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Thursday, November 5th, 2009

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Vaccines and Data
The Atlantic has an interesting article on the issues surrounding influenza vaccinations. Makes a pretty good case that the flu shots don't have much effectiveness in keeping people from dying. There's a rebuttal out, of course.

The scariest part for me is the poor quality of the data on flu deaths. Diagnoses are based on symptoms, not tests of the virus, so we don't actually know how many people have been getting sick or dying from influenza. No one's doing well designed experiments to test the effectiveness of the vaccine and one of the big arguments (herd immunity) would be damned hard to test in any case.

I suspect we're not going to have a real grasp of the effectiveness of medical treatments until we give up on the privacy of medical records. If we get to the point where everyone's records are searchable, and detailed to the point where you can tell if a swab test was H1N1 positive or the doc just wrote a prescription to make the patient go away, there's going to be a lot of patterns discovered that'll make irrelevant all the watch-36-patients-for-six-months microstudies that policies get based on now.

Current Mood: worried

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