Monday, December 21, 2009

Worst Idea of the Decade

The Washington Post is running a series of opinion articles titled:  The Worst Ideas of the Decade.  And the top worst idea on the list:  Vaccine scares.  And I couldn't agree more.

Clive Thompson explains how not only do anti-vaxxers put people at risk directly by convincing them (or their parents in the case of children) not to get vaccinated. This anti-vaccine sentiment is keeping the U.S. health officials from making use of effective treatments such as adjuvants in flu vaccines, which could improve immunity and make the flu vaccine more available:

They were too worried about spooking anti-vaccine activists, many of whom claim adjuvants contribute to autism. This almost certainly isn't true: Adjuvants have been widely used for years, with no reputable study suggesting a link between them and autism. But federal officials feared people would avoid the H1N1 vaccine if it included adjuvants. As Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in congressional testimony last month, "The public's confidence in our vaccine system and in vaccines in this country [is] very, very fragile."

 And anti-vaxxers contribute greatly to the anti-science sentiment that pervades te U.S. today:

The subtler but more insidious effect of the vaccine-autism movement is philosophical. The anti-vaccine folks have whipped up anti-science sentiment by painting scientists as corrupt elitists on the take from Big Pharma, cackling sadistically as they force us to get shots. This paranoia flows equally from woo-woo Hollywood liberals and the anti-government right; few other subjects can unite Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Of course, the cranks over at Age of Autism have something to say about Thompson's article.  Actually, I take that back.  After reading the entire article, its surprising how little is actually said.

Normally I would point out the logical nonsense in an article like this, but its basically just a giant conspiracy theory polemic, without actually addressing anything in Thompson's articles.  Its the same nonsense that has been printed over and over again at AoA.  No real evidence, just claims that scientists are in the pockets of "Big Pharma," and prods for scientists to perform unethical studies of unvaccinated children, which would do little to change the mind of these ignoramuses anyway.

So I must say thanks to Clive Thompson for pointing out how harmful this anti-vaccine sentiment is.  I hope the message gets through to some people, though I'm not too optimistic.

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