Where shall we place the blame?

Perhaps you've noticed that I find the anti-vaccine movement infuriating. (It appears that my friend and co-blogger Devin has picked up on this.) There are a variety of reasons it grinds my gears -- it diminishes the communal immunity that keeps us free of deadly infections, is predicated on hysteria with no basis in fact, and is promulgated by idiots and charlatans who prey upon the fears of the public.

It. Makes. Me. Crazy.

Now, there's a whole lot of hysteria about the H1N1 (aka swine) flu out there, as well, and the resulting brouhaha has made for a hopping phone line in our office here at Bleakonomy's northern redoubt. A certain regular commenter has made noises (dare I affectionately suggested predictably so?) that President Obama is to blame for all of this, and that the Snoutbreak is Exhibit L in the ongoing case against his competence.

Contra this viewpoint, there is this article in The New Republic. For what shall we blame the Prez?
If the administration deserves criticism, critics mostly agree, it’s for reporting the vaccine manufacturer’s optimistic predictions about when the doses would be available. Then again, as others have noted, manufacturers had to slow down the process because the government wanted the vaccine produced in single-dose vials--and that was because consumers feared that a chemical used in multi-dose vials might cause autism. It’s indicative of the delicate balancing act the administration has been trying to perform, between responding quickly with a vaccine and making sure the product they put forward was safe for public use. [emphasis cantankerously added]
Literally as I type these words, one of the women at the front desk is answering a question about whether the H1N1 vaccine contains thimerosal. (The infant formulation does not.) This despite ample evidence that thimerosal does not, in fact, cause autism. (As I have mentioned before, the cretins at Generation Rescue even include these studies on their website.) Yet, because of the persistent fear of thimerosal and a desire to allay any concerns that might lead to vaccine refusal, the government opted to have it manufactured in a more time-consuming process that made its use unnecessary. If you are going to blame the President for relying on the optimistic estimates of vaccine manufacturers, then it is only fair that you also place a generous portion of the blame on the people who have created the anti-vaccine culture of fear. Because of them, your access to the vaccine has been impeded.

Just thought you should know.


  1. Hi, Dan! May I affectionately suggest that as the man in charge of the Executive, the buck stops with Mr. Obama for execution of government programs. Of course TNR wants to cast the administration as some helpless observer of the mean, evil vaccine makers. I tend to agree; this administration is a helpless observer. But it doesn't have to be this way. Real executives take charge, appoint competent people (Sebelius doesn't appear to be all that swift at HHS), and find problems while they can be corrected. That's why they earn the big bucks. Oh, and real executives underpromsie and overdeliver. The best surprise is no surprise.

    If Obama's administration caved to the anti-vaxxers, isn't that a Bad Thing for Mr. Scary-smart? Buddha alone knows how hard the Juicebox Brigade would be banging on their highchairs if Mr. Bush had screwed up delivery of lifesaving medicine to please anti-science nutters. Better that we have enough vaccines than we cater to people who get the vapors over adjuvents and thimerosal. If the nutters want to avoid it, fine, but DON'T RUN THE DAMN HHS AS IF THEY ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVERYONE ELSE!

    And I think the rest of the world is starting to notice that Mr. O is all hat and no cattle. The Mirror reports on his ultra-productive Asia Tour, and even SNL is getting snickers in. Face it, Barry is in waaaay over his head, he's naive, his foreign policy isn't working and he's going to get people hurt. Fortunately, the center and right are going to rub Progressives' noses in his epic fail for a quarter century. President Obama will be the Herbert Hoover of the 21st century. Hide and watch.

  2. Presumably he should also be getting blood from stones.

    And you are free to take this with as many grains of salt as you wish, but it makes no difference how much vaccine you have if people refuse to take it, and there would be far, far fewer takers if the vaccine had thimerosal. Trust me.

  3. If he promised blood from stones, it seems fair to call him on his failure to produce blood from stones.

    Do people really ask about adjuvants, thimerosal, and other components in adult vaccines?

  4. Why yes, John, they do. That question is relatively moot, given that children are the population most at risk, and their parents would most certainly refuse the vaccine in far higher numbers if it contained thimerosal. Already I have to allay a lot of suspicion because the vaccine was produced so rapidly, which creates the impression that it is not safe.

  5. Are they clutching articles by Ms. McCarthy to their trembling breasts as they ask?

    Basically, HHS has decided that the elderly will be shortchanged so the concerns of airhead celebrities and the synchopants who take them seriously can be accomodated. Sounds like a plan to me! You must be so proud of the backbone of Ms. Sebelius and HHS.

  6. Yeah. Um, let's just say that I totally disagree with your analysis, that we are highly unlikely to concur on this issue, and leave it at that.

  7. Yes, and I am pissed. Supply issues mean my daughter's only getting one vaccine, which will confer only partial immunity, thanks to anti-vaxxers' fears of adjuvants. My son, who has asthma, could not get the injectable in time to prevent what is likely the flu. Fortunately, he has almost recovered, without sequellae, but if it had been otherwise, I'd be out for blood.

    The folks at Age of Autism are also hatching a plan to introduce an anti-vax legislative initiative in Oregon. Among the provisions they hope to include are banning of vaccines for young infants and pregnant women, and mandatory spacing out of vaccination.

  8. I had to stop reading about halfway through, Squillo. I think it would be doomed to failure, but more depressing things have happened.

  9. There is no cure for cancer either, it must be Obama's fault. Amazing how Republicans are dead set against the government getting involved in health care, that the market should decide everything yet now have the gall to criticize Obama because Obama doesn't have the mechanism to rewrite the laws of nature to speed up vaccine within the market.

    The internal illogic of Republicans is hilarious.

    gadfly talks like a disappointed communist.


  10. charo, lots of free market types realize that left alone, completely free markets would be selling human flesh. Yes, we need regulations. Surprised?

    No one expects violations of the laws of nature. What I expect is competent management, and that means not making promises one cannot keep. Sec. Sebelius testified to Congress on Sept. 15 that everything was fine and adequate supplies would be available. She's either a liar, and incompetent executive, or a gullible dupe. Possibly all three. Why the flagnar is such an easily misled person running healthcare?

    Things would be quite different if we were told the truth back in Sept. "We are having production problems, and some changes necessary to cater to the anti-Science loonie fringe are delaying vaccine production" would at least have the virtue of being truthful.

    If the Feds are going to run healthcare, I say we beat the hell out of them with metaphorical tire irons when they lie, when they offer glib assurances that do not reflect reality, and when they fail to take the public trust seriously. In short, all the time (only half kidding). Eventually the notion will sink in that the public will not tolerate business as usual on healthcare.

  11. no, the fact is the virus has spread faster in the US than anticipated. In Mexico, where the virus originated, it has been contained and this in a country with few vaccines. Suppose Sebelius knew there would not be enough vaccines (I doubt she KNEW it, but suppose) so was she supposed to say there wouldn't be enough? Beyond creating panic, to what end? There is no massive outbreak in the US, no thousands of people dying in the streets, by far most people who get the virus survive. Personally, I believe they truly did not know there would be production problems (and such high demand). And if they had, it would have made zero freaking difference besides preventing panic.


  12. Charo... the public has known there are insufficient supplies of vaccine for weeks now, so where's your supposed panic? People can handle the truth.

    And yes, I'll bet Sebelius didn't know about problems. That isn't an excuse for her, because it is her damn job to know about vaccine supplies. She heads the freaking HHS, for Cthulhu's sake. And if she can't do anything, she can at least tell the truth. If a CEO lied about her company's performance this way, she'd go to jail, and rightly so. We ought to insist on no less high a standard for our Public Servants. Put her sorry [posterior] in jail, and I bet the next head of HHS would be all over vaccine production.

  13. Look, I am a rational, educated parent with a family in medicine and some undergraduate work in microbiology and molecular biology. I'm not an expert but I'm not an idiot. I believe in most vaccines and I value practices that promote herd immunity. And there is no way I would take a vaccine preserved with thimerosal or let my child have a vaccine preserved with thimerosal for the simple reason that mercury is not something we should put in our bodies. there is no evidence that thimerosal directly causes autism. But there are a lot of questions about what causes autism, and what organomercurials do to human bodies.
    Avoiding mercury does not make me a wacko or make me anti-vax. It makes me a smart consumer. And if that means I can't have my H1N1 until later this month (and it does), well so be it. Those are the limitations of modern pharmaceutical manufacturing, and that's what we have to deal with. I'm pretty impressed that we have vaccines for a bug discovered so recently. Numbers aside, it's a marvel of modern chemistry and medicine that we have a vax foor this at all. And thank goodness they've replaced 1930s preservative technology with something safer.

  14. NTW, you wouldn't use a vaccine with thimerosal? For fear of mercury? Do you eat fish? Do you allow your children to eat fish? They are getting mercury in fish. Also, it is in the form of methylmercury which is worse than the ethylmercury thimerosal metabolizes into (the vaccine limits are set as if all the mercury becomes the more dangerous methylmercury).

    Learn something, ask Mr. Google, and you'll find that you and your child get more mercury from 6 oz. of white tuna than from a vaccine.

    Me? I'd rather give up a tuna sandwich and get my vaccine than be fearful of thimerosal.