10/14/2009

David Brown's "An Assault on the H1N1 vaccines?"

From David this week is this article on the H1N1 vaccine. Here are the last three paragraphs of his piece, which can be found in its entirety at:
http://evilpossum.weebly.com/uploads/2/6/2/2/2622709/h1n1.pdf.


Like last month’s Wakefield/NAA “press release” on Offit, this is a grossly misleading and partisan text. It is also, returning to the “Fortean” angle, very much like an urban legend, blending together with a broader mythology of dubious claims of less certain provenance. The allegations against squalene can easily be classified as a “legend”, particularly in that it centers on the unverified report of its use in the early 1990s.




Another issue worth watching for is what I call “phantom quotes”, unverifiable statements attributed to perceived authorities that seem to emerge full grown and untraceable, like the Loch Ness monster rising briefly to the surface. Such appocryphal or anonymous statements are well-known to folklorists, particularly as a typical component of bogus warnings and as a whole genre involving alleged inappropriate behavior by celebrities on television. (The “P&G/Satanism” legend, woven around an interview that never happened between an unnamed P&G executive and one of any number of talk show hosts, can be considered a representative of both.) This is a problem that has come to the attention of debunkers, for example in a dubious "quote" attributed to an unnamed employee of the Health Department of Oregon by J.B. Handley last month. There is no doubt in my mind that the “phantom quote” phenomenon is playing a major role in stories about health care workers refusing to take the H1N1 vaccine(s).



A particular instance I have investigated is coverage of a study titled, “Willingness of Hong Kong healthcare workers to accept pre-pandemic influenza vaccination at different WHO alert levels: two questionnaire surveys”,widely quoted by online and other secondary sources as finding that “half of health care workers refuse H1N1 vaccination”. But what the paper itself states is that, out of a reported “2255 healthcare workers (who) completed the questionnaires in the two studies”, only 389 responded to the one questionnaire which included questions about H1N1, and that 47.6% of them responded in the negative. This means that, strictly speaking, 10% of all those who responded indicated they would accept the H1N1 vaccine, another 10% indicated they would not, and 80% were given no reason or opportunity to comment. Thus, saying that half were against the vaccine(s) is clearly an oversimplification at best. Secondary sources may distort the paper further, for example by claiming that 8,500 were surveyed. This probably means nothing more or less than that the story in popular imagination has become detached from the actual study, hence departing from the realm of science (good or bad) into that of folklore, to join whatever real, imagined or self-created monsters haunt the minds of men..

1 comment:

Clay said...

Well Jon, I waited a couple of days to post this, because I wanted to give you a fair chance to respond. I sent this to Kim on Tuesday, so she can verify that. Here ya go, buddy.

"Man of Dysfunction"

JON MITCHELL:

Hear me now!
Oh thou bleak and unbearable world,
Thou art base and debauched as can be;
And a nattering nabob of negativity,*
Now throws down his gauntlet to thee!
I am I, Jon Mitchell!
The Man of Dysfunction!
My dear mother calls and I go,
I will bear my misfortune,
And blame it forever,
On thimerosal as my foe.
Thimerosal is my foe.
Onward to misery I go!

CRESPO
I'm Crespo! Yes, I'm Crespo!
I'll follow my master till the end.
I'll tell all the world proudly
I'm his squire! I'm his friend!

JON MITCHELL:

Hear me, Aspies and NDs,
And serpents of sin!
All your dastardly doings are past,
For a foolish endeavor is now to begin,
And misery shall triumph at last!

(Jon Mitchell and Crespo mount their horses and set out along a road)

JON MITCHELL:
I am I, Jon Mitchell!
The Man of Dysfunction!
My dear mother calls and I go,
I will bear my misfortune,
And blame it forever,
On thimerosal as my foe!


CRESPO:
I'm Crespo! Yes, I'm Crespo!
I'll follow my master till the end.
I'll tell all the world proudly
I'm his squire! I'm his friend!

JON MITCHELL, CRESPO:
Thimerosal is my foe,
Onward to misery we go!

*nattering nabob of negativity - a quote from Spiro T. Agnew.