Adverse events surveillance after 11.8 million COVID mRNA vaccine doses

adverse events COVID-19 vaccine

A paper was just published that reviewed adverse events after 11.8 million COVID-19 mRNA vaccine doses were administered in the USA. Because it is the topic of discussion these days, I felt it was important to review this paper.

Even though anti-vaxxers love to claim excess adverse events after people receive the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, there are excellent methods that the CDC has developed to monitor these issues in vaccines, and this new paper looks at one of them.

The news is good, in case you’re wondering.

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Scientific facts vs personal opinion about vaccines, evolution, climate change

scientific facts

When I write, I usually stick to scientific facts that are supported by evidence published in peer-reviewed biomedical journals. Because I can be rather blunt about a scientific topic, for example, stating that evolution is a fact, it may sound like I’m saying “my opinion is that evolution is a fact.” No, it’s a scientific fact, not a personal opinion.

When it comes to opinions vs scientific facts, there is a difference, a huge difference. An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something, generally supported by weak evidence. Or sometimes no evidence. A scientific fact only exists because there is a vast amount of supporting evidence.

My favorite color is blue or green, depends on the day. I think that mint and mushrooms taste horrible, and I can’t imagine what they’d taste like together. Doctor Who is boring. Soccer is even more boring to the point of inducing depression. These are all my opinions, meaning that evidence, especially the scientific kind, probably could not be found to support any of them (see Note 1).

Opinions may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general populations but they all have one thing in common – they cannot be verified by evidence, except that I believe them.

As Jef Rouner wrote in the Houston Press,

There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion. The fact that you may still believe that vaccines cause autism does not move your misconception into the realm of valid opinion. Nor does the fact that many others share this opinion give it any more validity.

On the other side are scientific facts, which only exist because of evidence – unbiased evidence, along with well-designed experiments that give us that evidence. Let’s take a look at opinions vs scientific facts, just in case you think they are equivalent.

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MSG in vaccines are not dangerous – debunking more anti-vax nonsense

vaccines MSG

There are so many random claims from the anti-vaccine activists about evil chemicals in your child’s vaccines – now, MSG in vaccines. Of course, MSG isn’t the only evil chemical that causes anti-vaxxers to scream loudly.

Aluminum in vaccines is dangerous? Actually, no. Mercury in vaccines? No again. Formaldehyde in vaccines is killing our kids? Nope. Of course, MSG in vaccines is causing something. Anything.

Of course, many of you have heard about MSG in our food. It’s up there on the evil food chemical list along with aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, GMO‘s, and whatever else is the food danger of the day. But MSG certainly has been on the top of the “avoid” list for decades.

I’ve been refuting nonsense about chemicals for at least 25 years on the internet (back before we had social media, yeah I’m an old dinosaur). From my perspective, I think that 50% of the issues with “chemicals” are their long complex names. And the other 50% is because of the appeal to nature logical fallacy, which is the argument that natural substances are somehow superior to “chemicals.” 

Ironically, everything in nature is a chemical, and unless you think everything in the universe is designed for human health (ridiculous), a “natural” chemical is not even close to being superior to a “man-made” chemical. 

But let’s get back to MSG – how many times have you seen “No MSG” in a sign Chinese restaurant? So if we don’t want to put MSG in our kung pao chicken, then why would we want MSG in vaccines? 

What we’re going to show in this article is that MSG dangers are a myth. And the dangers of MSG in vaccines are a bigger myth. 

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Flu vaccine unrelated to miscarriages – getting the facts right

flu vaccine miscarriages

A while ago, the Washington Post dropped this provocative headline, “Researchers find a hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriages.” Add this to the long list of anti-vaccine tropes, which include the HPV and COVID-19 vaccines, that somehow, in some magical way, these vaccines cause something bad to fertility or pregnancy.

Of course, a more thorough review of the research shows that the flu vaccine does not miscarriages. A careful reading of the Washington Post article shows that it is filled with nuance and hedging because the underlying published article does not actually provide robust evidence that any flu vaccine increases the risk of miscarriages.

The Washington Post made several points that are important to consider, and we’ll examine the underlying research in more depth. But the most important point they made is that,

The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.

I wonder how many anti-vaccine radicals will fail to make that point, instead, screaming that “vaccines are dangerous and the worthless flu vaccine causes miscarriages.”

Well, of course. Del Bigtree isn’t known for his scientific knowledge.

Well, we don’t cherry-pick our evidence here, so we’re going to look at the broad body of evidence with respect to the flu, flu vaccines, and pregnancy. Because that’s how we roll here. And because we think pregnant women deserve the best information possible to protect themselves and their developing babies. Because that’s also how we roll here.

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Did Japan ban Gardasil? No, but the anti-vaccine crowd loves the trope

Japan Banned Gardasil

One of the most popular zombie memes and tropes of the anti-vaccine movement is that Japan banned Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. And like most of those zombie memes and tropes, the facts are a lot different than the anti-vaccine claims. Shocking, I know.

Although I don’t quite understand the reasoning, the anti-vaccine world absolutely hates Gardasil, possibly more than any other vaccine other than COVID-19 vaccines (of course). These zealots maintain that the HPV vaccines cause all kinds of harm to teens and young adults. Yet, there are literally mountains of data derived from numerous huge epidemiological studies that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is one of the safest vaccines on the market.

So if you really want to prevent cancer, one of the best ways available to you is getting the HPV vaccine. The idea is so simple, yet is clouded by the myths about HPV vaccines – one of the most popular, of course, is that Japan banned Gardasil. Let’s examine this fable with a critical and skeptical eye.

Spoiler alert – Japan did no such thing.

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Measles does not prevent cancer – debunking another anti-vaccine trope

measles cancer

There’s a ridiculous anti-vaxxer trope, that getting measles can prevent cancer, that’s been circulating for a while. Of course, it was pushed by members of the disgraced Trump White House, so it has the same credibility as that White House showed for any science whether it was the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change.

Of course, your favorite ancient feathered dinosaur is here to correct this issue – a measles infection is not going to prevent any of the 200 or more cancers that afflict humans.

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Judy Mikovits is not an authority on vaccines and COVID-19

If you have been following the detritus of the internet regarding COVID-19, you have probably seen a video called “Plandemic” from Judy Mikovits, another pseudoscientist screaming about conspiracies and nonsense during this pandemic. She has a long history of scams and false information over a few decades, not unlike all of the other false authorities we’ve seen over the years.

I thought that “Dr.” Mikovits disappeared from view after a few months, but I keep seeing stuff about her – she’s written a book, she’s attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, and she’s still making false claims about COVID-19 vaccines.

In case you don’t know about a “false authority,” formally the “argument from false authoritylogical fallacy, it means the argument favors claims from individuals based solely on their credentials rather than the scientific consensus. Credentials don’t matter – I may be someone who has a Ph.D. in cell biology and biochemistry from a top university, but if I claim that you must believe that Sasquatch exists because of my expert background, you should ignore me. On the other hand, Sasquatch does not exist.

The anti-vaccine zealots have a long history of relying upon false authorities – Tetyana Obukhanych, Christopher Exley, and Christopher Shaw. None of the individuals have any reputation in vaccines, yet they are deified by the anti-vaxxers. I’m guessing that Judy Mikovits will be joining that crowd soon.

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A list of retracted anti-vaccine papers – bad science and bad research

anti-vaccine retracted

Retracted anti-vaccine papers are a staple of my articles published here. Usually, they try to create some fake link between vaccines and autism, but these papers try to say anything that casts vaccines in a bad light.

As we know, real science has established that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Anti-vaccine papers generally try to show this link without epidemiological or clinical studies – they just try to make some specious biologically implausible claims trying to link something about vaccines to autism.

Much of the anti-vaccine research is so bad, so poorly designed, that it’s relegated to low-quality, predatory journals which have laughably poor peer-review systems. Even in those locations, we can find the occasional retracted anti-vaccine papers, because they are often so bad that even these predatory publishers are embarrassed.

So, I present to you, the loyal reader, a list of retracted anti-vaccine papers (and I use that term very carefully). It’s not a comprehensive list, it’s just what I’ve seen over the past few years. If you know of a retracted paper that I missed, leave a citation in the comments.

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Gardasil researcher Diane Harper is pro-HPV vaccine – shocking, right?

Gardasil researcher diane harper

Anti-vaxxers love their false authorities, so they invoke Gardasil researcher Diane Harper, MD as the authority of choice with regard to HPV vaccines. Obukhanych is truly a false authority, but Dr. Harper is much more complicated. She actually is an authority for HPV vaccines, but not in the way that the anti-vaccine world would like you to believe.

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded beliefs about vaccines, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or false authorities to support their case about the lack of safety of vaccines.

The so-called “lead Gardasil researcher,” Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck and GSK, had some responsibilities in the clinical trials for their HPV vaccines. But the claims about whether Dr. Harper supports or dislikes those vaccines are substantially more complicated than what the anti-vaccine zealots would like to claim about her.

Amusingly, every few months the social media haunts of the anti-vaccine crowd explode with claims that Dr. Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher, hates HPV vaccines.

Let’s take a look at the story and see what we find.

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