HPV vaccine myth debunking – all the science facts fit to print

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I’ve written nearly 200 articles on the HPV vaccine, debunking one myth after another. Despite the new COVID-19 vaccines being a recent target of various anti-vaccine myths and tropes, it has nothing on the FUD disinformation propaganda pushed against the HPV vaccine.

Like I did with the COVID-19 vaccines, I wanted to create easy-to-use charts for those of you who need a quick reference to debunk the nonsense out there.

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COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – UPDATED info about the new vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine facts
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There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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Cupping craze – Olympic swimmers love their pseudoscience

cupping
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If you’ve been watching swimming at the super-spreader Tokyo Olympics, you’d have noticed some of the swimmers with odd bruises on them – it comes from cupping, a useless pseudoscientific alternative medicine belief. It was popular during the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, but I guess it’s still around.

Just in case you didn’t know, cupping doesn’t mean the protective equipment some male athletes use to protect their groinal (invented word, deal with it) regions. Although, for those athletes, that’s the most important cupping they will ever do.

Apparently, the cupping craze was first noticed because several members US Men’s swim team had awful-looking welts and bruises all over their bodies. Michael Phelps, probably the greatest Olympian ever with over 20 gold medals, was sporting several of the cupping welts on his shoulder.

Like homeopathy and chiropractic, which have little scientific evidence supporting any related clinical value, cupping is a fad without any scientific value. None.

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COVID vaccine deniers – 12 are responsible for 73% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook

COVID-19 vaccine deniers
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The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) recently published a guide called the “Disinformation Dozen,” a group of 12 COVID-19 vaccine deniers who are responsible for the bulk of anti-vaccine information on social media. Some of the names are familiar (at least to me) and some are not that familiar (again, at least to me).

CCDH is one of the leading voices in calling out the anti-vaccine world, especially during this time of COVID-19 deniers. They have long pointed out that social media, especially Facebook, has become the major mouthpiece for these groups. And recently, President Joe Biden has called out Facebook for “killing people” as COVID-19 had evolved into the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

The Disinformation Dozen have a long history of grifting, lying, and anti-vaccine rhetoric. Of course, more recently, they have become committed COVID-19 vaccine deniers, while many of them are promoting evidence-lacking COVID-19 treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. And according to CCDH, the Disinformation Dozen are responsible for about 73% of the anti-vaccine content on Facebook. That is disturbing.

Because I like to be an encyclopedic resource for anti-vaccine garbage, like my list of facts and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine to debunk deniers, this article will be a list of the Disinformation Dozen along with links to further criticisms of them, whether or not it was written by yours truly. I wanted to also update what platforms some of these people are still using for their propaganda.

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America’s Frontline Doctors anti-vaccine affidavit – expert analysis

America's Frontline doctors affidavit
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This article, about America’s Frontline Doctors anonymous anti-vaccine affidavit, was written by Kelsey S Hollenback, a Ph.D. student in Systems & Information Engineering at the Center for Risk Management of Engineering Systems, Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of Virginia.

On reviewing America’s Frontline Doctors anonymous affidavit, part of a recent lawsuit over the COVID-19 vaccines, my first and most important takeaway is that, while Jane Doe apparently wishes to assert that she has discovered excess mortality associated with COVID-19 vaccines, what she describes in her affidavit bears absolutely no resemblance to how to conduct an actual such analysis.  Not even a little bit.

My second takeaway, which almost doesn’t matter given the first, is that, insofar as it’s possible to determine the methodology she used from the extremely limited description provided, that methodology is…flawed. 

Flawed in what ways? It counted more deaths associated with a COVID-19 vaccine than there are total deaths recorded in VAERS. It doesn’t account for differences between the CMS patient population and the general population. Depending on what criteria Jane Doe used to query the CMS claims database, she may have pulled patients receiving any vaccine, not just the COVID-19 vaccine; she may have pulled only patients receiving Moderna, or only Pfizer, or only Johnson & Johnson; she may have failed to pull patients receiving a no-cost or government-provided vaccine; and/or she may have oversampled patients at higher risk generally for all-cause mortality.

My third and final takeaway is that, while America’s Frontline Doctors affidavit does not in any way describe either a valid method for identifying excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, doesn’t do anything at all to establish causality, and certainly doesn’t expose any cover-up, it does possibly reveal a serious HIPAA violation.

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Christopher Aluminum Exley, anti-vaccine “scientist”, gone from Keele University

Christopher Aluminum Exley
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Anti-vaccine crank and self-proclaimed aluminum expert, Christopher Exley, has announced that he’s departing the University of Keele (Staffordshire, England) for unknown reasons, but since he’s an anti-vaxxer, I’m sure he will blame Bill Gates and Big Pharma.

I have written about Exley quite a bit over the years, mainly because he keeps “publishing” opinion pieces about aluminum adjuvants in vaccines while making claims without a femtogram of clinical or epidemiological data that sits at the top of the hierarchy of biomedical research.

Unfortunately, because the anti-vaccine world lacks any robust scientific data to support their preconceived beliefs, they have to cherry-pick pseudoscience from not only Christopher Aluminum Exley but also from Tetyana Not-An-Immunologist Obukhanych and Christopher Retraction Shaw. These are just some of the false authorities beloved by the anti-vaccine religion.

Let’s take a look at the very strange “resignation letter” from Christopher Exley. And I’ll try to keep the celebrations to a minimum. Or not.

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America’s Frontline Doctors make false claims about deaths from COVID-19 vaccines

America's Frontline Doctors
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This article about the anti-vaccine group, America’s Frontline Doctors, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On July 19, 2021, an attorney named Thomas Renz, representing America’s Frontline Doctors, claimed that he has a whistleblower who has found that there have been over 45,000 deaths from COVID-19 vaccines and that he is filing a lawsuit over it.

In reality, in a badly founded lawsuit that started in May, America’s Frontline Doctors filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that included, among other things, a two-page affidavit by an anonymous person who speculated about the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) reports. There is no indication this person is a whistleblower, and the claims are, at best, speculative. 

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Indiana University vaccine mandate upheld by Federal court

Indiana University vaccine mandate
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This article about the Indiana University vaccine mandate was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On June 21, 2021, eight students, represented by attorney James Bopp Jr., filed a complaint challenging the Indiana University vaccine mandate. On July 18, 2021, Judge Damon R. Leichty, from the federal district court for the Northern District of Indiana, appointed to the court by President Donald Trump, rejected the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction in a lengthy, thoughtful decision that made it clear the plaintiffs’ chances of success on the merits are very low.

The decision is important in setting the standard for reviewing constitutional claims against university mandates, in making it clear that a reasonable university mandate has a good chance to be upheld, but that public health authorities – or universities – do not have carte blanche to impose any requirements they want, but can legitimately act to prevent disease and improve safety. It thoroughly and intelligently addresses the scientific claims of the plaintiffs – and the approach to them. It examines the difference between a general challenge and a challenge based on a fundamental right like freedom of religion.

It does not substantially add to the discussion of whether universities can mandate a vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA); though it does address the facts of the EUA, it does not go into the legal arguments about the EUA law that were addressed in a decision against a Texas hospital. Nor does it directly confront the Indiana passport law,  likely because the university changed in mandate in a way that, according to the attorney general, did not clash with it.

Finally, the decision was 101 pages. I cannot summarize all of it in a reasonable-length post, so this has to be a short summary of what I think are the main points. But it’s worth reading. There is a lot of thoughtful, in-depth analysis in it I just don’t have space for. 

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Drug development – explaining a complicated process, including vaccines

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Based on some of the comments I see on the internet, I think that that people believe that drug development is easy. Anyone can do it. And all you have to do is invent a drug and, voila, it’s approved and you can make billions of dollars in gold

I might be over-exaggerating, but I’ve always thought that the anti-vaccine crowd believes in their heart that the development of vaccines includes throwing a bunch of stuff in a blender along with dollops of mercury, formaldehyde, aborted babies, and aluminum, which is poured into a vial and sold for billions of dollars. Despite those anti-vaccine myths, pharmaceutical drug development (including vaccines) is a difficult process that fails 99% of the time.

Drug and vaccine development is the total opposite of easy. It takes time, a lot of brilliant minds, and some luck. Sure, some worthless drugs do get approved (we’re eyeballing you Biogen), but almost every drug that fails to have a significant benefit to cost (in terms of safety and price) ratio will fail to get FDA approval.

The myths about drug development are filled with controversy, false claims, and conspiracy theories. Yes, occasionally, we can point out problems with the process. Unless you’re using confirmation bias, you will see that the vast majority of pharmaceuticals are very safe and very effective (or at least the benefits outweigh the risks).

One of the largest myths is that there really isn’t any regulation – Big Pharma owns the FDA (and other regulatory agencies) and does whatever it wants. But let’s look at the process of drug and vaccine development carefully, including how most drugs are investigated and brought to the market. Let’s try to separate the myths from the facts of pharmaceutical drug development.

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Vaccine passports – Norwegian Cruise Line sues the state of Florida

vaccine passports
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This article about blocking vaccine passports in Florida was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On July 13, 2021, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings LTD. (NCLH) sued Scott Rivkees, State Surgeon General and Head of the Florida Department of Health, challenging a Florida law that bans businesses from requiring vaccine passports. The lawsuit is in very early stage, but is well written and argued. Several of the arguments are specific to the cruise industry, but at least one would apply to any business. 

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Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines, evolution, climate change

scientific consensus
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In the hierarchy of scientific principles, the scientific consensus – that is, the collective opinion and judgment of scientific experts in a particular field – is an important method to separate real scientific ideas and conclusions from pseudoscience, cargo cult science, and other beliefs.

I often discuss scientific theories which “are large bodies of work that are a culmination or a composite of the products of many contributors over time and are substantiated by vast bodies of converging evidence. They unify and synchronize the scientific community’s view and approach to a particular scientific field.”

A scientific theory is not a wild and arbitrary guess, but it is built upon a foundation of scientific knowledge that itself is based on evidence accumulated from data that resulted from scientific experimentation. A scientific theory is considered to be the highest scientific principle, something that is missed by many science deniers. In addition, a scientific consensus is formed by a similar method – the accumulation of evidence.

I have written frequently about the scientific consensus because it is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in a discussion about critical scientific issues of our day – evolution, climate change, vaccines, GMOs, and many other areas of science.

This tome has one goal – to clarify our understanding of the scientific consensus, and how we arrive at it. Through this information, maybe we all can see the power of it in determining what is real science and what are policy and cultural debates.

But the most important thing is that the scientific consensus (and theories, for that matter) are not opinions. They aren’t random thoughts pulled out of the ether. Scientific consensus is based on overwhelming scientific evidence published in respected journals.

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Researching vaccines the right way – the hierarchy of biomedical research

Researching vaccines
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I have made it a point of many articles that anti-vaxxers are not really researching vaccines. They are using logical fallacies, such as cherry-picking, misreading medical research, or anything else instead of really doing research the right way.

Before anyone should take on the scientific consensus on a topic, like vaccines, researching must include an understanding of what is called the hierarchy of biomedical research. It describes what are gold (or even platinum) standards of research. And which of them are nearly worthless.

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they nearly always try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, it’s actually the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media that make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful, and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) methods to evaluate biomedical research quality across the internet.

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