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December 10, 2009

O, my gawd: Harriet "SkepDoc" Hall lands Oprah magazine column


Meet the SkepDoc, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Oprah Winfrey is notorious for using her media pulpit to promote all manner of quacks and cranks. Imagine my surprise and delight to learn that my friend and Skeptic's Toolbox Colleague Harriet Hall (aka SkepDoc) has been invited to contribute a regular column to O, The Oprah Magazine. It's as if Soldier of Fortune hired a resident Quaker.

Congratulations to O for a good get and congratulations to Harriet for breaking the pop culture barrier, the skeptical equivalent of the glass ceiling.

Comments

Good. Maybe she'll get Oprah to quit showcasing pernicious crackpots like the anti-vaccination nut jobs she's had on her show.

CFrost, maybe you can answer a question for me.

Given, I believe that vaccinations work...

Why do mercury stabilizers have to be used? Why can't the Pharmaceutical industry use something else and end the debate?

Oh, I think I just figured it out.

If they change, it's a tacit admittance that they knew there was a problem.

If they take it out, and some of the side effects attributed to mercury disappear, then they are definitely open to class action lawsuits.

Worse, if they know that the mercury causes dangerous side effects in some small percentage of cases, then they won't change, to avoid lawsuits.

So whether there are side effects or not, the industry can't afford to take the risk in changing the formulas. It's a bean counter thing either way.

They did take the mercury out the vast majority of children's vaccines in the 1990s.

Yeah, it's good that a skeptic gets a column but that hardly offsets that Jenny McCarthy is developing her own show.

Lindsay, I didn't know that about children's vaccines. Over time, that should help decide the issue one way or another.

There was mercury in my last flu shot. As I usually get the flu before the shot becomes available, I don't normally go out of my way to get them anyhow.

In other vaccine related news, it looks like (thanks to a vaccine) rinderpest may actually now be globally eradicated:

http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/detail/86593.html

http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/aph/stories/2005-rinderpest-history.html

Ironic, considering the etymology of the word "vaccine".

"Over time, that should help decide the issue one way or another."

It's been 10 years. The incidence of autism hasn't declined in the last 10 years, let alone disappeared.

The attempts to connect thimerosal to autism is bad science.

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In all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that they are both good and bad. While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well. The assortment of viruses delivered by multiple immunizations may also be a hazard. I agree with the growing number of voices within the medical and scientific community who believe that vaccines, like every other drug, have risks as well as benefits and that for the sake of profit, American children are being given too many, too soon. One thing is certain. We don't know enough to announce that all vaccines are safe!

If the CDC, the AAP and (CNN's) Ms. (Campbell) Brown insist that our children take twice as many shots as the rest of the western world, we need more independent vaccine research not done by the drug companies selling the vaccines or by organizations under their influence. Studies that cannot be internally suppressed. Answers parents can trust. Perhaps this is what Campbell Brown should be demanding and how the power of the press could better serve the public in the future.

-- Jim Carrey

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-carrey/the-judgment-on-vaccines_b_189777.html
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"We don't know enough to announce that all vaccines are safe!"

We know enough to know that all FDA-approved vaccines are safe for the vast majority of people. We know enough to know that vaccines have saved millions of lives. Read about the history of smallpox, pertussis, polio, then explain to me how vaccines are unsafe or a bad idea.

This is just ignorance on stilts.

the truth about vaccines is that they are both good and bad

Yeah, like anything else. The good far outweighs the bad in this case though. Kids don't get measles, chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, etc. anymore. That's not an accident. When was the last time you met someone who has been crippled by polio, lost a family member to smallpox, diphtheria, or tetanus, or had a baby born fucked up by German measles? It's been a while right? So you're exposed to a small amount of mercury when you get a shot. You're getting a small amount of mercury every time you eat a tuna sandwich. You're exposing yourself (or your children) to more danger by riding in cars on public roads than by getting a vaccination.

Vaccinations work. Would you prefer worrying about getting typhoid fever when you eat in a restaurant or about getting rabies if your cat bites you?

Certain vaccines also depend on herd immunity to make them effective for the population at large. Flu vaccines fit that category as well as those that protect against childhood diseases. Polio would recently have been eradicated except for mullahs in Northern Nigeria that had people convinced that the vaccine was bad and the disease consequently escaped to spread around Africa again. Plain ignorance is one thing, but knowingly depending on herd immunity for protection while avoiding the minuscule risk to oneself or one's own children is being a fucking parasite.

The assortment of viruses delivered by multiple immunizations may also be a hazard.
Huh? The viruses are killed or attenuated to the point that they don't cause disease. That's what a vaccine is.

"You're exposing yourself (or your children) to more danger by riding in cars on public roads than by getting a vaccination."

Word!

"The viruses are killed or attenuated to the point that they don't cause disease."

Viruses are not technically alive. They are simply RNA or DNA strands that come with a protein shell.

With the attenuated form, a person will get a little sick from the virus as their body mounts a defense.

It's about playing the odds. Some people will get sick from the vaccine. But most people will develop an immunity before showing serious symptoms.

And it is possible to catch the flu from someone that has received a vaccination, though this should be a rare event. It is known to happen though. With deadly livestock diseases vaccinated animals are kept away from unvaccinated, to keep the infection from the vaccination from killing those that haven't been treated. See Marek's Disease for an example.


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