Friday, February 10, 2006

The Autism Epidemic Continues

The Radio National Breakfast show is usually one of the few examples around of good journalism. A recent segment on the "autism epidemic" (listen online here) has cancelled all that out though.
The debate surrounding the safety of the triple jab immunisation - measles mumps rubella - and its link to autism, has taken a new twist. [...] Dr Peter Fletcher, who was Chief Scientific Officer at the Department of Health, says he's seen a "steady accumulation of evidence" that the M-M-R jab is causing autism in some children. [...] Sue Corrigan is the journalist with the Mail On Sunday who broke the story.

The interview was with Sue Corrigan, not Dr Fletcher, and had no scientific credibility or evidence at all, and was basically a "scare the mothers into not vaccinating their kids" spew from Ms Corrigan who behaved like an evangelist spreading the Gospel of Fletcher (mediated by the Spirit of Wakefield).

Dr Fletcher's "proof" of an autism epidemic (at least, as it was relayed secondhand by Ms Corrigan) was not new evidence or studies of any kind. It was the fact that he'd gone back through all the literature and studies, and there was just so much of it there had to be something in it. As Ms Corrigan blithely informed us, there was no one piece of evidence to prove an MMR caused epidemic, it was the overall amount of evidence. EoR again apologises for being stupid, but isn't no one piece of evidence equivalent to no evidence? So the "steady accumulation of evidence" that has convinced Dr Fletcher is exactly the same evidence that all other scientists have seen and found no evidence of an MMR induced autism epidemic.

Ms Corrigan also pointed out the huge rise in autistic children since the MMR vaccine was introduced. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Fran Kelly failed to address any of these inconsistencies and failures of logic.

The "autism epidemic" is not as high profile here as it is in the UK and the US, but given Radio National's audience (generally well educated upper middle class - precisely the demographic that believes these kind of health scare stories) it's sure to have had a significant boost from this flatulent piece.

Dr Fletcher seems to be following the paranoid alternatista scaremongering conspiracy theory approach, as reported in Ms Corrigan's original article:
"There are very powerful people in positions of great authority in Britain and elsewhere who have staked their reputations and careers on the safety of MMR and they are willing to do almost anything to protect themselves. [...] There's no one conclusive piece of scientific evidence, no 'smoking gun', because there very rarely is when adverse drug reactions are first suspected. When vaccine damage in very young children is involved, it is harder to prove the links. But it is the steady accumulation of evidence, from a number of respected universities, teaching hospitals and laboratories around the world, that matters here. There's far too much to ignore. Yet government health authorities are, it seems, more than happy to do so."

Not only is there no "smoking gun" at first, there's still no smoke, not even an unloaded pistol, to be found after strenuous searching. EoR also wonders how all the scientists apart from Drs Wakefield and Fletcher have been signed up to the Conspiracy of Silence so successfully. How come governments can keep such high profile mass poisoning secret, and can't keep budget secrets secure for more than a week?

Meanwhile, Ms Corrigan seems to make a profession out of promoting autism panic.

1 comment:

  1. I need to get this nonsense off of my brain: Reminds me of Fore Sam's "The evidence is out there! Look for it!" which probably translates to, "I'm trying to make BronzeDog's failure to find evidence suspicious, since I know you lurkers won't look."


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