February 12, 2009

Vaccine anxiety has a day in court

To some readers it's self-evident, but perhaps to a lot of others it might be news that there is currently a widespread fear -- surprisingly widespread -- that vaccines (or certain vaccine combinations, or vaccine preservatives) can cause autism in children.

There's now been a court decision rejecting this claim.
The court said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parents' claims — and backed years of science that found no risk.

"It was abundantly clear that petitioners' theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive," the court concluded. (AP) (italics mine)
Lots of articles

This all bears a strange resemblance to the way that debates about evolution have also landed in the courts (in Dover, Pennsylvania, for example).

In both cases, the scientific evidence is out in the open, and quite lopsided in its findings, and so it should, in theory (maybe with the help of the press and the academy), be possible to arrive at a general public consensus. But that system didn't work somehow: consensus fell apart.

So now it falls to a court to reaffirm that the studies are sound, and that they show what they say they show: evolution is a really good theory, and there's no causality between vaccines and autism.

(This article links to an intriguing study which suggests that there could be some link between autism and TV. But it's pretty speculative, and it's just one study.)


Amy E said...

There was a great episode of "This American Life" about this recently - about how people who don't vaccinate their children can enable their children to spread disease to babies who aren't even old enough to be vaccinated yet - a big case in San Diego that caused extreme debt, unemployment, and even death, for some parents. Urban rich hippies and their "organic living" really piss me off sometimes. It's definitely a big-city choice for richies, and this great story explains how their richy rich decisions and uptight, paranoid snootyness have the potential to erradicate the international, nay, global efforts of healthcare agencies to keep us alive - to keep women from being quarantined and having to stay at home taking care of Measled kids.

Anyway, ultimately, more of us need to be dying than living, to help solve the overpopulation issue. So on the other hand, bring on the Measles...

And, definitely, the less tv for everyone, the better the world will be. LESS STARING AT BOXES, more real life!!!

Kelli said...

I don't get the vaccine fear, in that it seems if you're going to play the odds, the odds of the government covering up links to autism are lower than the odds of getting measles. But, at the same time, I can appreciate the need to feel in control of SOMETHING about your child, and maybe not getting vaccines is the way to do that. The healthcare system is so convoluted, and it can be difficult to believe that the FDA or like agencies are really there for your (in a very personal your -- ME. MY SON kind of way) best interests.

Naomi Wolf was talking about conspiracy theories, and said that conspiracy theories rise when people feel like they can't know things, or feel out of control of something, and I think that this is the same kind of thing. We don't feel in control of our own health care in lots of ways, so we embellish (read: make up) things to feel like we can KNOW something for sure.

A very pomo dilemma to have, and one that I'm sure my grandmother would slap me for even thinking about, considering she didn't have the luxury of the choice.