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Monday, February 16, 2009

Awesome on two counts.

This past Thursday a ruling was handed down by the three "special masters" appointed to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence* that vaccines are linked to autism for parents to receive payments from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). This trial, known as the Autism Omnibus Trial, has important implications for the use of vaccines nationwide. If the plaintiffs' claims had been ruled legitimate it would have represented a moral, if not empirical, blow to vaccines. Defeat, however, reinforces the scientific consensus that autism is not related to vaccines. So what was the verdict?

In a phrase, fuck no. The special masters have ruled that vaccines do not appear to cause autism. Thus, yet another body joins on the side of scientific consensus. Not that this will stop or, indeed, even slow down the anti-vaccination goon squad, who seem hellbent on opposing this form of medicine no matter the cost. Indeed, I expect that there are already conspiracy theories surrounding the outcome of this trial. Nevertheless, rulings like this help to arrest the spread** of anti-vaccination hysteria, which is probably more important than reducing the numbers of true believiers.

So the title of this post is "awesome on two counts." Obviously, this ruling is awesome because it helps shore up vaccines. So what is the second way that the ruling is cool? Well, as it turns out, one of the groups working with the plaintiffs in this case was the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an ultra-right wing version of the AMA.*** And, coincidentally, the general council to the AAPS is one Andrew L. Schlafly, with whom I have tangled before. So not only have vaccines received just support, Andrew Schlafly got schooled along the way.

That is teh awesome!

* As it happens, in order for the case to be deemed to have merit the plaintiffs only have to prove 50% plus a feather or, in other words, they just have to convince the special masters that there is a 50% plus anything chance that vaccines produce autism.

** During a recent visit my own mother-in-law started spouting anti-vaccination horseshit. This stemmed mainly from the fact that the anti-vaxxers are good at making their case sound plausible and that my mother-in-law didn't really know what she was talking about. What made the experience more disquieting, however, is that my father-in-law is a doctor who also holds a degree in public health. I rather got the impression that this was the first he had heard of anti-vaccine hysteria from his wife as well.

*** The AAPS is to the AMA what Conservapedia is to Wikipedia.

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