Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Panic Virus

When Seth Mnookin and his wife found out they were expecting their first child they got all sorts of unsolicited advice form friends and family about vaccines and their safety. He decided to investigate for his personal reasons and in the process felt it would be an intriguing topic for a book. In an interview he stated that his original intent was to just present the controversy. However, after finding that all of the evidence was on one side he turned the book into an expose’ on those that preach fear at the expense of logic, evidence and children’s safety. The Panic Virus is that book.

The anti-vaccination groups out there are really good at getting you to ignore the logic and the lack of evidence. They focus on a few heart breaking stories of kids who were diagnosed with autism at roughly the same time they were vaccinated and then try to get use to connect the dots and link the two. The stories are truly heart-breaking but no matter how sad they are that doesn’t prove that the vaccines caused these kids’ conditions. What makes Mnookin’s book stand out over the many others out there is that he fights fire with fire. Rather than just focus on the statistical and epidemiological evidence that shows absolutely no casual link with vaccines, Thimerosal or mercury; Mnookin bests the antivaxers at their own game. He tells much more emotional stories of children being crippled or dying of Polio, Pertussis and Measles because they were not vaccinated. Jenny McCarthy has stated that she is just fine with this kind of collateral damage.

The Panic Virus is a brilliant and timely history about the manufactured controversy about vaccine safety. From the initial Lancet report all the way to Dr. Wakefield’s complete and thorough discreditation, Mnookin shows that vaccines are safe and effective and do not cause autism.

My only criticism of the book is the same that I’ve had with others too. I have become so familiar with this topic that I was waiting for him to tell me something new. I‘ve grown used to reading articles daily on autism and vaccines. I have news aggregators send me any story with the word Andrew Wakefield in the body. But I had to take a step back and look at the book from the perspective of somebody not as familiar as I was. It is a great resource.

I encourage anybody who has an questions at all about the safety of vaccines to please read this before you hesitate to vaccinate your children. You should be convinced by the evidence that getting vaccinated is much safer than not vaccinated. And if that’s not enough the evidence of fraud, shoddy research, dishonesty, conflict of interest and foul play by the anti-vaccination community should sway you the rest of the way. And if there is still any doubt left in your mind the heart-breaking stories of children dying from easily preventable illness should completely tip the scales.

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