I have wanted to talk about vaccinations for a while, but I have been afraid to broach the subject. I am definitely at a clash between two cultures when it comes to vaccinations. I know how ugly the language can get coming from both sides of the issue. I want to discuss some nuance here. Let’s see if it works.
I got an email from a faculty member at my medical school asking us to make phone calls against Florida SB 242 relating to immunizations, which is on the agenda of the Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means April 21st. I am not taking a stand on whether this sort of email is appropriate. I do encourage political discourse. I wish the email had a link to the full text (pdf) of the bill (which is actually hard to pin down. I think there are a lot of proposed amendments, too) or used the original language of the bill. I would like to exercise my same freedom to discuss the issue that my faculty member took, and examine some aspects of the proposed legislation.
The proposal wants to start a registry of vaccines by lot number. Why is this a problem? I know many people swear there is no link between autism and vaccines. Vaccine reactions are supposed to be rare. Why can’t we support this by tracking lot numbers? Autism was not under any form of surveillance in Florida when I wanted to research it five years ago in an epidemiology class. There are supposed pockets of autism here. What’s wrong with a little old fashioned public health research here? Nothing wrong with data. The lot number is an easy enough thing to note. When I administer an HIV screen I note the lot number (with a sticker) in no less than eight places. Parents can refuse to be part of the registry. So, this doesn’t have to be a burden if parents are resistant to having that sort of information recorded. I am a big fan of opt out options. (Although I tend to think there will be some overlap between the parents who don’t want their kids’ vaccines tracked by big brother and the parents who don’t want to vaccinate, period.)
The second recommendation (one of the links above) is to prohibit:
The sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, importation, administration, or distribution of any human vaccine used for children under age 6 or pregnant women which contains any organic or inorganic mercury compound in excess of 0.1 microgram per milliliter.
There is an exception made for epidemics. I always hear vaccine advocates saying that thimerosal is no longer an issue, it has been removed from virtually all vaccines. So, again, what is the problem. Why defend the mercury? I know some people say dental types who want to defend the mercury in silver fillings are just trying to prevent lawsuits. Is this the same sort of issue? Mercury was in most vaccines up until very recently, and is still present in some, namely the flu vaccine.
Finally, it allows for a modified schedule for vaccine administration. Again, what is the problem? Why the utter inflexibility? It does not say it allows for any new exemptions. Some diseases do not cause outbreaks generally (bacterial meningitis, hepatitis B), at least not in young children. I can still see how a pediatrician can inform the parents, allay fears, and try to set up a schedule that works for everyone. Is the child not going to be in daycare (which may not accept the adjusted schedule) and not exposed to many people? What’s wrong with waiting on a few?
I think my professor is afraid that making accommodations about vaccines in any way gives credence to vaccine critics. I think the opposite. Making sure vaccines are as toxin free as possible and allowing for some parent autonomy, within reason, actually takes fuel away from the extreme anti vaccine crowd.
OK, have at it. Try to be civil or you may get a square on the bingo card.