(editorial addition - Orac, cited below, has written a post on exactly this topic
today and does it with much more medical knowledge than I have. Check his post out as well if you haven't already.)
(extra edit add-on: geez, Steve Novella also beats up Maher here
. Neither of these guys use the word "motherfucker", however, so you still need to read my post.)
Bill Maher wrote recently at the Huffington Post an article entitled, Vaccination: A Conversation Worth Having
. It is, in part, a response to the open letter written to him by Michael Shermer
and goes a bit deeper into his reasons for being against "western" medicine.
I found Maher's article to be painful, much like the way it is painful to put a spoon in a crappy gas-station cup of coffee. You bring the cup to your lips to sip and BAM! the ol' spoon handle in the fuckin' eyeball. The coffee was going to suck anyway, but the spoon just added that extra level of suckatude that wasn't needed.
So the stupid begins...
I feel like I've become a confessor for people who want someone to be raising questions about vaccines. But I don't want the job. I agree with my critics who say there are far more qualified people than me -- its just that mainstream media rarely interviews doctors and scientists who present an alternative point of view. There is a movement to stop people from asking any questions about vaccines -- they're a miracle, that's it, debate over.
Bullshit, plain and simple. The only doctors or medical professionals I ever see interviewed on the mainstream media shows are ones with "alternative" views. The media love
"maverick" doctors who buck the mainstream and tout some implausible "cure". Just look around at most of the famous health spokespeople: Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, fucking Suzanne Somers, motherfucking Jenny McCarthy, and Dr. Christiane Northrup.
Sure, there are some good ones (Dr. Drew Pinsky and Dr. Sanjay Gupta come to mind), but overall if you see an MD or "health spokesperson" on TV, it's going to be a whackjob.
The British Medical Journal from August 25 says half the doctors and medical workers in the U.K. are not taking the flu shot -- are they all crazy too? Sixty-five percent of French people don't want it. Maybe its not as simple as the medical establishment wants to paint it.
Well, the only thing I could find on the 'net saying something like this was this article
saying that the BMJ made public research from Hong Kong saying that half of the health care workers there (in Honk Kong)
were going to refuse the H1N1 vaccine. It seems in Britain, there is less panic and things are going quite smoothly, thank you
. I loved this line in particular: "For every one vaccine dose in the U.S. there are four in the UK. Additives are not used in the U.S. because Americans worry about their safety."
Yes, worry away, my pretties, worry away....
I feel its unnecessary and counterproductive to try and silence people with condescension. Michael Shermer wrote me an open letter and felt I needed to be told that "vaccinations work by tricking the body's immune system into thinking that it has already had the disease for which the vaccination was given." Thanks, Doc, I thought there might be a little man inside the needle. Yes, I read Microbe Hunters when I was eight, I have a basic idea how vaccines work.
Really, Bill? You said recently that the swine flu vaccine has crazy stuff like insect repellent
in it. You said that we shouldn't believe you and that we should check the CDC's website
for ourselves (go ahead, try to find "insect repellent" anywhere on there). Well, luckily for us, a stalwart defender of science-based medicine did just that. He did some poking around and...well, I'll let Orac
tell it himself:
I will admit that the "insect repellent" gambit is a new one on me. I looked at the CDC list of vaccine ingredients and couldn't find anything resembling a pesticide or insect repellant chemical. I may not know enough to have identified it; so I did a bit of digging. Guess where I found this one? Really, take a guess? Surprise, surprise! I found it on the uber conspiracy website Rense.com, which complains about the adjuvant MF59, stating that it is made up of Tween 80, squalene, and Span85, about the last of which it says:
Span85: Patented by the now defunct Chiron (bought by Novartis). Its chemical name is Sorbitan Trioleate. It is an oily liquid used in medicine, textiles, cosmetics, and paints as an emulsifier, anti-rust agent, and thickener. [Some factories in China specialize only in manufacturing Tween 80 and Span 85.] According to the Pesticide Action Network North America [PANNA], this chemical is used as a pesticide. It is also used as an adjuvant and is "toxic to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity."(16)
...MF59 has been used in Europe for a dozen years without mishap. Basically, Maher's whine appears to be an even more ridiculous version of the "squalene gambit." Again, remember that the dose makes the poison. As is the case for aluminum, there is no good evidence that squalene or MF59 is harmful at the doses used in vaccines and plenty of evidence that it is safe.
And just to be clear, there is no adjuvant in the U.S. vaccines, is there, Bill? So you guys don't have to worry your pretty little organic-vegetable-eating heads at all. Sure you have a "basic understanding", sure you do. Much like how Deepak Chopra understands quantum mechanics.
Maher goes on to mention that a 60 Minutes
reporter asked a question to the Secretary of Health and Human Services about his twitter post which said, "If u get a swine flu shot, ur an idiot"
. Maher backpedals a bit here and admits:
...so yes, some people are not idiotic to get a flu shot. They're idiotic if they don't investigate the pros and cons of getting a flu shot. But, come on -- it was a twitter from a comedian, not a treatise in the New England Journal of Medicine, that's not what I do.
No, but people who watch Real Time
or follow Maher on twitter are not morons and can tell the difference between a joke and an actual opinion. Anyone who actually does "investigate the pros and cons"
of flu shots will come away with the opinion that they are worthwhile. That's IF
you honestly look at all aspects of the issue.
If you only look at rense.com, whale.to, Natural News or Mercola, you'll get the conspiracy mongering that we've come to expect from anyone who refers to "western medicine"
, "allopathic medicine"
, or "boosting your natural immunity"
. (Pssst...I'm looking at you, Bill)
Ok, here we go with the good stuff:
I would have, for example, added to my discussion with Dr. Bill Frist on October 2 that, yes, any flu or health challenge can be dangerous when you're pregnant, and if your immune system is already compromised by, for example, eating a typical American diet, then a flu shot can make sense. But someone needs to be representing the point of view that says the preferred way to handle flus is to have a strong immune system to begin with, and getting lots of vaccines might not be the best way to accomplish that over the long haul.
Bill, we have to get back to your "basic understanding" of vaccines. You don't have any sort of "basic understanding". See, your immune system takes time to manufacture antibodies when it comes in contact with an influenza virus. When talking about the swine flu, not many people have antibodies because, well, it's a new flu. That's the whole point of the vaccine - no one has contacted this before, so no one is immune. Lots and lots of people will get infected which equals sick time, hospital time, some deaths... It doesn't matter how great your immune system is, if you're exposed and you inhale, you're getting it. Yeah, even you, Superman.
Vaccines give you immunity without the hassle of getting barfy/shitty/horrible sick for two weeks, and there are no credible reasons to think there is any danger at all. If you have that evidence, we'd love to see it.
The "toxin gambit":
In addition, my audience is bright, they wouldn't refuse a flu shot because they heard me talk about it, but if they looked into the subject a little more, how is that a bad thing? If they went to the CDC Web site and saw what's in the vaccine -- the formaldehyde, the insect repellent, the mercury -- shouldn't they at least get to have the information for themselves?
Jesus christ, Bill, really? I'm not even going to tackle that one. Seriously, go here
to see Orac school the living hell out of both Jim "My Ass is Smarter than my Head" Carrey and Dr. Jay "I (heart) Jenny McCarthy" Gordon on the stupidity that is the "toxin gambit".
Does the polio vaccine have the power to prevent children from getting polio, and did it indeed do just that in the 1950s? I believe it does, and it did. But polio had diminished by over 50 percent in the thirty years before the vaccine -- that's a pretty big fact in the polio story that you don't often hear and which merits debate.
"Diminished by over 50 percent? Ummm, what?
So yes, I get it, we learned how to trick our immune systems. And maybe sometimes, you gotta do it. But maybe the immune system doesn't like being tricked so many times. Maybe we should be studying that instead of shouting down debate.
Yes, Bill, they are studying that
. No one is "shouting down debate". What's getting shouted down is people like you bringing up stupid shit like "insect repellent" and the horrible toxins
like aluminum and mercury! Do some reading at a site that doesn't use six different-colored flashing fonts and maybe you'll come away with an understanding that's a bit less than basic.
Someone who speaks eloquently about this is Barbara Loe Fisher
Oh jesus christ, here we go...
I find her extremely credible, as I do Dr. Russell Blaylock, Dr. Jay Gordon and many others, but I shouldn't have even mentioned them because I don't want to be "the Vaccine Guy"!! Look it up yourself, and stop asking me about it -- I'm already the Religion Guy, and that's enough work!
If you think these people are credible, then you're likely too far gone down the rabbit hole of stupid and the caterpillar with the awesome weed will keep you company for a long long time.
Anyway, Ms. Fisher is someone who says she is not "anti-vaccine," but just has a lot of questions about the long term effect of using a lot of vaccines...She also points out "that what we need, but do not yet have, are studies of vaccinated vs unvaccinated children."
I would like to point readers to Mark Crislip's excellent article here
where he talks, in part, about the ethics involved in trials like the one Mr. Fisher wants. The relevant section teaser!
It would be an interesting informed consent: a large number of studies suggests that the vaccine is protective for morbidity and mortality but we want to prove it with a placebo controlled trial. Are you going to sign up? And you have to ask: if the test proposed by Dr. Jefferson, a large trial of vaccine in the elderly (edit: or kids) with death as an endpoint is accomplished and it shows that the elderly (edit: or kids) do have increased mortality if they are not vaccinated, which is strongly suggested by the preponderance of data we already have, what are you going to tell the next of kin of the dead? We were right, thanks for the sacrifice.
So that happened....
I have to skip ahead in Maher's article here. No reason other than he's getting to me and I've got other shit to do tonight apart from pointing out where Maher is being a retard. You know, like eating fudge and compromising my immune system with a "western diet".
...let's have a real debate about how much we should use vaccines and antibiotics. Of course it's good that we have them in our arsenal, but isn't the real skeptic the one who asks if these powerful but toxic methods do harm to what actually is a a very good defensive system, the one you were born with?
No, Bill, the "real skeptic" is the one who looks at all aspects
of the situation and evaluates all the evidence in as impartial a manner as possible. You are clearly not doing this. Look at the "very good defensive system" that most people were born with a hundred years ago and you'll find out pretty quickly that we're alive longer now and it's no thanks to our "natural immunity". You would enjoy your all-natural bout with, and possible death from, pertussis while you just two weeks out of the ol' womb-with-a-view.
Is it conspiracy theory to believe that American medicine too much treats symptoms and not root causes of disease? I always ask my friends when they go to the doctor for something, "Did your doctor ask you what you eat?" The answer is almost always 'no,' and a lot can be cured with diet and a healthier lifestyle. (And a lot can't. I also understand the role of genetics and generations of artificial selection). But Americans don't want to hear that, so doctors don't push it. It's easier and more profitable to write a prescription for Lipitor.
You knew that was coming, right? The "treats symptoms but not the cause" bullshit had to rear its head at some point. Doctors tell people all the fucking time to put down the cheeseburgers, stretch a little bit, and for chrissake take a walk, Tons-o'-Fun. Maher is correct that most people don't want to hear it, but the problem isn't that doctors don't say it, it's that patients fucking ignore
it. We see it all the time in the physio clinic I work at. Give clients exercises, they don't do them. Give them stretches, they don't do them. Suggest doing a nightly 20 minute walk and by the look on their face, you'd think you just told them their cock was hanging out. In the face of patient non-cooperation, the best way to extend their life is to prescribe Lipitor.
And by the way, I get pissed when people make the attack that "Big Pharma" makes billions (billions!!
) of dollars each year selling drugs. Yes, they do. They sell drugs to us, and not always in the most ethical of way, but as Crislip once said (this is from memory), "the pharmaceutical companies have amazing scientists who develop phenomenal products that save lives, then they turn those products over to scumbag used car salesmen."
Now, to make a point, I think it would be safe to say that Jenny McCarthy is a millionaire. She got that money by appearing on MTV, modeling while sitting on a toilet
, and acting in movies like Wieners
and Witless Protection
. She made some people laugh with performances in stupid b-level movies and by using juvenile toilet humour.
Dr. Paul Offit arguably made millions of dollars from his development of the rotavirus vaccine.
This saves lives. Who would you rather be compensated with millions of dollars?
Ms. Fisher said "If we want to create a society that is dependent on shots for immunity -- the same way we are getting dependent on prescription drugs, antibiotics, and surgery -- this is the path we should keep going down." I don't think its "anti-science" to pause and consider that point of view.
It is quite anti-critical-thinking to suggest that the population should give up vaccination or that there is a danger in getting a flu shot. It is ridiculous to insinuate that we are creating a population, "dependent on shots for immunity" when far too few people get the flu shot to provide herd immunity.
In trying to defend himself, Maher drew out his sword and promptly cut off his foot. Then he shoved his severed foot in his mouth and started to gnaw on it. Then my soul died.