Response to Pediatricians’ article

So here is my analysis of the article that appeared in Pediatrics magazine that I previously posted.  The article encouraged pediatricians to use fear and anxiety to manipulate public opinion.

In the first paragraph the author is calling for greater potency in presentations to the public that vaccines are safe, effective and necessary. I’d just like to point out that nothing in life is safe. I mean, think of anything, anything good, and too much of it will probably kill you, or at least make you sick. Even water. The only time that anybody asserts that something IS “safe”, is when there is some danger involved. Think about it. Flying. Cars. Amusement park rides. Anybody that tells you that something IS safe, is wanting to sell you something.

There are a lot of very smart, very educated people who would argue against the effectiveness of vaccines in general, and certain ones in particular. I’m not here to make a case for that, but I do want to bring up one point. If a particular car is a bad, a lemon from the time it roles off the assembly line, the auto industry won’t tank by admitting that the car was absolute crap or even dangerous. And changes are made and people still keep buying cars. The medical and pharmaceutical community are not willing to publicly state that any vaccine is not safe, effective, and necessary. If they can come up with a vaccine, then it IS therefore “safe” and “effective” and “necessary” seemingly just because it is a vaccine. There seems to be no capacity to judge vaccines on an individual basis.

I’m not even going to address “necessary” here except to say that there are definitely dissenting opinions. I know parents who search around for somebody that has chicken pox so they can get their kids exposed early on, so they can have a mild case and lifelong immunity. Why then is a chicken pox vaccine (varicella) necessary? That it has to be refreshed every few years for life or the individual runs the risk of getting very bad chicken pox or shingles makes it seem that the “cure” might be worse than a disease. But it is a vaccine, therefore it is “necessary”.

The author goes on to encourage various groups, pediatricians, and even the CDC to get on board with a “clear and assertive campaign”. So, one question that comes to my mind is “why?” Why is it so important? He does not expressly say. But obviously he thinks that anti-vaccine campaigns, can or will lead to fewer vaccinations. What that means to him is not readily apparent from this article. But one consideration is that reduced vaccinations will result in reduced revenues for pediatricians. There is also the issue of maintaining public confidence. If they have that, they can tell people to do or buy, anything. Control and money are likely issues here. He might also have some concern about “public health”.

One other thing I want to point out at the end of the first paragraph is his use of the word “beliefs”. He doesn’t say that we need to be more vocal defending our science, the evidence, all of the studies. He says they need to defend their beliefs. What beliefs is he talking about? The ones I just addressed. The beliefs that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary. It is a belief. It is not irrefutable scientific fact. And from all of the studies that I have examined, nobody is trying to arrive at irrefutable scientific fact. The studies are very poorly devised if that is the purpose, and quite frequently, overreach in their conclusions, in order to further this belief.

The author goes on to say that scaring people with negative messages to manipulate them is okay as long as it is done ethically (not sure what that means in this context or in their belief system) and tells “a truth”. I thought it was interesting that he said “a truth” and not “the truth”. “A truth” can be part of a larger body of information that makes up “the truth”. But when only using “a truth”, one can mislead, or deceive, by accident or intention. For instance it is “a truth” that seat belts cause deaths. Researchers have shown that in some situations, having a seat belt on, will cause your death, when not having it on would not. So, one could truthfully say that seat belts kill people. True, yes. The whole truth, not by a long shot. Just because some have died, and will die BECAUSE of wearing seat belts, does not mean that seat belts are dangerous or that wearing them is more dangerous than not. The whole ruth is much different than “a truth”. There are a whole host of factors, not the least of which are speed, road conditions, skill, distance, size of vehicle, tires, brakes, alignment, etc. that make up the whole truth. And so, the real truth is that most of the time, seat belts will save lives and injuries that would have occurred without them.

Giving one piece of “truth” like the author espouses, without context and without balancing information, ceases to be the sharing of good, potentially life-saving information, and becomes the preaching of an ideology a belief system. The only reason for suppressing the other information is that it will not achieve your goals, or will potential undermine or call into question the beliefs that you are trying to propogate. The author is very blunt that the goal of this scare campaign is to manipulate public opinion. He wants to scare people into their belief system.

More on this later.

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