24 February, 2009

Anatomy of a Scare: How Childhood Vaccines Became Villian

This is a fantastic article outlining the history of the anti-vaccine movement. 

excerpts which spoke to me (bolding is  mine):


On Feb. 12 Special Master George Hastings Jr. announced his decision in the Cedillo case. Every study conducted to test Wakefield's MMR hypothesis, he concluded, "found no evidence that the MMR vaccination is associated with autism." And the evidence "falls far short" of showing a thimerosal connection.


"That is hardly the end of the legal cases. All three sets of parents in the test cases saythey will take their claims against the manufacturers to civil court, hoping to convince juries—through the emotional power of tragically damaged children—of what they failed to prove to the vaccine court. And if those cases, too, absolve vaccines? In postings on antivaccine sites such as GenerationRescue.org and SafeMinds.org, parents have made clear that they think the system is rigged and that vaccines condemned their children to a lifetime of being barricaded behind the impregnable wall of autism. Perhaps it should not be a mystery why people refuse to believe science, with its tentative hypotheses, zigzag pathway to finding answers and a record of getting some things wrong before getting them right (see hormone-replacement therapy). On the day the court announced its decision, Offit pointed out that "tens of millions of dollars have been spent trying to answer these questions [about vaccines and autism]," but many people "refuse to believe the science." Perhaps, he mused, that's "because while it's very easy to scare people, it's very hard to unscare them.""

and perhaps the most tragic line: 


"... it's impossible to prove a negative such as "vaccines do not cause autism."

I know that Jake was not one of those kids who seemingly disappeared right after his MMR... so I cannot imagine how I might feel if I thought that had happened to him. I'd like to think that in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence I would still eschew undocumented theories and pseudo-science that has maintained its appearance of truth merely by preying on parents’ fears and dashed hopes.

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