Not as hard as I would have liked. But it was a smack.
Bill Maher (HBO Friday) doesn’t quite believe vaccines are necessary. Given the opportunity he will freely spout that illnesses are caused by toxins and lifestyle choices, and that vaccines don’t really work. He tried that line last Friday with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was having none of it. From the transcript (you’ll have to click on “Episode 323: November 4, '05):
GUPTA: Well, wait, the vaccine might still have some – some benefit. You know, Bill, it's like so many other things in life. You know, I think doctors and health care professionals are reticent to just throw up their hands and say, “We're screwed, there's nothing we can do.” [laughter] The vaccine might help a little bit.
MAHER: But there is something we can do. We can accentuate more the theory that it's the terrain that the virus and the bacteria invade. It's like the mosquito in the swamp. That's what the virus is. It's a mosquito. But it wouldn't be dangerous unless it had a dirty, polluted swamp to breed in. In other words, our bodies. If we were healthier and we boosted our immune system more, then we wouldn't have to fear these viruses. Isn't that true, Doc?
GUPTA: You know, but, Bill, I'll challenge you – I'll challenge you on this. I don't think that just by eating right and exercising is going to necessarily keep you safe from bird flu. I mean, that's just the way it is. You know, I'd like to believe you, Bill. I'd like to believe you, Bill. I'd like to believe that you can live a good life, live a healthy life and be impervious to all these attacks and all these viruses. But, Bill, we're talking about 50 million people died in 1918. And not all of them were eating shit every day. [laughter] You know, I mean, that's just the way it goes.
Gupta, as CNN’s viewer-friendly (read “good looking”) face of medicine, was polite and diplomatic on Maher’s show. More polite that I would have been, to be sure. But at least the point was made that you can’t avoid the flu just by eating right. Sure, if the virus mutates the vaccine may not be effective against the new strain. But that doesn’t mean the vaccine is a waste of time or that you can defeat a virus by just eating right.
Did Maher hear? I doubt it, but at least his viewers heard him being contradicted by an expert on the subject. Good for Gupta.
Sanjay Gupta: I’m a doctor and I play one on TV