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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Reassuring

In a rare change from the norm, the news today is actually somewhat reassuring. First, we have a report about the ongoing battle over stem cell research. Yesterday I mentioned a ludicrous legal effort in California to prevent their stem cell research institute from moving forward. This news was disappointing in that the Republicans are attempting to thwart the clear will of the people- imposing their social agenda on an unwilling public.

Today, however, I see an article describing fights in Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, and Missouri over stem cell research. It seems that efforts to guarantee that this research gets done are not restricted to just California, but rather are springing up all over the country. More heartening are reports that these efforts are splitting the fiscal Republicans, who value progress and business, from the social conservatives, who can politely be described as "reactionary." This gives me hope that, as I have insisted against all apparent evidence, many Republicans are not the mindless fundamentalist drones that President Bush would have us believe. More important is this:

The Stowers Institute and Washington University in St. Louis joined forces, pitching the potential benefits and saying that the anti-research forces do not have a monopoly on morality. They hired Fred Steeper, a leading Republican pollster, who said two in three residents in a poll of 600 adults [in Missouri] supported SCNT [a technique for producing stem cells that involves creating embryos] even after being told the opponents' objections. The edge was stronger among Democrats and independents than among Republicans, who favored SCNT 52 to 44 percent.


Even among Red State Republicans, there appears to be considerable support for stem cell research and the benefits it can produce.

In other news, we find that some long held fears may not be valid. I have spoken previously about a growing fringe movement for some parents to deny their children vaccinations in the belief that they are harmful. Despite later, and very welcome, CBS reports (mentioned here) that addressed this, fears about vaccine safety have persisted. So, I find it heartening to learn that a recent study of vaccines has found that they post no additional risks.

Contrary to some fears, childhood vaccines do not appear to overwhelm the immune system and make youngsters prone to other infections, according to the largest study to examine the issue.

A Danish study found no increased risk for other infectious diseases among more than 800,000 children who received the standard set of vaccinations.


The findings, published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, should be reassuring to parents, the researchers said.

"There has been a lot of speculation about this hypothesis -- that if you have a lot of these vaccinations, this could perhaps overwhelm or weaken the child's immune system," said Anders Hviid of the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen. "We found no support for that hypothesis."


I'll grant that this will not allay all fears, unfortunately, since some parents are concerned that vaccines cause other medical disorders that cannot be described as "infectious:"

Nevertheless, concerns have persisted. Skeptics said the new study does not address the biggest concern about vaccines: that they may increase the risk of developmental problems in children, such as autism or ailments caused by the immune system attacking the body, known as autoimmune diseases.

"It's not infectious diseases that parents are concerned about," said Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Vienna. "They are concerned about learning disabilities and autism and asthma and diabetes."


Nevertheless, the study provides additional support for the positive health benefits of vaccines, for both the individual and society. Based on the previous literature I've seen, I feel confident that future research will continue to contradict a link between vaccination and developmental disorders- hopefully ending this debate, and eliminating what is currently a dangerous flaw in our public health system.

Good news, all around.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another study you might appreciate: Here's another study you might appreciate.

Disclaimer: Robb is a good friend of mine. KAW

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 2:27:00 PM  

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