Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience activists – they are nothing if not dedicated to their religious beliefs. And like the so-called “creation science” religion, which tries to “prove” their evolution denialist beliefs with pseudoscience published in creationist journals, the anti-vaccine religion tries to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous with bad science, pseudoscience, and misinterpreted science.

As of today, I’ve written a dozen or so articles about Christopher Shaw and   Lucija Tomljenovic, contemptible University of British Columbia anti-vaccine pseudoscience extremists. Shaw and Tomljenovic are well known for pushing garbage science to further their anti-vaccine religion. Of course, their “scientific articles” keep getting retracted, despite being published in low ranked journals whose standards rarely exceed “please use a good spell checker.”

Now, we have a new article trying to push the myth that somehow the tiny amounts of aluminum in vaccines are related to autism. Of course, we have hundreds of real scientific articles published in real scientific journals which have demolished the myth that vaccines cause autism. But these persistent anti-vaccine pseudoscience pushers keep trying. Because one of the central tenets of pseudoscience is to have a pre-ordained conclusion, and find any evidence, irrespective of quality, to support it.

So we’re going to take a look at this new “article.” I always examine anti-vaccine “research” from two perspectives – first, I take a look at the author(s), the journal, and other factors that might have an impact on our critique of the study. Second, I then critique the scientific data, methods, and conclusions.  So, here we go, into the fray. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – Shaw and Tomljenovic debunked tropes

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

I’m beginning to feel some deja vu, since I am criticizing another anti-vaccine pseudoscience paper foisted onto the world by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic. These two University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology (you know, the study of eyes) have no background or training in any area vaccine research, including immunology, epidemiology, microbiology, virology or anything else remotely related. Yet they keep publishing anti-vaccine pseudoscientific junk medicine.

Yet, every time these anti-vaccine shills publish anti-vaccine pseudoscience articles in low ranked journals, the reactionaries jump all over it and try to use those articles as “science” to dismiss the scientific fact of vaccine safety and effectiveness. Except for one small matter – Shaw and Tomljenovic have a long record of retracted articles (here and here), publishing their “research” in low impact factor, predatory “pay-to-play” journals, and pushing anti-vaccine pseudoscience that has been hammered by respected scientific organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO).

Yes, many of us are wondering why UBC hasn’t tossed both of them out of the university for research malfeasance, but that’s not the point here. We’re just going to rip apart the anti-vaccine pseudoscience presented in another article from Shaw and Tomljenovic.  Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – Shaw and Tomljenovic debunked tropes”

Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope

Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine

I am absolutely convinced that of all the vaccines on the market, the anti-vaccine radicals hate the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine more than any other. Nearly every day, I see article after article in pseudoscientific websites that make unfounded claims and outright misinformation about Gardasil, including one that crossed my path today.

The article, in a junk medicine website called RealFarmacy, blares this click-bait headline – “Merck’s Former Doctor Predicts Gardasil to Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time.” Oh no, I’m frightened, are you? The article relies upon the Four Horsemen of the Gardasil Apocalypse™ for their fake facts.

In fact, there is robust scientific evidence, gathered from huge case control studies, that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is incredibly safe, and may be one of the safest vaccines on the market. But we all know what the anti-vaccine folks think of scientific facts – they ignore them unless it supports their preordained conclusions.

This article will tackle the key points of the RealFarmacy (what’s with the spelling error?) article.  Continue reading “Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope”

UBC responded to retraction of Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper

UBC responded

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is home to two of the most infamous anti-vaccine “researchers” in the world – Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic. Shaw and Tomljenovic have a notorious history of retracted articles, reprimands, and pushing a pseudoscience in their search to publish misinformation about vaccines. Finally, after their latest article was retracted shortly after publication, UBC responded to the harsh criticism of what appears to be malfeasance.

There have been a lot of comments on various articles about this retraction as to why UBC continues to employ Shaw and Tomljenovic. They must be an embarrassment to the university, yet many reports show that UBC supports them. Anti-vaccine radicals frequently make an argument from authority, claiming that Shaw and Tomljenovic are legitimate researchers because they are at the University of British Columbia.

So UBC keeps a pair of researchers who do harm to children of the world, by making unsupported claims about the safety of vaccines. They represent a clear and present danger to the health of humans.

The only thing I should have read is that “UBC responded to the latest retraction, and terminated their relationship to Shaw and Tomljenovic.” Well, I wish.

Continue reading “UBC responded to retraction of Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper”

Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything

aluminum adjuvants

Here we go again, another attempt to link aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to something, despite the lack of real evidence for anything. Recently, an attempt by the disreputable pair of anti-vaccine researchers to show a link between aluminum adjuvants and autism was retracted by the journal.

Several researchers have proposed a systematic review (which are considered to be the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) to determine if there are any links between aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to some medical condition. Read that carefully – this paper does not provide any new evidence, it is merely a description of their reasons for looking at aluminum along with the meta review protocol.

Mostly, I’d ignore these type of papers, because they aren’t providing us with any new information about vaccines. But in this case, I wanted to point out a bunch of flaws in their reasoning, which seems to indicate a high degree of bias. Therein is the problem – systematic reviews are powerful tools in science based medicine, but many of these systematic reviews are filled with a large amount of bias. And this study is starting from a very biased point of view. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything”

Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group

Physician for Informed Consent

There are a bunch of anti-vaccine groups out there who invent legitimate sounding names in an attempt to appear to be rational, positive organizations. They’re mostly neither rational nor positive. A new one (at least for me) is a group called the “Physicians for Informed Consent,” whose “vision is to live in a society free of mandatory vaccination laws.”

Although there are individuals who are pro-vaccine but are opposed to mandatory vaccination, mostly on a politically libertarian point of view, almost all of these groups, especially in California, are specifically anti-vaccine. In fact, “informed consent” is one of those veiled code-words used by the anti-vaccine world, especially in the fight against SB277, California’s recently enacted law that removes personal belief exemptions to vaccinations for school age children.

This article is going to examine some of the issues around “informed consent,” then look at a recent statement from the radical anti-vaccine gourd, Physicians for Informed Consent. Continue reading “Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group”

Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated

vaccines and autism

Vaccines and autism are not linked or related according to real science, published in real scientific journals written by top scientists and physicians.

But this false claim is in the news again. Probably as a result of reports that more and more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. So let’s take a look at the science.

On 28 March 2014, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder of neural development, usually appearing before the age of 3 years, characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, continues to rise.  The picture of ASD in US communities is changing. Continue reading “Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated”

Anti-vaccine paper retracted – Shaw and Tomljenovic lose again

Anti-vaccine paper retracted

A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical analysis of a paper by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic published in Inorganic Biochemistry that tried to convince us that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines caused autism. Predictably, it’s another anti-vaccine paper retracted by another journal.

Shaw and Tomljenovic have quite a history in retracted anti-vaccine articles. Last year, they wrote an article about aluminum adjuvants in the HPV vaccine – it was retracted, and eventually republished almost word-for-word in an inferior journal.

According to Retraction Watch, Inorganic Biochemistry’s editor, John Dawson of the University of South Carolina, stated that:

The paper by Shaw and co-workers is being retracted jointly by the authors and the editor.

Yup, another anti-vaccine paper retracted. Of course, the article was roundly criticized in numerous posts across the skeptical universe soon after it was published. For example, the piercing Orac wrote in his blog,

given Shaw and Tomljenovic’s history, it is not unreasonable to be suspicious of this study as well…

At best, what we have here are researchers with little or no expertise in very basic molecular biology techniques using old methodology that isn’t very accurate overinterpreting the differences in gene and protein levels that they found. At worst, what we have are antivaccine “researchers” who are not out for scientific accuracy but who actually want to promote the idea that vaccines cause autism….If this were a first offense, I’d give Shaw and Tomljenovic the benefit of the doubt, but this is far from their first offense.

Orac called the paper, “antivaccine pseudoscience.” Not that anti-vaccine is anything but pseudoscience.

Other bloggers, like The Mad Virologist, who is also an expert on DNA analysis, and the Blood Brain Barrier Scientist, who writes about the blood-brain barrier and heavy metal music, jointly analyzed the paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic. They did a masterful job in looking at some of the technical errors and other issues with the paper. I won’t pretend to summarize what they write, so I’ll use their own summary:

Based on the methods that were used in this paper, Shaw et al. went too far in declaring that aluminum adjuvants cause autism. But there are six other key points that limit what conclusions can be drawn from this paper:
1) They selected genes based on old literature and ignored newer publications.
2) The method for PCR quantification is imprecise and cannot be used as an absolute quantification of expression of the selected genes.
3) They used inappropriate statistical tests that are more prone to giving significant results which is possibly why they were selected.
4) Their dosing regime for the mice makes assumptions on the development of mice that are not correct.
5) They gave the mice far more aluminum sooner than the vaccine schedule exposes children to.
6) There are irregularities in both the semi-quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot data that strongly suggests that these images were fabricated. This is probably the most damning thing about the paper. If the data were manipulated and images fabricated, then the paper needs to be retracted and UBC needs to do an investigation into research misconduct by the Shaw lab.

Taken together, we cannot trust Shaw’s work here and if we were the people funding this work, we’d be incredibly ticked off because they just threw away money that could have done some good but was instead wasted frivolously. Maybe there’s a benign explanation for the irregularities that we’ve observed, but until these concerns are addressed this paper cannot be trusted.

Also, a lot of criticism occurred on PubPeer, a website devoted to a kind of extended peer review of published papers. The commenters were harsh. Oneclaimed that there was a “clear and deliberate” removal of control results in the paper. And many others either hinted or outright stated that DNA gel bands were duplicated, photoshopped or taken from a 2014 paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic (and published in a journal that’s not even indexed on PubMed).

Added to all of this is that the primary author has left the University of British Columbia, where Shaw and Tomljenovic do their “research,” taking all of the data with her. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I will be – yeah right.

As an aside, I don’t know why the University of British Columbia continues to house Shaw and Tomljenovic. They have had their “research” utterly discredited by the World Health Organization. They have had papers retracted. And when they do publish, they’re in low ranked, low impact factor journals. Finally, their “research” is supported by some of the most profoundly anti-vaccine sponsors in the world.  Frankly, the only good Shaw and Tomljenovic do for the anti-vaccine world is to allow those of us who are pro-science/pro-vaccine lots of fodder in embarrassing the anti-vaccine world.

So there we go. Another Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper retracted, and will probably be republished in the Journal of Homeopathy Vaccines (no, it doesn’t exist). By the way, I won the betting pool on when it would be retracted. Hopefully, the shills pay me for winning.

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Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED

aluminum causes autism

Every morning I wake up with the vain hope that the vaccine deniers will give up on the thoroughly debunked vaccines-cause-autism tropes. And every morning I’m disappointed. Today’s trope is that vaccine aluminum causes autism. Despite the claims, there still is no evidence.

Two of our favorite anti-vaccine shills, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, have been the subject of scathing reviews numerous times by the feathery dinosaur. And they’re back again, using bad science, trying to convince the world that aluminum in vaccines is somehow linked to autism.

Well, let’s take a look at research, but don’t expect a different result when I last looked at a Shaw and Tomljenovic article about aluminum in vaccines. Which was retracted. Continue reading “Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED”

Anti-vaccine doctors – naming names and listing lists

Anti-vaccine doctors

Recently, the vaccine deniers have pushed a list of anti-vaccine doctors, which gets copy-pasted from one website to another, and are similar to those lists of “scientists” who deny Darwinian evolution or climate change. But is this really made up of respected physicians and researchers? Does it really contain doctors who are experts or authorities on vaccines?

Well, thanks to Zared Schwartz, a senior at the University of Florida studying microbiology, cell science and neurobehavioral, who took it upon himself to look up each of these individuals and see if they’ve got anything to offer in the discussions about vaccines. Guess what? It doesn’t appear so.

So if you run across this list of anti-vaccine doctors and researchers, wondering if any of them speak from authority, just check them out on this list.

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine doctors – naming names and listing lists”