Debunking myths about vaccine testing and safety

vaccine testing

The goal of this article is to respond to a number of recurring myths raised by anti-vaccine activists regarding vaccine testing and safety – a common trope used against vaccines.

The bottom line is that vaccines are extensively and carefully tested for safety, and that vaccine safety is shown by many, many studies from a variety of sources, reinforcing each other and all pointing to the same result – serious problems from vaccines are possible, but extremely rare. And those small, rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits vaccines provide by protecting us against much larger risks.

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Autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants – Shoenfeld vaccine myth

autoimmune syndromes

One of the enduring myths (there are so many) about the HPV vaccine is that it is linked to one or more autoimmune syndromes, an abnormal immune response to a healthy body part. These claims, pushed by an Israeli physician, Yehuda Shoenfeld, are called “autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA)” and, sometimes, Shoenfeld’s Syndrome. 

But we call it a myth, a lie, pseudoscience, and quackery. Despite the rejection of Shoenfeld’s bogosity by scientists worldwide, he was recently elected to the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. What were they thinking?

But let’s get back to ASIA – it is not accepted by the scientific and medical community (and see this published article), was rejected by the United States vaccine court as a claim for vaccine injury, and should not be accepted by parents deciding whether they should vaccinate their children.

Furthermore, the European Medicines Agency, which is the primary regulatory body in the EU for pharmaceuticals, has rejected any link between the HPV vaccine and various autoimmune disorders. The science stands in direct opposition to autoimmune syndromes being caused by any vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO)  has scientifically rejected the quackery of ASIA (if it even exists) is caused by vaccines, notably, the HPV vaccine.

Despite the lack of evidence supporting the existence of autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants, and even more powerful evidence that it doesn’t exist, the anti-vaccine religion still cherry-picks articles to support their preconceived conclusions that the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine is dangerous.

So, let’s take a look at Yehuda Shoenfeld and his ridiculous ASIA claims. Then we’ll criticize the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities for seemingly endorsing his junk science.

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Sheep vaccine study – aluminum adjuvants alter their behavior – RETRACTED

sheep vaccine study

Over the past 20 years or so, I’ve read a lot of vaccine research studies. Most, published in top journals by real scientists, are worthy of respect. And they provide powerful evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. Of course, there are a handful of studies that are pseudoscientific garbage. Or retracted. But today, I think I’ve seen it all – a Spanish animal research team published a sheep vaccine study that they claim shows that the aluminum adjuvants in the vaccine altered their behavior. And you just know that the anti-vaccine religion will jump all over it as “proof” that vaccines are dangerous. Yawn.

In case you missed it, yes, this is a sheep vaccine study.

To be fair, I have no idea whether these researchers are part of the anti-vaccine religion – it’s possible that they think they’ve found something, but they do rely upon some discredited anti-vaccine tropes and falsehoods as the premise of their studies. Moreover, this article furthers the false narrative about aluminum in vaccines. And we’ll keep seeing it repeated on anti-vaccine Twitter and Facebook posts because the anti-vaccine zealots have nothing else.

The sheep vaccine study by Javier Asìn et al., published in Pharmacological Research, investigated cognitive and behavioral changes in lambs that had received repeated vaccination with aluminum-containing vaccines.

Let’s take a critical look. Continue reading “Sheep vaccine study – aluminum adjuvants alter their behavior – RETRACTED”

Autoimmune diseases unrelated to HPV vaccine – new Canadian study

autoimmune diseases

There are so many outlandish and unsupported claims about the HPV vaccine, it’s difficult to keep up with them all. One of the most outrageous lies about the HPV vaccine is that it causes autoimmune diseases, despite the robust epidemiological or clinical evidence that firmly establishes the safety of the HPV vaccine, especially with respect to autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the immune system has an abnormal response to normal cells in the body. Celiac disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and many other conditions are as a result of an autoimmune disorder. We don’t know what causes the autoimmunity, but there is almost no biological plausibility that any vaccine could induce the disease.

Despite the lack of a reasonable biological mechanism leading from the HPV vaccine to any of the multitudes of autoimmune diseases, the anti-vaccine forces continue to try to establish a link. For example, Yehuda Shoenfeld has pushed a ridiculed hypothesis that the vaccine causes something he calls autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA). Not a single respected scientist buys into ASIA, and Shoenfeld has presented no vigorous clinical or epidemiological evidence supporting its existence.

Not to pile onto the anti-vaccine tropes about the vaccine, but a large, and new, Canadian study has once again shown us that there are no links between the HPV vaccine and autoimmune diseases. This adds to the body of evidence that, for real science, reinforces the conclusion that the HPV vaccine is an incredibly safe vaccine. Continue reading “Autoimmune diseases unrelated to HPV vaccine – new Canadian study”

HPV vaccine causes infertility and primary ovarian insufficiency – myth

HPV vaccine causes infertility

The HPV vaccine causes infertility through primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) – a belief unsupported by evidence. And the claim appears to be based on anti-vaccine ideology instead of real science.

Yes, I know, this story seems to repeat itself, but stay tuned, this is a good one. So let’s examine this myth from a scientific aspect and show how the HPV vaccine is actually unrelated to POI. Continue reading “HPV vaccine causes infertility and primary ovarian insufficiency – myth”

Vaccine injury compensation and autoimmune syndromes

Vaccine injury compensation and autoimmune syndromes

This post examines the treatment by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) of the second of two claims (see first one here) heard from those claiming vaccines cause more injuries than acknowledged in recent days. This article will focus on vaccine injury compensation and autoimmune syndromes.

The Special Master’s decisions – as many decisions in NVICP are – are long, complex, and examine the evidence closely and in detail. They address factual debates, expert disagreements specific to the case and expert disagreements on the science.

This post won’t cover them – that’s not my goal. All I will address are the Special Master’s conclusion about two hypotheses raised by those who believe vaccines injured their child (and also promoted by anti-vaccine organizations).

The NVICP (commonly called the Vaccine Court) is a no-fault program created by Congress to serve two goals: to protect the vaccine supply by offering limited liability protections to vaccine manufacturers and providers and to help those injured by vaccines – or even those who may have been so injured – be compensated more easily than in the regular courts.

As I addressed in the past, NVICP provides petitioners – as claimants are called – with substantial breaks compared to the regular courts. Petitioners do not have to prove a product defect or any kind of fault; the requirements for proving causation are relaxed; evidentiary rules are relaxed, allowing the introduction of evidence and experts that would not be allowed in a regular court.

NVICP is not, however, a benefits program. Its goal is not providing any parent with a child with a problem support. The United States certainly needs to offer more support to families of children with disabilities, but NVICP’s aim is different: it focuses on compensating injuries that may, at least, have been caused by vaccines.

To be compensated by an NVICP decision a petitioner does need to meet minimal standards suggesting a possible connection between a vaccine and an injury (a settlement does not require similar proof; parties settle for all kinds of reasons, including a view that the case isn’t worth litigating). At the very least a petitioner needs to show an injury, and provide expert testimony (expert testimony is generally needed when someone claims medical causation in the courts as well – that a medical act, device, drug etc. caused harm – with very narrow exceptions).

Continue reading “Vaccine injury compensation and autoimmune syndromes”

HPV vaccine and lupus – bad expert testimony in a lawsuit

HPV vaccine and lupus

In a lawsuit filed with a court in Israel a young girl and her mother are suing, apparently (since I do not have the lawsuit, I’m reporting based on a news report that included an interview with the girl’s mother) claiming that the girl was negligently administered an HPV vaccine because the family was not warned that it can trigger an autoimmune disease, lupus. Because the evidence does not support the claim that there is a link between the HPV vaccine and lupus, the claim is unfounded, and should be rejected. The Ministry of Health is not required – and should not – warn parents about risks vaccines do not have: that would be misleading those parents.

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Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

Aluminum adjuvant

With the success of California’s vaccination law, SB277, there appears to be a trend to increase vaccination uptake among school-aged children. And it’s a great thing that we protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd is still looking for lame excuses to not vaccinate – today, it’s the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines.

The anti-vaccine crowd has a tendency to ignore the vast and powerful scientific consensus on vaccines. Instead, they prefer to cherry pick research, often from biased “scientists” who publish in the lowest quality journals. That cherry picking is a form of confirmation bias – the individual seeks evidence that supports their a priori conclusions rather than letting the robust body of evidence point them to a conclusion.

Generally, these myths, based on cherry picking, are debunked. But the anti-vaccine cult is nothing if not creative. They just move on to a new boogeyman. This time, it’s aluminum adjuvants in vaccines. To be honest, anti-vaccine tropes are zombies, so we think we destroy those tropes, but they rise again, fed by new cherry picking. And debunking the danger of aluminum in vaccines has been an age-old discussion amongst the pro-science crowd.

Today, we’re going to look at one of those articles which was recently published. If one accepted this research, while ignoring critical analysis and the body of other science, then it would be a great one to confirm one’s own pre-conceived beliefs. But that’s not how we do science, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking”