Archives for posts with tag: Public Health

Just because something happened before it, doesn’t mean it caused it.

Just because a footballer forgot to bless himself before a game, doesn’t mean that’s why they lost the match.

Just because a screaming sound was heard in the middle of the night, doesn’t mean your granduncle is going to die.

Just because a vaccine was given doesn’t necessarily mean it caused a sickness at a later date.

Other things: a virus, an infection, the ageing and growth process, genetics, a stressful situation, other people, might have caused it too. 

Trying to figure out root cause is really, really difficult, but if you rush to a conclusion about cause, without doing the hard work, chances are you are going to be wrong.

The hard work, trying to figure out causes? We call that science.

And that is why you need to bring in scientific voices and scientific studies when you are discussing issues like vaccines, because they are the only people who have done the work to assess root cause.

Let me reiterate that. They are the only people who have done the hard work. They are the only people who must take the emotion out of it, who must control for bias, who must look at all the data, who must go about it the right way, in order to be taken seriously. They get penalised for taking short cuts, something that doesn’t happen when we give our opinions or talk about our experience.

If you exclude the scientific consensus and scientific voices from a discussion on vaccines, or if you think it’s “just another opinion”, then you are biasing the discussion. No ifs, no buts. 

If you exclude the scientific consensus, you are not looking at the whole picture. And, you might be scaring people without just cause.

Source: vaccine.gov

Source: vaccine.gov

A BBC news report today reported that a woman in the US died from an attack of the measles. While the measles does not normally kill, a small percentage of people who get it can die; others will be left with serious health problems for the rest of their lives. If you are a rational person, measles is not something that you and your children should ever have to deal with.

Measles is one of the three diseases, along with Mumps and Rubella, that the MMR vaccine is effective in preventing. Vaccines like MMR act by priming the immune system with a weakened version of the virus. This allows your body to create antibodies, so that when the real disease comes around, the body is ready to defend itself. The mechanics of how vaccination works is not new: it was pretty much understood by the 1940s, and as the graph above shows, it has proven itself over and over again to be highly effective against the types of diseases that destroyed the lives of so many people throughout history.

The woman who died was immunocompromised, which means she was unable to take any vaccines because of a health condition. Small babies and people like this woman depend on vaccinated people to stay free from these diseases.

The choice to remain unvaccinated is therefore not a simple personal choice. If you or your children do not take vaccines, you put people such as this woman at greater risk of being exposed to the measles. While measles might be unpleasant for you, you could be directly harming their lives. This goes beyond personal choice. It makes you a menace to public health. Expect lawsuits to arise in this case against the people who put this woman’s life at risk by not vaccinating. If they had been more responsible, she would be alive today.

You will see a lot of websites, alternative practitioners and some celebrities preaching the benefits of not taking vaccinations. They are wrong. The studies they use to support their beliefs are poorly thought out, incomplete, and in a few high profile cases: fraudulent. They have confused the idea of personal choice with what is good for society at large. They condemn “big pharma” and the “sickness industry” while forgetting that executives and employees of these organisations get sick too. They talk about poisons while conveniently forgetting that almost everything is a poison – it’s the dosage that matters. They cherrypick from anecdotal information and they exaggerate the dangers in order to frighten parents of small children. Not one major medical organisation agrees with them. Not one. They are manifestly wrong and they are putting lives at risk.

Ultimately, vaccines are a lot safer than the diseases they prevent. Less than a hundred years ago, people used to die, routinely, from smallpox, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, cholera, polio, tetanus and diphteria to mention just a few. Nowadays nobody does, or at least they shouldn’t. The reason is vaccines. While there can be side-effects to taking vaccines, they are usually minor and transient.

If I could recommend one link to take a look at, it’s this one: it shows clearly the difference that vaccines made when they were introduced. The evidence could not be clearer than this.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Source: Wall Street Journal

The bottom line: if you are scared by all the scare stories out there, talk to your doctor. Vaccines are safe, effective and help save lives; not just yours, but others who need vaccinated people like you to keep them alive.

Other resources:

Yesterday, Cork County Council recommended by a “huge majority” to stop the use of fluoride compounds in public water supplies. Under pressure from the council, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has agreed to appoint a group of international experts to review the fluoridation of Ireland’s drinking water.

Water fluoridation was introduced in Ireland in the 1960’s to reduce dental cavities, after other countries had reported significant success in their own fluoridation programmes. Fluoride compound ingestion does have side-effects, so the issue has always been about establishing the correct dosage for safe use. Currently, the recommended dosage in Ireland is 0.8 ppm, which is substantially lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum safe dosage of 4 ppm. The only established side effect of fluoridation at low levels is dental fluorosis – a temporary discolouration or mottling or teeth that is mainly observed in children. To date, and despite extensive study across the globe, no major health organisation has been able to establish a link between fluoridation and any other health impacts. The conclusion is that, so long as the levels are below international safe guidelines, it’s safe to drink the water.

That’s not the conclusion our esteemed councillors appear to have reached. From listening to their soundbites, you would be lead to believe that we are in the middle of a major public health disaster.

 “Some of the countries we are exporting food to are now calling into question the use of fluoride in our food products and this would be very detrimental to the food industry.”

Cllr Adrian Healy, FG

 “It contravenes the EU Convention on Human Rights. Nearly all countries in the EU have stopped it.”

Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan, FF

This is “Dr. Strangelove” territory.

The inspiration for all this scaremongering is a highly organised campaign group in West Cork, running under “The Girl Against Fluoride” (TGAF) banner. They are running an energetic and effective campaign, with a large support base. They have successfully grabbed the ear of anyone who will listen, including plenty of local politicians.

However, running a slick campaign and determining public health policy based on the best scientific facts are two totally different things. TGAF cherry picks data from wherever they can find it, linking current levels water fluoridation to thyroid problems, lowered IQ, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, cancer and kidney disease. If only the peer reviewed literature supported them! For example, a Harvard study quoted by them on lowered IQ is based on excessive amounts of fluoride in China, and not on the minimal amounts in Irish water supplies.

As if to lend credibility to their campaign, TGAF are supportive of notorious quacks such as Joseph Mercola and Stanislaw Burzynski, of which much else could be written. If the science is against them, then clearly their opponents are on the take, stooges of Big Fluora, or sheeple who have not yet woken up to the truth. The message is that scientists and public health advisors are working against the people and that they know better – classic conspiracy thinking. If they reach their goal of making Irish water fluoride free, one wonders what their next target will be? Childhood vaccines, perhaps? Antibiotics, maybe?

If public health experts conclude that water fluoridation is no longer required in Ireland based on the success of other measures, then I have no problem with this. The problem here is how the fluoride debate is being pushed – primarily via scaremongering and bluster – from an organisation that prefers emotion and fear over rational analysis.

The developments in Cork County Council yesterday indicate that anti-scientific and conspiratorial thinking is making strong inroads into public debate and that all you need to overturn good public health policy is a highly motivated campaign group. This is not a good portent for the future.

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For more on this I recommend you read David Robert Grimes’s excellent blog post on the same subject.  Also, please look at Gerry Byrne’s “Inside the mind of an anti-fluoridationist”

 

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