Monday, February 09, 2009

On Vaccines, Liars and Ranting (2)

And we go on....

I have a wearying suspicion that people like myself will never convince the gainsayers; I can always be accused of bias, and, if I'm honest, I'm undoubtedly prone to a form of selection bias. I have preconceived ideas, so am not as open minded as I think.

Some people will never believe anything other than what they believe.

I'm sorry to harp on about Ms Barnett again, but she provides an excellent example. She mentioned in her recent broadcast that she was told, when it was discovered that she had high blood sugar, that she had diabetes. "I didn't have diabetes", she retorted, "I had high blood sugar. My blood sugar is now normal".

I don't have any more info on her high blood sugar, so can only speculate. Some people like labels, some don't. High blood sugar isn't normal. If not diabetes, what was the cause? To say "high blood sugar" isn't enough. Impaired glucose tolerance? Sit any better? And to say that "my blood sugar is now normal" doesn't help either... is that because you lost some weight, started exercising and changed your diet? You say 'high blood sugar', I say 'diet controlled diabetes'.

My point is that people can be very selective about what they believe. Labels perceived as 'bad' are often shunned, or rejected. Labels that excuse or explain, often embraced. My old bugbear irritable bowel syndrome is one of these. I was always taught it is diagnosis of exclusion; that is to say, all other causes of your symptoms have been looked for and discounted. So why not call it "Nothing Wrong With Me Syndrome"; ""I'm A Bit Sensitive To My Peristalsis Syndrome"?

Labels also haunt vaccination. Where the MMR is alleged to have a link to autism, it now turns out that there is no proven link, and that Wakefield, a man who would give Nixon a run for his money in the integrity stakes, fudged his results. He is a liar.

But: people need a cause. We are very bad at accepting that sometimes, shit happens, and we don't know why. Autism, and autistic spectrum disorder is poorly understood, especially in terms of its epidemiology. And, I think, it makes it easier for people to deal with to have an identifiable bogeyman. And when evidence, good solid evidence to the contrary is produced, time and time again, people shake their heads and think cover up.

Anecdotes are not evidence, but in cases of harm, will often carry more weight. So, I can produce reams of paper testifying to the absence of a demonstrable relationship between the two, and it all goes to the wind in the face of one parent saying: "My kid had MMR and caught autism"

Yes, I know the cases number in the hundreds and thousands. There's still no link. Look at Japan.

Were the kids teething at the time? Maybe it was their teeth that done it. It wasn't MMR. I have no financial incentive to say that. The evidence simply doesn't lie.

The reverse doesn't seem to be quite so true. We all (I think) accept that smoking is bad, but very few campaigners trot out people who smoked 100 a day and didn't get cancer as evidence that it's safe.

If some children are going to get autism, usually in the second year of life, and most children get the MMR in the second year of life, there will be a temporal relationship. That does not prove causation.

We sit in a privileged position, able to ask why we should vaccinate. Kids are meant to get diseases; we have forgotten how bad they can be, we have never seen children die in their scores, never sat on wards hand ventilating children with Polio.

I have seen children desperately ill from diseases that vaccination might have prevented; I have shared their terror, watched their pain.

It shouldn't be enough to say 'I didn't vaccinate my lot, and they're all right'. What about the next poor bugger who gets it, and isn't. Will you sit with them, and defend your right not to vaccinate to their grieving parents?

No, of course you won't.

I will.

No comments: