A few days ago I blogged about the very sad case of Chace Topperwien, a little boy who is undergoing treatment for acute myaloid leukaemia (AML). Chace’s story made the news because his family believe that the AML must be related to his accidentally being given the Gardasil vaccine as a baby.
The post generated quite a bit of discussion and a few of the comments really made me despair. The first relates to the pro and anti-vaccine ‘camps’:
Imop your just asking me to trust your facts over their facts — neither of which I have the knowledge or skill to do so
I find this comment fascinating. The belief that each side are dealing in facts. My experience of the anti-campers is that they very rarely deal in facts. They deal in misinformation. I would even go so far as to say some of them lie. One of the anti’s left this comment:
This article was an expected discourse from the pharmaceutical industry, which causes more deaths every year than all the illegal drugs combined (over 25 million deaths last year in the US alone).
25 million? That seemed like an impossibly huge number to me. Less than a minute on google and I found the US population clock which says there is a death every 12 seconds in the USA. By my maths this equates to 2.628 million deaths per year ([60/12=5 deaths per minute] x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days). And that is deaths due to ALL causes. So according to my anonymous commentator, the pharmaceutical industry caused ten times more deaths than the number of people who actually died. That is quite some achievement.
Another posted this:
I think being a non scientist, and faced with descisions that essentially require us to put our faith in professionals in the one point of failure that most, myself included, can often not surmount.
As a couple of my fellow Scibloggers pointed out, we do this all the time. Electricians, plumbers, pilots? What is it about health that leaves people unable to trust the doctors and scientists who have made medicine what it is? But many of those same people can trust vitamin peddlers and homeopaths? Astonishing.
Another commentator said:
We are overvaccinated, and it is simply propaganda and money making by pharmaceutical companies that drive this…
This is another fascinating one for me. Surely the pharmaceutical companies would be better off staying well clear of vaccines and stick to producing diagnostic tools and antibiotics and antivirals? Bugger trying to prevent people catching these things in the first place. No, what would really make money is having to treat all those infected people. And the fact that bacteria continually develop drug resistance means the pharmaceutical industry have the opportunity to keep developing new drugs*.
I’m going to wrap up with one last point. One commentator posted this:
Why are we led to believe that this is all safe and for the betterment of man kind? There is something good people that those in positions of power won’t tell you, well openly at least, and that is: It isn’t about our individual welfare they concern themselves with, it is the statistical signifigance that is the determining factor, call it friendly fire, someone will and does get hurt or die, but the majority is safe and that is all that matters.
This is the point. That the (very small) risks (though they may be devastating to those involved) are outweighed by the benefits to society as a whole. It brings to my mind the increasing problem of extreme drug resistant tuberculosis. There are people who are infected with strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis which are resistant to pretty much all antibiotics. These people can be highly infectious and so will spread their drug resistant bacteria to anyone they cough on. The infectious dose is 1-3 bacteria. In some cases the only treatment option left is to cut out the infected bits of lung. But if the disease has progressed too far that this would leave the patient without enough lung left. So the only alternative is to quarantine them. Forever. For the betterment of mankind. The common good. I’d be interested to know if those people who don’t want to vaccinate because of the potential risks to their children would be willing to sit next to an infectious TB patient? Or would they be happy for the greater good to take precedence then?
*If only it where that simple. The drug discovery pipeline is a long and expensive one and almost not worth pursuing from a financial point of view.