Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chicken Little Saw a Pig

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate; that is the question.

I have discussed immunization with every one of my friends, every physician I know (regardless of their area of medicine), everyone who has an opinion, I have asked it of them. Well, everyone except my mom, who usually gets her information from a “teacher at school who knows someone who works in a doctor’s office and says . . . “

And why have I repeatedly pestered people about this topic – well because the media, as usual, has dropped the ball. It is way more fun to scare the tuna salad out of people with shock and “aw” stories. Take for example, the news story about the “Washington Redskins Cheerleader Seriously Crippled after Being Vaccinated.” It showed a young woman, in the prime of life, completely incapacitated. She could no longer walk forward, only backward. She could only talk normally while running. She claimed her rare disorder was brought about by her seasonal flu vaccination. Not even the HINI, just the seasonal shot.

But here’s the thing, none of the actual words in the headline were true.
Let’s parse the sentence, shall we? For starters, she wasn’t a Washington Redskins cheerleader. She was trying out for the team. That’s like saying I am the next American Idol because I sang in front of Simon once. So, the next part is that she was seriously crippled. Well, that’s a stumper. What constitutes being crippled? She participated in an 8k marathon, albeit while running backward, which seems like a rather, um, healthy thing to do (except the backward part, because that is just freaky.) She claimed that listening to Coldplay relieved her symptoms, but rap and techno made them worse. Well, that settles it then, a life lived only listening to Chris Martin but no Kanye, truly is a disability.

The last part of the sentence is the “gotcha” moment, “after being vaccinated.” She got the shot, she got sick, therefore, the shot made her sick. Generation Rescue immediately jumped on her bandwagon, using her as an example of why people should not get vaccinations. Save the cheerleader, save the world. (Really people, do you normally seek medical advice from former Playboy bunnies? Jenny McCarthy may have a heart, and does indeed have a healthy set of lungs, but that doesn’t mean she has a brain.)

But here is the really large problem with the above statement. She didn’t get sick from the shot. In fact, her illness wasn’t external, it was internal. It was in her head. And like any good faked illness, she was “cured” by a placebo. Was she intentionally faking? Probably not, but something caused her to believe she was so sick, she could no longer function. And then someone else made her believe they had a cure, so she was able to get better.

Obviously, good reporting would show that the link between the shots and her illness was negligible at best, imaginative at worst. But I don’t expect good reporting from Inside Edition, which is where the story ran nationally after it was picked up from its regional source. But then it went viral, at which point I do expect a better news source to come forward and point out the flaws, expose the facts, and uncover the truth. When Fox News is the only one willing to step up, you know there is a big, big problem. So how ‘bout next time, when the health of a nation is supposedly at risk, you don’t tell people that broken umbrellas may allow them to get wet, or that a little rain doesn't hurt anyone. Instead, you tell them to jump the hell onto the ark and ride to safety.

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