Vaccines, Research, Benefits and Ladders

We’re going there, sorry, but the stories are getting out of hand.  We’ll start with the anti-vaxxers who point to a “prestigious study” in The Lancet that says vaccines cause autism in children.  Here’s the link to the article, Feb 2 2010 where The Lancet retracted the article by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, because his research was, to be generous, bullshit. 

There are no scientific links between being vaccinated and becoming autistic, or any of the other shades of autism spectrum disorders.

Yes, there has been thiomersal in many vaccine fluids.  Thiomersal is an organic mercury compound in use since the 1930’s as a preservative and anti-fungal.  It was developed because an early (1928) diphtheria vaccine under testing created a more than 50% fatality rate when injected as the vaccine did not contain a preservative.  The children died of staphylococcus from the injection media, not the vaccine.

Oddly enough there was no incredible uptick in the cases of autism when thiomersal was incorporated into vaccine preparations in 1930.  One would think that there would be several generations of autism victims to research, but that doesn’t seem to be true.

However, since us humans shouldn’t be exposed to any more mercury than is really necessary, the CDC asked vaccine makers to remove it, just in case, and since 1999, they have.  Thiomersal is still used as a preservative in contact lens solution, nasal sprays and tattoo ink. 

Using the anit-vaxxer logic circuits then, any woman either pregnant or hoping to become pregnant should be prohibited by law from wearing contact lenses, using nasal spray or getting some ink.  Needless to say, young kids should never get tats until they’re older and can make bad decisions on their own. (Daddy I can’t get a job for the summer, nobody will hire me! It’s because you have have Donnies’ Fuck Bitch poorly and illiterately tattooed on your face, dear daughter.  Now what did I tell you about the possessive apostrophe?) 

By way of comparison of the concentration of thiomersal in a vaccine, you would have to take a piss in an Olympic sized swimming pool, then drink all the pool water to equal the concentration.  You probably get more mercury exposure from being near a burned out compact fluorescent light bulb.  Funny how nobody has drawn a link between CFL’s and autism.  Could it be there is no link?  Just sayin’. 

What the anti-vaxx movement really shows us is how dumb we have become.  We have near-instantaneous access to a gazillion pages of learned research, from people who have forgotten more about disease prevention than we will ever know, but yet we grab at that one miniscule outlying data point in a million that ‘proves’ our opinion.

Here’s a suggestion:  Do your due diligence before opening your mouth.  If you think that there is a causal link between A and Z, odds are you can find research by someone that will give you more leads to more research, from more people.  This sounds like Journalism 101 and in many ways it is very rudimentary research. 

The other concept to keep in mind while doing your research is this one:  Cui Bono?  It’s Latin for Who Benefits?  To contemporize it, follow the money, meaning who is paying for the research.  Sorry dear scientists, but money rides and ethics walks when it comes to primary research these days. 

Now, if you can find three unrelated, probably accurate, unbiased sources, odds are the idea is nearing the department of truthiness.  There are hard facts out there.  We use Wikipedia for some of them, but tend to keep our use to things like How many square miles is France (247,368) or what is number 44 in the Periodic Table of Elements (Ruthenium).  When it comes to opinion or analysis, there are too many sources to list, but we do tend to investigate both sides of an argument to find where the middle ground is, as that is where the real truth is most likely to reside.

The third concept to keep in mind is the overall benefit of something.  Back in the 1960’s seat belts in cars were considered weird Birkenstock-wearing tree-hugger, stream-tasting, safety-freak articles.  Drivers and car makers complained that they would be trapped in their cars with seatbelts and millions of innocents would drown or burn to death in crashes, strangled and mummified by seat belts.  Fifty years later, we belt up automatically.  (I’m primary research in the efficacy of seat belts, having survived a couple of serious and fatal crashes:  Seat belts are the only reason I’m alive.)

Overall benefit is sometimes tough to measure and there are always mitigating opinions on both sides.  Take the simple tool of a ladder.  Ladders are wonderful things and have been around for thousands of years, but they can be tricky for idiots to use.  Go to Home Depot and look at a ladder.  If you can find the rungs behind all the warning labels, you’ll find a useful tool.  Those labels are there because someone sued someone else, which has nothing to do with the overall benefits of a ladder – It has plenty to do with Cui Bono

This doesn’t mean that ladders are inherently dangerous, but it does mean that idiots should use them with caution.  There is no international conspiracy of ladder manufacturers to make them more dangerous, so you will be forced to hire a licensed ladder operator to change that light bulb in the foyer.  The overall benefit of a ladder exceeds the number of morons who have climbed up two storeys and their last words have been recorded as “Honey, watch this!”

To tie this all up, use your brain.  If you see an internet posting that says stuffing two sticks of unsalted butter and a dill pickle up your ass will cure cancer and you believe it to be true, then you need to step away from the keyboard, slowly.  Do some research, follow the money and look at the overall benefit of something before pontificating.


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