The Sciences

A few shots at vaccines

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitApr 1, 2009 10:22 PM


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There's been quite a bit of vaccine news the past day or so, so here's a roundup: 1) Time magazine "sparred" with public health hazard (and 2008 Pigasus Award winner!) Jenny McCarthy; I put that in quotations marks because it kinda sorta pokes at her, then completely drops the ball when it comes to followup. She is a mass of fallacious reasoning, and I'm sure her new book, Healing and Preventing Autism, will also be chock full o' nonsense (since we still don't know what causes autism, though we do know it's not vaccines). But we do get this quote from her:

[Time:] Your collaborator recommends that parents accept only the haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB) and tetanus vaccine for newborns and then think about the rest. Not polio? What about the polio clusters in unvaccinated communities like the Amish in the U.S.? What about the 2004 outbreak that swept across Africa and Southeast Asia after a single province in northern Nigeria banned vaccines? [McCarthy:] I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.

Brilliant. If those diseases come back -- and they're trying -- it's not the pharmaceutical companies' fault, it's that of the antivax movement. And she's the face of the antivax movement. Orac, of course, has more. 2) Speaking of diseases coming back, there's a measles alert in Pittsburgh. Terrific. 3) A study in Sweden shows an interesting, though statistically highly uncertain, connection between autism and environment, specifically vinyl flooring, smoking, and bad home ventilation. The scientists involved are very careful to note that this link is extremely tenuous (they weren't specifically looking for it, so they can't ascribe any reality to it just yet), but worth following up. I expect to hear from the antivaxxers about this very loudly soon, but we'll see.

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