Kids still asleep. Coffee in hand. Open shades and a window. Beautiful day in Chicago. Pop on the TV to see what's happening in the world. Good Morning America. George Stephanopolous. Like him. Tune in.
What's this? A new study of a bunch of studies shows cholesterol medication may actually not be necessary, helpful, and perhaps even dangerous in people who don't have heart disease? You mean not everyone should be taking cholesterol medication no matter what? Dr. Richard Besser, GMA's go-to medical professional, weighs in. My coffee spits out.
Besser: "...We don't have experience looking at this in people over decades, which is really what we should do (comparing those who have heart disease and those who don't)....There are definitely side effects...We want to make sure they are only used in people who are going to benefit....Over time, more and more drug trials are sponsored by industry. And it's been clearly shown that industry sponsored trials are more likely to show a positive result....Not only are trials being sponsored by industry, the data are being collected by industry, they are being analyzed by industry, and written up by industry. For many trials....the lead author doesn't even get to see the primary data. They see the results tables and write up and sign their name on it."
Stephanopolous: "How do we trust all this?"
Besser: "Well, I am very skeptical, and I think people need to be very skeptical about this. You need to see a number of different trials. You need to understand who did these trials, and do they have a vested interest, a financial interest in the results."
Stephanopolous: "Should people stop taking their medications?"
Besser: "....Talk to your doctor if you have questions...diet, exercise, and stop smoking. Those are the things that stop heart disease! It's clear!"
Why doesn't this same logic apply to vaccines? In the land of unicorns and fairies, vaccines are portrayed as essentially benign. No side effects, only extremely-rare-well-worth-it ones that are probably only coincidence anyway. Industry being involved in the studies that say so is considered good science, not a conflict. Question that and you are a conspiracy theorist. Suggest that the government or medical institution is really no more objective given their ties to the industry, their role in the problem, the huge foreign policy and political ramifications they could face, the fact we're primarily talking about harming children and how emotional and defensive that makes people, and well my friend, you are not only a conspiracy theorist, you're a dangerous nut job.
I have written extensively about the studies that are used to exonerate vaccines and proclaim their safety, and like Dr. Besser, I too am skeptical. I do understand, as he advises, who did the trials, if they have a vested, financial interest in the results, and the conclusion I came to was, yes, absolutely, positively, YES, they do have a vested interest in the results to be in their favor. I went further to state that even if in spite of their interests they had done nothing wrong in their science, their body of work was inadequate to answer the hypothesis about vaccines causing Autism correctly. I am careful to never assume the motivation of any of the people involved with those studies, only to point out that yes, their is a conflict of interest, and no, in and of themselves they are not enough to answer this crucial question. Dr. Besser is hardly so kind.
Further, I too agree with Dr. Besser that we don't have the historical data, or the "experience in looking at this in people over decades, which is really what we should do." I have repeatedly stated that we have a responsibility to humanity to finally answer the question: have we produced any unintended consequences, such as the increase of chronic disease, by attempting to lower the incidence of infectious disease? And who gets to decide what's acceptable? For example and hypothetically, is asthma an acceptable outcome for the prevention of whooping cough? Is speech delay an acceptable side effect for the prevention of Hepatitis B? Are seizures acceptable for the absence of measles?
I advocate for the basic study of the vaccinated versus never vaccinated to help answer these questions. It's not because I think all vaccines are bad, or that I want any resurgence of infectious disease. It's because I want to know! And it strikes me as beyond non-scientific that anybody wouldn't want to, yet, I am the one being labeled non-scientific because of it. Guess Dr. Besser and I are in the same non-scientific boat.
In the search for the role of vaccines, if any, in the development of Autism, it's undeniable: We haven't asked the right questions. We haven't done the right studies. We haven't applied the same skepticism to vaccines as we have other medications. And we haven't produced independent, objective science to attempt to rectify the situation. Until then, I will continue to take Dr. Besser's advice. I will question industry's motivation. I will remain skeptical. I will talk to my doctor. I will weigh the pros and cons given the circumstances. And I will do the most effective things for preventing infectious disease that we know of...eat a healthy diet, wash my hands, and practice good hygiene.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.