Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Vaccination conversation, Part 3

The continued dialogue between me, who is fairly certain that national immunization programs are good for society, and others who do not. Indented text has been quoted (with only light editing for clarity and to remove personal references).
Your initial post implied very strongly that vaccines had no side effects and were 100% effective, like an impenetrable glass wall. You then made the comment, "Why is vaccination so vilified by so many?"
I responded by saying "Don't you find it interesting that Australia and Finland have both banned the new flu vaccine and it is barely mentioned in North American media?" When countries start to ban certain vaccines, perhaps there is a problem.
Any national media where the wild ravings of someone like Glenn Beck (among others) are taken seriously has such fundamental problems that the coverage (or lack thereof) of vaccination policies of foreign nations are the least of its issues.

When I first heard that Australia banned flu vaccines, I initially assumed that a batch was contaminated somehow, and the Australian authorities were acting responsibly when this was discovered. Due to your prompting, I looked into it further. After several kids showed ill effects (vomiting, convulsions) following receiving the flu shot, Australia banned all flu vaccines for kids under five in April [2010]. They investigated. They found that all ill effects could be traced to a single product from a single Australian company. The US and several European nations looked at the data and banned that product. In July, Australia rescinded its ban on flu vaccines for those under five (presumably not using the implicated product).

Isn't this an example of national health agencies behaving responsibly in the face of a contaminated product? What would you change about this chain of events (aside from not having a bad batch of product in the first place - we agree that this would ideally never occur). 

Australia continues to vaccinate its population against hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, polio, rota virus, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and several others.

My question remains: why do you consider vaccination harmful? Pointing out Australia (then others) banned one type of flu vaccine is not an argument against vaccination in general. If Australia is your counter-example, why does the fact that they vaccinate for so many other diseases not convince you of its benefits?
Initially, to answer your very general question about why people would find this to be a contentious issue, I tried to convey in a nutshell what I learned about vaccines that make me question them both philosophically and in practice. Please understand that when I chimed in, I was not trying to convince you. I shared some information about polio, which you found thoroughly unconvincing and I shared my overall opinion of the safety and efficacy of vaccines based on the studies and books I have read, as well as what I have learned from doctors about how the body and the immune system work. This does not mean that I am obligated to disregard how the argument takes shape or that I owe you, on your time frame, a critique of every study I have read, and a thorough explanation of my opinion incorporating everything I have learned over the past five years.
I have tried, am trying, and will continue to try to understand the rationale of those to think the costs and risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits. Smallpox has been eliminated from the planet thanks to a comprehensive, decades long effort. Numerous other diseases (rota virus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, etc.) are almost unheard of in well-vaccinated communities. Yes, I used polio as an illustrative example early on in this thread. As I openly acknowledged earlier, many factors contribute to a decline in the death rate from several diseases - all of which are good. In my opinion, it is better never to get (say) hepatitis than for there to be a treatment that means I (probably) won't die from it. Hence I am glad for all advances in medical knowledge, but particularly grateful for national vaccination programs.

Of course, you are not under any obligation to share anything with me. I have requested that you share what you know about polio and other vaccinations several times. Should you elect not to let me know which studies and books formed the foundation of your research, you would be entirely within your rights. However, in that case I doubt I will ever understand the basis of your opinion.

The efficacy, costs, and risks of vaccination programs have been studied by many different groups, in many nations, across several decades. Taken together, I find the evidence from them compelling. You stated they were (all?) "lax". Given the diversity of funding sources, methodologies, timelines, etc., and given the overall consistency in findings, I think a request for more specifics (which I made) is entirely reasonable. Yes, undoubtedly, some studies were weaker in some areas than others. But most (or all) of them are suspect? What sources would you refer me to in their place?

In principle, one can say that the benefits of vaccination, as I understand them, are exaggerated. Or that the detrimental effects are far larger than I take them to be. Or that the risks are huge, and there is a reasonable chance that these risks could be realized. Or some combination of all these. I am still looking for a coherent argument along one or more of these lines.

You state, "what I learned about vaccines that make me question them both philosophically and in practice." What did you learn? This is precisely what I am trying to understand. Please help.
I would suggest you start with Vaccine Safety Manual by Neil Z. Miller. I would also suggest you look up Dr. Eisenstein and Dr. Palevsky for further info and resources.
A review of the Vaccine Safety Manual will be the content of a subsequent post; more discussion will follow in the next entry.

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