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More nonexpert opinions on the swine flu vaccine

October 13, 2009 | 12:52 pm

Pig If you thought the only talk-show hosts campaigning against the government's swine flu vaccine were right-wing critics of the Obama administration, think again.

Bill Maher, a self-described libertarian (and frequent contributor to the L.A. Times Op/Ed page), may be a darling of the left. But when it comes to H1N1, he's as paranoid as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

"I would never get a swine flu vaccine, or any vaccine," Maher said Friday on his HBO show, "Real Time With Bill Maher." "I don't trust the government, especially with my health."

His guest, former Republican Senate Majority Leader and heart surgeon Bill Frist, took the medically sound position of defending the vaccine. He smiled, remained calm and refused to let Maher off the hook.

"You're wrong," Frist said. "Look at the science." 

Bloggers have taken notice.

Tara Parker-Pope demolished Maher's position today on her New York Times blog, Well. So did Phil Plait on his Bad Astronomy blog, hosted by Discover magazine. And Linda Bergthold, a health policy blogger for the Huffington Post. Even Comedy Central noted the showdown in a post titled: "Bill Maher Made to Look Stupid by Bill Frist (No, I Didn't Get That the Wrong Way Around)."

As my colleague Tom Maugh pointed out last week in this excellent post about the dangerous ignorance being spread by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck, "This is not a liberal versus conservative issue. This is a science versus nonsense issue."

And speaking of science, here's a nice roundup of the latest flu vaccine research at the Science-Based Medicine blog by Dr. Mark Crislip, a specialist in infectious diseases.

-- Karen Kaplan