The Vaccine Debate and Dateline
Dateline’s “Dose of Controversy” on May 30, 2010 with Dr. Andrew Wakefield seems to be nothing but a smear campaign masquerading as unbiased journalism. It seemed to me that rather than discussing or even debating Dr. Wakefield’s work, it was a piece designed to broadcast (and revel in) the fact that he was stripped of his medical license by the UK. Rather than truly delve into what that might mean for Dr. Wakefield and his work and what that might mean for the perception of his previous work, much attention was given to the work of investigative reporter Brian Deer – who took great delight and satisfaction that Wakefield was (in his eyes) now discredited – going so far as to say that ‘parents should feel comforted because this was a matter of integrity, not scientific research’.
We should disregard the validity of the research because of the way it was obtained? Is that really what he’s saying? Okay, I’m all for being all on the up-and-up about who you are and what your agenda is, but complaining that Wakefield didn’t offer full disclosure (whether he did or didn’t is irrelevant at the mo’) is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
The CDC’s former president is currently the head of Merck Pharmaceuticals. That seems like a conflict of interest to me, especially if Merck went a-courtin’ before the position was filled. Numerous medical associations and organizations have gotten called on being in big pharma’s pocket by lawmakers and people clamoring to know what the hidden agenda is – and rarely do they get an answer. So to complain that Wakefield was getting paid to look into the connection is ludicrous.
Now – to address the issue of payment, itself – was Wakefield being paid at the time his paper was published by The Lancet? It seems to me that the answer to that question would be fairly simple to figure out. I’m not all that adept at knowing where to look for that info, but in this day and age, if you get 3.5 million dollars there’s a trail leading back to when and where that money came from. Dateline didn’t look into that – that’s all it would have taken to settle this story. Shoddy journalism there, mates. Again, that is the type of thing that made this story sensational rather than informational.
Back to the real issue here…first of all, Wakefield never said that there WAS a link. He said there MIGHT BE a link, and his recommendation was that there needed to be more research done on the subject. He also recommended that parents not use the combined MMR vaccine – that instead, they choose the single vaccines. He wasn’t recommending not vaccinating at all, and that was a precautionary measure. He did an amazing thing – he put safety of children FIRST.
What Wakefield did was a small thing, and apparently enough to spark a debate that has now lasted for over a decade. He introduced DOUBT about the safety of a vaccine. And in case you hadn’t realized it, the link between vaccines (not just MMR, but all vaccines) may not have been conclusively proven as of yet, but neither have vaccines been vindicated from the accusation that they are associated with autism.
Wakefield’s staement, “The reason we’re sitting here… is because this is real.” is absolutely correct. I truly believe that there is a connection between autism and vaccines. Not only autism, but other things as well – respiratory disease, ADHD and other behavioral disorders – I definitely think that vaccines play a contributing, if not starring, role in such things.
In defense of Dr. Wakefield, he may not have the right answers – but at least he is addressing the issue of autism like it matters – talking to parents like they’re an authority on their own children and respecting them when they say that there is something dreadfully wrong with their child that wasn’t there before. He’s at least looking for answers. Oh, sure – the AAP and other organizations are looking into autism, too – but what’s the motivation? From what I’ve seen, the primary motivation seems only to be to disprove any assertion that suggests that vaccines play a role in autism, not finding any other cause or sinking any significant effort or resources into developing treatment. Even the newer research that concerns a genetic link was only given lip service in the story, and just for the record, the genetic links that the researchers now are trying to connect to autism haven’t been ‘proven’ as of yet, either. That they’re trying to make it seem like “this” is the real cause is just sleight of hand in my opinion. There isn’t any more “proof” in that theory than in Wakefield’s theories.
And Wakefield is not the only doctor/researcher out there who claims a link between autism and vaccines. There has also been speculation on the link between the DTaP vaccine and autism. As one of the above articles pointed out, there have been several attempts to improve the safety of vaccines (i.e.: by the removal of thimerosal – which to say is misleading – thimerosal may still be used in the manufacturing process and then filtered out – leaving trace amounts. Trace amounts of one of the most toxic substances known to man is still too much, IMO) but the levels of autism and other disorders that have been rumored to be linked to vaccines are still on the rise – which only proves that mercury may not be a factor. They’re taking out the mercury and using a different, no less toxic, preservative… so same issue. And now, the New England Journal of Medicine just released an article that claims that thimerosal isn’t as bad for you as you think, and even though the study has serious flaws, many will point at it and say, “See?” without fully comprehending that mercury never was the only issue.
VAERS exists for a reason. The US government has paid out millions of dollars in vaccine related damages to families. That you can, right now, go to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program website and file a claim speaks volumes – it says that people right now are being damaged by vaccines, the government knows it and they aren’t going to do anything about it. That’s not one but TWO government agencies that are all about handling problems that stem from vaccines; problems that would not exist in the first place without vaccines. That fact alone gives credit to Wakefield’s position.
I remember watching Good Morning America or some such early morning news show when LittleBoyBlue was a babe – I’d already decided not to vaccinate by that point and this just reinforced that decision – the director of the AAP was talking about vaccine safety and “acceptable risk”. Basically, he said that they knew that a certain number of children would have an adverse reaction to a vaccine; that some might even die. But that it was for the ‘greater good’ of public health. I remember thinking, “My child is not your guinea pig!” and it still rings true for me today. I’m not willing to sacrifice my child’s health and well-being on the altar of the greater good. With outbreaks of diseases that are supposed to be “vaccine preventable”, I am not convinced of the effectiveness of vaccines to begin with – and their safety record leaves a lot to be desired.
I’m glad that they (sorta) gave Wakefield the opportunity to address the allegations against him. I’m glad that Wakefield filed a complaint against Deer. I have to say, every time I hear someone use the word “inconceivable”, I am reminded of Vizzini from The Princess Bride. That Deer says it is inconceivable that Wakefield’s complaint has merit is interesting to me and will be extremely amusing if it is indeed proven to be valid.
Another major player in this story is Dr. Paul Offit. He’s had numerous papers published – a quick Google search will lead you to any number of them. But what I find most interesting in his contribution to this story is that he invented RotaTeq – the now mandatory (unless you have an exemption) rotavirus vaccine. OF COURSE HE’S NOT GOING TO ADMIT THAT VACCINES ARE NOT ALL THEY’RE TOUTED TO BE!!!!
You know what would make RotaTeq obsolete? Put one quarter of the money and effort that went into the development of RotaTeq into an education, promotion and support campaign for BREASTFEEDING – which protects against rotavirus, lessens the severity of it if your child does contract it and has ABSOLUTELY ZERO HEALTH RISKS and bam! No more need for a rotavirus vaccine.
I’m baffled by Offit’s claims that Wakefield has done that much harm by publishing his findings. If he has, then why aren’t we seeing children in record numbers SUFFERING and DYING from vaccine preventable diseases? Surely if the non-vaccinating parents and unvaccinated children were that much of a health risk to the general public, there would be evidence to back that claim up. But the fact is the argument that non-vaccinating parents are taking advantage of herd immunity is faulty, as this mommy-blogger explains much more eloquently than I can.
Something else that irks me is why is autism still such a huge mystery? Why are parents still left with so many questions? Why, after more than a decade of research, does mainstream medicine not have SOMETHING to offer parents?? They spend so much time and money combating the vaccine connection – but they aren’t putting ANYTHING into helping autistic kids or families with autistic children.
Whooping cough is NOT DEADLY for healthy children. Neither is measles. Car accidents kill children daily – hundreds of them. It’s “acceptable risk”. Why are 3 deaths from a ‘vaccine preventable’ disease considered “an epidemic” and touted as absolutely unacceptable? And yet vaccines for these diseases damage – permanently in some cases – hundreds of children each year. According to the story, 1 in 110 (or 1 in 150 according to the second citation) American children is affected with Autism. That’s damn near 1% – which is a lot, especially considering that it’s on the rise. If 3 children – not three percent, mind you, but THREE children were killed by measles and that constitutes an epidemic, what does something that affects one percent of the population’s children – a scourge? A pestilential pandemic? Something that should receive a hell of a lot more attention, that’s what.
I think Wakefield got the shaft. I think they’re going out of their way to attempt to discredit him because he’s onto something. Now, I don’t know if I agree with Wakefield’s assertion that autism and bowel disease are linked – but I haven’t looked into it either. My oldest has SPD, ADHD/DBD-NOS , which means that our lives are not severely impacted by his diagnoses like some are. Autistic enterocolitis may very well be something. Just because it isn’t recognized by a medical body yet doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. Like many women’s diseases, AE affects the wrong demographic for getting recognition – meaning not grown men, who make up the vast majority of the researchers and groups of people who do the money-granting for research. I would bet that if something like this started affecting men, there’d be a safe and effective drug and an affordable, non-invasive and painless treatment plan out double-quick! Fibromyalgia didn’t exist a few years ago either – now they have all kinds of treatments and therapies and medicines to try. I think it’s a case of “this disease doesn’t exist until we can invent a really expensive drug and treatment plan for it”.
I’d be curious to see how many ads for medicines ran during Dateline on TV. I watched it online, so I couldn’t say – but it raises an interesting point, I think. If NBC gets advertising dollars from big pharma, would they be allowed to publish interviews or stories that give credibility to the vaccine nay-sayers? If they take advertising dollars from big pharma, aren’t they, by definition, BIASED? So how can we rely on NBC’s coverage to be fair and balanced? Oh, that’s right – we can’t!
As far as the genetics and autism link – yes, I think there’s validity to that line of reasoning. But they’re not proving that vaccines aren’t contributing to or a catalyst for the development of autism in some children. I personally know at least one child who is not vaccinated and is autistic, so I don’t think that vaccines are the only cause of autism. But I do think that they contribute, and I think that there’s a conspiracy to keep the discovery of that link quiet. I also think that there are better ways to go about protecting your health than injecting your body (or your children’s) with vaccines of dubious safety and effectiveness.
Edited to add: This video goes into more detail about the witch hunt… ‘Selective Hearing‘. It’s worth the hour of your time if you watched the Dateline story (worth it even if you didn’t).