Don’t confuse ’em with facts: Part 2

This column originally was published by the author on his blog “From the Cheap Seats” on Feb. 16, 2009


As far as the credible scientific community is concerned, the verdict is in: Autism is not caused by the MMR vaccine, by thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative used in certain vaccines, nor by the giving of several immunizations at once. That is the conclusion of a massive meta-analysis of 20 different epidemiological studies reported in the Feb. 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

CommentaryAnd as far as the credible legal community is concerned, the verdict also is in: The Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims – also called the “vaccine court” because it handles all claims for compensation caused by vaccine-related injuries – issued a final ruling that rejected all three test cases that were representative of the approximately 5,000 claims by families that one of the three aforementioned factors caused autism in their children.

Sadly, despite both the overwhelming scientific evidence and the court’s ruling that there simply is no credible evidence to support causality, the claimants are not going to let the truth stand in the way of their delusions. An appeal of the court ruling is planned, despite the latest study findings published only days before the Special Masters’ ruling.

The situation is especially grim in Florida. There an activist is unabashedly greasing political palms in an attempt to circumvent reality, hoping to encourage (read “bribe”) the Legislature to pass laws that would ban vaccines in the state if they contained virtually any amount of thimerosal, and also require physicians to caution parents about the “dangers” of vaccinating their children.

Of course, no one should be surprised at this turn of events. After all, Florida’s former governor and Legislature teamed up to bring scorn and ridicule on everyone in the state with their misguided interference in the Terry Schiavo case. The only thing mitigating Floridians’ collective mortification then was the subsequent involvement of the Republican-led U.S. Congress … sort of the national buffoons trumping the state buffoons in a “Who’s dumber?” contest.

The Schiavo case was a classic example of “Don’t confuse me with facts when I know I’m right.” Both medical science and the courts had determined Terry Schiavo was hopelessly brain-dead, but the politicians ignored all of that and made asses of themselves – and, by extension, those who voted for them – by trying to trump every sane and rational person who opposed them. Of course, the postmortem on Schiavo showed she was in even worse condition than her previous diagnosis had determined. This revelation was followed by a quiet Emily Litella-esque chorus of “Never mind” by the political powers-that-be.

Unfortunately, the stakes in the vaccine controversy are alarmingly high. This tinfoil-hat crowd, which has been railing against the “evils” of vaccination, are simply reminiscent of all of the other conspiracy theorists who think there are elaborate plots to subjugate humanity, from fluoridating water (which keeps American kids from having teeth like their UK counterparts) to maintaining that the U.S. government destroyed the World Trade Centers on 9/11 in a controlled demolition (too ridiculous to even justify rebuttal). The problem with these anti-vaccine activists is that they put everyone at risk with their mendacious pseudo-science.

Continued association of vaccines and autism, in the clear absence of any scientific evidence linking the two, furthers the tendency of some parents to defer or avoid immunizing their children from diseases that can be catastrophic. The impact on those children, who face death or significant disability if contracting any of the diseases currently preventable by immunization, and on the population as a whole, due to the increased risk of epidemics of diseases that are far easier to prevent than treat, would be staggering.

Now the possibility that elected representatives in Florida would invite such calamity because they’re incapable of resisting the ravings – and cash gifts – of someone who won’t face facts is terrifying.

Isn’t the average age of Floridians high enough? Does the Legislature really want to exterminate an entire generation of school children because they apparently can’t tell you-know-what from Shinola?

Perhaps for the answer we could call 1-800-ASK-STUPID.