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Congressional Committee Casts a Harsh Eye On Vaccination Science 858

The Bad Astronomer writes "A recent hearing of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform became a bully pulpit for antivaccination rhetoric when Representatives Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) made speeches connecting vaccines to autism — a connection that medical experts have shown does not exist. Although there were actual medical researchers there as witnesses, they were mostly berated by the Congressmen on the panel. Vaccines are one of the most successful medical advancements in human history, having saved hundreds of millions of lives, and after copious studies have been shown to have no connection with autism. Despite this, a vocal antivax lobby exists, including, clearly, members of Congress. In part this is why preventable and potentially fatal diseases like pertussis and measles are once again on the rise."
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Congressional Committee Casts a Harsh Eye On Vaccination Science

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  • Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:45PM (#42181275)

    Enough said...

  • Understanding Burton (Score:5, Informative)

    by kadams54 ( 855417 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:52PM (#42181379)
    This is mostly a side note, but I grew up in Dan Burton's district. He has a grandson with autism and has made the anti-vaccination a personal cause. That's not to excuse his ignorance, but rather to help provide understanding. Powerful emotions are at work here, which is why confronting them with rational logic will not work. To be honest, I wish his constituents would vote him out of office; his district includes a number of employees at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly (headquartered in Indy) and his anti-vaccination stance puts him at odds with their best interests.
  • Re:Hey! Now we know (Score:4, Informative)

    by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:54PM (#42181411)
    The loss of herd immunity affects everyone, even if you are vaccinated. Vaccines need to be nearly universal in order to have the full effect.
  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:55PM (#42181433)

    No, instead we get people denied life-saving treatments because the insurance company bean counters refuses to pay for it and people going in debt hundreds of thousands of dollars since the other choice is death.

  • by crgrace ( 220738 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:56PM (#42181443)

    Anti-vaccination rhetoric is nothing new... in fact at the turn of the 20th century there were huge struggles regarding the smallpox vaccine. It's a fascinating instance of the struggle between liberty and social responsibility and the rights and the responsibilties of the individual with respect to the state.

    There's an amazing book about the early-20th-century smallpox vaccination campaigns and the associated anti-vaccination campaign called Pox: An American History.

    I can't recommend it enough. Says so much about the United States and how people's opinions have change (and how for some, they haven't!).

    Anyway, here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Pox-American-History-Penguin-Life/dp/1594202869 [amazon.com]

  • by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:58PM (#42181467)

    These people annoy me more than rabid moon landing denyers.

    The people that believe the autism link, are really out there. I've seen interviews with people that believe this, and no matter what facts/figures/papers you put in front of them they believe they are wrong or lies. Yet they're sure the one report they heard about or read is 100% the truth.

    What's more aggravating is when they invite you to prove them wrong, PLEASE prove them wrong, I don't want this to be true and don't want to fear this. Then someone does, and that same person just ignore them.

    Penn and Teller had a great episode about this on Bull Sh*t. It's quite insane.

    I mean, I have an easier time understanding people that believe the moon landing was a hoax. I don't subscribe to that theory, but I can at least understand them. It was a big deal, we really only have the government's say-so that it happened and that they didn't just send a probe to land stuff. Just 1 source: the government. Fine, be paranoid. It's not really hurting anyone if a person doesn't believe we landed on the moon.

    But these people, they have tons of independent studies, investigations, saying that the link was faked or just plain wrong It would be one thing if just ONE party was saying the autism link was bunk... but we have LOTS of different / independent / smart people debunking it. And they don't want to believe it. Meanwhile children suffer.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:00PM (#42181485) Journal

    More than debunked, Andrew Wakefield (I refuse to use the epithet Dr. for this vile repugnant and thoroughly evil man) has been outed as a con artist who was attempting to undermine the use of MMR vaccines so he could push his own vaccine combo.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:05PM (#42181569) Homepage

    What's more aggravating is when they invite you to prove them wrong, PLEASE prove them wrong, I don't want this to be true and don't want to fear this. Then someone does, and that same person just ignore them.

    And then, when you do prove them wrong, they move the goalpost (the "reason" why they think vaccines cause Autism) and then tell you that you need to prove them wrong again. If you refuse at any point, they take it as a sign that they've won. No, anti-vax proponents, you can't just think up wilder and wilder explanations as to why/how vaccines cause autism and claim that everyone else needs to disprove you or you are correct. It is up to you to present evidence. Real, testable evidence. (And, no, "thinking of something in your head" or "listing something that goes into vaccines at some point in the process" isn't real, testable evidence.)

  • Re:Insane (Score:5, Informative)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:09PM (#42181641) Homepage

    1. Dennis Kucinich's Politifact record [politifact.com]: He's about 17% wrong, as he is in this case. That's a considerably better record than many.
    2. He's lost his seat. You don't have to deal with him past January.
    3. For what it's worth, I've met the man, and I've seen no signs that he was 100% insane. And I've met people that were pretty insane.
    4. He's been frequently right when most of Congress was wrong. For instance, he firmly believed that Iraq had no WMDs.
    5. Ron Paul doesn't think he's nuts, and worked with him regularly on bipartisan initiatives.
    6. He's turned his political career into a small fortune and marriage to a really hot redhead [flickr.com], so his goals are reasonable enough.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:3, Informative)

    by s73v3r ( 963317 ) <s73v3r.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:13PM (#42181723)

    It is far less prevalent in nations with Universal Health Care.

  • by Ichoran ( 106539 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:25PM (#42181887)

    The VAERS database is open. You can check yourself to see if your entry is there (assuming you know enough to find it in anoymized form).

        https://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index [hhs.gov]

  • Re:One sided (Score:5, Informative)

    by 241comp ( 535228 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:26PM (#42181915) Homepage
    Assuming you really want to know and aren't just asking to start an argument: It is because newborns are at greatest medical risk if infected by one of the many diseases for which they are vaccinated and because for some diseases (such as Hep B), once it is contracted it can be a lifelong illness which later vaccination cannot prevent/cure. From the WHO:
    "Young children who become infected with the hepatitis B virus are the most likely to develop chronic infections:

    90% of infants infected during the first year of life develop chronic infections;
    30–50% of children infected between one to four years of age develop chronic infections."
  • Re:Hey! Now we know (Score:5, Informative)

    by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:34PM (#42182059)

    Here's a story for you, from This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International.

    Episode 370: Ruining It for the Rest of Us, Act 1: Shots in the Dark [thisamericanlife.org]


    Measles cases are higher in the U.S. than they've been in a decade, mostly because more and more nervous parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids. Contributing Editor Susan Burton tells the story of what happened recently in San Diego, when an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned home from a trip to Switzerland, bringing with him the measles. By the end of the ordeal, 11 other children caught the disease, and more than 60 kids had to be quarantined.

  • Re:Hey! Now we know (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:49PM (#42182297)

    It only matters to the un-vaccinated.

    Which include babies still too young for the inoculation.
    Let's not go back to babies dying from diseases none of us should be carrying.

  • Re:Hey! Now we know (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lurker2288 ( 995635 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:49PM (#42182301)

    You're a little off. It is possible to be vaccinated but not immunized--the vaccines aren't perfect, after all, so maybe you got the shot but you're still susceptible to infection if you're exposed. Herd immunity protects you by decreasing the odds that you'll be exposed. The same goes for people who are vaccinated, but who are immunodeficient for some reason--even though their immune systems might recognize the pathogen it may not be able to mount a robust response. So it's not just the people who aren't vaccinated who benefit.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:4, Informative)

    by niado ( 1650369 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:07PM (#42182603)
    We have the same thing here. It is based on your system. [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:14PM (#42182735)
    The NHS example is just another extreme, which is effectively a strawman for the universal healthcare as an idea. NHS is just a poorly implemented version.
    I was in the ER recently and while waiting around, I got to talk to a nurse who told me that most of the people they see in the ER are just people who could not afford their regular check-up, so they just come to the ER claiming to have a problem.

    The hospital is ethically and legally obliged to take them in and run tests, which cost A LOT more than a regular check-up. Because the price is too high for the patient, the hospital just soaks the loss and raises the prices for everyone else who does have insurance, which causes insurance rates to go up, which causes more people to lose insurance, which causes more people to come into the ER instead of getting regular check ups.

    Do you see the problem? It's a positive feedback system that reduces efficiency and increases costs.
  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:15PM (#42182755)

    Yeah, I typically have to wait in the US to see a doctor for anything non-emergency. And definitely to see a specialist.

    I guess there might be some super-premium service where you pay tons of cash out of pocket and get concierge-like service. But if you're a normal person with a normal health plan from your employer, you play by their rules to get scheduled.

  • by Ikkyu ( 84373 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:18PM (#42182801)

    No need to call him Dr., he's been stripped of his medical license. http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/13/great-science-frauds/slide/andrew-wakefield/

  • Re:One sided (Score:4, Informative)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:18PM (#42182803)

    Ok, I should have been clearer, vaccinating earlier has zero detectable costs when compared to vaccinating later.

    As for the complication rate, it is an order of magnitude smaller than the complication rates for the diseases that they vaccinate against. Diseases that used to be pandemic and almost certainly would be again if vaccination rates drop much more than they already have. On an individual, game theory level, you might have an argument for things not being clear cut. After all, if I'm never exposed to the disease (because everyone around me is immune) there's no benefit in getting the shot, there is only the (statistically tiny) risk of an adverse reaction that permanently harms me. But if everyone follows that logic society loses massively as the diseases return to their old levels. That's why the vaccine compensation courts were set up in the first place, to guarantee that the cost of an adverse reaction is recoverable, putting averaged out cost for the patient as close to zero as possible.

  • Re:Hey! Now we know (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:18PM (#42182809) Homepage Journal

    Some points, cause you are wrong.
    1) Vaccines aren't 100% - Elderly aren't as effective, children before vaccinated are at risk. Which is, of course, unvaccinated but somethines peopel forget that includes infants.

    2) Un-vaccinated people can be a vector for mutation, rendering the vaccination less effective.

    3) Un-vaccinated people cost all of us tremendous amount of money. Lost work, hospitalization, etc...

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:4, Informative)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:20PM (#42182817) Homepage

    Rationing! [independent.co.uk]
    Rationing! [pri.org]
    Rationing! [telegraph.co.uk]
    Rationing! [nuffieldtrust.org.uk]
    Rationing! [guardian.co.uk]

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:40PM (#42183123)

    Maybe it seems that way because you aren't paying attention. People are about 10 times more likely to leave the US for medical tourism than to come to the US.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:44PM (#42183165) Homepage

    I think a factor to consider is that care can vary considerably within both the US and Canada, which makes many average comparisons misleading.

    My understanding is that in a well-served area in Canada you can get pretty quick service. In remote areas, not so much.

    In the NE US my experience has been that while you do need to schedule non-emergency tests, you're talking about scheduling them within a few days, unless you have rigid scheduling preferences ("I'd like a Tues between 3-5"), and then you might wait a week or two. Oh, if you want to see the #1 rated cardiologist in the NYC area then expect to wait a few months. However, if you just want to see any cardiologist you can probably find one with an opening in a few weeks at most, and again all of that is assuming non-emergency care. If you show up in an ER complaining of chest pains or something you'll be seen by doctors and have a barrage of tests started almost immediately, with results back within hours (varies by test, largely due to the nature of the tests themselves). I would hope most first world ER/AEs would have similar results, but I know a guy in the UK who suffered with pneumonia for a month or two before getting antibiotics with all the delays (perhaps he just failed to go to AE when he should have, but you'd think the first doctor to talk to him would tell him to go - if I called a doctor in the US to schedule an appointment and mentioned difficulty breathing they'd tell me to call 911 right away).

    From everybody I've talked to (mostly coworkers at a multinational all with good incomes and insurance/etc) the sense has been that the US tends to have the fastest care - you just really get ripped off price-wise all around. Again, if you're picky and don't want to talk to anybody but the "best" specialist in the region then you're going to wait, but I'm not sure how many countries even let you pick a doctor.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:49PM (#42183235) Journal

    Is Germany going broke? What about Finland, Sweden, Norway? Canada, Australia, NZ?

    Countries that are broke are not broke because they have public healthcare. They're broke because they didn't balance their books. You can do that with overspending on healthcare, but you can also do that with e.g. overspending on military while fighting pointless wars all over the world *cough*.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:2, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:51PM (#42183275)

    Doctors leaving Germany over low wages:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/german-brain-drain-sick-of-bad-pay-doctors-flee-germany-a-399537.html [spiegel.de]

    Waiting lists for hospital treatment:
    http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/nireland/healthcare_ni/healthcare_nhs_healthcare_e/nhs_patients_rights.htm#Hospitalwaitinglists [adviceguide.org.uk]

    Hospitals unable to meet maximum wait times and resorting to fraud to meet guidelines:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-90691/Patients-cheated-NHS-waiting-list-scandal.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    Wait times continue to increase despite government pressure:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/19/david-cameron-pressure-nhs-waiting-times [guardian.co.uk]
    "Recent hospital figures show the average waiting time across all 19 departments to be about eight months. While breast surgery patients are seen in less than a month, patients waiting for a pain management appointment can expect to wait years"
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-20238418 [bbc.co.uk]

    Remember those "death panels" that were such a joke? Meet a victim of one:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/2910780/NHSs-refusal-to-fund-cancer-treatment-costs-mother-21000.html [telegraph.co.uk]

  • Re:Hey! Now we know (Score:5, Informative)

    by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:12PM (#42183599) Homepage

    CDC to the rescue: [cdc.gov]

    How serious is the disease?

    Measles itself is unpleasant, but the complications are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One out of 1000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1000 will die.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sentrion ( 964745 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:29PM (#42183863)

    I live in America and get my family's meds mail-order from a well-established Canadian pharmacy. Saves me thousands of dollars, with or without insurance. Ironically, I'm not leeching off of the Canadian tax-supported health system - the Canadians are actually making a PROFIT off of me, even though those same meds from US sources are 10-100 times higher in price. In the spring I'll be flying to Bolivia to have dental work from an American (ex-patriot) dentist with a state-of-the-art facility and staff. Most of the cost will be in airfare and lodging, but four times cheaper than the same treatment in the US. I'll mix in some sight seeing to make it more of a vacation. Other Americans are flying to Spain for experimental brain surgury, paying out of pocket, generating profits for private practitioners, and getting treatment not available in the US even if it was affordable (which it never is).

    In the end it doesn't matter what health care system America had as long as the laws are written to serve the interests of lobbying groups with billion dollar budgets.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vaphell ( 1489021 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:39PM (#42184021)

    main reason the us hc is fucked up: the tax code. WW2 era wage freezes that made employers offer other perks, a practice that was later rubberstamped by the congress.
    Employer based insurance is paid with pre-tax dollars, individual insurance is paid with post-tax dollars - of course everybody will pick employer provided option. That led to the moronic situation where you are bound to your employer like a dog on a leash and the whole industry is geared towards group insurance so the individuals have next to no bargaining power. Protectionist legislation rising barriers of entry for out-of-state competition certainly doesn't help, neither does using insurance for trivial bullshit that should be paid out of pocket.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @05:09PM (#42184417)

    Cite sources? Look north for pete's sake. As a Canadian, you will take my socialized medicine from my cold dead hands.

    It's not perfect, but at least I don't have to worry about being bankrupted by the cost of cancer treatments because insurance wouldn't cover it, saying that that wart I had when I was 5 constituted a 'pre-existing condition'.

    Honestly, the entire *world* looks at America as a fantastic example of how NOT to run a national health care system.

  • Re:Congress Sucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @05:51PM (#42184991) Journal
    Australia, it's not perfect, nothing is. However our national health outcomes are rated in the top 10, a family of four pays about 1/10th the cost of comparable private insurance in the US. It been.Statistically our system would have to kill another 20K people a year to be as effective as the US system. Polls consistently show that 80% or more of Australians approve of the system.

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?