Monday, April 18, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- Science, politics and vaccinations

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:36 AM |  

For those looking for a quick overview of the issue of vaccine safety as it relates to issues of autism, reader Anne Daschle passes along this link to a discussion on KCRW radio, a Santa Monica public radio affiliate. The discussion begins at about the 7:30 mark of the broadcast and runs about 40 minutes.

Featured in the discussion are David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy;

Sarah Parker, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Denver Children's Hospital and at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; author of a critical review of literature on the connection between Thimerosal and Autism, published in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics, a journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics;

Jay Gordon Pediatrician in private practice in Santa Monica, regular contributor to Pregnancy and Parenting magazines, author of several books, and consultant to TV shows and movies; and

PAUL OFFIT Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; co-developer of the Rotovirus vaccine currently being developed by Merck, he is paid solely by the National Institutes of Health.

Although as most radio discussions go, it doesn't match point-for-point statements by individuals on both sides of the issue, it does present both sides, and hearing both sides expressed verbally gives one a better picture of some of the unstated underlying causes of the controversy.

A great example is an exchange between Dr. Gordon and Dr. Offit. Dr. Offit takes extreme offense to implications by Dr. Gordon of conflicts of interest among health officials and pediatricians regarding vaccines and immunization.

"I went into pediatrics because I want to do good," says Offit angrily. "I really resent Dr. Gordon's implications that I would in any way ever make a decision about vaccine safety that was in anything but the best interest of children . . . I mean what kind of monster [sic] does he think people like us are? . . . There is nobody who stands to lose more if the rotovirus vaccine we are currently developing has an untoward side affect than me . . . if this vaccine is ever shown to be harmful, exactly how would I live with that?"

Therein for me lies the essence of this controversy. People like Dr. Offit and officials at the CDC and FDA and our own Minnesota Department of Health are not monsters, nor are they pawns of big pharmaceutical companies. But the do have a religious zeal for what they are doing. They are so convinced by nobility of their intentions and the physical evidence of the good their efforts have accomplished that the thought that their work might even inadvertently caused significant damage and suffering is unthinkable to them. This Oedipal-like hubris blinds them to the "evidence of harm" that is clearly present.

The discussion is worth a listen.