Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Anti-vaccine lunatics

I've posted earlier on anti-vaccine nuttery. The latest news on anti-vaccine lunacy was posted in Orac's blog, Respectful Insolence, today. He's got a great summary on this story of nuttery.

First off, a little background. Since the late 1990s, there have been parents groups that have been arguing that the mercury preservative thimerosal causes autism. The news media has been all too happy to promote their bunk, with articles that say things like: "Epidemiologists say there is no link between vaccines and autism, but parents disagree." It's sad that this is news, because if you substituted it with a sentence like: "Physicists say that there is no link between gravity and forest sprites, but parents disagree" there would be little discussion in the public media.

What are the data that suggest that mercury in vaccines causes autism? Well, autism usually starts to present itself around age 2. And this is an age when children get several different vaccinations. This is also an age when parents start taking toothbrushing seriously for their children. Yet no one is asserting that toothbrushes cause autism (yet). What is the evidence against mercury in vaccines causing autism? There are a number of large trials that show that children who don't receive vaccines, and children who receive vaccines that don't use the mercury preservative thimerosal, get autism at the same frequency as children who do receive mercury-containing vaccines. Case closed. That clearly demonstrates that thimerosal doesn't cause autism. Sadly, there are true believers out there, and it's hard to convince a true believer with data.

The latest in this sad story, is that there are people claiming that the symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome are caused by vaccines. What??? Yep, now if you want to hurt your baby and get away with it, you can just claim that those bruises and broken bones are the result of vaccines. This is made possible by the grotesque ignorance of the public at large on how science is done, and how much we know about vaccines. In some other post, I will talk about the real side-effects of vaccines (there are side-effects to most vaccines, but they are less severe than the disease that they vaccinate against). But we can clearly say, you won't break bones or get bruising on your brain from vaccines. Babies get that from abusers. Check out this example of someone who used this excuse to get away with murdering a baby.


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