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Parliamentary questions… September 11, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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A good piece in the IT by Mary Minihan on the HPV vaccine and the manner in which some have played politics with it. It’s staggering to reflect as she does on the following:

Readers might be surprised at how often TDs of all parties and none have raised the topic in the Dáil in recent times.
The matter was mentioned 130 times by deputies in the form of questions and comments between the start of the 32nd Dáil, in March 2016, and this July, when it rose for the summer.

And:

Less than 15 per cent of those comments could be construed as supportive of the vaccine, according to the Irish Cancer Society.
Thirty-five TDs either submitted parliamentary questions or spoke about the issue at a committee, with a small minority offering explicit support.
The deputy who asked the most questions about the HPV vaccine was Michael Fitzmaurice, the Independent from Roscommon-Galway, who posed 15 of them. The Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, who represents Longford-Westmeath, and the Independents 4 Change deputy Clare Daly, from Dublin Fingal, asked 13 questions each.

But having some passing acquaintance with these matters the following was striking:

Some TDs say they are merely passing on constituents’ concerns neutrally, and sometimes that is the case. “I’m not a doctor or a medical expert,” is a common refrain. Many say they would never advise parents not to have their daughters vaccinated.
A widely held view seems to be that when a constituent comes asking you to ask questions, you just do it, regardless of the consequences.

This may be what is said, this may indeed be what some believe to be the case, but it is – one would suspect – very far from an accurate reflection of the truth. TDs continually rebuff ‘constituents concerns’ on a range of matters and it is indicative – to me at least – of how this particular issue has gained a noxious traction by – well, yes, emotionalism and appeals to same. And Minihan points to another aspect of this…

Even today, what TDs say and do can still influence how their constituents act. It is interesting to note that some of the constituencies with TDs who were frequent questioners, such as Roscommon-Galway, Longford-Westmeath and Kerry, have had slightly lower-than-average take up of the vaccine historically.
And the language contained in some of the questions is very similar to conspiracy theories touted by anti-vaccine groups.

That is a huge responsibility – the responsibility to influence, or set an example, in accordance to the facts. Of course TDs are human, are prone to being open to the exaggerated, the emotional and the simply incorrect. But given the reality of HPV and what the vaccine is about preventing one might think there’d be a deeper engagement on the part of some elected representatives with those facts.

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Comments»

1. EWI - September 11, 2017

Of course, the elephant in the room here is that this is in reality a subterranean lobbying effort by elements in the RCC (as with the campaigns against sex workers etc.).

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Joe - September 11, 2017

I read RCC as Rape Crisis Centre. Now I’m thinking you mean Roman Catholic Church?

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EWI - September 11, 2017

Yes.

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EWI - September 11, 2017

Anything to punish ‘fallen’ women (like cancer) for having sex, is clearly good in the eyes of the Church.

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2. dublinstreams - September 11, 2017

Minihan let TDs off easily with that excuse. They can rebuff or reword or ask a better question.

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WorldbyStorm - September 11, 2017

+100 particularly your point re ‘ask a better question’ – worth quoting that,its spot on.

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3. 6to5against - September 11, 2017

I was thinking a lot about this over the last week or two – I seemed to catch every radio story on the topic, or perhaps there wasn’t much else out there for those few days – and I was trying think my way into the head of an anti-vaxxer.

It seems to me that the issue isn’t one of pro or anti-science, as its often portrayed. The anti-vax side tend to quote specific examples of ‘harm’ to individuals, and claim to have evidence of widespread problems created by the virus, after all. It might be bad science to come to a conclusion on the basis of a few scare stories, but its not bad science – and its certainly not anti-science – to listen to those stories and question whether or not there is a problem.

The issue comes top a head in the next step. Those of us who believe the vaccine is a good thing believe that those issues have been examined, that tests have been run, that the stats have been studied,
I haven’t run those tests myself, of course, nor examined the evidence first hand, nor even read a great deal about them. But I believe that the people involved have done so, and I trust their conclusion.

Similarly the anti-vaxxers haven’t read all the evidence, and they haven’t carried out their own tests and they haven’t studied all the stats. Fair enough. We don’t all have time. The problem is that they simply don’t trust that anybody else has done so honestly.

And when it comes to trust in big science, and big corporations, I’m sort of sympathetic to that lack of trust. Even though I think its misplaced on this occasion.

Maybe SF were right last week. Those who are sceptical deserve respect. Which is not the same thing as encouraging credulity.

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dublinstreams - September 11, 2017

do you respect the moms that still support Wakefield?

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6to5against - September 11, 2017

I don’t think anything I’ve said can seriously be read as being anti-vax, can it? And respecting a viewpoint is not the same thing as agreeing with it.

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dublinstreams - September 11, 2017

I don’t think anything I’ve said can seriously be read as me suggesting you are anti-vax, can it?
I hink there a simple “moms know” thing that gets used along with ancedotes that shouldn’t be respected.

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WorldbyStorm - September 11, 2017

I’d say respect isn’t quite how I’d personally put it more that one would listen to their concerns and then concisely engage with them and point out where they’re unfounded. But I don’t think there’s a reason to do that more than once or twice.

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Liberius - September 11, 2017

It seems to me that the issue isn’t one of pro or anti-science, as its often portrayed. The anti-vax side tend to quote specific examples of ‘harm’ to individuals, and claim to have evidence of widespread problems created by the virus, after all.

Not all evidence is created equally; here’s a quote from the Netherland’s Lareb (who collect complaints about medicines)

This follow-up study gives a very clear and impressive picture of medically unexplained, long-lasting symptoms and their impact on daily functioning. However, in the reports there is no uniformity in time between vaccination and the onset of symptoms.

Now it’s not Lareb’s job to say something is safe so they don’t say that, but that quote should give should indication of the quality of the complaints made against the HPV vaccines (in this case Cervarix rather than Gardasil)

I don’t think being sceptical of the pharmaceutical industry is a problem, but if multiple agencies around the world (many funded by governments) are saying they can’t link the claimed problems to the vaccines then it is unwise to suggest that scepticism in that case deserves respect as it is stepping over into the realm of a conspiracy of unreasonable scale (scale being the weak spot for real conspiracy).

https://www.lareb.nl/en/news/report-on-long-lasting-symptoms-following-hpv-vaccination/

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Liberius - September 11, 2017

Bloody Auto fill. WbS can you try to remove my email address (I can’t remember if that’s possible with wordpress), if not just delete the whole comment.

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irishelectionliterature - September 11, 2017

Should be OK now

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Liberius - September 11, 2017

Thank you IEL.

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6/5against - September 11, 2017

Liberius, saying i can respect where people are coming from is not the same thing as saying I agree with them. Nor is it saying that their opinion should go unchallenged.
Those who are genuinely sceptical of a medicine on the grounds of trust are amenable to debate and discussion. Those who are simply anti-science – or in the case of the HPV vaccine, anti-sex – are not. I think its good to recognise the diffference.

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Liberius - September 11, 2017

Those who are genuinely sceptical of a medicine on the grounds of trust are amenable to debate and discussion.

If they are amenable then the information campaign will convince them surely? If not what really separates them from the extremists?

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GW - September 12, 2017

I partly get where 6to5 is coming from.

Science under the capitalist totality is a difficult thing to navigate. Best effort partial and temporary scientific truth (this is the best we can hope for) is often overruled by the profit-making and capital accumulation. So people rightly should be suspicious of big pharma and it’s data.

If people want to question it they need to make a scientifically and statistically valid case against. Which means constructing open source epidemiological data and having the literacy to assess it. Anecdotal evidence won’t do.

And all medicine involves an assessment or risks and benefits. But our education system doesn’t prioritise giving people a feel for how and when to make such assessments.

Certainly TDs should have advisors who are capable of giving scientifically literate advice, or should seek them out.

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6to5against - September 12, 2017

Well put GW. I really didn’t mean anything I said to be a defence of anti-vax propaganda.

Another way of looking at it is this: some of us here cone from scientific backgrounds. We are comfortable listening/reading a science story. A big part of that is being able to distinguish (hopefully) between pseudo-science, real science and science-inflected propaganda.

But to many intelligent people, the voices on the radio last week arguing for vaccinations – and doing so very well, I thought – are indistinguishable from the voices that were talking about a soft landing a few years ago, or explaining why we all had to take pay-cuts and why we couldn’t have decent public services. The distrust most of us have for those people in understandable.

To fix this isn’t easy. A good information campaign cant do it, because good information won’t find its way through a wall of mistrust.

What would help of course is a general level of scientific literacy, far beyond what we have now. I hope we get there in the future. And what won’t help is a hectoring and abusive tone that lumps all sceptics together.

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dublinstreams - September 12, 2017

the voices against the vaccine does it make sense to you to trust them?

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4. gendjinn - September 11, 2017

I remember the decades the medical profession dismissed the existence of Lyme’s disease, of Lupus and I can go on.

So when people show up sick, or parents have sick kids, then I tend to have some humility and try to figure out the problem instead of grinding my political axe to dismiss and ridicule them.

But each is slave to their limbic system in the unique ways their upbringing maimed them.

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Liberius - September 11, 2017

But each is slave to their limbic system in the unique ways their upbringing maimed them.

I take it that’s your idea of a clever insult, a bit like Roddy’s use of a certain childishly misspelt misogynistic swear word?

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5. roddy - September 11, 2017

So Daly mentioned it13 times and yet when Louise mentioned it once without opposing it she was jumped on by our resident neo unionist.

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Liberius - September 11, 2017

Go back to February 2016, I’ve already covered Daly.

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WorldbyStorm - September 11, 2017

In fairness roddy Liberius has been clear about Daly too. I don’t think it’s fair to drag anything else into this.

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6. roddy - September 11, 2017

Aye Roddy’s a “cute hoor” ,is’nt he?!

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7. FergusD - September 11, 2017

The thing is I come across a common “type” who are justly critical about “mainstream” medicines, but not sceptical at all about “alternative” medicines. Which may be relevant here. Weird. We all need to be critical about medicine and science, good medicine and science depend on it but that should extend across the range of “medicines” and “treatments” offered to us. And we all need to educate ourselves about what good “evidence” in this context is. We all tend to give too much weight to the personal and anecdotal, which again may be relevant in the case of vaccines. It is in our nature. I do it often enough and I have been 40 years in science.

Everyone should read Ben Goldacre’s books, “Bad Science” and “Bad Pharma”!

Liked by 2 people

6to5against - September 12, 2017

I really agree with this. It’s a really good example of what I’m trying to say above, and why scientific education is really important for reasons far beyond the need to produce techie workers for US multinationals.

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