By DR. JULIE LYONS
In response to the op-ed article written by Leslie Manookian and Kendall Nelson in last Wednesday’s paper, I would ask the authors to cite the sources of their information so that we as readers can judge their validity.
In the day and age of medical technology and widespread Internet media, the true science behind scientific studies is often grossly misinterpreted and generalized. As a young physician, much of my medical training was spent on analyzing medical literature to determine if a study is valid and if the results are truly statistically significant. This is a complicated and time-consuming task, but is essential to making good clinical decisions.
It is easy to be swayed by fads and frenzy and a single invalid study. To be valid, a study needs to have enough participants to perform statistical analysis. Unfortunately, much of the fear around vaccines comes from poorly designed, invalid studies. And just because a study is published in a peer-reviewed journal, doesn’t mean it counts. Last week, I attended a conference by Delfini, which was a two-day review course in assessment of medical literature, and I learned that perhaps as many as 80 percent of studies in medical journals do not meet quality indicators.
My child is vaccinated, as are all the children of my partners,
and friends who are doctors.
Let’s look at the autism and MMR association published by Andrew Wakefield in 1998. This study has no scientific validity and has been withdrawn from scientific literature and yet millions of parents are making important decisions about their children’s health on it. It is frustrating as a trained medical professional to see the gross misinterpretation of data by the general public, and even medical professionals, that happens every day, and vaccines are only part of this biased judgment. In addition, there are medical organizations whose mission is to analyze studies, and rate their level of evidence. Yes, some, like the CDC and USPTSF, are government-funded, but many others are independent from government and pharmaceutical ties, like the Cochrane Review and the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, and all have come to the same conclusions on vaccine effectiveness and safety.
A study came out in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal recently that showed doctors have little to no influence on persuading a non-vaccinator to vaccinate. As a steward of public health, this was disheartening. But perhaps I can serve my patients by educating them on how to truly think critically and not to buy in to reports of studies that claim to have unquestionable proof on a topic as important as vaccines. Idaho is 47th in the nation for vaccination rates in ages 2-5 years old. Does this mean that Idaho knows something more? Or are we fearful and mistrusting? Or do we just not care?
As a mom, I can’t help to think that the nation and the world would recommend putting billions of children at risk by recommending a treatment that is truly harmful. My child is vaccinated, as are all the children of my partners, and friends who are doctors. I place trust in the information we have.
Editor’s note: For the record, Leslie Manookian and Kendall Nelson did provide extensive footnotes of sources for their guest opinion. However, for considerations of space and readability, the Idaho Mountain Express did not include them with the column, nor did it verify their accuracy, as “Other Views” columns are published as the opinion of the writers, not as points of fact or the opinion of the newspaper.
Dr. Julie Lyons, of Hailey, is a practicing physician.