Anti-Vax madness

Posted in science with tags , on May 7, 2009 by malfeitor

Not being a parent myself maybe I have no place to get involved in this argument but, all the stories about these anti vaccination wackos is really pissing me off. First it was these nutball parents who some how got it in their head that vaccines cause autism. Specifically the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Their original premise? One, that  heavy metal poisoning (Specifically mercury) cause autism and two, that mercury is used in vaccines.

Well right off the bat they are wrong. There have been no quality studies that show any link between heavy metals, vaccines  and autism, none. But lets say for the sake of argument that they are right and there is some connection. Where does this mercury come from? Well some childhood vaccines contained a preservative called thimerosal which contains mercury (gasp).  Their rationale is that this thimerosal and the increase of the childhood vaccination schedule is the reason why the number of children diagnosed with autism is climbing.

Well even though the original mercury=autism premise is incorrect the FDA caved in 2002 and began to remove thimerosal from vaccines. The result? Autism rates dropped? Nope. Stayed the same? Nope. They continued to climb at the same rate.  Oh and did I forget to mention that the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal…opps my bad. So what is causing the climbing diagnosis of autism? The most likely culprit is the change of defination of autism not the MMR vaccine.

So with this new information why do the anitvaxers still continue to push their agenda? Well I think it’s mostly due to confusing correlation with causation. The MMR vaccine for example is administered right about the age that kids with autism start to show symptoms. Imagine your the parent of an autistic child and how desperate you would be for an explanation. I feel for these parents, I really do. And I don’t blame them for looking at the vaccines as a possible cause but the evidence is just not there. The truth is that no one knows for sure what causes autism. The evidence so far points to a combination of genetic factors and possible environmental factors in utero but, even that is still very new research.

So if you have kids please get them vaccinated. There are places in the world where kids are dying because of the antivax movement and it’s not in third world countries.

Phil Plait posted this sad story on his Bad Astronomy Blog: Antivax Kills about a 4 week old girl who died from complications from wooping cough. It’s a hard read but, provides a real life example just what the antivax movement can accomplish. As a follow up to this post see this entry where Ms. McCaffery the mother of Dana, the infant who died responded.

EDIT: Just to be clear. The 4 week old girl died not as a fault of her parents but as a result of a immunization rate in that part of the country. My point here being that the vaccination rate dropped to the point where this little girl died because there was no herd immunity to protect her. The data I have is that only 66% of children in that area are vaccinated. Far below the percentage needed to protect the not yet vaccinated. I apologize if my initial statement made it look like it was the parents fault.

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“Acupuncture? Really Mother?”

Posted in Life with tags , , on May 4, 2009 by malfeitor

I’m not very good at arguing/debating. I think it’s my lack of ability to recall facts when needed.

This was brought to light when my mother revealed to me that’s she’s been partaking in acupuncture for many years now. My first and only real response to her was, “acupuncture? Really Mother?” Her reply was to site the time when she woke up with extreme pain from sciatica, which I’m not even sure was ever diagnosed by a real doctor, and had to “drag herself out of bed” and go to her friends house. Her friend being an acupuncturist. On a side note, I have met this friend of hers and yeah she is way weird and acupuncture is not the only woo woo she is into (hey that rhymed). Anyway she performed her mystical treatment of jamming small needles into my moms back and wouldn’t you know it “All better!”

I tried to tell her there were no conclusive studies published that acupuncture has any real effect beyond placebo and that her personal experience was anecdotal at best but, she assured me it worked. She tried to bolster her side by adding that she saw an article in a magazine that said it worked too. Then later she hit me with “Well I don’t know how it works but I don’t know how my car works either but I know it does” (non sequitur anyone?). I just responded with a “whatever mother” and told her I had to go.

In my defense I was not expecting this conversation. Plus I was in a store with bad reception and I hate talking hands free in public.

It was only after I was off the phone and had time to look back, that I started to think of many other facts to support my side of the argument but, I realized the debate would still most likely end up getting me nowhere. She has had years of her own personal experience to reassure her that it does work. I realize it’s probably not hurting her…yet anyway but, I just can’t help to think of the gobs of money she has wasted on these and who know what other treatments she been roped into. I don’t know if she has ever seen a doctor about whatever other problems she sees her friend for. I hope she has the sense to seek real science based medical care when the time comes. So maybe it isn’t a waste of time to have this conversation now with her. To try and have a nonconfrontational talk to her about this and at least plant the seeds of skepticism.

I will try to be better prepared and the next time I see her in person will be right after TAM. Heh I’ll try not to ruin the visit with Mom.