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Arthur Allen in Readers Digest and the false claims of false vaccine safety groups

Posted Mar 17 2010 1:43pm

For some reason I like Arthur Allen. Something about his approach appeals to me. This was solidified when he covered the Green our Vaccines rally in Washington DC. I thought Mr. Allen demonstrated pretty clearly that Jim Carrey didn’t really understand the subject, with one simple question . Mr. Allen was removed from the rally for no other reason than he disagrees. What has stuck in my mind is this phrase from his piece:

I walked over to the little retaining wall around the monument and greeted Dan Olmstead, a former UPI editor who runs Age of Autism, a Website that champions the vaccines-cause-autism line and belittles those who disagree. Despite our profound differences, Dan’s an old journalist like me, and he thought it was wrong they’d sic’d the cops on me.

I like the idea of both Arthur Allen and Dan Olmsted recognizing the fact that they are both “old journalists” and finding common ground. That’s stuck in my mind.

Arthur Allen has a new piece, H1N1: The Report Card, in Reader’s Digest. In it he interviews Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S.. I wouldn’t know about the piece except for the fact that two bloggers (both from the Age of Autism) covered it claiming censorship. One piece, Sebelius Asks Media to Censor Autism Debate and another Did Kathleen Sebelius Pressure Media to Deny Vaccine Safety Voices?

What caused this concern on their parts? Well, this quote from Secretary Sebelius:

There are groups out there that insist that vaccines are responsible for a variety of problems despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. We have reached out to media outlets to try to get them to not give the views of these people equal weight in their reporting to what science has shown and continues to show about the safety of vaccines.

I agree with what Secretary Sebelius saysdon’t give equal weight. As Orac at Respectful Insolence says: “Censorship.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Asking the media to not give equal weight to groups whose science is poor at best (consider the decisions from the Omnibus hearings”these are not close cases”) is not censorship. A well-researched article on the “vaccine debate” would be, precisely because it is well researched, clear that this is not a debate of groups with an equal standing. The science used to promote, say, the vaccines-cause-autism idea is of very poor quality (again, read the Omnibus decisions).

I have to say, I even take issue with the idea that this is some suppression of the voices of the “Vaccine Safety Voices”. Really? Vaccine safety?

The section of the Reader’s Digest article that stuck in my mind is this:

[Reader’s Digest]: You recently took part in the ribbon-cutting for a new Holly Springs, N.C., factory that will produce cell culture-based flu vaccines as early as 2012. Do you think cell culture vaccines will help?

[Kathleen Sebelius]: That plant is a big deal for two reasons, not the least of which is that it brings manufacturing capacity back to the United States. That’s a significant step forwardwe’re not so reliant on production elsewhere. During the current epidemic, two companies had to fill orders in their own countries before they could make the vaccines available to us. Secondly, cell-based culture doesn’t necessarily speed the growth time, but it is more reliable. Once the growth is there, you have yield that is much more stable than with egg-based technology. It isn’t a silver bullet, but egg-based technology is 50 years old and we need to get to a variety of approaches that could be used in the future. So the investments need to continue: What are the alternative growth strategies? What else should we be looking at?

Why would a cell-based flu vaccine plant catch my eye? Because it would likely reduce adverse events from flu vaccines. Egg based technology leaves the risk for allergic reactions to egg proteins that might remain in the vaccine. By moving away from this technology, the U.S. could have a safer vaccine in place.

Did the “Vaccine Safety Voices” mention this at all in their pieces? Not at all.

Have the loudest voices in the so-called “Vaccine-Safety” movement in the U.S. ever stressed simple improvements such as this?

Quite simply: no.

This is one reason why I don’t consider groups like those represented by the Age of Autism or the “National Vaccine Information Center” to be true vaccine safety advocates.

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