Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
If you support vaccine programs as important public health tools then you are probably insulted, and not persuaded at all, by the title of this blog comment. If anything you will have dug in your heels in opposition to anything further that I might have to say. I doubt that Dale Carnegie would try to persuade people with opposing views to change their mind by insulting them.
Yet, that is exactly what is done every day by media editorial writers, bloggers and even health care professionals who dismiss parents concerned about vaccines being injected into their own children as hysterical. Anyone who asks questions about vaccine safety is branded as a nut, a hysterical parent, ignorant and ill informed, a conspiracy theorist etc. Is it any wonder that parents are not persuaded by such obvious attempts to marginalize them, to dismiss them and their concerns, to insult them?
Directly related to the use of insults to marginalize parents is the disregard for parents direct observation of what is happening to their children. Science, to this layperson anyway, must rely on actual observation as a basis for its method. No one has more direct, prolonged opportunity to observe their children then the parents who live with and care for those children. Yes, other issues arise because of the intensity of that emotional connection but the fact remains that it is parents, not Paul Offit, who actually observes their children, see them progressing and enjoying the milestones typically involved in infant development. It is parents who witness their children regress into autism disorders after vaccination that are in the best position to assess what has happened to their child.
The parents observations are, contrary to some statements that there is no evidence of vaccine autism links, exactly that. This direct observation does constitute evidence, albeit anecdotal evidence, that vaccines caused or contributed to their children's' autism disorder. Dismissing these observations as coincidence is not persuasive unless YOU can prove that it is a coincidence.
There have been a number of epidemiological studies done which are used to argue that science has conclusively disproved a vaccine autism link. Yet those studies have been subjected to what appears to be valid criticisms. The Danish study is perhaps the most notorious example. It compared autism rates before and after thimerosal was removed from vaccines in Denmark, Yet the study itself points out that the comparisons were questionable because of the different groups examined in the different time frames. The Danish study looked at autism rates in the period from 1972-2000. As everyone knows who argues against a real increase in autism rates, the diagnostic criteria for autism changed in the early 90's making it difficult to draw firm conclusions from that study. Perhaps equally as negative about the Danish study is that it was conducted after serious prodding by American health authorities who wanted to dispel a vaccine autism connection.
The epidemiological studies are observational. They do not test an hypothesis in a controlled experiment. No observational studies of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations have been conducted despite existing unvaccinated populations and despite calls for such a study from parents and professionals concerned about possible vaccine autism connections. Dr. Insel did not persuade any persons with vaccine and autism concerns that vaccines are not connected to autism when he appeared before Senator Harkin's committee and declared that an observational study comparing autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations could not be done. His statement was directly contrary to those of Dr. Bernadine Healy (former NIH head), Dr. Julie Gerberding (former CDC director) and Dr. Duane Alexander, a member of the IACC to the effect that such a study COULD be done. Dr. Healy and Dr. Gerberding have both said that such a study SHOULD be done. When public health authorities refuse to undertake credible research to examine the vaccine autism issue and yet state to the media that the matter is closed, that science has determined the issue conclusively and for all time, their credibility is undermined, their ability to convince concerned parents is weakened.
Dr. Healy, in calling for more research on vaccine autism issues, has pointed out that the epidemiological studies are not specific enough to address vulnerable population subgroups. The Poling case is a perfect example of the validity of that criticism. Not all people are constructed the same. The effect of a vaccine on one person may not be the effect of a vaccine on another. In the Poling case autism resulted from the impact on the child's mitochondrial disorder. Dr. Healy has called for a variety of studies to examine further the vaccine autism issue. Yet her name rarely appears in media summaries of the issue which prefer to paint the issue as Jenny McCarthy against the scientists.
If public health authorities want to restore public trust in vaccines they should do the research that Dr. Healy has called for. They should conduct the observational study comparing existing unvaccinated and vaccinated populations and stop pretending that it can not be done. They should stop pretending that science has conclusively decided the issue when too many people know that not to be true and refuse to be bullied and intimidated. Public health authorities should not be afraid to do more homework to ensure that the chemical and biological concoctions they are insisting people inject into their children are safe in all instances.
If public health authorities want to restore public trust in vaccines and convince us all that vaccines do not cause or contribute to autism they should stop condescending. They should start treating parents like what they are in this matter ... the front line researchers whose observations are invariably the first stage in recognizing and understanding autism disorders in their children. They should start treating those parents with the respect they deserve. Their failure to do so to date has been the biggest reason why they are failing to convince some parents that vaccines are safe. It is the biggest reason the public health authorities are losing the battle to restore public confidence in the safety of vaccines. If you don't believe me, check with Dale Carnegie. He left us with some notes on the subject.