Bad faith makes bad medicine, and so does bad math

The doctor who claimed a link between child vaccinations and autism has been rebuked by British medical authorities for irresponsible and unethical conduct. The folk theory will continue for generations, unfortunately, because autism tends to emerge around the time children receive vaccinations. For a time my family was in the anti-vaccination camp, until I looked at the data used to support that position and realized how vaccine opponents misinterpret it.

The vaccination-autism correlation is one example. Another is looking at outbreaks of a disease like measles and concluding, because a majority of those sickened were vaccinated, that therefore vaccines don’t work. The problem with this reasoning, of course, is that in a population where 95 percent of children have received the vaccine, any outbreak is bound to include a good many children who were vaccinated, insofar as the vaccine, while highly effective, isn’t 100 percent effective.

Still another error can be found in the claim by vaccine opponents that their kids remaining healthy in spite of no vaccines is somehow proof that plenty of veggies/mega-vitamins/no television can ward off life-threatening illness. The reality, of course, is that they are coasting on the herd immunity afforded by everyone else having their own children vaccinated. And so on.

In any event, it’s good to see bad science punished. I didn’t know this guy, for example, used a sample of twelve kids for his study, that opposed to a random sample he paid kids at his son’s birthday party for their blood, and that he took payments from lawyers engaged in suing vaccine manufacturers.

Comments

  1. Jordana

    We have some good friends in the anti-vaccine camp and there is no convincing them that their first born who is autistic wasn’t made so by vaccines, since their other children who are completely unvaccinated are more or less normal. The mom went so far as to argue that she wouldn’t even let the kids get tetanus shots now if they stepped on something old and rusty because, “the only people who get tetanus are drug users.” Failing to consider the fact that most normal people go get a tetanus shot when they step on rusty nails and such, and therefore avoid becoming part of the statistic.

    We have just agreed to disagree on this one.

  2. freida

    I guess in the end, it’s who you believe. It could be that every single anti-vaccine person is lying or misled. That may or may not mean that vaccines are safe and trust-worthy. Just like evolutionists are people of faith, faith in their anti-God theories, so are people who believe that vaccines are safe and harmless. I mean that either way, you have faith in the vaccine (or the doctors who promote it) or you have faith in something else. For every doctor who does bad research, there is a reputable one:
    http://www.mercola.com/article/vaccines/immune_suppression.htm

  3. freida

    I’ve been reading on mercola.com for a few years and have not had reason to mistrust him. Have you, other than the fact that he eschews conventional medicine?

    Have you read the late Dr Robert Mendelsohn’s books? He was also an anti-vaccine advocate. For people who take great stock in titles, Dr Mendelsohn was a pediatrician for many years.

  4. Donna B.

    I don’t take great stock in titles, as possessing one does not guarantee other than having jumped through the hoops to get it.

    And there isn’t much information exchanged in labeling something “conventional” or “unconventional”. I prefer “does it work” and “has no effect”.

    The main reason I mistrust Mercola is his support for homeopathy. Homeopathy’s best selling point is that it “has no effect” and therefore does not cause anything. When it was first introduced, a lot of accepted medical practice did cause more harm than good (not all, but way too much).

    Where homeopathy causes harm now is that it induces people to not use treatments that do great good. And unscrupulous people call harmful products “homeopathic” to get around stringent testing required by the FDA for drugs.

    mercola.com is not in the business of spreading useful knowledge, it is in the business of selling stuff — I distrust any medical site that uses the shield of spreading information to sell supplements.

    I have a lot of gripes and complaints with “conventional” medicine, especially with comparative effectiveness research and treatment guidelines. I’m not advocating that anyone accept what a physician says as the solid gold truth… but rather to use their brains to figure out what is reasonable based on actual evidence.

    Another reason to distrust mercola.com is the support offered there for Andrew Wakefield’s now thoroughly discredited work in attempting to link vaccines to autism.

    As for Dr. Mendelsohn, he once said that both orthodox and alternative treatments were equally unproven. I would say for some treatments, he was correct. But he included coronary bypass surgery in his assessment and he has been proven (to my satisfaction) to have been very wrong there.

    He also opposed routine examinations by any kind of health practitioner. And, he would not be entirely wrong there. One of the problems of “overuse” of the health system is routine exams that actually are of little proven utility. Unfortunately, he beclowned himself by taking a legitimate observation to an extreme.

    I am not telling, even advising, you or anyone else to do or not do anything, but simply responding to your question of why I do not trust Dr. Mercola or, since you mentioned him, Dr. Mendelsohn.

  5. Jonny

    One can only wish that vaccine manufacturers and those paid off by them would be held to similar standards in their research as that to which this whack-job was held. If they were, I have no doubt that the entire vaccination/anti-vaccination debate would change for the better. Unfortunately, vaccinations, many of them derived from aborted baby tissue (but that’s another topic), are big money. I’m not holding my breath that we’ll get any rationality in the situation any time soon.

  6. Homemaker, MD

    Well, I couldn’t agree more with your post. Frankly I think all the thousands of kids who have come down with measels and realize in a couple decades they are now sterile since they didn’t get an MMR because this joker doesn’t care to follow the scientific method should sue him out of house and home. Oh, and also the parents who bought into the fear and now have dead kids from diseases the vaccine COULD HAVE prevented should probably sue too. Oh, and wait, all the hundred and thousands of hours all my pediatrician friends have spent trying to counsel patients to continue to get these life saving vaccines…wow, this joker has cost us billions!

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