For example, I recently joined Twitter Nation -- what can I say, Demi Moore is a very convincing salesperson -- and what everybody told me about Twitter was that it was supposed to be whatever stray thought or thing just happened to you -- you know, for people who find blogging too formal and stuffy.He continues on by saying that he's "representing an under-reported medical point of view" in this country. And there are so many of those, are there not? I look forward to the time Bill Maher corrects the under-reporting of homeopathy, phrenology, and aromatherapy. Or does Maher consider only his points of view to be under-reported? Bill Maher suggests that our problem is in not having a strong enough immune system in the first place, probably due to all the junk food we eat. As if eating enough spinach will make you strong enough to fight the H1N1 virus. I wonder what nutrition plan he would suggest to people with AIDS? Perhaps an all-natural vegetarian meal followed by an after dinner joint?
But apparently it's taken very seriously, because there was Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services what she thought about the fact that "Bill Maher told his viewers anyone who gets a flu shot is an idiot."
Well, not quite. It was twittered, which I guess doesn't make a huge difference, but as 60 Minutes is the last bastion of TV journalism, accuracy is appreciated. And I see that counts for Twitter, too -- my bad -- so yes, some people are not idiotic to get a flu shot. They're idiotic if they don't investigate the pros and cons of getting a flu shot. But, come on -- it was a twitter from a comedian, not a treatise in the New England Journal of Medicine, that's not what I do.
Maybe he's on to something. After all, he claims to know enough about vaccinations:
Michael Shermer wrote me an open letter and felt I needed to be told that "vaccinations work by tricking the body's immune system into thinking that it has already had the disease for which the vaccination was given." Thanks, Doc, I thought there might be a little man inside the needle. Yes, I read Microbe Hunters when I was eight, I have a basic idea how vaccines work.Yet if he really understood how vaccines work, he wouldn't have wrote the HuffPo article. When exposed to certain viruses, the immune system adapts and "learns" how to fight them so that when the virus returns years later, you don't get sick. Contrary to Maher's implications, no amount of farm fresh spinach or broccoli will teach your immune system how to fight off a virus. That's simply not the way it works. What Maher is really getting at is what the medical community has known about for decades: clean, healthy, stress-free living gives your immune system the ability to more effectively respond to viruses - to fight off those viral agents it already "knows" about, as well as to quickly learn and respond to those it doesn't know about. Of course, you'd much rather have an immune system with a large "memory" of viral agents for faster response. Which is what vaccinations are all about.
And if you think Maher is really trying to set himself apart from all the other anti-vaxxer whackos, think again:
In addition, my audience is bright, they wouldn't refuse a flu shot because they heard me talk about it, but if they looked into the subject a little more, how is that a bad thing? If they went to the CDC Web site and saw what's in the vaccine -- the formaldehyde, the insect repellent, the mercury -- shouldn't they at least get to have the information for themselves?He is using the same scare tactics that the anti-vaxxers use. Formaldehyde, insect repellent, mercury, oh my! Go to the CDC website, says he. Just look at all the crap they put into a vaccine, says he. Then read further to find out what these ingredients are for, check out the low dose rates, and see what effect they have on the human body, says he. Or...wait. No, he didn't say that. Nothing but lions and tigers and bears for Bill Maher.
The problem with Bill Maher is not his musing about big pharma doing shady things to make a buck. That's a discussion worth having. After all, corporations respond to shareholders uber alles. No...Maher's problem is thinking he has science on his side. Like George W. Bush, he's thinking with his gut on this one.
But then again, maybe we shouldn't take him too seriously. Maybe he was only joking in his HuffPo article. He is a comedian after all.