J. D. Heyes
November 20, 2013
There isn’t a day that goes by without someone or some entity attempting to scare the bejesus out of us, and it’s never without ulterior motives.
This time, it’s the media again, and they are screaming about a meningitis “outbreak” that, so far, has involved a grand total of seven people.
A medical ethics professor writing for NBC News has used terms and phrases like “emergency” and “feared disease” to describe what has happened to seven students at Princeton University, even going so far as to frame the incidents as some sort of major health threat in the making in order to stump for – wait for it – immunization.
Arthur Caplan, PhD, writes this for NBC News:
Emergency doses of a vaccine are on the way to Princeton University to halt a meningitis outbreak there that has already sickened seven students. There are approved meningitis vaccines available, but they do not protect against serogroup B meningitis. New Jersey state law requires college students to receive a licensed meningococcal vaccination although, sadly and sometimes tragically, enforcement is often lacking. However, failure to vaccinate is not the problem with this outbreak. Current FDA-licensed vaccines only protect against meningitis types A, C, Y and W-135, not B – the source of the outbreak at Princeton.
Why is everything a ‘crisis’?
He goes on to write that, as of last week, our imperial government has “agreed” to import one type of vaccine, Bexsero, which is manufactured by Novartis and licensed in Europe and Australia. It ostensibly protects against meningitis B.
The fear-mongering continues:
Meningitis B is a nasty bacterial infection. The B strain is the leading cause of meningitis across Europe, particularly in infants. Although rare, the disease is feared because it can rapidly sicken otherwise healthy people without warning. Symptoms often resemble the flu, making this form of meningitis hard to diagnose. About one in 10 of those who get meningitis B in Europe die despite efforts to treat them. Up to one in five may suffer from brain damage, hearing impairment or lose a limb. Prevention, not treatment, is the best way to go for this disease.
Well, we agree on one thing – prevention is better than a vaccine.
Caplan says the disease is contracted via prolonged exposure to coughing and sneezing in places like college dorms, military barracks and other small areas with high concentrations of people. The bacteria can also be spread through exchange of respiratory and throat secretions – sex is perhaps the primary mechanism. Sharing cups, toothbrushes and other types of hygiene exposure are also culprits, he writes.
But then he goes back to pushing the vaccine and talking about an “outbreak“:
The good news is that the vaccine appears to be very safe. But if you look at the studies that were done to receive approval in Europe, nearly all of them were done in infants or children. One was done in Chile on young adults and that one was on the small side as vaccine trials go.
If my kid was at Princeton, I would want him vaccinated. That said, the question arises: Given the reality of an outbreak, what should those getting the vaccine be told?
Time for Uncle Sam to get out of the way, at least
Caplan does make a good point for medical freedom, however. He says that, if a vaccine hasn’t been blessed by government bureaucracy, patients should nevertheless have access to it if they they want it:
In general, when using a drug or device that has not been approved by the FDA or other federal advisory agencies, those who are offered the vaccine should be treated more like research subjects than patients. They should be told all the facts about the vaccine, why it has not been approved in the U.S. and about the all too real threat that meningitis B poses. They should be given the opportunity to ask questions. There is a duty to try and monitor those who get the vaccine or, at least a representative sample, to watch for both efficacy and safety even if there is little reason to worry about any problems.
Seven people does not an outbreak “emergency” make, but Caplan does at least have the right idea about treatment options. If only we could get the government out of the way.
This article was posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 6:07 am