Time to Shill, Gotta Pay Those Bills

The hilarity of the Republican primaries has stolen away most of my attention recently and the blog has taken a decidedly political flavor.  I have other issues I want to cover, but Rick Santorum!  Seriously.  Rick “Ol’ Frothy” Santorum is a serious candidate!  How can you look away?

But I haven’t received any hate mail for a while, so I guess it’s time to pull on the lab coat and shill for Big Pharma again.  (Note: I am not actually a shill for Big Pharma, although if Big Pharma feels the need to pay me, I will gladly cash their checks.  Seriously.  Get in touch.  I’ll let you know who to make it out to. *winky face*)

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have a great article up at CounterPunch;  Vaccination Nation :When The Next Contagion Strikes  It discusses why vaccinations are important and how dangerous the anti-vax movement actually is.  Of course, anti-vaxxers sounded the alarm, and Age of Autism’s Media Editor Anne Dachel posted An Open Letter to Bill Moyers on When The Next Contagion Strikes.

Shine the Orac symbol!  We need some Respectful Insolence!

I’m referring to a post on Age of Autism by its Media Editor Anne Dachel entitled An Open Letter to Bill Moyers on When The Next Contagion Strikes. Apparently, Dachel is very, very unhappy with Bill Moyers for an excellent article he co-wrote with Michael Winship a week ago entitled When the Next Contagion Strikes: Vaccination Nation. In the article, Moyers used the movie Contagion as a backdrop to discuss why vaccination is so important and why the antivaccine movement is such a danger to public health. In particular, Dachel is very angry with Moyers because he quite forcefully argued against various forms of nonmedical vaccine exemptions and has information and opinion against it posted on his website. AFter complaining long and loud about all this, in particular a video on Moyer’s website showing officials from the CDC and Paul Offit discussing the antivaccine movement and declining vaccination rates:

I kept going back to your dismissal of the vaccine-autism controversy as being “largely debunked.” Debunked by whom? Have you ever looked into the web of financial ties between the vaccine makers and medical organizations, health officials, and the media? Have they ever looked into who funded those studies?The Frontline video asks, “Why is it so hard for some Americans to embrace this communal aspect of vaccines?” Parents were interviewed about the question and it was all academic about parental choice.

A pediatrician on the video blames the media and the Internet for parents’ concerns about vaccines. The whole issue seems to be, do parents have a right to exempt their children from recommended vaccines? The underlying message is, Vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives.

Correct. Vaccine are safe. Vaccines do save lives. It is only antivaccine activists who dispute this, and they dispute it not based on science, but pseudoscience and fear mongering. Oh, and conspiracy mongering, too. Notice how Dachel doesn’t start out her argument with science. Instead, she tries to cast doubt on the safety of vaccines by casting doubt on the trustworthiness of the government, medical organizations, and pharmaceutical companies. It’s very much an ad hominem argument. Dachel doesn’t say, “The science doesn’t support vaccine safety and efficacy, and here’s why.” Rather, she says, “Everyone who supports vaccine is a bastard with a massive conflict of interest.” Even if it were true that everyone who supports vaccines as safe and effective were, in fact, a bastard with a massive conflict of interest, that would not mean they were wrong. Vaccine safety and efficacy is a question that is based on science; it doesn’t much matter who makes the argument. Oh, sure, knowing that someone making an argument has a financial COI is important because it allows you to put what he’s saying in context, but in the end the data are the data, and the science is the science.

Go read Orac’s full takedown.  It’s effective.  Nothing Dachel writes hasn’t been dealt with time after time before, and it is nothing we won’t hear again in the future.  It’s useless arguing with “true believers” like Dachel because nothing is going to change their minds.  No matter what science shows, to her and those like her, it will always be about the vaccines.  And the only victims are the parents who have to deal with the misinformation from the anti-vaxxers, the children whom well meaning parents refuse to vaccinate, and the children who depend on herd immunity for protection from disease. As Orac finishes his post:

To antivaccine cranks like Dachel, it is, first and foremost, always about the vaccines. Any health-related issue among children will be seen through the prism of her antivaccine views, and she will try to find a way to relate it to vaccines. Because to the antivaccinationist, vaccines are the root of all evil and must be stopped. Their words might say otherwise with milquetoast caveats that “vaccines can save lives” but we’re vaccinating just too much, but their actions say otherwise. Nothing–no evidence, no science, no data–can convince her or the other antivaccine cranks at AoA that vaccines are safe and effective and do not cause autism. To them, it really is a religious belief that is unfalsifiable.

I feel for the children.

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