I wrote this letter to the Editor of the Economist today, but almost certainly it will not see the light of day. I thought I’d publish it here instead!
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECONOMIST
I was somewhat puzzled to read your article entitled: ‘Anti-vaccine campaigners: Clueless’ in the June print edition of the Economist.
We subscribe to the Economist largely because in general, the quality of the journalism tends to be relatively high. This article, by contrast, should have been thrown to the cutting room floor long before the proofs were sent off to the printers.
The vaccine debate is hugely controversial and highly charged, this much is certain. But let us be under no illusion: in terms of media representation, the relative safety of vaccination is subject to massive bias on account of its relative economic value, and the catastrophic economic effect that any evidence questioning safety would have on the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. A campaign to shout down and discredit any voices of concern would seem good economic sense.
I am not particularly interested in jumping on soapboxes, or in hearing rants from either side of the debate. I am interested in the truth and facts. The more I read on this topic, the more concerns I have regarding vaccination safety. There are clear issues around informed consent, lack of regard for individual susceptibility to adverse effects, as well as many unanswered questions as to its relative efficacy.
As a parent in charge of a small person’s health, I don’t take anything as a given. To assume that doctors have all the answers and are always right would be asinine. When in history has that ever been the case? Are we the magic generation that happen to exist at the time of omniscience? Wow – lucky us! Given that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the US has paid out $2,671,223,269.97 in compensation cases since 1989, one can probably assume that vaccinations are not, at least not in every case, ‘perfectly safe’.
Quality research looking at long-term health outcomes of vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations simply doesn’t exist. This is not acceptable any more. Vaccine producers really should be obliged to demonstrate in no uncertain terms the long-term safety of the current childhood vaccination schedule. This would be, after all, a scientific approach. The populations of unvaccinated children already exist (e.g. home-schooled populations in the US), so there is no ethical obstacle to examining the relative long-term health of the two groups. Can we please start gathering some proper data on the subject, rather than engaging in a constant slanging match, which is neither scientific, nor helpful?
Anna Rayner, London, UK