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Friday, May 28, 2010

Vaccine Update

Respectful Insolence finds evidence that the anti-vaccine movement is flagging. Indeed, a slideshow of the pro-Wakefield rally in Chicago suggests that the crowd was not large. And Mary Sanchez writes for McClatchy:

To hear Wakefield's defenders tell it, this noble scientist's untiring quest to understand the causes of autism has been quashed by the unholy combination of "Big Pharma" and pliant governments. And it's true, large pharmaceutical companies vigorously defend themselves against disparaging claims of this nature, even when those claims have validity. And the U.S. government has strenuously avoided releasing information about lawsuits it's been involved in over vaccines.

But another culprit here is the press, always eager to shed light - and inadvertently far too prone to sow confusion - by pouncing on each new medical story. Stories that prominent journals like The Lancet dole out in press releases to the mainstream media find their way into the conventional wisdom, often without the qualified context that's taken for granted in the scientific community. Propagated on the Internet, where even the standards of the mainstream media are not necessarily operative, the stories often take on lives of their own. When a story turns out to be wrong, no matter what is done to debunk it, it may still live on, often as a conspiracy theory.

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