Vaccinations: Reasonable Doubt

I’m going to start posting about my research findings and thoughts about childhood vaccinations.  I would like to go through each vaccine but in today’s post I want to look at what my overall feeling is regarding what’s wrong with vaccination in our country.

So, let me start off with the “American Justice System.” Our system is based on may ancient forms of civil law dating from the early greeks and romans.  This system is often called Napoleonic Justice.  This refers to the post-revolutionary war changes to the French system of laws.  It is where we get due process, the right for laws to be publicly available, and “innocent until proven guilty.”  This last point is called Presumption of Innocence and it is the backbone of our judicial system and, in my opinion, any free society.  Presumption of Innocence means that the burden of proof rests on the prosecution (the accuser) to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charge being brought is correct.  The burden is not on the accused.  They are given the benefit of the doubt.

So, what does this mean?  I remember when the first OJ Simpson trial verdict of not guilty came down.  I was in college at the time so naturally this was a great area for debate. There were so many people incensed on both sides and it was often divided by racial lines.  Most people were led by their emotions.  “I think he did it” and thus I’m upset he “got off” vs. “I think he didn’t do it” so thank goodness “justice worked.”  People didn’t look at the justice system and how it worked.  Regardless of wether you think he did it or even if he did do it – did the justice system do its job?  In my opinion, yes.  The prosecution (the accuser) did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he (the accused) did it.  

So what if he did do it?  Did a guilty man go free?  Maybe.  But our justice system prefers this.  Presumption of Innocence assumes that we would rather see an occasional guilty man go free than infringe on the rights of a free man by imprisoning him unjustly.  If you happen to feel that OJ was guilty this stings.  But do you think it is important to the justice system of a free society?  I certainly do.  When the government (prosecutors/accusers) have the upper-hand, how is that a free society.

So, you ask, what the heck does this have to do with vaccinations?  Hang with me a sec, you know i”m long winded ;).

When I do research on the vaccination debate I am concerned at where the burden of proof is placed.  For example, does the MMR vaccine cause autism?  The research that has been done that indicates yes (Wakefield, is small, non-random, non-controlled trials.  In science speak that means that it is not conclusive as proof.  The research that has been done that indicates “no” is epidemiology studies.  Epidemiological studies are large surveys of population and occurrence of an event. They find causal nature, meaning they can find (but not prove) a cause/effect relationship between two events (aka MMR vaccination vs. autism diagnosis) in a large population.  These studies did NOT find a causal relationship between MMR vaccination and subsequent autism symptoms.  Does that mean beyond a reasonable doubt that MMR does not cause autism?

Casual relationships are subjective measures.  There has been found to be a causal relationship between violence on TV and violence amongst children.  This does not mean that a particular child who watches a violent movie will go out and do a violent act.  It means that given a large population of children increased violence on TV relates to a higher incidence of violent behavior.  See the difference?

I’m not implying that epidemiology studies are invalid – they are very valuable.  However they can’t prove a cause or lack of cause.  Actual scientific research – laboratory investigation of disease agents – can help us find definitive answers (some of this research is going on now).  So, don’t ever let someone tell you “they proved that MMR doesn’t cause autism.”

This brings me to my second major gripe.  The way medical researchers treat “antecdotal evidence” from parents.  Parents often are adamant that their child was using x number of words, smiling, interacting..and then got an MMR shot and within a week regressed in their forms of communication and became non-interactive.  They say “his soul was gone.”  This is treated as completely emotional bunk by researchers.  I find this appalling.  Of course emotions will be involved in a parent-child relationship but does that mean parents are incapable of noticing factual changes in their child?  Anecdotal evidence is scientific evidence.  Like eye witness reports in court.  Are they infallible?  NO.  Are they dismissed as irrelevant? Definitely not.

So, here is where I’m going with this.  If Mother A says her son got autism from the MMR vaccine and researchers say “our epidemiology study says no” – where is the burden of proof there?  Aren’t we putting the burden of proof on that Mother to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that MMR did in fact cause her son’s autism?  Does this seem like the right place for this burden?  In a free society where the liberty of the individual to be innocent until proven guilty is important, should the child or the vaccine be given the benefit of the doubt?  Should Mom have to prove that MMR is unsafe or should MMR have to prove it is safe?  If this were the case we would put drugs directly on the market and say “prove this hurts you” instead of trying to prove it is safe before release (note: not that this works – see Vioxx).  The burden is on the drug to prove its safety not on the public to prove its harm.

I’m sure you can see where I come down on this issue.  Science is not infallible.  Mistakes are made – read And the Band Played On about the AIDS epidemic.  It was ignored for years before it was admitted to be an epidemic.  

We *knew* beyond a reasonable doubt the world was flat.  

We *knew* beyond a reasonable doubt that DDT was safe to spray on crops.  

We *know* beyond a reasonable doubt that growth hormones in dairy are ok for human consumption.  

We *know* beyond a reasonable doubt that vaccines are safe.

What will we know tomorrow beyond a reasonable doubt?


12 thoughts on “Vaccinations: Reasonable Doubt

  1. Actually anecdotes are NOT treated as “emotional bunk” by researchers. They are treated as evidence on both sides. Autism, however it is caused, is characterised by a regression in skills. This is probably because for a lot of early skills, there is an easy way to do them and a grownup way to do them, and most kids transition to the grownup way, while autistic kids don’t.

    So not only could kids lose skills anyway without having a vaccination, it is EXTREMELY likely that kids who are later diagnosed as autistic would lose skills – it’s one of the striking features of the disorder. Vaccinations are done at just the age these skills are lost.

    If a parent comes in to see a physician/clinician/paediatric psychiatrist and says “my child lost some skills” this is something that’s taken very seriously and as a possible indicator of autism. This was a known symptom long before any vaccination debate.


  2. I agree Katie. I wasn’t clear enough. I’m sure that pediatric psychologists and neurologists take regression of skills seriously. I meant to say that researchers in the field of vaccine safety treat parents’ association that the skill regression began with the MMR as bunk. Sorry for the confusion. I can supply some articles to this point. But, you are right, not all “researchers” as I implied don’t listen to parents.

    However, Katie, are you trying to say that a coincidence makes skill regression begin after taking an MMR? If so, once again, to whom are we placing that burden of proof?


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