PAUL OFFIT'S EDITORIAL EXPLAINS THE POWER OF THE ANECDOTE IN
INFLUENCING PARENTS' IMMUNIZATION DECISIONS
"The Power of 'Box A'," an editorial by Paul A. Offit, MD,
explains how a single anecdote about a possible vaccine reaction
can overpower extensive scientific data, leading parents to
question or even decline immunization for their children. Offit
is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of
the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of
Philadelphia, professor of pediatrics at the University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a member of the Advisory
Committee on Immunization Practices.
The editorial, published in the February issue of "Expert Review
of Vaccines," suggests that many people rely on the mass media
and Internet for information about vaccine safety. The media and
Internet are unlikely to carry accounts about vaccine safety
studies or about how well the vaccine system protects children
and society against disease.
The Immunization Action Coalition is grateful to "Expert Review
of Vaccines" for giving us permission to post the article on our
website. To access a camera-ready (PDF) version of the article,
go to: http://www.immunize.org/safety/boxa.pdf 
From the article:
"Determination of whether the MMR vaccine causes autism requires four separate pieces of data (table 1). These data allow one to determine the risk of autism in a vaccinated group and compare it with that in an unvaccinated group.
The observation by the Congressman included information from 'box a' and could not determine whether vaccines had caused autism in his grandson. The study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, using data from 'boxes a, b, c, and d', was able to determine that the relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism was coincidental, not causal....
Kahnemann and others have found that we are influenced to a greater extent by information that is emotional, direct, and personal than by statistical arguments. The congressman and many parents saw their children receive vaccines and watched over the next few weeks as they developed their first symptoms of autism. Although vaccines do not cause autism, the power of their direct experiences was far more compelling than any statistical argument."
Co-CL of the PS Child Health Board
CL of the PP Vaccine Support board
Our family website: www.geocities.com/kidoctr 
Edited 4/22/2003 11:42:45 PM ET by kidoctr