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Paul Offit - The Costs of Vaccine Denialism
Posted: 12 February 2010 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Recently, there was another nail in the coffin for vaccine skeptics. The British medical journal The Lancet took the dramatic step of retracting a 1998 paper that lies at the root of modern vaccine denialism. Authored by a doctor named Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues, it was heavily touted as having uncovered a new cause of autism—the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, or, the MMR vaccine.

Not so fast. Twelve years later, there are more problems with the paper than you can count—and yet somehow, it managed to spawn a movement.

In this conversation with host Chris Mooney, Dr. Paul Offit—author of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure—discusses the state of the vaccine skeptic movement in light of this latest news. In particular, Offit explores why the tides may be turning on the movement—as well as the grave public health consequences of ongoing vaccine avoidance.

Paul A. Offit, MD is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition, Dr. Offit is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Offit has published more than 130 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety. He is also the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, recommended for universal use in infants by the CDC. Dr Offit was a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a founding advisory board member of the Autism Science Foundation, and is the author of five books, the latest of which is Autism’s False Prophets.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/paul_offit_the_costs_of_vaccine_denialism/

[ Edited: 12 February 2010 12:10 PM by Adam Isaak ]
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Posted: 12 February 2010 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Great show!

I was surprised that the parents’ old age correlating with higher number of autistic children (is it true?) wasn’t discussed.

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Posted: 12 February 2010 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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George - 12 February 2010 10:59 AM

Great show!

I was surprised that the parents’ old age correlating with higher number of autistic children (is it true?) wasn’t discussed.

George thanks for calling attention to the podcast…looking forward to it…

[ article just a couple days ago in NY Times on this topic…]

Older mothers are more likely than younger ones to have a child with autism, and older fathers significantly contribute to the risk of the disorder when their partners are under 30, researchers are reporting.

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Posted: 12 February 2010 07:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Great interview! Paul Offit is a genuine hero!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 12 February 2010 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Unfortunately away from my primary computer for the long weekend. If I get time I’ll download it otherwise I’ll wait until next week ...

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Posted: 13 February 2010 06:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s no wonder the average citizen distrusts BIG SCIENCE.  First, we get critical issues with the science of global warming, and now this!  Heck, even “peer-reviewed” science has been tainted.  It may be unavoidable, but it’s too bad that so many scientists seem to be coming off as fund-seeking activists.

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Posted: 13 February 2010 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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While it is true that a relationship has been found between older parents and autism, it accounts for a very small percentage of cases.

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Posted: 14 February 2010 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Chris, I enjoyed your inaugural podcast.  The hour-long interview format is invaluable.  The SGU rogues do good interviews, but their format does not allow for the kind of in-depth conversation that POI has become famous for.  Your plan to focus on what you know best - the intersection of science and public policy - is a solid one.  As is evidenced by the Offit interview, you professional background as a science writer will enrich the interviews.

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Posted: 15 February 2010 03:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Great interview!

Many interesting points made, but one which struck me for some reason was Dr. Offit’s mention of how the suspicion of experts combined with the availablility of information on the Internet contributes to the tendency of some people to dismiss the true facts as presented by people like Dr. Offit with extensive expertise and instead follow the clear nonsense logic of the supremely confident but deeply ignorant like Jenny McCarthy. This touches my work directly in terms of the doctor/patient/client relationship (which I’ve written about HERE), but it seems to be a phenomenon that extends well beyond medicine. Yet another unanticipated down side to the free and easy access to information. The American suspicion of intellectuals, the worship of individual independance, and the notion of us all as Super Consumers capable of making our own decisions about even the most technical matters after a brief purusal of Gooogle seems like a recipe for bad decision-making on an enormous scale.

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Posted: 15 February 2010 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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mckenzievmd - 15 February 2010 03:08 PM

The American suspicion of intellectuals, the worship of individual independance, and the notion of us all as Super Consumers capable of making our own decisions about even the most technical matters after a brief purusal of Gooogle seems like a recipe for bad decision-making on an enormous scale.

While I agree wholeheartedly on most of the issues here I think it is important to avoid excessive arrogance by science and modern medicine when it attacks ordinary people - and remembers that it has made mistakes, tragic ones such as thalidomide among others. People remember these and often have no way of retaining perspective on the science and the odds of a repeat.

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Posted: 15 February 2010 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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scepticeye - 15 February 2010 03:44 PM

While I agree wholeheartedly on most of the issues here I think it is important to avoid excessive arrogance by science and modern medicine when it attacks ordinary people - and remembers that it has made mistakes, tragic ones such as thalidomide among others. People remember these and often have no way of retaining perspective on the science and the odds of a repeat.

The tragedy of thalidomide was avoided in the US by an assiduous FDA scientist who refused to allow the substance for sale in the US. Of course, if it were CAM, there would have been no such strictures against sale. I thought that your argument was for allowing the general sale of any substance that anyone feels will be efficacious for anything.

Thalidomide is actually effective for some endpoints, but its teratogenic properties make it completely unsuitable for anyone who will get pregnant. It should be illegal to prescribe it for a pregnant woman. (At least, IIRC. It’s been awhile since I kept up with the science on thalidomide).

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Posted: 15 February 2010 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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dougsmith - 15 February 2010 03:56 PM

I thought that your argument was for allowing the general sale of any substance that anyone feels will be efficacious for anything.”

So you didn’t bother to read this sentence in my post ... again: “I suggest that the only valid element of this anti CAM hysteria is to have products labeled as not scientifically proven. I can live with that I suspect that most people would.”

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Posted: 15 February 2010 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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scepticeye - 15 February 2010 04:11 PM
dougsmith - 15 February 2010 03:56 PM

I thought that your argument was for allowing the general sale of any substance that anyone feels will be efficacious for anything.”

So you didn’t bother to read this sentence in my post ... again: “I suggest that the only valid element of this anti CAM hysteria is to have products labeled as not scientifically proven. I can live with that I suspect that most people would.”

Again, that caveat is insufficient.

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Posted: 15 February 2010 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Jane Russell - 13 February 2010 08:50 AM

While it is true that a relationship has been found between older parents and autism, it accounts for a very small percentage of cases.

Very true. Also note the connection between diagnosis of autism and financial status. I would wonder if the connection between age of the parents also is in line with the fact that older parents may be more financially stable and able to secure diagnosis for their children. Young parents (very young) are often not in a financial position to get their children all the help they need.

Getting a formal diagnosis of autism, asperger’s or autistic spectrum disorders takes thousands of dollars in appointments with psychologists and/or psychiatrists. Very few of these, if any, are covered by health insurance. Young parents may not have the resources to secure a proper diagnosis for their child. I wonder if this helps to account for the larger amount of older parents with autistic children. That is, younger parents also have autistic children, but are either not recognizing the signs or not getting the professional help they need.

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Posted: 15 February 2010 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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While I agree wholeheartedly on most of the issues here I think it is important to avoid excessive arrogance by science and modern medicine when it attacks ordinary people - and remembers that it has made mistakes, tragic ones such as thalidomide among others. People remember these and often have no way of retaining perspective on the science and the odds of a repeat.

I’m not seeing an “attack on ordinary people.” in anything I said. I’m saying ordinary people should not expect to be the equal of trained professionals in terms of understanding complex domains like medicine, technology, law, and so on. Being informed and being an expert are two different things, and I think we all confuse them often. Doctors commenting outside of their area of specialisation are just as susceptible to this as lay people like Jenny McCarthy commenting on vaccination, so I don’t view it as an issue of arrogance or singling anyone out. I just think it is a natural human tendancy to overestimate our own understanding, and a good dose of humility and caution is called for, which ought to suggest the we be informed and engaged and yet also willing to recognize that professionals are likely to be right a greater proportion of the time than we dilletantes are.

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Posted: 15 February 2010 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Finally got a chance to listen to this podcast. A few comments:

First, a big THANK YOU to Chris for his kind plug of the Forum in the intro. I hope that he’ll draw more folks here for discussion.

grin

Second, it’s interesting to see the different approaches that Chris and DJ have to the interview process. It seems from this data point that Chris is a bit more proactive in arguing for the position he believes in, as opposed to DJ’s more cross-examination/devil’s-advocate approach. They’re both good ways to approach an interview. Frankly, I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way here, so long as the interviewer is smart, knowledgeable and comfortable in the chosen approach, which both Chris and DJ are. Chris seemed very relaxed and I thought it went very well. Looking forward to more.

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