Anti-vaccine arguments that don’t convince pro-science humans

There are so many annoying anti-vaccine arguments that make me laugh and cause my rational brain to explode. The anti-vaccine religious acolytes don’t understand one basic thing – we scientists would accept their claims if they presented actual scientific evidence. They haven’t.

Most scientists and skeptics are open-minded to new ideas and evidence. Yes, they may be resistant, especially if the evidence is preliminary. I was in graduate school during the early 1980s when Luis and Walter Alvarez proposed that the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and about 99.99% of life on Earth during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event was caused by a huge bolide impact.

When they first proposed it, scientists laughed. Today, it is widely accepted as a scientific fact. But it was accepted because of powerful evidence that kept supporting the original hypothesis, not because of “beliefs.” Being “openminded” doesn’t mean that we accept any silly claim made by random people – it means being openminded to reviewing the evidence, then,  determining if that evidence supports the claims being made.

The anti-vaccine religion screams and yells to push their lies about vaccines because they don’t have evidence. It gets tiresome, and some of us just laugh when we hear it. Yesterday, for example, I wrote about how the anti-vaccine pseudoscientist, Christopher Exley, was banned from receiving funding because his research is both incompetent and false. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd whined that some nefarious Big Pharma conspiracy was keeping Exley from his money. 

So I’m going to be a nice old carnivorous dinosaur (remember, birds are dinosaurs) and give advice to the anti-vaxxers – I’m going to list the anti-vaccine arguments that aren’t scientific and are worthless. If you want to convince those of us who value science, don’t use these anti-vaccine arguments.

Anti-vaccine arguments – autism

There is no evidence that supports a link between vaccines and autism. In fact, there is a literal mountain of affirmative evidence that vaccines are not linked to autism or any other neurodegenerative disorder. Powerful and robust clinical and epidemiological studies have uncovered zero evidence that vaccines are linked to autism. 

This conclusion is settled science, and if an anti-vaxxer wants to convince me otherwise, then they need to bring overwhelming evidence that changes our minds.

anti-vaccine arguments
Not really science, but it is a science-looking photo. Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine arguments – bad science

Retracted articles by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, articles published in predatory journals, and VAERS dumpster diving do not qualify as scientific evidence. If the anti-vaccine zealots want to convince us of one of their claims, then bring evidence. 

And here’s what constitutes good scientific evidence:

  1. It must be in a peer-reviewed journal, not a garbage predatory journal.
  2. It must be in a relatively high impact factor journal.
  3. It must be at or near the top of the hierarchy of scientific research. That means either clinical trials, case-control, cohort, or systematic reviews. “Opinion” articles that try to make an argument that X leads to Y without powerful and large clinical or epidemiological studies aren’t going to convince anyone of anything.

One more thing – anecdotes are not scientific data, no matter how hard the anti-vaxxers want to believe it. And no matter how many anecdotes are presented.

Anti-vaccine arguments – going full Dunning-Kruger  

Anti-vaxxers think their 1, 5, or 10 hours of Googling “vaccines” is somehow equivalent to the tens of thousands of hours of difficult research of real vaccine scientists, physicians, and healthcare professionals. It isn’t. 

They want us to believe that physicians have never studied vaccines, when, in fact, a typical pediatrician has at least eight years of science education, much of it in important fields like infectious diseases and immunology. Moreover, that pediatrician also has years of experience observing children post vaccination, along with treating children who contract dangerous and deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.

Anti-vaxxers need to quit pretending that they are experts on vaccines  – so often they make fundamental errors in understanding basic physiology, biochemistry, immunology, and many other fields of biomedical science. For example, thinking that the mother’s antibodies somehow confer permanent immunity to children. It doesn’t. 

She heard one too many bad anti-vaccine arguments. Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine arguments – the appeal to false authority

I’m going to stick with a theme – the only thing that matters is published, peer-reviewed scientific evidence. If it’s a hospital janitor or Paul Offit himself that uses evidence to support a positive claim about the facts of vaccine safety and effectiveness, it’s only the evidence that matters.

The anti-vaxxers love their false authorities. They constantly bring up Tetyana Obukhanych, someone with an actual Ph.D. in immunology. However, she has published nothing about vaccines during her various stops in her career. She makes statements about vaccines that contradict the scientific consensus regarding vaccines. Again, if she had actual published evidence that supports her “opinions” about vaccines, we might listen. Otherwise, we can only assume she is a quack.

Big Pharma Shill hiding in the shadows. Obviously. Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine arguments – conspiracy theories

Again, because of the lack of evidence, one of the favorite anti-vaccine arguments is to claim or accuse that anyone in favor of vaccines must be in bed with Big Pharma. The old Shill Gambit is a form of logical fallacy that is used to attack the scientist instead of presenting evidence. It is just an ad hominem argument that has little merit. 

A corollary to this type of accusation is to claim that any scientific research that is supported by an unrestricted grant from Big Pharma is somehow contaminated. That’s a form of bias – if the data, methods, analysis, or conclusions are bad, it can be determined from critiquing the paper, irrespective of who supports or doesn’t support the research.

For example, I think it’s hysterically ironic that anti-vaxxers publish terrible research that is supported by giant, wealthy anti-vaccine sponsors. The reasons that the research is garbage isn’t because of the financial support, it’s because it’s bad research with bad statistics with terrible conclusions published in low impact factor predatory journals without peer-review. I don’t care that Claire Dwoskin, from Big Anti-Vaccine, supports the research of Exley, Tomljenovic, and Shaw – it’s that they all engage in pseudoscience.

Anti-vaccine arguments – package insert

The argument by package insert is a common strategy of many anti-vaxxers because employing their lack of education in science and the old Dunning-Kruger, they completely and utterly misinterpret what is in the package insert. It is not a scientific publication, it is a regulatory document that must be written in a particular way and included with every drug or device sold across the world.

One of the anti-vaccine arguments is to focus on the Adverse Reactions section of the insert, which is merely a list of observed events during a clinical trial. It barely qualifies as correlation, let alone, causation. There is no statistical analysis between the vaccine group and the control group. There is no information about the control group at all. It does not provide any information at all about potential adverse events from vaccines – to be fair, it’s a “cover your ass” section.

There are other sections of the package insert that are valuable – the Warnings and Black Box Warning are provided if there are actual adverse events related to the vaccine. Generally, you can’t find them there.

Once again, the package insert is not scientific evidence. You would rarely see a peer-reviewed paper that cited the package insert unless it’s an anti-vaccine paper, or for informational purposes in a legitimate paper. But those legitimate papers would never use the package insert as an authority on some aspect of vaccine safety. 

Summary

These are only a handful of different bad anti-vaccine arguments used by anti-vaxxers in an attempt to lie about vaccines. Of course, I’m certain that they aren’t trying to convince me or other scientists about the dangers of vaccines. They know that we know better. We won’t actually embrace their pseudoscience.

Unethically, they know their lies and pseudoscience will appeal to worried parents who must consider whether their children should be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is absurd.

Real science has provided overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. Anti-vaccine pseudoscience has never contradicted that. But if they want to make a convincing case without bad anti-vaccine arguments, we are willing to examine high-quality evidence.

It’s probably easier just to call me a Big Pharma Shill™.



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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!