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Author Topic: It's official: the cornerstone of the antivaccination movement was fradulent.  (Read 1814 times)

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Offline JudeTopic starter

While this won't be a surprise to anyone who follows science and public health topics, I decided to make a post about it anyway since I figure a short history of the anti-vaccination movement would be of use to the general public.

First attempts to replicate Wakefield's study failed to produce the same result.  Then scientific consensus converged on the conclusion that the MMR vaccine was not responsible for autism.  Further study cleared more and more vaccinations and basically completely discredited Wakefield's claims.  The Lancet, a medical science journal in which the study was initially published, eventually retracted his publication.  It became clear that there were serious methodological problems and possibly even ethical quagmires in how he carried out his experiment.  Conflicts of interests were discovered, and ultimately Wakefield had his ability to practice medicine in the UK revoked.

Now it's come out that in addition to all of that Wakefield is guilty of essentially being outright and knowingly dishonest in how he compiled the data he used to assert his claims:  http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full

And the sad thing is that this won't give the anti-vaccination movement even the slightest bit of pause.  Wakefield's still spreading his backward ideas on medicine and even possibly practicing, in the US of all places (without a license to boot), and has celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and indirectly Oprah supporting him (or at least his ideas).  Oprah especially is a notorious promoter of pseudo-science in general.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2011, 08:44:15 PM by Jude »

Offline OldSchoolGamer

I think part of it is that we human beings (especially those without any training in statistics) are notoriously poor at assessing risk.   Are vaccines risky?  Yeah, slightly.  Some of the possible side effects can be pretty scary.  However, the odds of actually experiencing a side effect are tiny, especially compared to the risks of the disease itself if a substantial percentage of the population went unvaccinated.  It's like the guy who is afraid of flying and getting in a plane crash driving the 700-odd miles to his destination: statistically, he screwed himself, since the risk of an accident involving injury or death is much greater per mile when one drives versus flying an airliner (if one doesn't mind a little grope from Uncle Sam).  But try telling him that and he'll tell you about the jetliner than went down last month in Bangladesh and how everyone died a horrible fiery death and you'll never see HIM on an airplane.

Offline Star Safyre

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Even when these outrageous concerns were considered valid, I personally failed to see opting out as reasonable possibility.  Perhaps I'm bias because I work with mentally disabled and learning disabled students, but there is really no choice to be made.

Would I rather have a autistic child or a dead child?  Really, there is no argument to convince me that being killed by a preventable disease is somehow a wiser choice than any amount of brain damage.  Personally, I don't view being non-neuronormative as some great unspeakable terror worse than death.

The diseases these vaccines protected children against are very real and seriously deadly.  Honestly, I almost wish we could legally prosecute any medical authority figures who successfully touted this "scientific" garbage which lead to children falling victim to these horrible diseases.

Offline rick957

Quote
I think part of it is that we human beings (especially those without any training in statistics) are notoriously poor at assessing risk.   Are vaccines risky?  Yeah, slightly.  Some of the possible side effects can be pretty scary.  However, the odds of actually experiencing a side effect are tiny, especially compared to the risks of the disease itself if a substantial percentage of the population went unvaccinated.  It's like the guy who is afraid of flying and getting in a plane crash driving the 700-odd miles to his destination: statistically, he screwed himself, since the risk of an accident involving injury or death is much greater per mile when one drives versus flying an airliner (if one doesn't mind a little grope from Uncle Sam).  But try telling him that and he'll tell you about the jetliner than went down last month in Bangladesh and how everyone died a horrible fiery death and you'll never see HIM on an airplane.

That was incredibly well-put.  :)

Quote
The diseases these vaccines protected children against are very real and seriously deadly.  Honestly, I almost wish we could legally prosecute any medical authority figures who successfully touted this "scientific" garbage which lead to children falling victim to these horrible diseases.

I think I come down on this issue the same way you do, but do we know that the anti-vaccination initiatives resulted in any actual harm to anyone? 

It's important to remember that science doesn't have the first effing clue about the reasons for a whole lot of things, and there's more than enough horror stories about scientific mistakes in the past to justify being extremely skeptical and critical of scientific claims about all kinds of things.  In this case, it's good to know that the built-in, self-correcting institutions in the scientific community succeeded in discrediting a fraudulent claim.

Still, I have some sympathy for parents of autistic children (like McCarthy) choosing to support someone who claims to have an explanation for a terrible disease that science doesn't know the causes for. 

Offline Star Safyre

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I think I come down on this issue the same way you do, but do we know that the anti-vaccination initiatives resulted in any actual harm to anyone? 

Still, I have some sympathy for parents of autistic children (like McCarthy) choosing to support someone who claims to have an explanation for a terrible disease that science doesn't know the causes for.

I'm not an expert on law, but I'd imagine there is precedence in which doctors have offered unproven medical advice and been sued for the ultimate outcome.  Unvaccinated children whose parent(s) or guardians have opted out of vaccination have contracted these preventable diseases; the blame for the suffering and death which may have resulted lies directly with those who recklessly gave the medical advice.

At the very least, I hope Ms. McCarthy is welcoming a huge pile of her own books being returned to her.  Celebrity power has no purpose touting unfounded research which can lead to the deaths of children.  It's inexcusable.  Finding solace for herself and her position is one thing; spreading unproven liable and slander against life-saving, proven medical advances is entirely another.  An autistic child can be a burden on their caretakers, depending on the severity of their disorder, but ultimately the condition is non-fatal.  Everything vaccines protect against are.

Offline Will

Awww, come on, now.  Have you ever seen someone more qualified to discuss medical science?



...I thought not.

Offline JudeTopic starter

Causes of Autism aren't 100% known, but it's pretty clear it's rooted in genetics.

As far as actual harm done, not by their hand, but the reductions in herd immunity have brought back whooping cough and all sorts of things.

Offline Oniya

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Causes of Autism aren't 100% known, but it's pretty clear it's rooted in genetics.

'Pretty clear'?  I don't think the research has gotten that far at all.  There might be a genetic root to a susceptibility to autism, but there are numerous factors that are being investigated as potential triggers, including drugs taken during pregnancy, environmental chemicals (heavy metals, etc.), viral infections, and metabolic conditions.

Offline JudeTopic starter

That's not accurate from what I know.  There's a very high heritability factor for autism according to studies (90% from some sources in 2007, though more data is needed as the number is probably exaggerated), which establishes the disease as primarily genetic.

Only in rare cases has autism been genuinely linked to materials known to cause birth defects, that's more of the exception than the rule, and it could merely be that exposure to those substances during formative years results in the same kind of damage than the underlying genetic issue does -- that's certainly the most plausible explanation as far as I know.

One thing that isn't clear however is the exact mechanism for how it occurs.  Even if it is seen as a primarily genetic disorder, how that disorder rising from genetic differences becomes expressed is what we understand very little about.

From my brief review of the literature, I get the impression that autism occurs from irregular brain development.  That's where the phrase "wired differently" comes into account because it literally describes how autism seems to manifest:  some in the autistic brain are connected more heavily than usual (and others are less connected), some sectors are given more emphasis for maturation, etc.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2011, 05:35:31 PM by Jude »

Offline Star Safyre

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One thing that isn't clear however is the exact mechanism for how it occurs.  Even if it is seen as a primarily genetic disorder, how that disorder rising from genetic differences becomes expressed is what we understand very little about.

From my brief review of the literature, I get the impression that autism occurs from irregular brain development.  That's where the phrase "wired differently" comes into account because it literally describes how autism seems to manifest:  some in the autistic brain are connected more heavily than usual (and others are less connected), some sectors are given more emphasis for maturation, etc.

Current belief is that there is a genetic predisposition which can, when paired with a yet indiscernible physical trigger or trauma, result in varied amount of irregular brain development.  It is a purely organic disorder, unlike what was believed decades ago.

This theory beats the hell out of the psychological and emotional causes once believed to be the cause.  Frigid mothers, my ass.   ::)

Offline NiceTexasGuy

Oprah especially is a notorious promoter of pseudo-science in general.

OMG!  Someone said something bad about Oprah?

Quick, grab the torches and pitchforks!!

"KILL THE BEAST!!!"

(spoken with just a tiny hint of facetiousness)

Offline mystictiger

There was recently a fascinating BBC series on vaccinations. There are a number of vaccines that have long-term and unexpected interactions with each other. So rather than lowering infant mortality, they actually raised it amongst girls.

This does not mean that vaccines are bad, but it also means that they're not perfect either.

Still, children dead from measels? Lack of herd immunity? Shame on you, Dr Wakefield.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2011, 06:33:05 PM by mystictiger »

Offline JudeTopic starter

This is true, vaccines are not 100% safe to all people always.  Very rarely there are things that happen which can cause severe problems, but the risk of that to children's health is far lower than the risk of that which the herd immunity protects against.

Furthermore in the United States there is such a thing as Vaccine Court, where people affected by these rare incidences are financially compensated.  For a little bit of background information this is a fascinating read:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccination_court

Offline mystictiger

Another important consideration is the way in which vaccines are produced. Most tend to be generated by big-pharma with a desire to sell lots of it to governments. I am not inclined to trust such an industry, but at the same time, I acknowledge that their product is absolutely vital. So I'll take it, but with my eyes open.

Probably not actually. I'm shit-scared of needles :(

Offline NiceTexasGuy

Just out of curiosity, I wonder how many people who are up in arms about vaccines either smoke, drink too much, or eat too much sugar.  Or all the above.

Offline mystictiger

Or at least feed their children too much HFCS, fat, and so on.