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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Health Reform]

An OpEd from the WSJ and then a series of letters went on to raise hell about the anti-vaccination movement in California and elsewhere.

Some of the explanation may be reasonable -- modern Americans, for example, have never seen polio and the suffering it causes.  Therefore the claims are, to most Americans, abstract -- they've never seen the price.

But there's another undercurrent here that is part and parcel of this story, and one that nobody wants to talk about.  That's the conflation between vaccinations that have little or no downside risk compared to the upside benefit, and for which the protected event is one that has no connection to personal choice, and ones that either violate that premise or where the protection is conferred against chosen behavior.

There are places where, if you travel, you're either strongly recommended to or required as a condition of your visa to have received certain vaccinations.  Why not enforce all of those here in America?  That's easy -- there is no such thing as a drug without risk, and if the benefit is small enough (that is, the risk of exposure is small enough) then the balance is not strongly toward the "you should get this" side.

Then there are those vaccinations such as Gardisil that are of dubious value and bear only on consensual conduct.  Gardisil allegedly protects against HPV, which in women can cause cervical cancer (men don't have a cervix, of course.)  However, to be sexually exposed you must (of course) have sex, and second the vaccine does not provide anywhere close to complete protection.  That in turn may lead you to engage in more risky behavior than you might otherwise, and actually wind up working backwards for that reason.  And there are direct risks -- specifically, there is a small but present risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that is extremely nasty (it can kill, by the way) and, while rare, has as one of its possible triggering events the administration of this vaccine.

Texas tried to force administration of Gardisil upon school children and there are allegations that improper conflicts of interest and financial ties were behind the attempt.  This sort of incident does not help in the general case, and can lead people to conclude that the entire process is corrupt.  To the extent that this results in parents refusing other vaccinations, such as MMR, it's outrageous -- but the blame for that should be laid at the feet of people like Governor Perry!

Then there is the "herd immunity" argument -- that because some kids (and adults) are unable, for medical reasons, to take vaccines you owe them a duty to do so.  That's utter nonsense.  You owe nobody any such duty, period.  That those people are the unfortunate victims of a disease such as cancer that renders them unable to seek protection on their own from a virulent thing in the common environment doesn't obligate you to take risk on their behalf.  Your risk should be taken on your behalf, and it's important that we stop trying to play this damned nanny game; if you can't make the argument for vaccination on the merits of your health (as the one taking the needle stick) then the argument has failed in its essence.

Indeed, the essence of that argument, if you wish to follow it, comes directly with a demand to close the border immediately and deport all illegal immigrants instantly on detection.  Why?  Because very few if any have all of the vaccinations that are common in America.  You can talk to me about "my" duty (or that of my offspring) with regards to you (as opposed to the direct benefit to her) when the border is closed and every single illegal is immediately deported without delay, as they form a much higher transmission risk vector than anyone in America ever will be simply because we have fewer reservoirs of these diseases in our population in the first place.

Finally, there is another part of this debate that nobody wants to have, but we all should: Scientific fraud is almost never punished in any meaningful way.

As just one example the so-called study that allegedly tied thimersol in vaccines to autism was found to be bogus and was retracted.  The authors faced no consequence of materiality.  The climate-scare people who intentionally doctored tree-ring data by selecting the side of the tree they took their bores from so as to show "higher temperatures" (when the other sides showed no such thing -- it was entirely natural variability) faced no material consequence for their intentional deception.  Those who have falsified data in medical trials have never, to my knowledge, been indicted for what amounts to outright fraud upon the public, so-called "scientists" that rig various other experiments (remember the "exploding fuel tank" tests that were in fact conducted with a lit firework-style device on the outside of the tank?) don't go to jail and, for that matter, neither does anyone else involved in these fiascos.

Remember, we're talking about someone's kid here.  The damage to scientific credibility over the years has been immense, and nowhere is it more-evident than in the medical realm.  Cholesterol and fat in the diet .vs. eating lots of fast carbohydrates, anyone?

If we're going to have an honest debate on this topic we need to cut the crap across the board.  All vaccines are not so simple as to say "You should (or must) have them all."  There are those that clearly fall into this category, such as MMR and Polio; the personal consequences (to the person who doesn't have them) are severe if the disease is contracted, and the risks are small.

But beyond those there are many others where the argument is far less-clear.  Chicken pox and Gardisil are two of them in this category, with the latter being of particular concern and worthy of ridicule as a "required" vaccination because the route of exposure to the allegedly-protected-against disease is found only in either consensual sexual conduct or sexual assault (a felony.)  Neither of those is anywhere close to completely effective in providing protection either; for most of the other common vaccines such as MMR and Polio the conferred protection is very close to 100%.

Parents and others deserve honest information and this begins with criminal prosecution for cooked data presented to sway public policy as the open and notorious fraud that it is; we cannot expect people to behave simply "as demanded" when the record shows that many of those demands are in fact driven by corruption rather than scientific reality.

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