Google University equals research for anti-vaccine pseudoscience

Google University

I’m sure everyone has run into the type – a science denier who thinks their two hours at Google University makes them as knowledgeable as a real physician or scientist. This arrogance manifests itself in ridiculous discussions with anti-vaccine religious nutjobs who claim to have “done the research,” and who believe their pseudoscientific research is more valuable than real scientific research.

This Google University education from vaccine deniers, really all science deniers, can be frustrating. I frequent a couple of large Facebook groups that try to help on-the-fence anti-vaxxers understand what constitutes evidence and what doesn’t with respect to vaccines. Recently, one of the anti-vaccine true believers kept saying she knew more than a nurse with a public health master’s degree. The arrogant anti-vaxxer kept claiming that she “did her research.”

Hang on. The old dinosaur needs to slam his head on the desk.

Because of this absurd overvaluing of their Google University research, I want to review a handful of points that every science denier seems to use that makes us laugh. All but one applies to any type of science denial, but we’re sticking with vaccines. Because we can. Continue reading “Google University equals research for anti-vaccine pseudoscience”

Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines and other science

scientific consensus

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 areas of biomedical knowledge.

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.

Continue reading “Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines and other science”

Italian vaccine policy – bans unvaccinated kids from school

Italian vaccine policy

The Italian vaccine policy has been perplexing over the past few years. Although Italy is not the center of the vaccine universe, there have been some amusing and troubling decisions out of Italy that have caused me to write about it on a number of occasions.

Implementing smart public health policy, Italy has decided that if a child under the age of 6 has not been vaccinated, they will not be able to attend kindergartens or elementary school. And if the child is between ages 7-16, the parents will face a fine. This happened despite the promises of the new Italian government elected in 2018 which seemed to delay the previous government’s law that mandated vaccines

However, the recent measles epidemic hitting Europe, mostly caused by vaccine refusal, and relatively low vaccination rates in the country, probably convinced the government that it needed to protect its citizens.

Let’s take a short look at the Italian vaccine policy over the years, and see how we got here. Continue reading “Italian vaccine policy – bans unvaccinated kids from school”

Anti-vaccine liability – should they pay for the harm they cause?

Recently, Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss wrote an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle about anti-vaccine liability – should parents who refuse to vaccinate their children be financially liable for the harm they cause to others? Professor Reiss lays out a compelling case as to why it should happen.

Professor Reiss, a frequent contributor to this website, is a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA). She writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy. 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 has written other articles about anti-vaccine liability – here and here. This is an issue that many of us think about when anti-vaxxers put not only their own children but also many others, at risk of dangerous diseases. 

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine liability – should they pay for the harm they cause?”

Vaccines and autism – robust, powerful science says they are unrelated

vaccines and autism

Vaccines and autism are not linked or associated 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 26 April 2018, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data showed a continued rise in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is considered to be 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.

Predictably, the anti-vaccine community jumped on this information (despite their hatred of the CDC) to make unfounded claims, not backed by science, that this was all the fault of vaccines. Of course.

Continue reading “Vaccines and autism – robust, powerful science says they are unrelated”

MMR vaccine and autism – once again, there is no association

mmr vaccine and autism

Despite the lies of the anti-vaccine religion, a huge recent Danish study has, once again, debunked any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This is like the 140th peer-reviewed study that says the same thing – vaccines do not cause autism.

This study is particularly robust and conclusive, and it adds to the settled science that the MMR vaccine and autism are unrelated. And it is further evidence that the fraud perpetrated by Mr. Andrew Wakefield did nothing more than cause children to be put at risk of measles. 

But will this cause the anti-vaxxers to shut up? Of course not, because they prefer pseudoscience to real science. Continue reading “MMR vaccine and autism – once again, there is no association”

Doctors once said that “smoking is safe” – another anti-vaccine myth

smoking is safe

If you hang around discussions about vaccines, you will see the oft-repeated claim that doctors once claimed that “smoking is safe.” The anti-vaccine religion (or terrorists) use this trope as a strawman argument in an attempt to discredit physicians, scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who claim that vaccines are safe and effective.

Anti-vaxxers really lack much evidence to support their science-denying arguments against the settled science regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Thus, they have to rely upon misinformation, tropes, and lies to make arguments that vaccines are something. 

I would laugh at this “smoking is safe” claim, except it’s used to dissuade parents from trusting wonderful organizations like the CDC, which only has one goal, to protect lives from diseases. So, let’s debunk this anti-vaccine myth because that’s what we do around here. Continue reading “Doctors once said that “smoking is safe” – another anti-vaccine myth”

Glyphosate linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Analysis of new study

glyphosate

A new study has been published that claims that the herbicide glyphosate is linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma,  a cancer of the lymph tissue. Of course, once a study like this hits the interwebs, everyone becomes panicked that glyphosate causes cancer.

I want to take a look at this paper because I am generally distrustful of any claims that “XYZ causes cancer!!!!!!!!!!!!” 

Cancer myths are pervasive, and a lot of fear of cancer is based on those myths. So let’s take a critical eye and examine the peer-reviewed paper that claims that there is a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There is a lot there, but there is also a lot of overreaction. Continue reading “Glyphosate linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Analysis of new study”

2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness – interim CDC report

2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness

The CDC recently issued an interim report on the 2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness. Usually, after these reports, there are all kinds of consternation from everyone with a stake in the seasonal flu vaccine.

Last year, the flu vaccine effectiveness was a challenge. Typically, the anti-vaccine religion (or terrorists) massively understated the effectiveness of last year’s vaccine, despite good evidence that, although it wasn’t great, it was fairly good against most subtypes of flu.

Vaccine effectiveness is an important measurement to determine how many individuals who are vaccinated against the flu are actually protected from the infection by the vaccine. Despite the wild pseudoscientific claims about various flu treatments, the best preventive tool against influenza and influenza-related diseases, complications, and deaths are flu vaccines.

Preliminary statistics showing the burden of flu this year.

 

Well, let’s get the facts straight with what we know so far about the 2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness. Continue reading “2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness – interim CDC report”

Anti-vaccine terrorists – maybe it is the time to call them that

anti-vaccine terrorists

In a recent article in Without a Crystal Ball on Patheos, Katie Joy, an anti-pseudoscience writer after my own heart, laid out a powerful case to label vaccine deniers as anti-vaccine terrorists. I think I’m on board. I know, it’s tough but deserving.

Katie wrote:

Fringe conspiracy-theorist terrorists, called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are multiplying so fast that some counties, cities, and states have vaccination rates below community or ‘herd’ immunity levels across the U.S. With more parents buying into the  conspiracy that vaccines contain toxins, cause autism, and are unsafe, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised are suffering. These people need to be called out for what they are; anti-vaxxers are terrorists that kill and harm our children.

Even if you oppose anti-vaxxers, you might think it’s too extreme to use the “terrorist” label in this case. I do not. Though there is no single agreed-upon definition of terrorism, most agree that it consists of using fear as a tool to achieve political or social change while disregarding harm done to others in the process. I think anti-vaxxers meet every part of that definition.

After giving it much thought, I think I’m going to have to change my description of these nutjobs from anti-vaccine religious extremists to anti-vaccine terrorists. Maybe it’s harsh. But it’s deserving.

I want to make a case for this “anti-vaccine terrorists” label. Maybe you’ll agree, or maybe you’ll think I’m over-the-top, even if you’re pro-science. But these vaccine deniers are putting children at risk of harm, it’s becoming difficult for me to excuse their lies and misinformation.  Continue reading “Anti-vaccine terrorists – maybe it is the time to call them that”