag reading this thread, and the only thing I keep coming back to is

Jesus Christ, liza, You Are Not e.e. fucking cummings. If there was never a capitalized word in your messages I'd say maybe your keyboard was broken, but no, several times you have Capitalized A Word to make it sound bigger or more important. You can have all the emotional attack ads you want today but For The Love Of All That Is Holy can you graduate high school when it comes to your text composition? Christ On A Frickety Cracker.

(Derail 4? 5?)
posted by cavalier at 8:05 PM on May 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


That sort of database helps, but if allergy is common in autistic children you need to know what that particular cohort is allergic to. To say they have allergy problems and point to vaccines ignores the ton of immunogenic crap we all breath in every day. Is it a protein from dust mites, tree pollen, wasp venom, or tomatoes?

I mean if they're allergic to all sorts of different things, that pretty much argues against a common immunological cause.

If you buy into the hygiene hypothesis the issue is more likely to be one of autistic children not having their immune systems sufficiently challenged.

It could even be that autism can be caused by an insufficiently challenged immune system.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a vaccine for herpes. But you can't have it.

Because you're allergic to horse *cough [shit]* serum.

Sorry.
posted by palliser at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2009


Do Vaccines Cause Autism?
posted by nola at 8:14 PM on May 30, 2009


I totally botched that line.

rough ashlar is showing GOOGLERONPAUL tendencies, and BAM! herpes.
posted by dw at 8:16 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


MMR and Autism The Andrew Wakefield Story
posted by nola at 8:23 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Justinian: Ok, I'll say it: Big Pharma isn't evil. I just can't wrap my head around calling a group that has saved and improved more lives than any other bunch of people in human history a blanket "evil". How many people reading this thread are alive today only through the efforts of pharmaceutical companies, past and present? A rather large percentage I'd wager. They aren't as good as they could be.

Well, by whatever legal rites and oaths we've traditionally marked the profession of medicine as distinct among trades; and from whatever ethical perch we might scowl on Disney's warping of copyright law, or the regional price-fixing of diamonds or DVDs; we ought then to find the pharmaceutical industry singularly corrupt for breaking these codes in this particular space. It's not Mickey Mouse, it’s not molecular bling, but living people at stake when an isomer of an existing drug patent is evergreened, or the FDA's sovereignty is abused to fix prices across national borders.

Now, we may be reluctant to criticize our institutions for fear of inviting something worse - homeopathy, say - to nip away at the edges. I suspect this will be an increasingly valid concern. In medicine as a culture of science, as opposed to medicine the art, or medicine the infomercial pitch, there is no such distinction as Eastern and Western, or Alternative and Mainstream. There are only techniques that have withstood the scientific method and those that have not: open methodology, blind reporting. There’s nothing hidden in this epistemology, nothing magical or subjective, except perhaps the snake-entwined ideograms we’ve kept like a DNA fragment - the Caduceus standing for scientific knowledge, the Rod of Asclepius the reminder of clean practices.

And if we could only steer towards good and ethical practice without vitiating the culture of science. This is a legal challenge at the highest levels, and a cultural misunderstanding that takes place at the minutest social scale.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:27 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Writing like a special snowflake is not a good plan if you want to be taken seriously. It's quite difficult to take seriously someone who is rebelling against their middle-school language lessons.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:30 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would like to take back my "I am evil, you take that back" comment directed at Justinian, above. I was shooting from the hip and the notion of a death ray is childish.

Instead, just assume that I'm the person who makes all the decisions in Big Pharma.

All of them.

So being evil (that's the premises of this bit) Monday I'm going to go into my office, sit down at my big desk, stained as it is with the blood of the innocent, and pick up my sinister black phone with lots of ominous buttons. Shortly we're going to start astroturfing the hell out of all the web sites about this vaccine ingredient thing. Soon the FDA will get a zillion letters about the horrors of injecting these materials into our children. Then I'll have one of my puppet CEOs sheepishly announce that amid growing concerns about the safety of aluminum salts and preservatives in vaccines they have agreed to remove them pending FDA approval. One by one they'll all follow suit.

Then I'm going to sit back, cackle maniacally, and stroke my Persian cat.

You see, aluminum salts are an adjuvant, not a preservative. They sort of matter, but, as you all know, we make more money treating diseases than preventing them, so it's really better for us if our vaccines are less effective. And if some vaccine goes bad, hey, we need more patients for the clinical studies of our sepsis drugs.

Maybe autodidacts are dangerous.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


a measles play date

Any sympathy I had for liza in this thread just vapourized with that comment. I assume that she's being hyperbolic because otherwise that's just insane, or at best deeply ignorant. Measles is a frightening, potentially lethal disease. How some parents can become obssessed with things like non-lethal food allergies or too much sugar while treating illnesses that claimed millions of children's lives in the past with such casualness is beyond me.
posted by jokeefe at 8:51 PM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


Please note that I wasn't speaking about liza or her children in the second bit; I have no idea how serious her children's allergies are.
posted by jokeefe at 8:52 PM on May 30, 2009


Now, we may be reluctant to criticize our institutions for fear of inviting something worse

I'm not reluctant to criticize pharmaceutical companies, believe me. But I think that a blanket label of "evil" is useless and non-productive, particularly when you look at the effects the pharmaceutical industry has had over the last century. "Did a hell of a lot of good but through corruption or greed didn't do as much good as they otherwise might have" isn't "evil" or the term is meaningless.

The assumption seems to be that if it weren't for the pharmaceutical companies we would instead have had all these treatments except they would have been developed by some selfless geniuses working for nothing but the greater good of humanity: That isn't the case. You're making the perfect the enemy of the good.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I assume that she's being hyperbolic because otherwise that's just insane, or at best deeply ignorant.

actually, that used to be a common tradition among some - the thought being that eventually the kids are going to get it anyway and it may as well be when you're ready to deal with it - it's more common with chicken pox, though - and mumps, as the older you get, the worse mumps is to suffer through

of course, we have vaccines now, so it's not really necessary, is it? - still, that was the way some dealt with it 40 or so years ago - let the kids catch it and get it over with
posted by pyramid termite at 10:02 PM on May 30, 2009


actually, that used to be a common tradition among some - the thought being that eventually the kids are going to get it anyway and it may as well be when you're ready to deal with it - it's more common with chicken pox, though - and mumps, as the older you get, the worse mumps is to suffer through

Exactly. Because despite the small risk of your kid being killed or deformed by measles it was much, much better than your kids catching this stuff as an adult and having a much greater chance of dying.

The same train of logic behind immunization.
posted by Talez at 10:18 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, my background is in pure and applied math, so I may be approaching this from a radically different culture.

My experience with applied chemistry is limited, so please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm scanning through the list of Nobel prizes in medicine, and a good fraction of these names seem to have hospital or university creds, or positions at state foundations - and these seem to include the major ones, like penicillin, or DNA.

I'm certain that industry was useful in refining synthesis techniques and ramping up to mass production - orgo was nothing if not a lesson in the almighty yield. But much of the core discovery - the star-charting for which industry later fills in the lines - seems to take place in an academic culture of peer review, not one of patents and trade secrets. Does that make sense?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:25 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It makes sense, but I think it's a little bit apples and oranges. The pharma companies do engage in some pure research, but a lot of what they do is engineering rather than the science the Nobel Prize goes to.

No, the pharma companies aren't the ones who discover that HPV causes cancer (as the recipient of the 2008 award did), but they are the ones who do the engineering and research to make Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Ditto for the 2005 award with regard to H. Pylori and ulcers. That sort of work isn't necessarily in their job description and is what university guys are great at. But the university guys aren't grinding out new treatments and monoclonal antibodies, either.

To a large extent they are different enterprises. Both are needed.
posted by Justinian at 11:49 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, the pharma companies aren't the ones who discover that HPV causes cancer (as the recipient of the 2008 award did), but they are the ones who do the engineering and research to make Gardasil, the HPV vaccine.

Actually, Gardasil was academia as well as pharma.
posted by dw at 12:37 AM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


True, it was a bit of both (although I don't think there's controversy as to who provided the funding for the very, very expensive phase III trials). But could find a dozen others, like Merck and the statins, or a bunch of the monoclonal antibodies. Certainly it's a whole lot of cross pollination and you're unlikely to find a ton of drugs where academia had no involvement, but that doesn't lessen the contribution of the private companies.
posted by Justinian at 1:59 AM on May 31, 2009


Really? You can't be BOTHERED to go out a LEARN something?
(going out and learning something yourself is called autodidact BTW. So now you've learned something today!)

The sarcasm then points to a link about how autodidact's are dangerous.

Part of the problem in the medical world comes from not being willing to learn a bit about what is going on - then making a decision.

To say "only option as a parent, and it's really your only option" is bull. I note how you (and others) are accepting of such a position. Or at least not calling bullshit.
posted by rough ashlar



The little I know about medical science it would seem I at least have a grasp on what it is.
Do you really think a single person can be an expert on every medical subject they're likely to encounter?

When I had an ulcer I went to two different doctors who both told me I should take a antacid and cut out some foods from my diet. I suffered with the ulcer for 6 months.
Then one day a friend of a friend who I had just met, learned I had an ulcer and asked how it was being treated. Long story short, his advice was to go back to the doctor and ask for an antibiotic which ended up working.

He was a chemist. The point is I don't know why antibiotics worked and diet didn't. I can recite the reasons, H pylori is a type of bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics, I still don't know why. But my friend knew why because it was realated to his work. The doctors didn't know because they hadn't kept up, but that goes to my point also. When a single doctor can't keep up with all the advancement in med-science how the hell am I supposed to?
posted by nola at 6:25 AM on May 31, 2009


When a single doctor can't keep up with all the advancement in med-science how the hell am I supposed to?

It's a crucial point, nola.

I've made a wretched job of partially defending liza here - but my exasperation in this "war" (see post title) between the nincompoops and the know-it-alls is the contempt shown for liza-types who have already been let down - at the sole point of contact she has had with Big Pharma - her original "clueless" doctor.

The response, in the main, has been to hose her with humiliation until she gets it.

But all the terrific eloquence is wasted - because it sounds exactly the same as the original bad advice.

And some of the comments here have been openly scathing.
The people here who claim righteous compassion for an abstraction of vulnerable hordes put in peril by liza's truculence about vaccines are hypocrites.

If you can't show one whit of civility to an annoying individual on this thread, I don't believe you should dare to boast about the strength of your abstract compassion.

Anyway, nola, you are right. Doctors can't keep up.

One of the best general lay articles I've read about how Big Pharma marketing cons doctors - NOT because doctors are uncaring and NOT because Big Pharma wants to kill people - god, I'm sick of the hyperbolic sarcasm used for the defense of Big Pharma -but because doctors can't keep up - was in Rolling Stone in Feb.

It was about the anti-psychotic drug, Zyprexa. The author is BEN WALLACE-WELLS. It's long. It's online. It's not about vaccines, but here's a key taster paragraph:

"It was a very clever sort of con," says Dr. Peter Tyrer, a leading psychiatric researcher at Imperial College in London who wrote in the latest issue of the respected medical journal The Lancet about a new study that debunks the effectiveness of the atypicals. "Almost the whole scientific community was conned into thinking — as a consequence of good marketing — that this was a different and better set of drugs. The evidence, as it's all added up, has shown this to be untrue."


posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:33 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


This entire debate just illustrates the failure of our educational systems in my opinion. I mean, what ever happened to compulsory health education? Vaccinations should certainly be a topic that's well covered. Where to find research articles, and how to interrupt them would probably be helpful too.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 9:24 AM on May 31, 2009


I'm surprised you weren't treated with antibiotics, nola, and perhaps it says something about the quality of doctors in your area. The connection between H. pylori and ulcers has been known since the early 1980s. How the heck is it that I, a guy without ulcers and who is not a doctor, have known about this link for well over a decade, and your doctors did not?

Hell, even a casual browse of the internet will quickly reveal the connection. Google causes of ulcers and the first hit talks about H. pylori. I can not see any way to avoid learning about H. pylori when learning about ulcers.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 AM on May 31, 2009


actually, that used to be a common tradition among some - the thought being that eventually the kids are going to get it anyway and it may as well be when you're ready to deal with it - it's more common with chicken pox, though - and mumps, as the older you get, the worse mumps is to suffer through

Exactly. Because despite the small risk of your kid being killed or deformed by measles it was much, much better than your kids catching this stuff as an adult and having a much greater chance of dying.

The same train of logic behind immunization.


I know about this train of logic. I sent my son over to hang out with a friend who had caught chicken pox when he was young enough for it to be mild and short (he didn't catch it until later though). But this is not chicken pox we are talking about; this is measles.

Chicken pox: "In a typical scenario, a young child is covered in pox and out of school for a week. The first half of the week the child feels miserable from intense itching; the second half from boredom." (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health). Measles? "Encephalitis (about 1 out of 1,000 measles cases)". "Complications with measles are relatively common, ranging from relatively mild and less serious diarrhea, to pneumonia and encephalitis (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis), corneal ulceration leading to corneal scarring." The death rate with measles, in countries with modern health care, is 3 in a thousand. That rate in countries without access to Western-style health care can be as high as 28%, with the fatality rate for immunocompromised persons can be as high as 30%. The point of "play dates" for chicken pox is that once the child had contracted the virus, he or she had immunity for life. And this is important because it can be very serious in adults. So yes, it's the same logic as immunization. But measles is not chicken pox. The idea of a measles play date? I can only assume that anyone who would suggest such a thing is at best out of touch with what measles actually is and what is can actually do.
posted by jokeefe at 10:47 AM on May 31, 2009


The article is amazing. The screeds against the anti-vaccine advocates here have been harsh, but as I've written before, these advocates are the same as drunk drivers in my book. Except perhaps they themselves are not at risk, as they were vaccinated by conscience parents back when they were infants. A shame they don't extend the same thought to the safety of their children from real harm.
posted by Hactar at 11:30 AM on May 31, 2009


I hate them doctors. They always talking a bunch of shit like they know so much, always trying to act all big and important, like they a movie star or something. That bitch Dr. Ennis be telling me I got to give Rywanda some stupid medicine when she ain't even sick. Fuck that shit. My baby don't want no medicine.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:28 PM on May 31, 2009


(going out and learning something yourself is called autodidact BTW. So now you've learned something today!)

Really? Really?! Did you not "teach" yourself enough to know that you've already been called out on this hubristic (look it up, "autodidact") canard? You're a caricature at this point. Stop while you're ahead.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also: flouride in the water, 9/11 was an inside job, and you're an embarrassment. I'm done with this nonsense. Jody: you're still abetting ignorance. Liza: you're making a wholesale ass out of yourself. This is fucking ridiculous, good luck and good night.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:46 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yesterday - shortly after giving up on this thread - I went to a lecture about Intelligent Design versus Evolution.

A classic clash of nicompoops versus the Know-it-Alls.
No big deal, right? Except for one twist.

The invited audience - or specifically, by far the most important members of the entire audience because their philanthropy is crucial to supporting science at the renowned research & teaching lab where this annual lecture was held - were a little unusual.

In the main (and I generalize) they were commie-fearing, right-thinking, buttoned-up, blazer-wearing, blow-dried, mega-moneybags movers and shakers, community pillars and non-scientists. A fair number (and I generalize even more), extremely leery of kicking religion in the nuts - with all that implies.

The invited lecturer, Kevin Padian, had them from the first inclusive crack.

How?

Simple.

He made them all feel cleverer than the Intelligent Design nincompoops.

He got them on the side of knowledge with his seductive assumption - out of the gate - that they weren't the fools in the fight.

And if you can manage your explanations with charm & humor & generosity & patient courtesy - unlike the people who sounded like complete shits in this thread, - you'll win. You'll win for all of us.

Wiki: Kevin Padian (born 1951) is a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Curator of Paleontology, University of California Museum of Paleontology and President of the National Center for Science Education. Padian's area of interest is in vertebrate evolution, especially the origins of flight and the evolution of birds from theropod dinosaurs. He served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, and his testimony was repeatedly cited in the court's decision.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:23 PM on May 31, 2009


Jody,

I'd like to apply your story to the current situation, but I don't see how a lecture situation translates to an open forum like Metafilter.
posted by lukemeister at 6:16 PM on May 31, 2009


Jody: what part of "you're enabling the fools in this thread" don't you understand? Your anecdotal bullshit notwithstanding, you're still not helping. And, I say this as a professional ethical educator, if you're the one invoking not "sounding like complete shits in this thread," you're not doing yourself any favors. In fact, I'm tempted to quote an old saw about hell and good intentions, but whatever. You'd just counter-post to mothering.com and rough-aslar.xxx to the effect that you're being "ganged" "up" "upon." [sic]

Listen: your "tolerance" is killing children. Like, actual children.

Good luck with that.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:01 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: if you gave half a shit about intelligent discourse you wouldn't have ignored my pleas to the effect that you stop coming across as the loving great-aunt of Himmler. See? Both "sides" can play this "game." Fuck off.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:02 PM on May 31, 2009


The trouble is that it only takes one wrong person in a room of 100 right people to turn a "consensus" into a "debate".

Quoted for motherfucking emphasis.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:12 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Paraphrasing the meta-argument of this thread:

"Treat anti-vac folks like drooling idiots, so we don't lend legitimacy to their cause!"
"No, treat anti-vaccers with respect for the fact that they're probably well-intentioned but just misinformed, so they'll be more receptive to being corrected!"

Here's the problem... both of those are right, and both of them are wrong. It depends on the person you're trying to convince, and the venue in which you're trying to convince them. Some people have just been in an echo-chamber and don't realize how contemptible their positions are until they're harshly faced with the truth. Some people realize that their background on a subject may be lacking, but will be so offended by an argumentative approach that they'll retreat into false certainty.

And some people are so emotionally invested in finding a scapegoat for their personal tragedy that no amount of respect or ridicule will win them over.

On the public stage, I'd say the heartless ridicule approach is more effective, because a cable news network is not going to present a balanced viewpoint of 500 qualified scientists versus one anti-vacc spokesperson on an interview show. Instead, it'll be (maybe) one dorky and uncharismatic scientist quoting impenetrable numbers, against a media-savvy spokesperson -- or Jenny McCarthy, sobbing about her personal struggles with autism (as if that wasn't uselessly anecdotal) and looking, if you'll forgive me, very... penetrable.

A crass joke, but it highlights how the weaknesses of our public discourse serve our baser instincts (sex appeal, emotional pandering) over the higher truth (scientific rigor, rationality). On the other hand, if you treat the weaker viewpoint with condescension and disdain, you may look like an asshole but you'll drive your point home much more efficiently.

On the other hand, being respectful is undoubtedly the best bet on a one-on-one basis. If I were having this conversation with Liza or Balisong in person and trying to convince them, I would do my best to listen and be sympathetic and whatnot, and gently present the pro-vacc alternative as best I could. Being abrasive would just make me the enemy, and my viewpoints would by extension be moot.

But on a forum like this, with multiple voices on both sides of the argument? The rules go out the window. Take this thread... there were plenty of reasonable and non-abrasive comments presenting the pro-vacc position. This one, which was both personal and rational while sacrificing neither. Or here, calmly and respectfully pointing out that a reaction based on an egg allergy has no coherent connection to a discussion of vaccines and autism. Or the point, repeated multiple times including once in big bold letters that no one here is arguing against transparency in the pharmaceutical industry.

Liza had many opportunities to engage with these respectful people. Instead she opted instead to villainize them and present a conveniently shifting set of mostly or wholly unsupported assertions, while exhibiting none of the respectful behavior she loudly demanded (and, again, sometimes received) from others. To continue to believe that she is participating in this discussion in good faith is commendably optimistic, but quite wrongheaded.

I'll close with this point. Regardless of what might be the most effective strategy for winning her over, Liza is an adult... "handling" her with a soothing voice and kid gloves is, in its own way, exactly as patronizing as calling her a raving loon. The latter, while more abrasive on the surface, is at least honest.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:18 PM on May 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


Holy shit.

Why are more people not afraid of Polio? Or dying of the measles? And if you can't vacinate your children for whatever reason, why would you be rallying for other people not to as well. Do people not understand how this whole vacination thing work?

What's the fucking point of living in a first world country if you're kid needs to worry about catching some victorian disease?
posted by chunking express at 8:18 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Instead, it'll be (maybe) one dorky and uncharismatic scientist quoting impenetrable numbers, against a media-savvy spokesperson -- or Jenny McCarthy, sobbing about her personal struggles with autism (as if that wasn't uselessly anecdotal) and looking, if you'll forgive me, very... penetrable.


Riki tiki,

Then the problem is feebly wheeling out yet another dorky scientist, surely?

The challenge is to be more effective than the other side in the public arena - not to admit defeat - in advance - because of a winsomely sobbing telegenic blond (although it was a great quote & highlighted at the top of this thread):

Offit has turned down requests to appear on any show with McCarthy. “Every story has a hero, victim, and villain,” he explains. “McCarthy is the hero, her child is the victim—and that leaves one role for you.”


Those roles are not set in stone.

The point of my somewhat rambling anecdote ( to respond to lukemeister) is to identify what your audience craves - whatever the other side is feeding them - and build on that.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:27 PM on May 31, 2009


A crass joke, but it highlights how the weaknesses of our public discourse serve our baser instincts (sex appeal, emotional pandering) over the higher truth (scientific rigor, rationality).

unfortunately, i think you're missing a larger reason why people like jenny mccarthy can find an audience - aside from the fact that scientists and the studies they perform actually come up with contradictory and confusing conclusions on some subjects as research continues, people have also seen "experts" used to outright lie about things

exhibit a - the tobacco industry

exhibit b - the war on iraq

exhibit c - "global warming is just made up"

and of course there's the occasional story about someone fudging or faking the outcome of a trial - you can wave all the fact and figures and studies in front of people you like, but if they believe there's a good chance that you're lying to them for your own ends, they're going to believe what they find most sensible to them - even if it's wrong

it's a trust issue - and it doesn't help that one side has a nice tidy (and wrong) explanation of "omg vaccines cause autism": while the best the other side can offer is - "well, we don't know" - it doesn't help that big pharma has been caught red handed lying about their drugs in the past

it's fine to decry the lack of scientific literacy and understanding in the populace at large, but the real trouble is that people, since the 70s, when much of what people trusted was shown up as being corrupt and utterly false, don't trust anything or anyone in authority if there's an alternative that makes more sense to them

and treating people like they're lunatics is merely going to reinforce their prejudices

this is, above all, an issue of trust - if you want trust, you have to earn it, not just by what you know, but how you talk about it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:43 PM on May 31, 2009


identify what your audience craves - whatever the other side is feeding them - and build on that.

The problem is exactly this. The audience has been mostly craving irrational emotional bullshit. How are you supposed to build on that without becoming a charlatan?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:59 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are some new studies, that talk about humans being "super organisms" that host more other living cells than their own. The balance of entities that vie for our personal resources, is fragile, and not well known. Our micro predators are ancient, and play a diverse set of roles inside our bodies.

Recently a scientist claims to have genetically engineered a virus, that consumes the amyloid plaques that cause Alzheimer's Disease. There are numerous articles that discuss how the baby boomers will have high numbers of Alzheimer's victims. I started thinking about this study, and I wondered if he actually obtained this virus from tissues donated by very elderly individuals that had no dementia at death. Maybe these individuals never were vaccinated. It started me thinking what the real link between vaccination and a host of various diseases might be. For instance, polio is a disease of the myelin tissue, nervous tissue, and perhaps the vaccination for polio, also made us poor hosts for friendly viruses that perform functions we have never even though of. The link might be a disruption of a complicated symbiosis, that is yet not understood. If this is so, there will be a high rate of other neural conditions, whose origins are not understood, ADDH, ADD, SMA, the entire host of things that seem to be new.

A cynic might say that these disorders exist because of Big Pharma Hype, and promises of micro management of personality. A huge industry has grown up to manage disease states, that seem to be epidemic. By these I mean neuro-psychiatric disorders, obesity, diabetes, in populations that seemed more normal a couple of generations ago. But maybe a couple of generations ago, no one was looking, and Mom was at home, suffering through it all, and the firing of June Cleaver, and her entrance to the work force put the burden of dealing with the "abnormal" on medicine. Isn't there a pill for this?

Just because there isn't a handy answer for something, doesn't mean there isn't one. Facing a life time caring for someone that is neurologically injured, whatever the cause, is daunting, and would cause a lot of passionate questioning of how it came to be.
posted by Oyéah at 9:58 PM on May 31, 2009


P.S. I had my kids vaccinated.

A friend of mine was a nurse. In the early eighties, a couple came in to the clinic where she worked, with a seven month old child who was having trouble breathing, and some other symptoms. They were anti-vaccination folks, with money, with education, with medical insurance, whose child had contracted polio.
posted by Oyéah at 10:19 PM on May 31, 2009


if you want trust, you have to earn it

That's a principle that works for individuals or small groups. It has no meaning on the scale of "the scientific community," which who I assume you were saying needs to earn back the trust. Frankly, it's a credit to "the scientific community" as a whole that there have been so few actual voices espousing anti-vacc views, or global warming denialism, or the health benefits of tobacco.

And yet those few voices have gotten disproportionate coverage and credibility, thanks to the profit that could be made from them and the need to "teach the controversy" to fill column inches, pad cable news, and increase ad sales.

Yes, sometimes the "expert" voices will be wrong, sometimes by accident and sometimes because it benefits them personally. If you have a plan to fix that, I'll give you my prize unicorn.

In the meantime, there's no solution to be had in scapegoating good science. There's only marginal improvement. The solutions are on the public side: stop treating skepticism as if it's a virtue unto itself. It's not. Skepticism with reasonable cause is the best possible thing for the public good. Skepticism without cause is exactly as useless as mindless conformity.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:20 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


My daughter has some food allergies, including eggs. When she got the MMR we had to go to the children's hospital for the injection in case she had an anaphylactic reaction. I'm not sure why Liza's doc was so blase about allergic risks, but it is an issue with that doc, not modern medicine.
My youngest son got chicken pox at the age of 7 days, and was in hospital for two weeks, and it has a reasonably high fatality rate for such young babies. He caught it from his mother, who caught it from the kids of some local families who think vaccination for 'coming of age' diseases like chicken pox and measles are unnecessary.
I don't really care that you worked for a cosmetics company that kept some secret ingredients off the label of their night creams, just get your kids immunized.
When they are immunized, then agitate for better pharma company oversight.
Taking big risks, such as possibly contracting potentially fatal diseases that can be avoided by a vaccine that has saved many lives over decades, because you fear some unknown link to non-fatal allergies is really poor risk management.
Unless you feel that they will be OK as everyone else gets their kid immunized, in which case you are behaving a bit selfishly.
posted by bystander at 10:27 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then the problem is feebly wheeling out yet another dorky scientist, surely? The challenge is to be more effective than the other side in the public arena.

If you're accepting that the debate is one of sex appeal (and other variables having nothing to do with the merits of one's argument) rather than scientific validity, then science cannot possibly win on its opponents' home turf. There are a million wrong answers for every right answer, and we're short on sexy movie stars with Ph.D.'s to begin with. We're trying to have a civilization here, and we can't do that if we have to stop progress every five minutes to explain that no, the large hadron collider does not cause unibrows.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:32 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The point of my somewhat rambling anecdote ...

STOP HERE.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:52 PM on May 31, 2009


It has no meaning on the scale of "the scientific community," which who I assume you were saying needs to earn back the trust

of course it has meaning - you can't just expect that the truth will wander off by itself and make itself known to people by being true - no, people have got to work to get information out there and they've got to convince people that it is reliable

and in some cases, that's going to be a real uphill battle
posted by pyramid termite at 11:17 PM on May 31, 2009


I wish I could + you more, bystander.

There is dire need of universal cooperation if we are going to survive as a species. Epic change lies immediately ahead of us. We are going to be faced with challenges that require us to adapt within generations, and perhaps within a single generation, to challenges best faced over millennia.

We are eggs in one basket.

All evidence points solidly in favour of vaccination. The dangers of not having universal mandatory vaccination against not necessarily the most lethal of viruses, but the ones that cause the greatest harm to the humans that manage to survive them, are such great dangers that we must simply accept that there will be an unfortunate few who are scapegoated.

Either a great many suffer greatly, or a few suffer… well, not so greatly, as it turns out. Autism is no great shakes, but it's a hell of a lot better than being trapped on your back in an iron lung for sixty years.

Thanks to the global polio eradication program of universal vaccination, some 855,000 deaths, 4 million paralysis cases and 40 million merely-mangled victims are prevented from suffering.

And by all appearances if we can achieve 100% compliance for one generation, the virus is essentially eradicated forever barring ever-declining freak outbreaks.

When push comes to shove can Jenny McCarthy legitimately claim that her son's challenges are worse than the cost of nearly a million lives, and tens of millions of surviving victims?

I can not believe anyone could be that greedy. If they are that greedy, they should be shunned. They are not compatible with having a functional society.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:24 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


survive as a species...

It's my guess that in the long run surviving as a species will be helped along by a few good plagues.

Selfish beast that I am, I keep all my shots up to date and wash my hands frequently.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:30 PM on May 31, 2009


A "good" plague kills people outright, sr. Polio leaves most of them mangled to some degree.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:10 AM on June 1, 2009


The youtube link nola provided is actually quite good; the guy who made it is apparently some sort of medical researcher and does a great job summarizing how thoroughly the autism-vaccination link has been demolished.

Unfortunately his incredibly strong and annoying Canadian accent makes it almost unwatchable for me.
posted by Justinian at 3:11 AM on June 1, 2009


A friend of mine was a nurse. In the early eighties, a couple came in to the clinic where she worked, with a seven month old child who was having trouble breathing, and some other symptoms. They were anti-vaccination folks, with money, with education, with medical insurance, whose child had contracted polio.

Does insurance cover polio if the parents refuse a vaccine? It probably shouldn't.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:34 AM on June 1, 2009


The audience has been mostly craving irrational emotional bullshit. How are you supposed to build on that without becoming a charlatan?

kuujjuarapik,
You could squint more scientifically at what underpins the "irrational emotional bullshit" that sustains them?

Sometimes, to me, it looks like the stuff we all want (and some of liza's comments made me think I'm not completely out of line here): we want to feel some power, we don't like to feel like cretins, we like to hope someone is hearing us, we are drawn to funny, charismatic, famous people...

When I see guys like Kevin Padian - the brilliantly effective evolution lecturer I mentioned earlier - warmly getting his points across to a demographically identical audience to the one who had - ten years or so ago - given Richard Dawkins a very cold shoulder (walk outs included), I see a demonstration about suiting your information to your listeners - without becoming a charlatan.

To say "OMG!!!! Not Jenny McCarthy, now our hands are tied!!!" strikes me as a defeatist dead end.

To get precious about the packaging of information is all very pure.

But to take another example - look at the way even university molecular biology textbooks have been transformed in the past 30 years - from slabs of print - to chunks of more digestible information with color graphics. (fuck, now I'm boring myself!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:22 AM on June 1, 2009


Does insurance cover polio if the parents refuse a vaccine? It probably shouldn't.

Children shouldn't be punished for their parents' foolishness.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:30 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've got 2 nephews with Fragile X Syndrome, so I've been following the research being done with that. From what I've read, its cause is very similar to autism's: chromosomal defects. I thought this was well established by now.
posted by Pseudonumb at 6:41 AM on June 1, 2009


they've got to convince people that it is reliable

The reason I said your previous statement was meaningless was not because we don't need people to trust scientific authority, but because there's nothing the scientific community can really do to earn that trust that it isn't doing already. We'll never achieve 100% correctness on every scientific issue. If it only takes a handful of profit-oriented scientists and "experts" to completely shatter the public's faith in the institution then we have no choice but to take a different approach to winning them over.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:40 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tell them to go for a vacation in India?

(Actually, how do people travel if they are afraid of vaccines?)
posted by chunking express at 9:00 AM on June 1, 2009


If it only takes a handful of profit-oriented scientists and "experts" to completely shatter the public's faith in the institution then we have no choice but to take a different approach to winning them over.

Let's not forget the ambulance chasers, like RFK Jr., who want to go after the deep pockets of big pharma.
posted by cjets at 9:57 AM on June 1, 2009


Certainly it's a whole lot of cross pollination and you're unlikely to find a ton of drugs where academia had no involvement, but that doesn't lessen the contribution of the private companies.

Oh, I totally agree, but I'm pointing out that in the US the cross-pollination between medical research in pharma and academia is so high it's hard at times to extricate one from the other. And I'm not saying that to diminish the research work in the pharma world, only to note that in some ways we've been subsidizing their work through NIH support of academic medical research.
posted by dw at 10:29 AM on June 1, 2009


"Big Pharma Cookbooks" are available for public viewing free of charge here and here.

One more clarification to make, cosmetics are regulated more similarly to food products than drugs. Putting an anti-bacterial ingredient into a cosmetic product or dish soap would not be regulated as a drug and would not need approval as a drug just as Coke would not need FDA approval to change the formula of Coke. A change to the composition of a drug product, even the intert ingredients would require a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy. What pharmaceutical companies, big and smal, could be doing that may be what Liza is referring to is switching from one FDA approved method or inactive ingredient to another, but that would require a change on the packaging listing the ingredient.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:53 AM on June 1, 2009


The reason I said your previous statement was meaningless was not because we don't need people to trust scientific authority, but because there's nothing the scientific community can really do to earn that trust that it isn't doing already.

Riki Tiki,

Again slantways to this topic - but it still applies - your statement above is in total opposition to the message of the leading anti-creationist Brown biology Prof Ken Miller. He was another boffin lecturing (I heard him yesterday in NY) about public ignorance - especially in the face of well organized campaigns to keep the great unwashed dumb.

Over and over, he told an audience of top nerds - his colleagues - if YOU don't get off your bums and fill the vacuum, the charlatans will. It's your call.

Not everything he said went down a treat with the assembled molecular biologists. Some of them obviously bridled at casting their pearls before swine. Others were more attentive.

(And in case you don't know, Miller is a Catholic).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:08 PM on June 1, 2009


Why is the reaction so emotional to people like Liza?

Measles has a death rate in excess of 1/1000. And a high rate of brain damage.

One of my friends lost his younger sister to Measles due to not being vaccinated. These people are trying to kill the families of my friends.

One of my friends has no natural immunity to measles. Despite being vaccinated, she has caught it three times, and been hospitalised twice. Her only protection is Herd Immunity, which the anti vaccination campaign is trying to destroy. These people are trying to kill my friends.

One of my friends currently has a daughter with whooping cough. Unvaccinated due to being too young. She caught it off an idiot who was old enough for the vaccine but whose parents were too stupid or too callous to vaccinate her. These people are trying to hurt the children of my friends.

Liza is taking her children to Measles Parties. Despite a non-negligable death or brain damage rate from Measles. These people are trying to seriously endanger their own children.

And that's focussing on merely the practical results of the actions of the ignorant and misguided. Never mind the corrupt (see: Wakefield and MMR/Autism), the useful idiots (the people calling for "more research" (generic - there's a reason calls for more research (unspecified) are banned from the Lancet) or calling for the Autism charities to waste their money on links for which the evidence is negative), and the people misusing factoids (like looking at the safe mercury concentrations in drinking water according to the FDA and then comparing that figure with the mercury concentration in one tiny syringe that is administered once.

Yes I can remain polite. And normally do. But I have every sympathy with the people who rage against the half educated idiots trying to destroy one of the most important parts of the public health system.
posted by Francis at 3:18 PM on June 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


there's a reason calls for more research (unspecified) are banned from the Lancet

Interesting—do you have a citation for this? I would like to learn more.
posted by grouse at 3:54 PM on June 1, 2009


Big Pharma is evil

So if I go and touch it, I'll explode?
posted by oaf at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2009


Also—I'm not really sure that there's any reasoning with someone who thinks there's an "aggressive push to bombard children's bodies with vaccines unquestioningly" (emphasis mine).

On one side, we have science proving that vaccines save lives. On the other side, liza's hunch that her child's medical problems were caused by vaccines.

I know which side I'd pick.
posted by oaf at 5:14 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even if Liza's child's problems were caused by vaccines, that is hugely better for us than allowing children to go unvaccinated. It is very clear that the harm reduction that is the result of vaccination is several orders of magnitude greater than the harm caused by vaccination.

Only the most selfish person could want tens of thousands of people to be destroyed so that their child might not be autistic. The greed of the anti-vaccination crowd is simply astounding.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:08 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is very clear that the harm reduction that is the result of vaccination is several orders of magnitude greater than the harm caused by vaccination.

Yeah. I am somewhat bemused when I encounter people who are against vaccination because they believe there is a small risk of something like autism resulting, but think that chicken pox parties and the like are great ideas.

They don't even seem to understand the contradiction.
posted by Justinian at 6:46 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


All this talk about brain damage and death. Man, you people need to chill the eff out.

I sort of want to favorite that comment, just so I can have it saved to look at later, when I need to psych myself up to kill one of those oogy millipede things.
posted by palliser at 9:01 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Children shouldn't be punished for their parents' foolishness.

I can't disagree with that, but how does an insurer avoid the moral hazard involved in shielding parents completely from the financial risk of not vaccinating their children? Underwriting bad decisions may have the effect of encouraging more people to not vaccinate their children that would otherwise.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:19 PM on June 1, 2009


*than*
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:19 PM on June 1, 2009


I can't disagree with that, but how does an insurer avoid the moral hazard involved in shielding parents completely from the financial risk of not vaccinating their children?

I'm on the silly side of this debate (because I think science can dramatically improve its PR, and my tactic is tunnel vision - which creates problems) but fretting about insurers possibly compromising their integrity is not one of my worries:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:52 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My worry is embracing any public policy that puts more children at risk. If there's a probability of many more children being infected with Polio because of the way insurance covers the un-vaccinated, then we need to reexamine the pressures we put on insurance companies, or my preference consider universal health care. In any case, there need to be strong disincentives for avoiding vaccination for high-risk infections.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:58 PM on June 2, 2009


How about sliding premiums, where they go up when a child or children on the policy are non-compliant?
posted by palliser at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about we just not let them piss in the pool? Smallpox is eradicated because damn near everyone got vaccinated. Why the hell would we not demand that we be allowed to do the same for polio, rubella, measles?

Viruses that just make us sick we can leave alone. But the ones that go epidemic and kill and especially mangle the survivors? Come on, it's just not reasonable to allow people to choose to not participate. To let them get away with it is to condemn orders of magnitude more people to misery. That's bullshit.

If you can't refrain from pissing in the public pool, get the hell out of the public pool.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:25 PM on June 2, 2009


Come on, it's just not reasonable to allow people to choose to not participate.

There's also a case to be made that, if they live somewhere like Canada where there's single-payer universal coverage, they are actively wasting taxpayer dollars by refusing to use the vaccines if they can, increasing the risk that there will be an outbreak of some sort that will require great expense to remedy while simultaneously reducing economic productivity.

Their choosing to be vulnerable is stealing from everyone's prosperity.
posted by oaf at 8:02 PM on June 2, 2009


There's the simple option of using the power of the State to force unreasonable parents to behave like reasonable ones.

An option that has gained more support recently.
posted by grouse at 11:36 PM on June 2, 2009


grouse - I'm pretty sure that school boards or the province in Ontario, Canada have already made vaccinations (and proof of them) mandatory for attending public school. I don't know if the MMR is included, as I was a child, but I knew someone who was suspended until her parents found their documentation.
posted by jb at 6:29 AM on June 3, 2009


What's going on in here?
posted by Balisong at 6:57 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


jb: Vaccinations are mandatory in Ontario the same way they're mandatory in most of the United States. That is, they're definitely mandatory... but getting an exemption is trivial since once of the reasons you can get an exemption is philosophical opposition.

This fact is obviously not advertised since it boils down to vaccination in Ontario being completely voluntary with the only bar being having to jump through the hoop of applying for a philosophical exemption.
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on June 3, 2009


I got a DTaP booster this morning since my last one expired a few years ago. I hope I don't get the autism.
posted by dw at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2009


DW, let me look that up in my top secret Illuminati handbook. Let's see, the autism...no, the gay...no, the HIV...no, oh, here it is, that's the one that was supposed to be tainted with the virus that makes you think farm subsidies are a good idea. Did it work?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:52 PM on June 3, 2009


Woah, I've got a lot of Metafilter to catch up on after having surgery but have to respond to this as nobody else has...

Pseudonumb: I've got 2 nephews with Fragile X Syndrome, so I've been following the research being done with that. From what I've read, its cause is very similar to autism's: chromosomal defects. I thought this was well established by now.

No, not at all. Autism and Fragile X manifest with similar behaviours, sometimes, but there is a distinct chromosomal cause for Fragile X that isn't found with autism. Researchers haven't yet found a cause for autism - the wikipedia pages on autism and Fragile X are good places to start reading.
posted by goo at 7:51 PM on June 3, 2009


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