Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"The Vaccine War" on PBS Frontline


On Tuesday, March 24, 2015 PBS aired its documentary “The Vaccine War”, which was apparently its second airing.  The main link is here and the entire film (53 minutes) is available now.
  
The film traced the history of vaccine resistance among parents.  One of the most important observations is that younger parents today did not experience seeing people get polio or diphtheria or the complications of measles.
  
  
Parents would say, “my child got several shots last month and suddenly went downhill and wound up in special education.”
  
Other parents would object to the giving of vaccines for what is normally an STD (hepatitis B or human papilloma). Another said that getting sick is part of life and that she thought it was better for her kids to get the diseases and overcome them. That leads to questions of states (like Oregon) that in the past have been lenient with non-medical exemptions to vaccinations.
  
But coincidence does not imply causality. Repeated studies (the best ones done in Denmark) show no connection between the use of multiple modern vaccines and the development of autism. Even the idea that the mercury compound used as a preservative (thimerosal) increases the risk of autism or other neurological disease was discredited. 
      
The main ethical problem comes from the concept of “herd immunity”.  A given parent could decide not to take the miniscule risk of vaccination if she knows that other parents did have their kids vaccinated. That becomes an ethical problem, although this is similar to other issues in the past with the military draft, maybe even the “chain-letter” transmission of AIDS among gay men that the right wing tried to propagate in the early 1980s.  
  
So the issue becomes a test of individualism, and as to whether “just taking care of one’s own family” is real individualism, or is ethically desired.
    
Dr. Anthony Fauci, from NIH, often appears, discussing the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in practice.
  
The documentary covered a bizarre case where a Washington Redskins cheerleader developed neurological disease after vaccination.
  
It also pointed out the danger to kids with compromised immunity due to chemotherapy if exposed to unvaccinated kids.

I had measles in 1950, just before my seventh birthday.  Could some of my problems keeping up physically been related to measles?

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