Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Television Review - The Vaccine War on PBS

Much of the program is taken up with a rehashing of how the battle lines came to be drawn on this issue: suspicions by parents when autism and other problems seem to descend on their children right after vaccination; the now discredited 1998 research paper published by The Lancet linking a particular vaccine to autism; celebrity advocacy by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, who are concerned that vaccines cause harm; scientific studies from around the world finding that they don’t. The shouting continues, occasionally in demonstrations, but 24 hours a day on the Internet. And the Internet, as the program points out, is the reason that vaccines will never be fully exonerated, no matter how many studies clear them. “The original myths are still there, and they’re hard to counteract,” Dr. Cynthia Cristofani, a pediatric specialist in Oregon, says. “Conspiracy theories tend to be popular, and it’s hard to undo that kind of damage.”

 Whichever side is right, that moment between Dr. Shames and the mothers who don’t have their children vaccinated reveals that beneath the heated do-they-or-don’t-they words about vaccines themselves, there’s a more delicate question that no scientific study can answer. It involves whether parents’ rights to make choices about their children trump the needs of the community.

Watch the video here.