Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science (and Vaccines)

The Atlantic Magazine is the best monthly periodical still in publication, in my experience. I have soured on them only slightly because of the recent spate of pieces by Michael Kinsley, who has dragged down the credibility of the enterprise just a smidgen. Somehow Kinsley makes less sense today than he used to as frequent guest on Buckley's Firing Line.

I haven't read the latest Atlantic article "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science," but it's on my list. The Atlantic has published so many surprisingly honest articles about health and health care, I'm sure this will be no exception.

Since this is the vaccination season, everybody should be aware of what I would term a landmark article from last year, also in the Atlantic: Does The Vaccine Matter?

Of course, the feds are insisting virtually everyone should be vaccinated. It will reduce deaths 50%, protect the old and the weak. Yada yada yada.

Do the data back it up? Curious facts that do not fit the party line:

“In 2004… vaccine production fell behind, causing a 40 percent drop in immunization rates. Yet mortality did not rise.

“…vaccine “mismatches” occurred in 1968 and 1997: in both years, the vaccine that had been produced in the summer protected against one set of viruses, but come winter, a different set was circulating. In effect, nobody was vaccinated. Yet death rates from all causes, including flu and the various illnesses it can exacerbate, did not budge.

“…In 1989, only 15 percent of people over age 65 in the U.S. and Canada were vaccinated against flu. Today, more than 65 percent are immunized. Yet death rates among the elderly during flu season have increased rather than decreased.”

The dogma that flu vaccines save lives is so entrenched that the most careful studies cannot be done to prove the point, because to deny a control group a vaccine that we "know" saves lives would be "unethical." Of course it is not unethical to vaccinate 100 million people based on institutional prejudices with no solid proof of benefit for the vast majority.

But we don’t need no steeenking facts, do we, SeƱor? Salute the Dear Leader and get your shots, everybody. Stimulate the vaccine-making industry. Think about how many jobs will be created or saved.