Bill Maher’s Illogical Thoughts on Vaccinations

I’m visiting my mother-in-law and so Friday night we watched Real Time with Bill Maher and I enjoyed watching satire of the news from the left side.  I recently visited my Dad and endured Fox Network’s Justice w/Judge Jeanine so Maher seemed like a Rhode’s Scholar in comparison to Ms. Pirro.  Much of what Mr. Maher had to say was funny and right on target. I just cannot figure how a seemingly bright and open-minded guy like him can have such uninformed and downright odd theories about our immune system.  He seems to propose that immunizations against some specific infections may somehow weaken our ability to respond to other ailments. Watch his You-Tube starting at about the 6-minute marker.

Maher tries to make an analogy between the observation that there seems to be a correlation between super-clean environments and asthma and allergies with getting immunizations.  As I see it he does not have a clue here.  It appears to be true that children raised in very clean dust and germ redued environments do to have more allergies and asthma.  The theory behind this is that lack of early childhood exposure to a wide variety of antigenic stimuli may leave us recognizing antigens later in life as foreign therefore inducing allergic reactions.  Vaccinations expose our immune system to antigens that induce an immune response that makes us immune to certain illnesses.  This is exposing our children to more antigenic material not less. How Maher in his mind relates these two phenomenon alludes me.

There is no evidence that having immunity to one type of organism reduces our ability to mount a strong immune response to other organisms.  I know of no evidence that having immunity induced by vaccines leads to more allergies or asthma. Neither is there evidence that getting vaccinations leads to lowered immunity to other organisms.  Mr. Maher seems to be drawing on his innate skepticism here with an analogy that just doesn’t hold up,

I agree with the premise that it is good to be skeptical.  I just feel strongly that when the evidence shows that immunizations are safe and effective people in a position of influence like Mr. Maher need to take care not to give credibility to skeptics that rely on hunches (like his hunch that flu shots are not beneficial) rather than data.

Should Getting Old Be an Indication for Statin Therapy

I’ve been skeptical of the most recent American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommendations for statin use for prevention of coronary heart disease and stroke since they were released in Nov. 2013. Using the new calculator age over 60 for men or 70 for women, even with near prefect values for other risk…

Access to Healthcare: The US Income Disparity

In the U.S. our method of rationing healthcare is that if you have good insurance or lots of money you have access to good healthcare otherwise you don’t have access to good healthcare. I believe this is far more reality than the widespread U.S. perception that health care is rationed in countries with government funded universal healthcare.  A…

Why Wait Until 60 for your Shingles Vaccine?

In 2011 Merck received FDA approval to administer Zostavax (Herpes Zoster/ shingles vaccine) in patients age 50-59.  Since 2006 Zostavax has been approved for patients age 60 and older.  So why should you wait until 60 to get shingles vaccine? I wondered this and on reading the ACIP update on Zoster Immunization released this August…

Pneumonia Vaccination Is More Complex but Better Than Ever

In my 30+ years as a family physician I’ve seen first hand the effects of a relatively new type of vaccines called conjugate polysaccharide vaccinations. In the 1980’s nearly every year I had one or more young children in the hospital with meningitis due to either Hemophyllus influenza B or Streptococcus pneumoniae.  Now there are…