On Vaccines and Autism (from another forum)

Posted in a thread about vaccines and autism:


My response:

There are a lot of these “miracle cures” claiming to do all sorts of wonderous things, from[url=http://www.dca.med.ualberta.ca/Home/Updates/2007-03-15_Update.cfm] DCA curing cancer[/url] to [url=http://www.bust.com/blog/2011/06/08/male-birth-control.html]male birth control[/url]. We as a public ask “why can’t we have access to these? They clearly work!”.

But without standardized scientific protocols, however, our protection as consumers is fatally compromised. While I would agree that FDA (and wordwide) drug testing protocols need to be reformed to be both safer and faster, this notion of lay people screaming about anecdotal evidence and conspiracy theories is a far more dangerous path.

Look at how many drugs over just the last decade have been recalled because of fatalities and severe side effects. Most companies have armies of lawyers and dump trucks full of money to dump fending off lawsuits and swaying public opinion, it’s true. I certainly wouldn’t argue against evidence that the FDA has an inappropriately cozy relationship with the health care industries it is supposed to be regulating (a common theme in Washington – ask the dozens of Goldman Sachs employees that have worked in Washington as regulators).

But this is a function of the politicizing of our health care system.

Dr. Burzynski claims to be in Stage III trials, and I hope it’s true. DCA has found a new voice in social media, with pressure now building to get the secondary use approved. Again, I agree that the FDA and other regulatory and testing protocols MUST be overhauled to provide both consumer protection and expedited discovery.

However, the “debate” about vaccines and autism shows exactly what we are doing wrong. This issue has been tried in the court of public opinion far more strenuously than in the halls of science. At present time, there is not a single study that can positively link vaccines to autism. There is more evidence that eating fish while pregnant is more harmful than anything in vaccines. But do we see “anti-fishies” clogging the airwaves and screaming on message forums? Does the “anti-fish” lobby have a pretty blonde celebrity spokesmodel?

Of course not. Eating fish would make it the PARENTS fault, and we certainly can’t have THAT.

I have found that a large part of this whole anti-vaxx argument centers around the emotional burden of the parents and their loved ones who are looking – quite rightly, and quite understandably – for answers. But here’s a boogeyman that can be laid at the feet of an external agency. It’s the government! The medical establishment! THEY did this to my child! THEY are responsible! We have an enemy, something we can FIGHT. We can DO something!

My ex girlfriend is a doctor (MD/PHd in Neuroscience). Her former lab partner and best friend went on to be an Oncologist. I was with her during her entire first year of Med School at Vanderbilt University, went to all the functions, knew a lot of the students. I lived close by Vandy for 8 years, worked with a lot of kids from Vandy medical staff families, partied with a lot of Vandy nurses and interns šŸ˜€

I say this because I want to say this, very clearly: I have NEVER met a single person in the medical field who didn’t want to help people. Even the most ruthless, money grubbing plastic surgeon who really just wanted to roll in Botox money – and I’ve known a few – have had at the core of their practice a sense of service and helpfulness. And I just can’t believe that among the huge hordes of medical professionals and research scientists who have invested YEARS of their lives and HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars on education there are the numbers of cold hearted sociopaths that would be needed to stall the medical field in regard to some of these issues. To place that kind of motive on an industry – the medical practitioners themselves, mind you, not just the profit driven corporations – seems to be the height of hubris and malice.

A single Facebook page started a revolution in Iraq that still rages. Twitter from cell phones in Libya fomented the biggest uprising in that country’s history. Social media and the inter-connectedness and immediacy of information nowadays is staggeringly powerful. I am glad people are challenging the system, and calling out for funding and exploration of these issues and products. However, we HAVE to know where the lines are, and we HAVE to approach these things with critical thinking and open minds.

The Casey Anthony verdict was a shock to people not because it runs contrary to the evidence. In fact, 10 hours is a SHOCKINGLY short time to deliberate a case like this. It must have been pretty clear cut. The verdict was a shock because the media (thanks Nancy Grace!) ginned up the outrage and horror, and tried this case – without any of the evidence presented in court – in our hearts long before it every went to trial. And that’s what we do with these medical issues. KIDS ARE DYING, DAMMIT! Yes, and it’s sad – I lost a good friend to cancer this year, and another just got out of the hospital after surgery to remove a tumor. My own feelings at the thought of them dying needlessly because a bunch of suits won’t approve or fund something simply because they won’t make money on it are strong.

However, I simply cannot abandon science, reason, and critical thinking just because I so desperately WANT something to be true. Because when you are so attached to an idea like this, you’ll do anything to make it true, to foster your belief, even as the evidence disappears like fog in the light of the Sun. And in the end, that does as much a disservice to those we are trying to help as those we are accusing others of doing. In following these blind leads and forcing the issue on red herrings, we delay the discoveries that COULD make a difference. Every dollar spent researching vaccines and autism is a dollar NOT spent on more promising research.

In the end, we have to hold those agencies charged with our protection accountable, and make sure that funding IS available for promising new treatments regardless of their profitability. THAT is our job as voters and lay people. And I hope that THAT is one thing we can ALL agree on.

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