Here we go again – the Italian anti-vaccine Corvelva, the anti-vaccine group which produced laughable pseudoscientific research about vaccines. Their first salvo that missed tried to show that the Infarix Hexa vaccine, which protects infants against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), didn’t contain antigens to those toxins, viruses, and bacteria.
Of course, that research was pure unmitigated equine excrement since Corvelva provided no scientific transparency, no peer-review, no data, and no substance that real science uses. As far as I can tell, not a single major national drug review agency spent more than a nanosecond reviewing their bogus claims since they were not in the form of real scientific research.
But like zombies that keep coming because of another failed plan from Rick Grimes, they keep coming back, so a good scientist like this ancient dinosaur must continue to put a claw into their brains. This time, the Corvelva zombies are back with more pseudoscience “research” about the HPV vaccine, one of the handful of ways to actually prevent cancer in this world.
So, as one of the anti-vaccine zombie fighters on the internet, let’s get to the action.
Who are these Corvelva zombies?
To be fair, any decent research institution meets some minimal standard of notability. Usually, that means it would have a Wikipedia page, since that online encyclopedia has a rather broad definition of notability, so if Corvelva actually did anything significant, you would be able to find them there. But no, they don’t exist on Wikipedia, at least as of today.
I’m a Wikipedia editor, so maybe I should write it because it would have to be completely neutral, which means they can’t promote their pseudoscience. And we could call out their pseudoscience.
Their website is 100% or so in Italian, so it’s difficult to get a full grasp of what they do or don’t do. But, as far as I can tell, it is pure, unadulterated, science-denying anti-vaccine junk.
They write about how the Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, had to go to the hospital after receiving the pneumococcal vaccine. According to a thorough analysis by the skeptical Orac, “my best guess is that he either had a really bad local reaction or a hematoma and went to the ER. For some reason, it appears that he was briefly admitted to the hospital. Neither of these is life-threatening or reasons not to get vaccinated according to the CDC recommended schedule.” In other words, there’s nothing there, but Corvelva is advertising it for some reason because they’re anti-vaccine. That’s what they do.
In addition, Corvelva mentions Sheri Tenpenny several times. Tenpenny is a lunatic physician who pushes lies about vaccines, despite zero published evidence supporting any of her claims. Tenpenny, who has no training, publications, or research background in any field of science related to vaccines, is a favorite of that ultra-conspiracy theorist nutjob, Alex Jones.
I see several other articles on the website that represent the beliefs and dogma of the anti-vaccine religion. They also seem to support the current Italian government, which had appeared to be dangerously anti-vaccine but has recently seen the light and moved towards retaining the more rational and scientific pro-vaccine viewpoint of the previous government. Corvelva will probably be unhappy with this policy change.
If it isn’t clear to the reader, let me be so right now – Corvelva is a highly biased anti-vaccine group. They are not a scientific group attached to an academic or governmental institution which may, at least, put on the appearance of objectivity.
A meta look at the Corvelva study
Because we don’t have access to the materials and methods of this “study,” we can only criticize what we see at a 10,000-meter level. Maybe they’ll publish something more in a predatory journal, then we can laugh at them again. But let’s hit the most important points:
- By any standard, Corvelva is a highly biased, anti-vaccine group – apparently, they will do whatever they can to dig up any evidence, whether valid or not, whatever the quality, to “prove” that vaccines are neither safe nor effective. Yes, these are the arguments that the anti-vaccine religion makes about any real vaccine study. However, and this is the biggest difference, a real scientist publishes their work in real peer-reviewed journals that allow for total transparency. We don’t see that here.
- Of course, if they really had valid scientific evidence to back their claims, they would get it published in one of many respected peer-reviewed journals who would be overjoyed to publish their findings. This is the third “study” that they have pushed online, over the past few months, but not a single sniff of a peer-reviewed journal. Setting aside the abysmal quality of their methodology, their results would be remarkable. Of course, it would never get past the peer review of a top journal.
- Where are the names of the scientists that performed the study and lead the research? Where are the citations that support the claims made by these “researchers?” Where is the detailed discussion of how the RNA and DNA markers that were picked up can be linked to LIVING organisms? This is what we would find in a peer-reviewed paper, a long discussion that establishes the foundations for the results.
A look at the results
- No controls. At least, it didn’t appear that they used any controls. So the DNA/RNA contamination could have been background noise in the pipettes, containers, Eppendorf tubes, glassware, media, water, and equipment. Any DNA/RNA needs to have meticulous controls. Corvelva may have had controls, but they didn’t show them, so all I can assume is that either they’re lying to me or they’re incompetent, neither of which gives me any confidence in their results. Moreover, some of that DNA and RNA appears to be from microorganisms that are normally found on humans, like lab workers.
- Let’s say there is DNA and RNA contamination in the vaccines. This goes to the general fear that people have for “chemicals.” There are DNA and RNA in every single thing we consume. Every single ear of corn, ever kale leaf, every slab of steak, and every glass of milk contains billions and trillions of strands of DNA and RNA. Only if you’re dreaming and subscribe to the Nirvana fallacy, that is, if it’s not perfect, it’s junk, would you believe that any manufacturing process could remove 100% of DNA and RNA. Moreover, DNA and RNA aren’t going to do anything. It isn’t going to self replicate, it’s only a few base pairs. It’s not going to magically incorporate into a cell of the body.
- They claim that there are 4.5 million DNA fragments in a sample. Sounds scary right? Well, an average cell contains over 5 billion DNA base pairs, so that’s around 1% of one cell. In other words, it’s an amount so insignificant, it has no biological meaning. If Corvelva is producing accurate results, and I don’t actually believe them, the HPV vaccine contains enough DNA to maybe equal 0.00000001% of the DNA in the human body. This is why math and biology matter – pseudoscience prefers scare tactics. And remember, there is just no evidence that these stray bits of DNA and RNA have any effect on humans. None.
- No statistical analysis. Again, since there’s no control, we have no analysis that shows if there’s a significant difference between the sample and control.
- Speaking of samples – again, it’s not clear (and I’m open to someone clarifying it for me), it appears that they sampled 1 or 2 or 3 vials of vaccine. That’s it. Let’s say their research is accurate (and I have no clue if it is). Maybe they got a bad lot of vaccines. Maybe they didn’t open the vial of vaccine properly. I don’t know, but with just a sample size of n=1 or 2 or 3, that’s not science. That’s trying to invent data to make a point.
Frankly, I gave up at this point. This “study” made no sense, it had no details, it had no information that could be used to be used as evidence.
This new Corvelva study is just pure, unfettered, unfermented garbage.
If Corvelva and the anti-vaccine quacks want to show us something about the HPV vaccine, then fund a huge case-control or prospective cohort study that is run by an unbiased academic and/or governmental organization. Then let the results be published in a real journal.
This bovine fecal material published online in a pdf file. It lacks a materials and methods review. It lacks robust citations. It lacks a statistical analysis. It lacks being published in a real journal. It lacks anything that would make it substantive and useful.
It’s just pseudoscience from an anti-vaccine group. That’s it.
Of course, we do have substantive evidence that the HPV vaccine is extremely safe and very effective in preventing cancer. And, the ignore that data published in real peer-reviewed journals to push their agenda. But what do you expect from the anti-vaccine bias?