From time to time the ‘debate’ around vaccinations re-surfaces in the headlines. A number of other NZ bloggers have addressed this (here, & here, for example). It’s a much hotter topic as in the US, where a number of high-profile ‘anti-’ groups keep vaccines in the public eye for all the wrong reasons.
Don’t get me wrong – I have an enormous amount of sympathy for people whose children have become ill some period of time after receiving a vaccine. But apparent correlations in time do not equate to causation, a fact that lies at the heart of this issue and makes me wonder how effective we are at communicating about the nature of science to the community at large.
This is a real concern. Following Andrew Wakefield’s now thoroughly discredited claims about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, vaccination rates in the UK dropped to the point that measles in particular is again widespread in some communities. And while it can be a ‘trivial’ illness in most children, measles carries a real risk of serious illness & in some cases death (a risk that is several orders of magnitude higher than the risk of severe adverse effects from the vaccination itself).
Anyway, a very recent Downfall parody takes aim at the US opponents of vaccination – most of the names mentioned in this clip are those of prominent players in this group. The ‘Paul Thoresen’ mentioned first up is a scientist associated with a couple of research groups who may or may not have been involved in a misappropriation of funds – whether or not this is true has absolutely no bearing on the quality of the research done by those groups, something that seems to have escaped the ‘anti-’ commenters.
PS readers might also be interested in this post at ScienceBased Medicine, which examines some of the ‘vaccines don’t work’ claims.