To the Editor
April 22, 2021
A deep dive
To the Editor:
The author of the Letter to The Editor entitled “Regulatory malfeasance” in the April 15 edition of The Pilot appears to be following her unfortunate practice of citing scientific studies, historical facts, or analogies that do not actually support her positions on issues ranging from fluoride in our drinking water, to face coverings to vaccines.
In this letter, the author cited the thalidomide debacle for the reason to be distrustful of regulatory agencies such as the FDA, that “failed the public they are supposed to serve” and a motive to avoid Covid-19 vaccination. Granted, the author did not specifically mention the Covid-19 vaccines, but her well-publicized views on this issue renders my assumption valid. The problem with her use of thalidomide as a reason to mistrust the FDA and their emergency approval of the Covid-19 vaccines is that it is misdirected.
Thalidomide was first sold over the counter in West Germany in 1957 for anxiety, sleeplessness, tension, and morning sickness. Its initial entry into the US market was actually prevented by the FDA and the drug was not approved in the United States in the 1960s. However, several thousand Americans were given thalidomide in the 1950s and 1960s as part of two clinical trials operated independently by two American drug makers without FDA approval or oversight. At that time, clinical trials did not require the FDA approval or oversight that they presently do. The birth defects caused by thalidomide were, in fact, the catalyst leading to the development of greater drug regulation and monitoring and the current drug approval oversight by the US government via the FDA. So, citing the thalidomide disaster as a reason to mistrust the FDA’s authorization of the Covid-19 vaccines makes no sense at all and is simply wrong headed since the circumstances surrounding that incident at that time are no longer applicable to the current FDA drug approval protocols. The author’s logic is analogous to saying you shouldn’t use seatbelts in a new car today since someone died in a car crash in 1961 because there were no seatbelt laws at that time.
The author’s final sentence, “It’s up to you to dive deep and weigh all the contrasting “scientific” opinions” is also a bit disconcerting. By utilizing the quotation marks, one must assume that the author is encouraging people to consult either non-scientific or quasi-scientific sources for their information on vaccines. Given the highly technical nature of vaccine efficacy and safety, that is a rather ill-advised, even dangerous recommendation. Why is the author encouraging others to avoid vaccination? If she doesn’t want to be vaccinated, fine. But what is the motivation for someone with little or no medical training to discourage others not to take it? That is truly baffling.
In the end, the author would probably be best served to follow the wisdom of Mark Twain who once said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”