March 4, 2008

Its All About the Vaccines.

So after John McCain's statement that mercury based vaccinations were causing autism the anti-vaccination crowd started to rumble a little louder. Most groups want you to believe that they are against vaccines because mercury has caused autism and other neurological disorders in children (a claim which the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics). But the truth of the matter is that most of the groups are plain anti-vaccination and are using this mercury tactic as a ploy to circumvent the vaccination process. Take a look at this ad:

Now it looks like a rather straightforward poster with easy to read and significant data. But let me break it down. The syringe on the left indicates there were only 10 mandatory vaccines in "1983" and 1 in 10,000 children had autism. The "2008" syringe contains 36 vaccinations (although Generation Rescue cheats by including the prenatal flu vaccine recommended for pregnant women and several non-mandatory flu vaccines to pump up the 2008 number). Then comes the big bomb in the text with more fallacies than gnostic gospels.

"The statistics speak for themselves. Since 1983, the number of vaccines the CDC recommends we give to our kids has gone from 10 to 36, a whopping increase of 260%. And, with it, the prevalence of neurological disorders like autism and ADHD has grown exponentially as well.

Just a coincidence? We don't think so. Thousands of parents believe their child's regression into autism was triggered, if not caused, by over-immunization with toxic ingredients and live viruses found in vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics dispute this but independent research and the first-hand accounts of parents tell a different story."

Since 1983 a few other things have happened that are ignored in the text. For example, in the early 1990s, the diagnostic criteria for autism were broadened, and campaigns for greater awareness were begun. Diagnoses of autism in 1983 were made using the DSM-III, where the criteria for an autism diagnosis were much more restrictive than those in the DSM-IV, released in the early 1990s. Moreover, in 1983, categories of Asperger's and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, both of which are lumped into the 1 in 150 figure for 2008, weren't recognized in the DSM-III. In 1983 the Apple Macintosh debuted and IBM released a PC, the first CD also showed up later that year. I blame the rise in autism on these three things (I really don't, but you see my point).

And a lot of other things have happened since 1983 as well, but to Jenny McCarthy and now John McCain it has to be those evil vaccines. And since the mercury theory is taking a beating in the scientific community the antivax people were ready to up and move onto something else.

Why do we only test vaccines individually and never consider the combination risk of vaccines administered together? Given the dramatic rise of autism to epidemic levels, isn't it time for the scientific community to seriously consider the anecdotal evidence of so many parents?

Here note the moving of the goalposts and unfalsifiable hypothesis that it is some "combination" of vaccines that causes autism. How would you test this theory unless you purposely withhold necessary and sometimes lifesaving vaccines from very young children? I'm sure the antivax would love that but it is unethical to subject children to an increased risk of disease contraction to see if you're right. Note the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and conspiracy mongering. Everytime one of their theories on causation is shot down by scientific studies they never give up, and just keep going. If you still think this is about the mercury then check out this rally held by a group of antivax.

If that doesn't seal the deal then I don't know what does. These guys have surrounded themselves with a false theory and are attacking the medical community based on false observation and conspiracy mongering.

And usually I would let this lie, but now a possible President has thrown his hat behind the antivax movement. This is an egregious miscalculation and oversight by a large public figure. Universal vaccination is one of the pillars of modern community health and circumventing the health of the nation to pander to right-wing conspiracy theorists is unacceptable for someone who will control the machinery of our public health system. Beware if McCain is elected, he obviously will support science very little.

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Dean said...

This story is getting a lot of play. Found a post about it on Dailykos. Pretty cool, I think you beat em to it.

GestapoParrot said...

yeah, I've been watching this issue ever since Jenny McCarthy went on Oprah to spout some of the most ignorant shit I've ever seen.