Monday, June 18, 2007

Vaccines and Autism: New-Think Responds

This post is an ongoing conversation with a reader of New-Think. You may wish to read the previous 2 posts to bring yourself up to speed. Note: The reader chose the name "Geezer" for himself/herself, it is not an attempt by New-Think to disparage him/her.



Random Debating Skeletons

Geezer: I have a few comments about the autism article: Regarding vaccines and autism: Most of the "government required" vaccines have been administered widely to children since the 1950's--when the baby boomers were children. Why was the spike in autism not seen in their generation?

New-Think: New-Think does not claim that vaccines (and or thimerasol) are or are not the reason for the spike in autism. New-Think has merely pointed out that this has been a controversial issue for a while that is now getting its day in court.

Geezer: Regarding using material from aborted fetuses as a vaccine ingredient: This claim is fascinatingly similar to one that was going around 20 years ago that cosmetic companies were using collagen from aborted fetuses in their products. Since cattle, hogs, and chickens also contain collagen, and millions of them are slaughtered yearly it would seem to make a lot more sense that collagen from animals would be a lot more plentiful (as well as a lot cheaper) than the supply available in whatever "market" that might be in aborted fetuses. Turns out this was an urban legend widely circulated among some well meaning people. I suspect this may be one as well.

New-Think: There is a logic problem here…..Allow New-Think to paraphrase: I once heard a similar claim. It turned out not to be true. Therefore, this is not true.

I guess you would like resources to back up the claim. Fair enough. See the links at the bottom of this post.

Geezer: The post contained some seemingly propagandistic language. When I see blame being ascribed broadly to "big oil" or "big pharmaceutical companies" or whoever, red flags immediately go up in my brain. I go into "on guard" mode.

New-Think: My friend. Perhaps you have been a victim of propaganda, but not from New-Think. First, New-Think assigned blame to no one. Furthermore we did not claim that there was anything to be blamed on anyone. We agree that making generalist arguments against big entities (big oil, big pharmaceuticals, big tobacco) is typically a mark of those who cannot be bothered to think through their positions and are just looking for someone to blame for something they do not like.

Our problem with your statement above is that you seem to equate New-Think’s call to not blindly vaccinate with having a grudge against “big pharmaceuticals”. Quite the contrary. We concede that many vaccines have done a great deal of good for mankind. Our point is that does not mean we should assume that all vaccines will benefit every child. This conclusion goes back to the type of logic you seemed to use earlier. Again, let us paraphrase this logical fallacy: Some vaccines have done a great deal of good for a lot of people. Therefore all vaccines are good for people.

So let’s grab the bull by the horns. Even if we assume that pharmaceutical companies and the larger medical establishment have our best interests in mind or are at least neutral…there are some facts we cannot ignore. These are the same groups who originally thought it was safe to use x-ray machines in shoe stores, gave pregnant women Thalidomide for morning sickness and once allowed mercury in medicines. They assured us Vioxx and Duract were safe painkillers, prescribed Rezulin for diabetics and then denied any of them were responsible for patient deaths. If we never questioned these groups, we might not have discovered that Fen-phen and the dietary supplement Ephedra are not safe weight loss products, that antidepressants in kids can lead to suicidality and Viagra can cause blindness. The list goes on.

We are not assigning blame. Our position, which evidently was not clear, is that we should take the responsibility of our children’s safety into our own hands in the matter of vaccine administration…..and everything else.

Geezer: The writer is either assuming something about my beliefs or subliminally trying to influence them without discussion. While these large entities certainly have their interests, there is always another side to the story. I would gently urge Newthink to foster careful examination of all sides (or at least more than one side)of topics like this, and also to use more neutral language.

New-Think: The above collection of sentences is perplexing. It implies that New-Think has an agenda other than urging parental responsibility. Nothing was assumed about the readership of New-Think. It was mentioned that some are suspicious of drug companies. It was also mentioned that sometimes it seems folks who sue drug companies are on witch hunts. Which one of those statements should have been left out to make the language more “neutral”?

At the end of the original post 2 links were provided. One of the links better represents the government/CDC position. The other link is more skeptical. Again, which of these links should have been omitted to make the post more “neutral”?

New-Think thanks it’s readership for thoughtful responses and encourages participation is discussions like this. Even if we do not reach similar conclusions we do know that, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. Thank you brother for sharpening us.

1 comment:

Geezer said...

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. Here are a few further thoughts and clarifications from my perspective:

Regarding "I have a few comments...." and New-Think's response:

I agree with you that responsible parents should educate themselves about vaccinations along with a myriad of other things as they raise their children, just as you suggest. I'll admit that I didn't look at your reference links before writing last time. I have begun looking at them and agree you've presented both perspectives.

That the "day in court" is coming is good, I guess, although I'm not too confident in the legal system in instances like this. I hope the right conclusions are reached and it's not just the lawyers that win.

Coincidentally, ABC News had another piece on this subject last night. Readers might want to check both the piece and the related viewer comments for more info ( do a search for "autism"). Seems there have been three government reviews of available research with the same conclusion that there is no link between vaccinations and autism. The responses to the piece naturally cover the spectrum. I'll have to admit that my previous response came from my gut since myself and everyone I knew had all the childhood vaccinations, my children and essentially every child I knew of that age had them. Most of the next generation is still having them and I've never personally met an autistic child nor do I personally know anyone that has one. I'll grant you that doesn't prove anything, but I think you can see why I responded the way I did. However, I certainly support parents researching this and any other thing they perceive as a risk to their children.

Regarding using material from aborted fetuses.........and the New-Think response:

I respectfully disagree with your paraphrase. I didn't say the example from 20 years ago proved anything. But, as you say, the claim is similar, so it naturally raises more than a bit of skepticism in my mind. As you noted sometimes people's responses get a little on the hysterical side. (It's just other people, not me.) Thanks for the extra links. I'll check them out.

Regarding "The post contained some seemingly propagandistic language" and New-Think's response:

Again, I respectfully disagree with your logical paraphrase. I didn't represent my arguments as logical proofs--more like editorial comments. However, I agree wholeheartedly that we have to be careful about what we put in our bodies or what procedures we subject ourselves to. I also agree we as a society have found out the hard way when the FDA, our doctors, or industry makes a mistake or misleads us.

Overall, I think New-Think has fairly presented its case on this subject. You can attribute my caution (and/or reaction) as an effect of having achieved "geezerdom".

Thanks again and have a good day!


PS: Just a thought on assessing risk before I sign off on this subject. Consider both the likelihood and the consequences of each scenario to compare risk. If you get similar results for two scenarios give more weight to consequence.