Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FRONTLINE: The Vaccine War - Some Thoughts

Last night, April 27, 2010 at 9pm EDT, PBS ran their episode of FRONTLINE titled "The Vaccine War". The show introduced the issue involving vaccines and a purported autism connection, covering some of the arguments against vaccines, arguments suggesting a causal connection and detailing the medical and scientific evidence against such arguments. Orac at Respectful Insolence has a pretty good summary up, so I won't rehash what's already been done.

Overall, it was a very good program, which is to be expected from FRONTLINE. It had a decidedly pro-vaccine slant to it, again, to be expected, since they were reporting factual information and reality, rather than the emotional rhetoric, misinformation and outright distortions found from such folks as JB Handley and Jenny McCarthy at Generation Rescue/Age of Autism and Barbara Loe Fish at the NVIC. There were several shortcomings I felt should have been addressed, however:

* A parent brought up the question of why we give HepB vaccine at birth. The program never really addressed some of the reasons behind the recommendation.

* While the program pointed out that Barbara Loe Fisher was involved in the creation of the VICP and Vaccine Court, they should have pointed out how she, and others in the antivaccine community, is pretty actively against the program and court, now. Some even call for its elimination, which would lead to devastating consequences (longer, costlier court processes with higher standards of evidence for those claiming injury and the likely elimination of vaccine production in the U.S.).

* The social and political tactics of the antivaccine movement should have been mentioned, such as Wakefield's failed attempt to use libel law to silence Deer, Loe Fisher's failed attempt to use libel law to silence Offit et al., "outing" bloggers to their employers, censoring dissenting comments on their blogs, and other sundry underhanded tactics.

While the interviews allowed the antivaxers to portray themselves as somewhat out of touch with reality, the truly dark side of how they operate was not exposed. That, really, is the one down side. Otherwise, as I said, it was a good episode. If anyone missed it and would like to watch it, you can do so online here.

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