Saturday, November 05, 2011

Vaccination conversation, Part 2

The conversation between one who thinks vaccines are beneficial (me) and those who doubt their efficacy (indented text) continues. All entries have been lightly edited for clarity and to remove personal references.
Previously you gave a good list of all the things that were improving in medical science to help slow/control/contain/etc. polio prior to the vaccine. The main thing you didn't mention was sanitation. Polio is a disease that is contracted from the fecal mater of an infected person to the mouth of an uninfected person. Thus on top of all the major and wonderful medical advances the BIGGEST impact on the spread of polio was sanitation. The conclusion above was "each of these together had a major benefit but [this does not imply] vaccinations were unnecessary or unwarranted". I find this a very interesting argument. Let's turn it around. Given all of the factors that were all ready in place and already working on the problem how do you conclude with absolute certainty that it was the vaccine that made the difference?
Improving sanitation was also a contributing factor to lower death rates. It doesn't change my previous argument at all. I would much rather prevent a disease from taking hold in the first place than to be successfully treated for it.
You make strong arguments that the data is there for the vaccines. You make strong arguments for trusting the governing bodies, from doctors, to FDA, to governments, etc., that are recommending and mandating the vaccine schedule. You make strong statements that there is no reason to doubt them yet you selectively choose to only use some of the vaccines they mandate. Why? If the science is so solid, and they are all so trustworthy why aren't you vaccinating for everything under the sun? Why wouldn't you believe that H1N1 is as bad as all the doctors and governing bodies said it was?
There are three main reasons I state with confidence that vaccinations work:

1) Controlled experiments (no vaccination + exposure = high (not 100%) chance of getting sick, vaccination + exposure = low (not zero) chance of getting sick). This is not a hypothesis; this has been demonstrated, repeatedly.

2) Preventable diseases (mumps, measles, etc.) are appearing TODAY, but (in Canada, the US, and Britain) only in communities with low vaccination rates.

3) Mathematical analysis of large data sets can identify and weight (with surprising accuracy) multi-factor causes. It's not trivial, but it's not impossible - and it's been done. Vaccination is the single largest (not sole) cause of the drop in deaths due to various diseases.

Some vaccines have been around for decades, against diseases that have been around for centuries (at least), and for which one (or at most three) inoculations are sufficient for a lifetime of protection. These tend to be part of the standard immunization programs. Influenza mutates rapidly, so even the annual flu shots represent protection not against a known disease but epidemiologists' best guesses about which strain(s) will be prevalent in the population. Furthermore, flu shots have always been targeted at vulnerable individuals in the population (which, being lucky, I am not). So I do not go out of my way to get flu shots. There is no contradiction unless you view vaccines as a monolith. I do not. Do you?
Lets leave the polio, or any specific vaccine aside for the time being. I don't want to inject chicken, cow, or monkey RNA into my kids! How do you measure the effects of that? First of all, we don't know what kind of diseases these species are carrying. More importantly, what about the actual RNA itself? What does that do to a developing immune system? How does the body get rid of that? Can it? Where does it go? How long does it stay in there? We are not talking about something that we are evolutionarily designed to deal with.
In the majority of cases polio has little to no effect. Odds are there are many people who have polio and don't even know it. Our bodies have an immune system that is built to deal with it. The RNA of a monkey floating around in there is not the same story. Bird flu, H1N1, mad cow etc... this is scary stuff. We don't need to be introducing these diseases into our system. And we don't need to be potentially altering our genetic code by injecting genetic garbage of other species in to our selves. Plus you are injecting mercury and other neurotoxic additives at the same time .
You write, "we don't need to be potentially altering our genetic code by injecting genetic garbage of other species." This is an unwarranted concern. Putting aside for the moment the amount of animal genetic material in vaccines (I have not looked it up, but I would guess that it is vanishingly small), your DNA will not be altered by ANY amount of foreign DNA. My (future) kids will not be any stronger no matter how much DNA I inject from the cast of The Expendables.

Do you eat chicken and beef? If so, you are ingesting avian and bovine DNA and RNA. This isn't a big deal. Any amounts in a vaccine are trivial in comparison.

As for "mercury and other neurotoxic additives" - this is another red herring. No mercury or mercury products are in any North American vaccines today. We can talk history if you want, but this is (again) irrelevant to the current state of vaccination in the United States and Canada.

I will ask again - do you truly doubt vaccination's benefit? Do you really think that vaccines are dangerous? Are there any substantiated reasons for doubting vaccines work or believing that they induce harm greater than their benefits? If so, please share.

Otherwise, I will continue to be mystified why so many intelligent people seem to be so passionately against a technology that has saved millions of lives.

The discussion will continue in my next post.

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