Vaccines – wading into the debate (a skeptical book review)

So far, with only a couple of exceptions, my children have had their vaccines on schedule. I have refused the chickenpox vaccine for my older child and will refuse it for my younger child. I also refused the 6-hour HepB vaccine for my second child, but he has received the others on schedule (and the HepB at 2 months, which is apparently becoming a standard policy in my area).

However, there’s been the nagging question in the back of my mind about whether this is the right decision. I understand the basic arguments on both sides: we need to contribute to “herd immunity” and keep some nasty diseases at bay. On the other side, we talk about side effects of childhood vaccines (including autism, but that will be a rather minor issue in this series) and whether we need vaccinations at all. Even if we do need vaccinations, some have questioned the vaccination schedule, preferring a less aggressive approach that will still accomplish keeping the worst childhood diseases at bay. Still others wonder if we only need a subset of the current childhood vaccines we receive now, and let the body take care of the other ones.

So, now I kick off a new blog entry series reviewing the book Vaccines: Are They Really Safe & Effective? Neil Z. Miller looks to be a medical journalist who compiled this information because he was faced with the issues of vaccinating his children. The book is about 100 pages of text and figures, with 916 references (including newspaper articles, congressional testimony, and scientific articles). Miller makes the following disclaimer:

The decision regarding whether or not to vaccinate is a personal one. The author is not a health practitioner nor legal advisor, and makes no claims in this regard. Nor does the author recommend for or against vaccines. All the information in this book is taken from other sources and documented in the Notes. If you have questions, doubts, or concerns regarding any of the information in this book, go to the original source. Then research this topic even further so that you may make a wise and informed choice.

I can certainly second that.

I realize that the topic of vaccinations is a very touchy one. The most active blog entries I’ve had to date was on the subject of thimerosal, and arguments coming from both pro- and anti-vaccine proponents are filled with emotion and, often, venom. This is understandable, as the stakes are very high. If anything, this issue can use illumination of facts, and I hope that my review of a well-referenced book on the matter can do that.

So, as I go through this series, my primary goal is to provoke thought. I don’t care about comments; in fact, depending on how much value is added (or taken away) to the discussion I might disable them. We’ll have to see, as I don’t want this blog to resemble some of the forum pages I’ve seen on the matter.

So, on an overview of the book, and my reason for reviewing it publically, is that it is very well-referenced. Well-referenced does not mean true, but it does mean that I can go to the sources and evaluate them for myself. I probably won’t do that with all 916 references, as I do have other things on my plate, but I can probably hit some of the main points and try to find counterpoints as well.

The overall tone of the book seems to challenge the notion that vaccines are necessary and safe. (As the series progresses, I hope to see if the challenge stands.) A skim through the book reveals data, quotes, and events that presumably back up this challenge.


2 Responses

  1. Hi,

    Saw that you were talking about vaccines and wanted to let you know about an episode of one of our shows that we just posted online covering this topic.


  2. […] Vaccines – wading into the debate (a skeptical book review) Technorati Tags: vaccines This entry was written by randomjohn and posted on February 13, 2007 at 9:44 pm and filed under Book review, Health and wellness, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Ch-ch-changes […]

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