One of the quiet- but important- parts of what I consider to be my mission in this life is to not stand idly by while seeing the truth others "have spoken twisted by naves to make a trap for fools." As a result I often find myself responding to some article or loose expertise on subjects like health care, science and the like. I try to be diplomatic and informative, but honestly, there is a fair amount of anger and disdain involved. Probably, this is due to my understanding the limits of the system being criticized, as well as my repulsion to the idea that something with even less evidence than we already have could be considered of equal value or that something should be pushed onto the public based on a limited amount of actual science. This happens on all sides of a number of issues and it leaves me tired at night and frustrated a lot during the day.
My most recent tirade was this morning in regards to vaccination. My response to the idea that vaccines cause more harm than good is as follows: Smallpox. Diphtheria. Polio. Tetanus. Yellow Fever. Measles. Rinderpest. Rabies. Rubella. Brucellosis. Parvovirus. Distemper Virus. Panleukopenia Virus. Pertussis. These are all diseases that we in the developed world don't have to think about as much in our human or animal populations due in large part to successful vaccination programs. It's not without problems (you can apply that statement to the whole world, every program ever run and our own lives). Over-vaccination definitely occurs; it is rampant in my world. Vaccine reactions or adverse effects do occur: I've seen eight that required intervention in the roughly 15,000 vaccines I've administered. I've seen at least a dozen cases of vaccine-induced sarcomas as well. Vaccines aren't perfect but to remove one of the most valuable tools that human and animal health have experienced based on a few poor outcomes is to miss the point of medicine. Prevention is always the mission and to do that, we have to take a holistic approach and that has to include vaccines, it has to include filaricidal therapy in drinking water for river blindness and dracunculiasis , it has to include education about clean water and hygiene and it has to include access to a safe and healthy food supply.
I understand the concern: it is serious and it is personal when it happens to you or someone you love. I would never say that the system is perfect and that we don't need further investigation and robust criticism combined with regulation. However, I bristle at the notion that science isn't the best way to work out what we do and don't understand about the Universe and the best way to apply that understanding, however limited it may be. I am repulsed by the idea that- given everything we don't understand- someone would consider it appropriate to apply ideas, models or even treatments without putting them through the same rigorous (although admittedly not perfect) gauntlet that all of the other ideas, models and treatments must endure.
Most likely, this is the same way a quarterback feels on Monday morning watching the sports networks or our men and women in uniform feel when they listen to talking heads go one way or another about military intervention. I think Theodore Roosevelt put it best in his speech Citizenship in a Republic: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
My ultimate response is to encourage anyone willing to put themselves to task, earn the credentials to give yourself the opportunity to approach these issues with some credibility. Then choose to stand with or against me but until you've earned that right my response is the same, "Thanks for the input but I've got to get back to work."