Guest Column: Anti-vaccinationists should inject selves with healthy dose of reality
June 17, 2014
Dawn Winkler's June 13th, 2014, My Turn column, "Not so fast on vaccinations," deserves a thorough cross-examination.
To start with, the least reliable source of information in the scientific community is anecdotal evidence, which Winkler relies on heavily. Her "evidence" in support of her claim is as follows: Her grandmother who had measles and pertussis is still alive, her daughter who was vaccinated passed away, and her unvaccinated son is alive and healthy.
I'm sorry — the status of three people does not make a strong case for any scientific hypothesis. There are a lot of confounding variables that need to be extrapolated through a case study for those three examples to even have a chance at making broader claims about health and wellness for the rest of the population.
Currently, they are simply stories.
Furthermore, Winkler references 86 peer-reviewed, published articles that support a link between autism and vaccination. I'm extremely interested to see those articles! I know one already — the infamous 1998 "Lancet" paper by Andrew Wakefield that originated the idea that the MMR vaccination causes autism.
According to the "New England Journal of Medicine," after the study was originally published and vaccine use declined, Ireland alone had more than 300 cases of measles, 100 hospitalizations and three deaths.
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The Lancet fully retracted this paper in 2010 and the lead author was completely discredited. Where are these other 85 studies and, more importantly, what is their current standing in the medical research community?
I strongly urge any anti-vaccinationist to research the subject from the other perspective. You're clearly willing to dive this deep into the subject matter; why not just read articles on the pro-vaccination side?
Dive in just as deeply into articles that you have already discredited in your mind. Unfortunately, I already know the outcome. A study (reported in "The New Yorker" on May 19th of this year) examined the effectiveness of giving information about vaccines to anti-vaccinationists. None of their interventions worked.
People are largely incapable of looking at controversial issues from a rational, blank slate standpoint. Nonetheless, I'm still going to encourage any anti-vaccinationists to do so. The worst thing that could happen is they read more research and news articles.
The best thing that could happen is that Ms. Winkler and other anti-vaccinationists will end up injecting themselves with a healthy dose of reality. Otherwise, they have the potential to put society at risk.
Mark Manning is a Kings Beach resident.