Viral eradication and the evolution of smallpox

| 29 Comments

The control and eventual eradication of the smallpox virus from the wild is one of the most heralded success stories in all of public health. Indeed, smallpox has played a central role in the history of vaccination. Even prior to Edward Jenner’s use of the related cowpox virus to protect against smallpox disease, it was known that inoculation with materials from an infectious smallpox pustule or scab (dubbed “variolation”) could protect an individual from death due to smallpox, generally resulting instead in a mild form of the illness. Jenner’s observation that milkmaids seemed to be protected from the disease–and his use of material from cowpox pustules instead of smallpox–resulted in the development of the science of vaccination. World-wide use of the smallpox vaccine, along with a mass vaccination campaign led by the World Health Orgainzation, resulted in the end of naturally-occurring smallpox on the planet, with the exception of stores of the virus held in the United States and Russia.

This feat is being attempted currently with measles and polio viruses, but it’s been much more difficult, and eradication of these viruses may never be attainable. Below, I discuss some aspects that are critical to a campaign that seeks to eradicate a disease, and a new paper on the evolution of smallpox viruses.

(Continued at Aetiology)

29 Comments

Smallpox eradication was undoubtedly a triumph - except of course the virus has not been eradicated - it still exists in a few labs around the planet - and that still leaves open the possibility of deliberate infection by terrorists (would anyone seriously doubt that North Korea has kept some of the virus secretly or openly?).

A more pressing concern is whether increased vaccination is a positive benefit to the general population. Firstly there is the issue of what effects vaccination has and will continue to have. Was it wise to use mercury as part of the vaccines? Secondly, an unspoken truth is that most healthy children have very little to gain from vaccination against common childhood diseases - and everything to lose. Those children who benefit most are children who are already seriously sick e,g, with leukemia.

Why is autism almost unknown among the Amish population in the USA who don’t vaccinate?

field Wrote:

A more pressing concern is whether increased vaccination is a positive benefit to the general population.

You can ask that after the year we’ve had of unvaccinated people coming down with mumps and measels again? YES it’s of benefit. Immense benefit. Every person not getting vaccinated is another opportunity for the virus to mutate and spread to those of us smart enough to get our children vaccinated.

field Wrote:

Firstly there is the issue of what effects vaccination has and will continue to have.

Life expectency increasing: Check.

Childhood diseases decreasing: Check (except in populations where they don’t vaccinate)

field Wrote:

Was it wise to use mercury as part of the vaccines?

Short answer: Yes.

There’s not a shred of evidence that the Thimerosal is of any danger to humans. Note: not mercury. Remember, sodium is a dangerous explosive, chlorine a lethal gas, but sodium chloride is a substance you can’t live without. Chemicals do not automatically have the chemical properties of their constituents. Connecting Thimerosal with mercury is simply wrong, and a scare tactic used by the quack squad to forward the myth that “chemicals” (i.e., man-made chemicals)are somehow dangerous in general.

The original paper linking MMR vaccines to autism only concluded that there was a CHRONAL link. That is, people developed autism shortly after the MMR vaccine was given.

This research was repudiated simply because it only after the child reaches a certain age that they can be diagnosed with autism. In younger children, it is simply not apparent. That is, the time to diagnose it is just after the time to give the MMR. You might as well claim that junior high school causes puberty, they happen at about the same time!

The paper was retracted by 10 of it’s 13 authors and nothing published since then has found any causal link or even a significant correlation. This, of course, hasn’t stopped the quacks from preying on the families looking for something to blame by feeding them strawmen.

Now the drug companies have taken out the blameless Thimerosal and substituted a more expensive and less tested compound to do the same. The cost of ignorance is passed down to all of us. Yay.

field Wrote:

Secondly, an unspoken truth is that most healthy children have very little to gain from vaccination against common childhood diseases - and everything to lose.

Measels is at a 20 year high in England right now. In Germany, the number of unvaccinated is at the critical point where several diseases could regain permanent populations instead of sporadic outbreaks.

How many children have to die or suffer other long term effects of these diseases before the anti-vaccination crowd wakes up? “little to gain” indeed.

field Wrote:

Those children who benefit most are children who are already seriously sick e,g, with leukemia.

True, but not particularly meaningful. Others also benefit.

field Wrote:

Why is autism almost unknown among the Amish population in the USA who don’t vaccinate?

The Amish also make quilts and eat a lot of cheese. I can draw a million and one correlations between factors at random, that doesn’t make them meaningful. If autism has genetic factors, there could be no more important a reason than simply a case of founder effect. Besides, take any group of people and you’ll find that the disease rate will be below average for half of all diseases. This is no more meaningful than noting that half of all americans have a below average intelligence or above average height. You need far more than “The Amish rarely get autism” to pin the blame on not eating cheese. I mean not making quilts. Obviously I meant driving cars…

Final analysis: Vaccines save lives. Anti-vaccine activists have caused deaths. Even if every claim by the anti-vaccine crowd were true, vaccines would still be doing more good than harm. Luckily, their claims are false.

Why is autism almost unknown among the Amish population in the USA who don’t vaccinate?

Well, perhaps it is because in addition to not having vaccinations, the Amish also lack any psychologists to diagnose autism when it occurs? I mean, just a guess.

Comparing autism rates across different groups or time periods is always problematic because you’re never measuring rates of actual autism– you’re always measuring rates of diagnosed autism. If you have a group or time period within which autism is more or less likely to occur undiagnosed, then comparisons with other groups or time periods are simply not meaningful because you are not measuring the thing you think you’re measuring.

Looking at Wikipedia, I see that the NIH thinks that 1 in 1000 people have autism, and I also see that there are about 198,000 Amish. If in fact Amish had the same rate of autism as the general population, that would leave us with a mere 198 autistic Amish in the world. What if there were 198 autistic Amish, out there somewhere? Who would notice?

would anyone seriously doubt that North Korea has kept some of the virus secretly or openly?

Yes, if for no other reason than that a proven ignoramus suggested it.

Hostility to vaccination is a classic Republican position, which is why I’m so unhappy to hear some Democrats picking it up. On the other hand, I’m old enough to have actually had the measles, which, though it didn’t kill me, left me with diminished eyesight and considerable respect for those famous harmless childhood diseases.

We do owe something to our community and species, even when a tiny personal risk is required to benefit everybody.

I’ve had Chicken Pox and my grandmother had Shingles. I worry about whether I will get it as well. Would I rather have had the vaccine if it was available back in the 70’s? You bet your ass.

The industry that preys on vaccine fear is on the same moral level as Hovind and Gish. Scaring parents into endangering their and other children’s lives is abhorrent. What if instead of measles making a comeback its polio or whooping cough or diphtheria? How many children are people like field willing to see die every year so that a few people can make a few bucks?

Jim Harrison Wrote:

Hostility to vaccination is a classic Republican position, which is why I’m so unhappy to hear some Democrats picking it up.

It’s part of the “alternative medicine” movement, which is these days largely (but by no means solely) the province of the democrats. It was, for example, Clinton that founded the WHCCAMP. Perhaps Bush’s sole contribution to effective science was to utterly ignore their recommendations.

Ken Shaw Wrote:

I’ve had Chicken Pox and my grandmother had Shingles. I worry about whether I will get it as well. Would I rather have had the vaccine if it was available back in the 70’s? You bet your ass.

The chickenpox vaccine may not be the best case of it, though. There’s considerable doubt about how long the vaccine will last and chickenpox is a disease that, if you’re going to get it, you’d rather get it in childhood. The adult form (shingles) is much nastier with many more complications.

Ken Shaw Wrote:

The industry that preys on vaccine fear is on the same moral level as Hovind and Gish.

Zeores being equal to other zeroes. If either of them ever reached a zero.

Ken Shaw Wrote:

What if instead of measles making a comeback its polio or whooping cough or diphtheria?

Whooping cough and diphtheria are rising, as I recall. I don’t know about polio.

Ken Shaw Wrote:

How many children are people like field willing to see die every year so that a few people can make a few bucks?

A hundred will die from mumps to save 10 from non-existent threats of vaccine-induced autism. A fair trade, right?

Why is autism almost unknown among the Amish population in the USA who don’t vaccinate?

Maybe someone can find a source, as I have forgotten where I’ve read the info.

Autism is not primarily caused by diseases.

Autism is a mental condition that probably has more to do with the mental stimulation of the environment they grew up in.

Children of geeks and nerds or those who take up geeky/nerdy things young develop autistic behaviour more than kids who do not exercise their brain at that age.

Autism may be unknown among the Amish simply because the Amish does not have stimulations like television, X Boxes and the internet. Nor are they pressured to go into a crowded workforce where large amounts of information must be processed and discarded for new information regularly.

Then there’s the other things: high level functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome. The former have learnt to adapt despite the autism and the latter is basically a mild form of the condition.

Then there’s the other things: high level functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s syndrome (aka geek syndrome) is particularly concentrated in the children of symbolic knowledge workers - programmers, mathematicians, engineers.

Along with some other demographic factors, this has led many to conclude that genetic predisposition to autism is related somehow to the mechanisms that make people good at symbolic manipulation.

It’s not just your imagination. Engineers, programmers and such tend to be more socially challenged. I’m an engineer myself, and I see it in myself and my associates.

In times of old (way back in the 60’s) it wasn’t as common for two knowledge workers to meet up and raise a family since you typically met your spouse outside work.

As demographics have changed and more women have joined the ranks (and therefore social circles) of knowledge workers it’s far more common for a child to have two engineers, programmers or teachers as parents, and there seems to be some correlation with this skill concentration and the apparent uptick in autism.

Vaccines save lives. Anti-vaccine activists have caused deaths.

Geez, I thought all that “vaccines are harmful” crapola went out of favor along with the whole “flouridated water is a Commie plot” crapola.

Sad to see that this John Bircher favorite is still alive and well among the nutters.

(Sadder still to realize that at least half of my younger audience probably won’t know what a “John Bircher” is . … “Those who cannot remember the past . …”, and all that.)

The anti-vaccine crowd is exactly as dead as the anti-fluoridation crowd: Neither is dead at all.

An online friend of mine not long back while getting his teeth treated heard his dentist to comment that teeth in his area were much worse than they had been where he had moved from. This started him investigating to discover that the city council had quietly ceased fluoridation years before! It wasn’t clear whether they did it through anti-fluoridation activist influence or just because they were trying to save money, but either way, it was quite stupid.

I’m amazed at the ad hominem attacks; the non-science (never heard ANY suggestion that autism is product of symbolic worker syndrome before - as far as I know it is far more conetrated among manual workers); the illiberal sentiment (I’m not going to be allowed a choice about fluoride or vaccines - you will make the choice for me); the ignorant (eveyrone is avoiding the issue of who dies when in a well ordered prosperous society people catch measles,chicken pox and so on).

I’ve rarely seen so much prejudice and prejudging concentrated into on blog is absurd. The idea for one thing that no Amish are symbolic workers is one piece of nonsense. So is the idea that because an illness becomes diagnosable at a certain age all hypothesis of causal disease agents before or around that age must be discounted.

The fact is that studies of MMR autism victims have shown measles virus in the gut and these findings need to be followed up.

Final question have you ever READ the warnings on a US vaccine package? It is well known that vaccines can cause adverse reaction. No one can gainsay that. The question is simply how severe and prolonged are these reactions may be. I say that there is plenty of evidence that they can in many thousands of cases be severe and prolonged and that with diseases such as MMR these costs are not outwieghed by the benefits in a rich country with good public health conditions.

Field wrote

I’m amazed at the ad hominem attacks; the non-science (never heard ANY suggestion that autism is product of symbolic worker syndrome before - as far as I know it is far more conetrated among manual workers)

Hmmm “non-science” is a serious charge on this board (It least I’m assuming that you’re accusing me of non-science rather than ad-hominem attacks, since I don’t think I’ve been personally offensive. I did shower this morning)

The problem is that your basic assertion is wrong.

With better diagnosis available in the last decade Autism has been studied reasonably well (at least from a demographic and epidemiological point of view - causation is still a mystery).

Autism does not seem to be a working class disease, at least in the sense that there’s something intrinsic in the class difference. It’s, unfortunately, an equal opportunity affliction.

This is important, early ideas about autism investigated whether it could be related to environmental poisoning, like lead, which also has profound neurological effects in the young. This very lack of really clear demographic trends is one of the things makes finding the cause and treatment of autism so frustrating.

That being said, there does seem to be a distinct “hump” in the middle and upper middle class autism rates. Experts disagree on whether this is a real disease pattern, or whether poorer parents, with less access to health care, are less likely to seek formal treatment (especially since, in the broad sense, there seems to be no good treatment).

The one thing that does seem to come out from the demographic data is that there is simply no good correlation between vaccination and autism. It really does seem to be an anecdotal link based on the fact that these two things happen at the same time.

The intriguing thing is that if you broaden the definition of autism to include high functioning autistics (and admittedly, there is some healthy controversy about things like Asbergers syndrome) there is a profound, demographically significant, peak in the knowledge professions. So much so that Asbergers is often colloquially referred to as “geek syndrome”. If you have actual, factual, information (please, no conspiracy theory websites — I’m really tired of conspiracy theory websites) please point me to it, and I mean that seriously. I’m quite personally interested in this subject since I know people struggling with it.

But all the well verified information I’ve seen says I’m basically right in my overall description. Sorry.

Final question have you ever READ the warnings on a US vaccine package?

Have you ever READ the warnings on a ladder? a lawn mower? The computer monitor you’re looking at now?

I have a lawn mower that - I kid you not - has a warning label on it that tells me not to put my fingers under the deck, pick it up, and use it as a hedge trimmer.

Sadly, that’s part of the problem. When everything has lawyer-driven warning lables all over, it makes the actual evalutaion of risk impossible.

Case in point; I used to live in California, where, in the 90’s, the state passed a law mandating workplaces that used known carcinogens post that fact where visitors could be warned.

I assume the state was thinking of dry-cleaners and bumper-plating shops. Places where pregnant women wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time.

The problem is that after the lawyers got done with the opportunistic lawsuits over mothballs and nail polish every single store, restaraunt and factory in California simply put up a pre-emptive warning sign that says “This facility may contain known carcinogens” and now the warning is useless because by warning you of every remote possibility they’ve added so much noise they’ve obscured the really important data.

Back to the point; My contact lens solution has a 10-inch long warning foldout. It means very little.

field Wrote:

I’m amazed at the ad hominem attacks;

I’m amazed at someone being debunked by facts proclaiming the responses were ad hominem. Okay, no I’m not. I’ve been on the internet more than ten minutes so I’m used to that.

field Wrote:

the non-science (never heard ANY suggestion that autism is product of symbolic worker syndrome before - as far as I know it is far more conetrated among manual workers);

You have trouble reading for content, don’t you? The claim was that HIGH-FUNCTIONING autism, a specific subtype of autism, was so distributed. Pay attention.

field Wrote:

the illiberal sentiment

Illiberal sentiment, from me! A conservative no less! Who would have thought that I, a conservative, might possibly harbor illiberal sentiments! I shall have myself flogged with a wet noodle.

field Wrote:

(I’m not going to be allowed a choice about fluoride or vaccines - you will make the choice for me);

Why should you be allowed choices that endanger my health? There are LOTS of laws that make it illegal to do bad things to other people. You aren’t allowed to pull out a gun and shoot me. You aren’t allowed to punch me in the jaw. You aren’t allowed to run me over with a car. How horrible and illiberal that there are laws restricting your freedom to harm others this way!

Vaccination is much the same thing, though ironically, both your examples are areas where you DO have a choice. With vaccination, you shouldn’t. Every person dumb enough to not get vaccinated is another opportunity for the disease organisms to mutate, and it will only take one mutation in the proper genetic region to make the vaccine useless. Thus, every person who doesn’t get vaccinated is a threat to everyone with who does. Further, I honestly think not vaccinating your children is an example of child abuse.

Still, you DO have a choice. Avoiding vaccinations legally is easy. Stupid, but easy.

Ditto fluoridated water. Don’t like it? Drink bottled. Drill a well. The city system has to be one way or the other, so it makes sense for the city to follow, you know, actual science rather than minority paranoia. There have already been some reports of how much worse the teeth of children whose parents oppose fluoridation and go bottled are, of course. Poor kids, but there’s little you can do to shield children from ignorant parents.

field Wrote:

the ignorant (eveyrone is avoiding the issue of who dies when in a well ordered prosperous society people catch measles,chicken pox and so on).

How is that issue being avoided? I’m pretty sure it was largely the point. Do you have something to say here?

field Wrote:

I’ve rarely seen so much prejudice and prejudging concentrated into on blog is absurd.

Two verbs! You have a real problem making the front and back halves of your sentences work together. But this isn’t prejudice, this is postjudice. I’ve studied the issues and made a judgement. You’ve said nothing new. But feel free to continue slinging ad hominems while complaining about such. It’s so much easier to make you look hypocritical when you help like that.

field Wrote:

The idea for one thing that no Amish are symbolic workers is one piece of nonsense.

This idea was never forwarded. At best, the reading would be that FEWER THAN TYPICAL Amish were symbolic workers. Not no. Again, pay attention.

field Wrote:

So is the idea that because an illness becomes diagnosable at a certain age all hypothesis of causal disease agents before or around that age must be discounted.

Your ability to read for content remains stunningly non-existant.

A temporal correlation is INSUFFICIENT to determine cause. I did not discount “the connection” because it’s linked in time. I discount it because there is no evidence of it. A temporal correlation THAT HAS A CLEAR ALTERNATE EXPLANATION, is utterly meaningless. As I said, puberty happens after they enter junior high school, that doesn’t mean junior high school causes puberty. This is coincidental timing. There is no reason to regard the MMR/autism timing link as anything other than coincidental, especially as there is NO independent evidence of a link at all.

Unless you feel there is a good case for junior high school causing puberty, you can’t claim that the Wakefield study supports a link between autism and MMR at all. If you do think junior high school causes puberty, then I have no help for you.

field Wrote:

The fact is that studies of MMR autism victims have shown measles virus in the gut and these findings need to be followed up.

Um… yes. Because the vaccine is the virus. So, this would be expected.

field Wrote:

Final question have you ever READ the warnings on a US vaccine package?

I can’t say I have, but I’m with Stevaroni. Lawyers cause more warning labels than science.

My favorite warning label came on my new toaster: “Do not use while submerged.” Because when I’m swimming in the pool I don’t have, I so often think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I had some toast RIGHT NOW.” There is no reason to consider these labels realistic. If this is the best evidence you have, quit now.

field Wrote:

It is well known that vaccines can cause adverse reaction. No one can gainsay that.

No one would bother. Asprin causes adverse reactions. Name something that DOESN’T cause adverse reactions more complicated than water. Is this meaningful? We’re back to the Amish eating cheese, aren’t we?

field Wrote:

The question is simply how severe and prolonged are these reactions may be.

So, because it can cause SOME reactions, and might cause OTHER reactions, we’re supposed to take it seriously that it’s causing THIS one.

Can’t you see how badly you’re reaching here?

Some people have a bad reaction to peanuts, therefore peanuts might cause Alzheimers! It’s a complete non-sequitor.

Do you have any actual evidence that vaccines contribute to autism or not? The answer so far seems no.

field Wrote:

I say that there is plenty of evidence that they can in many thousands of cases be severe and prolonged and that with diseases such as MMR these costs are not outwieghed by the benefits in a rich country with good public health conditions.

We have good public health conditions in part because we have vaccinations.

Stevaroni Wrote:

Sadly, that’s part of the problem. When everything has lawyer-driven warning lables all over, it makes the actual evalutaion of risk impossible.

Case in point; I used to live in California, where, in the 90’s, the state passed a law mandating workplaces that used known carcinogens post that fact where visitors could be warned.

This is so true. California has also passed Proposition 65 a few years back, requiring that any food with a carcinogen AT ANY LEVEL (even if well below safety levels) should be given a warning label. But every food contains carcinogens, so they should have to label everything.

*sigh*

Stevaroni:

I have a lawn mower that - I kid you not - has a warning label on it that tells me not to put my fingers under the deck, pick it up, and use it as a hedge trimmer.

This likely results from an actual case where a surgeon did just that, and lost both hands. His lawyer of course claimed that–had there only been an appropriate warning–then the surgeon’s (concededly-horrible) injuries could have been avoided.

The court dismissed the case, under the entirely-appropriate view that the lawn mower manufacturer did not need to warn of such obvious consequences of such an outright mis-use.

But presumably the mower manufacturers added this utterly unnecessary warning nonetheless, out of an excess of caution (and concern that not every court is run by as intelligent and common-sensical a judge as Dover’s Judge Jones).

“Ad hominem” alert: Still, it’s kind of scary to realize that there are surgeons out there who have proven themselves to be as moronic as field is.

Final question have you ever READ the warnings on a US vaccine package?

On the packet of a bag of peanuts, there was a warning which said: Warning. May contain nuts.

On the label of a bottle of sleeping pills, there was a warning which said: Warning. May cause drowsiness.

On the disclaimer on a pram, there was a warning which read: Warning. Do not collapse while child is in the pram.

Anyway, think about this:

If a child has a severe reaction to a vaccine, just think of what would have happened with the REAL disease.

Anonymous_Coward Wrote:

Anyway, think about this:

If a child has a severe reaction to a vaccine, just think of what would have happened with the REAL disease.

That’s not really fair. Not to swap sides here, but there are other constituents in a vaccine than the killed or reduced viral particles, such as Thimerosal in the MMR (the “mercury” mentioned by Field). One could have an adverse reaction to them unrelated to how they would react to the disease.

And is it just me or has anyone else noticed Field failed to even try to respond to most of the arguments I initially raised?

Steviepinhead Wrote:

I have a lawn mower that - I kid you not - has a warning label on it that tells me not to put my fingers under the deck, pick it up, and use it as a hedge trimmer.

This likely results from an actual case where a surgeon did just that, and lost both hands. His lawyer of course claimed that—had there only been an appropriate warning—then the surgeon’s (concededly-horrible) injuries could have been avoided.

How very strange. I used an ancient lawn mower for years without having read a single safety manual and yet I did not once think to use it thusly as a hedge trimmer.

You know, if I had done something that stupid, I would like to think I’d be too embarassed to talk about it in public, much less claim it loud enough to try and extort money from the manufacturers of whatever I was stupid with. (And I consider it nothing less than extortion.)

Hey, I’m missing a bet. I punched my hand through a glass window when I was 11, causing major scaring and almost severing an artery. I should sue the glass manufacturers for not providing a warnnig lable on each pane of glass: “Warning: Glass may break if punched. Don’t do it, moron.”

Suttkus -

I;ve been busy. Not trying to dodge anything - though I notice that the rest of the pro-mercury injection lobby don’t answer my point about already very sick children being the ones who are vulnerable to disease. We had a case in the UK of a child nearly dying with measles. The idea was to shock everyone into using MMR. Of course it emerged the poor child had leukemia.

Anyway, to deal with your points:

1. “You can ask that after the year we’ve had of unvaccinated people coming down with mumps and measels again? YES it’s of benefit. Immense benefit. Every person not getting vaccinated is another opportunity for the virus to mutate and spread to those of us smart enough to get our children vaccinated.”

You are here employing a morally illegitimate argument. You are arguing that other people should be somehow cajoled into vaccinating their children just so that your child or children won’t catch a disease (which you suppose to be fatal or highly dangerous). You might jsut as well argue that children with poor hygiene habits should be locked up. Their lack of freedom will help safeguard the rest of society.

But the key question as already indicated is who in a well fed, prosperous, well housed society with good sanitation will die or be maimed by these common childhood diseases like mumps and measles if vaccinatino is given up on. I think all the evidence points to it being the children who are already extremely vulnerable to disease i.e. cancer sufferers and so on.

But there is another point. Many medics think that the asthma and allergy epidemic (a serious epidemic that leads to many childhood deaths and severe incapacity) can be traced to our failure in the modern world to properly “exercise” the immune system. The (commercially orientated) mania for ever more vaccines stands indicted as contributing to this dangerous phenomenon.

2. “Life expectency increasing: Check.

Childhood diseases decreasing: Check (except in populations where they don’t vaccinate)”

Well we see in the Amish population that they actually have close to zero incidence of autism, a crippling condition that often leads to early death.

All the mortality figures in advanced societies were on a steep downward trend prior to vaccines being introduced and the trend has simply continued. It is possible that the continuing downward trend has been due more to further improvements in public health (e.g. cleaner air, improved water qualityand so on) rather than vaccines. Of course this is not to dispute that vaccines will have a dramatic beneficial effect in poor countries with bad sanitation, no clean water etc.

I am not an anti-vaccination fanatic. I can see that there is an argument for retaining vaccines for the more serious diseases. But I believe the evidence points to there being an increasingly negative side to the balance sheet in terms of health outcomes as we add more and more vaccines to the list.

3. “There’s not a shred of evidence that the Thimerosal is of any danger to humans. Note: not mercury. Remember, sodium is a dangerous explosive, chlorine a lethal gas, but sodium chloride is a substance you can’t live without. Chemicals do not automatically have the chemical properties of their constituents. Connecting Thimerosal with mercury is simply wrong, and a scare tactic used by the quack squad to forward the myth that “chemicals” (i.e., man-made chemicals)are somehow dangerous in general.

The original paper linking MMR vaccines to autism only concluded that there was a CHRONAL link. That is, people developed autism shortly after the MMR vaccine was given.

This research was repudiated simply because it only after the child reaches a certain age that they can be diagnosed with autism. In younger children, it is simply not apparent. That is, the time to diagnose it is just after the time to give the MMR. You might as well claim that junior high school causes puberty, they happen at about the same time!

The paper was retracted by 10 of it’s 13 authors and nothing published since then has found any causal link or even a significant correlation. This, of course, hasn’t stopped the quacks from preying on the families looking for something to blame by feeding them strawmen.

Now the drug companies have taken out the blameless Thimerosal and substituted a more expensive and less tested compound to do the same. The cost of ignorance is passed down to all of us. Yay.”

Thimerosal. I don’t claim to be a scientist or physician. NOt sure if you are. But I can find nothign to suggest that Thimerosal does not have mercury-style effects if take in sufficient dosage. As I understand it, it is nearly 50% mercury. Are you suggesting it is safe to take at any quantity (I know, you’re going to tell me water isn’t safe if taken in too large a quantity).

I am always highly suspicious when scientists withdraw their names from papers. That is the sort of thing that happens in totalitarian systems - vigorous slef-criticism - rather than free societies.

4. “Measels is at a 20 year high in England right now. In Germany, the number of unvaccinated is at the critical point where several diseases could regain permanent populations instead of sporadic outbreaks.

How many children have to die or suffer other long term effects of these diseases before the anti-vaccination crowd wakes up? “little to gain” indeed.”

I have only heard of one child being even close to death from measles in the last few years and as I have said they had leukemia. How many children have to die? A lot in my view to make injecting live vaccine a desirable course of action.

5. “True, but not particularly meaningful. Others also benefit.”

This is an assertion on your part. I’d like to see the evidence for diseases such as measles really being killers in THIS day and age (not 50 years ago) given improved nutrition, good standards of public health and advanced medical care.

6. “The Amish also make quilts and eat a lot of cheese. I can draw a million and one correlations between factors at random, that doesn’t make them meaningful. If autism has genetic factors, there could be no more important a reason than simply a case of founder effect. Besides, take any group of people and you’ll find that the disease rate will be below average for half of all diseases. This is no more meaningful than noting that half of all americans have a below average intelligence or above average height. You need far more than “The Amish rarely get autism” to pin the blame on not eating cheese. I mean not making quilts. Obviously I meant driving cars…”

You are of course correct to point out the danger of assuming a correlation is a causal link.

Equally you have to be careful to note that there may be more than one causal link. Even assuming vaccines are as effective as you suggest (questinoable actually - I’ve read material suggesting TB far more prevalent than one would excpect in a country that has an effective vaccination programme) - there could as I have pointed out be deleterious effects not only in terms of autism (which is controversial) but also in terms of weakened immune systems (for which there is lots of evidence).

The fact remains though that these Amish for whatever reason do not have an incidence of autism anywhere near that of other populations. IN fact the incidence is close to zero. You may find that a fact of no concern. Others will see it as highly significant.

rest of the pro-mercury injection lobby

Huh?

Stevaroni -

Unfrotunately I don;t have unlimited time to go looking into all the research papers so I would liek to try this approach first off.

Are you saying that you accept that researchers have foudn measles virus in the gut and have for instance foud correlations between autism and poor excretion of mercury - but that you trust the formal medical authorities’ analysis of the statistics? Is that what it comes down to? That is a reasonable conclusion. But it is NOT reasonable if you are suggesting that I or others are nuts for querying -

1. Injection of mercury into tissue.

2. Possible links with autism as demonstrated by lack of autism in populations not using vaccine.

3. Possibly weakening effects on immune system as the system has no chance to work itself up to speed (leading to the current asthma and allergy epidemic).

4. Who benefits from the vaccine - healthy children or unhealthy children.

If you are saying you don’t accept there has been ANY research establishing plausible links between vaccine and autism or other signs of ill health, I suppose I will have to give you chapter and verse.

As for Aspergers’ another possibility is that full on autism is being disguised by better nutrition and education among the middle classes.

Your humorous diversion re the warning label is not an answer. I can assure you that these matters are not the subject of levity in the legal consulting rooms of multinational drugs companies. CDC and others have pointed to “allergic” reactions to Thiomersal. The issue is not whether there are adverse reactions. The question is how severe and frequent they are. Some people on this site were talking as though I was nuts for even suggesting there coudl be an adverse reactino to Thiomersal.

Suttkus -

On your further comments:

1. “I’m amazed at someone being debunked by facts proclaiming the responses were ad hominem. Okay, no I’m not. I’ve been on the internet more than ten minutes so I’m used to that.”

This is what Popper’s Ghost wrote when I asked rhetorically if anyone coudl doubt whether North Korea retained the smallpox virus secretly or not: “Yes, if for no other reason than that a proven ignoramus suggested it.” If that is not an ad hominem attack I don’t know what is. Rather than addressing the argument (NOrth Korea has the smallpox virus which coudl wipe out millions because we no longer have built in resistance to it)- he dismisses it with a personal attack.

2. “ the non-science (never heard ANY suggestion that autism is product of symbolic worker syndrome before - as far as I know it is far more conetrated among manual workers);”

You have trouble reading for content, don’t you? The claim was that HIGH-FUNCTIONING autism, a specific subtype of autism, was so distributed. Pay attention.

I accept that on a quick read I did indeed miss that distinction - but see my response to Stevaroni. I think this is any case a diversion from the real argument.

3. “Illiberal sentiment, from me! A conservative no less! Who would have thought that I, a conservative, might possibly harbor illiberal sentiments! I shall have myself flogged with a wet noodle.”

Well you should certainly flog yourself with damp spaghetti if you are seeking to impose forced medication on the public. People should make up their own minds about what to put in their bodies. That’s called liberty.

4. “Why should you be allowed choices that endanger my health? There are LOTS of laws that make it illegal to do bad things to other people. You aren’t allowed to pull out a gun and shoot me. You aren’t allowed to punch me in the jaw. You aren’t allowed to run me over with a car. How horrible and illiberal that there are laws restricting your freedom to harm others this way!

Vaccination is much the same thing, though ironically, both your examples are areas where you DO have a choice. With vaccination, you shouldn’t. Every person dumb enough to not get vaccinated is another opportunity for the disease organisms to mutate, and it will only take one mutation in the proper genetic region to make the vaccine useless. Thus, every person who doesn’t get vaccinated is a threat to everyone with who does. Further, I honestly think not vaccinating your children is an example of child abuse. “

There’s a good line in The Crucible I think it is along the lines of “I ask you in the name of God to consider the possibility that you might be wrong”. You don’t seem to accept this possibility despite us knowing that medical authorities have been wrong about lots of things before now including most recently BSE. I say that the possibility of mentally crippling a perfectly healthy child through an act of commission is too great a risk and not to be compared with an act of omission which statistcally speaking is highly unlikely to have any bad effect on your child and may have a good effect (through strengthening the immune system).

5. “Still, you DO have a choice. Avoiding vaccinations legally is easy. Stupid, but easy.”

Well, if all is as you say then I think it is the duty of the state to enforce vaccinations. It is quite immoral to try and make parents act against their best judgement.

6. “Don’t like it? Drink bottled. Drill a well. The city system has to be one way or the other, so it makes sense for the city to follow, you know, actual science rather than minority paranoia. There have already been some reports of how much worse the teeth of children whose parents oppose fluoridation and go bottled are, of course. Poor kids, but there’s little you can do to shield children from ignorant parents.”

Fluoride is a quite insiduous chemical. I am sure you are aware of the diseases it causes in areas with high naturally occuring flouride?

I don’t pay the government or the water company to medicate the water supply. I pay it to supply water that is clean.

7. “How is that issue being avoided? I’m pretty sure it was largely the point. Do you have something to say here?”

It is being avoided because people keep quoting the alleged reductions in deaths from measles etc. as result of vaccination. BUt my point is that effectively no healthy child is at risk of dying from measles in somewhere like the UK (assumign they have enjoyed reasonable nutrition).

My question to you is this: does the parent of a healthy child whose chances of dying or being badly affected by measles is virtually none, have any moral duty to arrange for their child’s vaccination. I say no. You presumably say yes, but you haven’t epxlained why.

8. “Two verbs! You have a real problem making the front and back halves of your sentences work together. But this isn’t prejudice, this is postjudice. I’ve studied the issues and made a judgement. You’ve said nothing new. But feel free to continue slinging ad hominems while complaining about such. It’s so much easier to make you look hypocritical when you help like that.”

I don’t have too much time for posting. Perhaps you do - perhaps you’re an epidemiologist!

9. “This idea was never forwarded. At best, the reading would be that FEWER THAN TYPICAL Amish were symbolic workers. Not no. Again, pay attention.”

I’m having difficulty digging out quotes from the many lengthy posts but this was said: “Autism may be unknown among the Amish simply because the Amish does not have stimulations like television, X Boxes and the internet. Nor are they pressured to go into a crowded workforce where large amounts of information must be processed and discarded for new information regularly.” That seems like a pretty sweeping comment. Anyway, the principle point I was making stands. There are symbolic workers among the Amish, but nevertheless the incidence of autism is close to zero.

10. “Your ability to read for content remains stunningly non-existant.

A temporal correlation is INSUFFICIENT to determine cause. I did not discount “the connection” because it’s linked in time. I discount it because there is no evidence of it. A temporal correlation THAT HAS A CLEAR ALTERNATE EXPLANATION, is utterly meaningless. As I said, puberty happens after they enter junior high school, that doesn’t mean junior high school causes puberty. This is coincidental timing. There is no reason to regard the MMR/autism timing link as anything other than coincidental, especially as there is NO independent evidence of a link at all.

Unless you feel there is a good case for junior high school causing puberty, you can’t claim that the Wakefield study supports a link between autism and MMR at all. If you do think junior high school causes puberty, then I have no help for you.”

You seem to be piling absurdity upon absurdity. Firstly you are discounting parental insight. Many parents do discern a link between vaccination and autism. My own daughter had convulsions a couple of days after vaccination. She never had them before and has not had them since. But how am I going to establish a causal link. It’s impossible - but that does not mean by parental insight is wrong. Secondly, your alleged “clear alternate explanation” is nothign of the kind. It is a murky and unsatisfactory epxlanation. It requires us, amongst other things to accept that there has been no general rise in autism - that in fact it is simply a matter of diagnostic fashion. Even if autism does occur soon after the stage of vaccination, if the incidence has increased, that is a good reason for suspecting vaccination. Thirdly, whilst one vaccine may be safe or safe-ish one cannot discount the possibility that it is the increased vaccine burden that the modern child carries that is part of the problem.

Will answer the rest as soon as time allows!

Suttkus -

(CONTINUED)

11. “Um… yes. Because the vaccine is the virus. So, this would be expected.”

My understanding is that that is NOT to be expected, which is why the pro-vaccine lobby has sought to discredit these findings and say that they cannot be reproduced. So I think you are wrong on that.

12. “I can’t say I have, but I’m with Stevaroni. Lawyers cause more warning labels than science.

My favorite warning label came on my new toaster: “Do not use while submerged.” Because when I’m swimming in the pool I don’t have, I so often think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I had some toast RIGHT NOW.” There is no reason to consider these labels realistic. If this is the best evidence you have, quit now.”

So are you saying that these warning labels have no relation to fact? Are you saying that vaccines never cause any adverse reactions whatsoever? Of course not - as your next comment shows. So the issue is simply how severe and how frequent these adverse reactions are.

13. “No one would bother. Asprin causes adverse reactions. Name something that DOESN’T cause adverse reactions more complicated than water. Is this meaningful? We’re back to the Amish eating cheese, aren’t we?”

Well in the UK the medical fraternity now strongly advise against giving apsirin to under 16s as it is known to have very bad health effects (can’t recall quite what but they can be serious). A few years ago no one had a problem with dispensing aspirin to children. I think that rather proves my point don’t you? - about the need to adopt a reasonable precautionary approach - not a “we’ll stop doing it if someone can give us proof to the nth degree” approach.

14. “So, because it can cause SOME reactions, and might cause OTHER reactions, we’re supposed to take it seriously that it’s causing THIS one. Some people have a bad reaction to peanuts, therefore peanuts might cause Alzheimers! It’s a complete non-sequitor.”

I’m not requiring you to accept that the link has been proven. I’m asking you whether it is a good idea to inject mercury into children’s tissue or whether it is a good idea to potentially undermine the immune system of children by removing exposure to those childhood diseases which healthy children are well equipped to deal with.

The logic of my case is not that on the peanuts/Alzheimer’s model. My arugment is based on firm knowledge about the mercury effects, the immune system and known adverse reactions.

15. “Do you have any actual evidence that vaccines contribute to autism or not? The answer so far seems no.”

If you mean - “do I have certain proof” of a link, the answer is obviously no. Just as you do not have certain proof that it is safe in any meaningful sense of the word safe. There is plenty of evidence though: 1. Known negative effects of mercury. 2. Parental observations. 3. Finding of virus in gut. 4. Finding that children with autism seem to have poor ability to excrete mercury from their system. 5. Explosive growth in autism, correlative with growth in vaccination.

If you asked me “what is a healthy lifestyle for indivdual B”, despite all the knowledge we have, could I answer you correctly and with certain, provable assertions? Of course not. Some people smoke and live to 100 (the Japanese do v. well on cigarettes it seems). Some studies suggest alcohol is good for you. Some stuides show food x is better than food y. Others contradict those studies. Heroin might be good for some people with severe anxiety - who knows? It is unlikely we will ever get the sort of certain knowledge you demand for either determining what is a healthy lifestyle or what causes autism. But one can apply broad principles. Gradually we seem to be doing that. We have stopped Thiomersal use. Whether the susbtitute is better I don’t know. But we are clearly trying to work to broad principles here.

16. “We have good public health conditions in part because we have vaccinations.”

That is your assertion. I don’t accept it. I think the current excessive vaccine burden has led to the epidemic of autism, asthma and serious allergies. In other words I think it has compromised public health in advanced countries.

17. “This is so true. California has also passed Proposition 65 a few years back, requiring that any food with a carcinogen AT ANY LEVEL (even if well below safety levels) should be given a warning label. But every food contains carcinogens, so they should have to label everything.”

The ignorance of legislators and the general public can;t be laid at my door. People are always surprised - and rather alarmed - when I pass on the fact I read that at any one time an average (healthy) person has 80,000 cancerous cells in their bloodstream. When they chop up dead old people they normally find tumours all over the place. Of course not everything is equally carcinogenic. They certainly ought to put a label on barbecues.

ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz . … . .

Field wrote

Are you saying … that you trust the formal medical authorities’ analysis of the statistics? Is that what it comes down to? .… But it is NOT reasonable if you are suggesting that I or others are nuts for querying -

Do I think you’re nuts for looking? No.

Do I think that food and drug additives can cause unforeseen problems and should be researched better - Certainly.

Do I think that we ought to err on the side of caution with hazardous things like mercury, lead, carbon nanotubes — Sure.

Is industry is in the position to see any problems first and yet motivated to keep any problems they discover quiet - Yup.

Given this natural conflict of interest, should regulation be better — Yes.

Do I think that a beleaguered industry will put aside good science and try to spin bad facts to their advantage — You bet. I still remember the cigarette companies testifying that smoking might be a net economic gain because smokers die younger and therefore spend less time on Medicare.

The problem is that Thimerasol is like smoking in another regard, it’s 2006 and there is enough outside scrutiny and public information available that secrecy isn’t really possible.

You seem to be implying “They don’t want you to know this”, but there is simply no “them” out there powerful enough to pull it off because, like smoking, the difference between the information available to “them” and “us” isn’t big enough to hide a big conspiracy under.

And all those outside eyeballs — many of whom have no particular reason to be complicit with industry — simply can’t find a correlation between Thimerasol and autism.

Vaccines are not just a North American phenomenon, nor is their content constant with time. Thimerasol use has a pattern; it’s been decreasing for a decade. These days in North America, it’s usually only found in one type of childhood vaccine for diphtheria (it is also commonly found in short-run influenza vaccines, targeted primarily at the elderly, but sometimes used in children). There are many industrialized countries where the predominant vaccine makers just plain never used it.

The distribution of autism simply doesn’t fit the known distribution of Thimerasol laced vaccine.

Most everybody who looks at public health issues seems to agree on this except a few vocal mothers who base their entire certainty on the recollection that Johnny got a shot in April and started acting funny in May.

I’m not dismissing this out of hand — mothers are in a better position than anyone else to note these subtle links - but at some point enough fair-minded medical investigators, who have the time and resources do nothing but this sort of thing every day, look at enough evidence to make a reasonable determination that there is just no case.

Being suspicious is good, but at some point there is enough information available to assuage reasonable suspicion, and what is left starts to sound like aluminum-foil-hat paranoia.

The Reverand Flack wrote

ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz .…..

Hey! Wake up!

People are arguing here so you don’t have to!

Mighty ungrateful for a man of the cloth…

Hey! Wake up!

(snarkle) (snort) (wipes eyes)

I’m sorry — is the Bircher finished lecturing yet?

Stevaroni -

Pulling down my aluminium foil hat squarely over my head…

All you say seems reasonable until you think BSE…We had the same sorts of statisticians, medical advisors and interested commercial parties telling us the same thing: that there was no risk in feeding cows to cows and that diseases rarely if ever crossed species barriers.

What you are saying is:

I am satisfied there is no significant risk involved in injecting mercury into the muscle tissue of young children.

I’m sorry, I just don’t buy the statement, just as I would never buy the statement that there was no risking in making carnivores of cows. I would not be happy with that procedure even if there were absolutely no evidence of harm being caused.

In terms of public health we go to extreme lengths to avoid mercury getting into the environment. Meanwhile doctors and dentists are busy putting it directly into people’s bodies.

I have seen how big commercial outfits operate. Believe me, if they think their profitability as a company is going to harmed significantly by release of information , they will attempt to avopid the release of such information.

There was concern about Thimerasol and it was discussed privately by company reps and the CDC in the USA. These discussions only became known through Freedom of Informatino request.

I’m not going to have time to get back to this before this weekend, but I dohave the page marked so falling off the bottom of the main page won’t be a problem.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on August 14, 2006 8:45 AM.

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