Andrew Wakefield discredited – a collection of his attacks on vaccines

Andrew Wakefield discredited

Between Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and I, we have written over 100 articles about that cunning fraud, Andrew Wakefield. Are you going to find anything positive about him in any of those +100 articles? No way. Is Andrew Wakefield discredited as a physician, scientist, and vaccine expert? You bet.

Why are we so obsessed with pointing out that he has been discredited? Because he has become, through media manipulation and many anti-vaccine acolytes and sycophants, the face of the “vaccines cause autism” meme. Note to the casual reader – there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Is Andrew Wakefield discredited? Damn straight he is.

Mr. Wakefield is no doctor. He has been stricken off the list of physicians in the UK which is tantamount to having his license to practice medicine revoked. Because he is no longer a physician, he can no longer be found in the Royal College of Surgeons.

And let’s not forget that Wakefield’s article, that made him a hero to the antivaccine crowd, in the Lancet was disowned by his coauthors and eventually retracted by the journal. Interesting little bit of trivia – the very first article (other than a welcome-test article) I ever wrote on here was about Wakefield.

Just to make life easier for those of you researching Andrew Wakefield and his various frauds, I’ve organized many of my posts into categories. Have fun debunking the basket of deplorables.  Continue reading “Andrew Wakefield discredited – a collection of his attacks on vaccines”

Anti-vaccine paper retracted – Shaw and Tomljenovic lose again

Anti-vaccine paper retracted

A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical analysis of a paper by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic published in Inorganic Biochemistry that tried to convince us that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines caused autism. Predictably, it’s another anti-vaccine paper retracted by another journal.

Shaw and Tomljenovic have quite a history in retracted anti-vaccine articles. Last year, they wrote an article about aluminum adjuvants in the HPV vaccine – it was retracted, and eventually republished almost word-for-word in an inferior journal.

According to Retraction Watch, Inorganic Biochemistry’s editor, John Dawson of the University of South Carolina, stated that:

The paper by Shaw and co-workers is being retracted jointly by the authors and the editor.

Yup, another anti-vaccine paper retracted. Of course, the article was roundly criticized in numerous posts across the skeptical universe soon after it was published. For example, the piercing Orac wrote in his blog,

given Shaw and Tomljenovic’s history, it is not unreasonable to be suspicious of this study as well…

At best, what we have here are researchers with little or no expertise in very basic molecular biology techniques using old methodology that isn’t very accurate overinterpreting the differences in gene and protein levels that they found. At worst, what we have are antivaccine “researchers” who are not out for scientific accuracy but who actually want to promote the idea that vaccines cause autism….If this were a first offense, I’d give Shaw and Tomljenovic the benefit of the doubt, but this is far from their first offense.

Orac called the paper, “antivaccine pseudoscience.” Not that anti-vaccine is anything but pseudoscience.

Other bloggers, like The Mad Virologist, who is also an expert on DNA analysis, and the Blood Brain Barrier Scientist, who writes about the blood-brain barrier and heavy metal music, jointly analyzed the paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic. They did a masterful job in looking at some of the technical errors and other issues with the paper. I won’t pretend to summarize what they write, so I’ll use their own summary:

Based on the methods that were used in this paper, Shaw et al. went too far in declaring that aluminum adjuvants cause autism. But there are six other key points that limit what conclusions can be drawn from this paper:
1) They selected genes based on old literature and ignored newer publications.
2) The method for PCR quantification is imprecise and cannot be used as an absolute quantification of expression of the selected genes.
3) They used inappropriate statistical tests that are more prone to giving significant results which is possibly why they were selected.
4) Their dosing regime for the mice makes assumptions on the development of mice that are not correct.
5) They gave the mice far more aluminum sooner than the vaccine schedule exposes children to.
6) There are irregularities in both the semi-quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot data that strongly suggests that these images were fabricated. This is probably the most damning thing about the paper. If the data were manipulated and images fabricated, then the paper needs to be retracted and UBC needs to do an investigation into research misconduct by the Shaw lab.

Taken together, we cannot trust Shaw’s work here and if we were the people funding this work, we’d be incredibly ticked off because they just threw away money that could have done some good but was instead wasted frivolously. Maybe there’s a benign explanation for the irregularities that we’ve observed, but until these concerns are addressed this paper cannot be trusted.

Also, a lot of criticism occurred on PubPeer, a website devoted to a kind of extended peer review of published papers. The commenters were harsh. Oneclaimed that there was a “clear and deliberate” removal of control results in the paper. And many others either hinted or outright stated that DNA gel bands were duplicated, photoshopped or taken from a 2014 paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic (and published in a journal that’s not even indexed on PubMed).

Added to all of this is that the primary author has left the University of British Columbia, where Shaw and Tomljenovic do their “research,” taking all of the data with her. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I will be – yeah right.

As an aside, I don’t know why the University of British Columbia continues to house Shaw and Tomljenovic. They have had their “research” utterly discredited by the World Health Organization. They have had papers retracted. And when they do publish, they’re in low ranked, low impact factor journals. Finally, their “research” is supported by some of the most profoundly anti-vaccine sponsors in the world.  Frankly, the only good Shaw and Tomljenovic do for the anti-vaccine world is to allow those of us who are pro-science/pro-vaccine lots of fodder in embarrassing the anti-vaccine world.

So there we go. Another Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper retracted, and will probably be republished in the Journal of Homeopathy Vaccines (no, it doesn’t exist). By the way, I won the betting pool on when it would be retracted. Hopefully, the shills pay me for winning.

Citations

 
 

Human foreskin in vaccines – another anti-vaccine zombie myth

human foreskin

Many of us who write about vaccines point out the zombie myths of the anti-vaccine world. These are myths about vaccines that we successfully debunk, then a few months, even years later, they reappear on the scene. And numerous websites breathlessly report these myths as if they’re new news. The new old zombie myth is that somehow human foreskin ends up in your vaccine.

We will discuss how human foreskin is related to vaccines, and it is fairly interesting. But you can guess that the only reason this is a thing is because there is a huge intersection between the intactivists, those who oppose circumcision, and the anti-vaccine world.

We’re going to ignore the whole circumcision argument, even though there is a lot of scientific evidence supporting it as a medical procedure, as this article is solely about vaccines, or at least the use of human foreskin in developing and producing vaccines. And why human foreskin in vaccines is another zombie myth.

Continue reading “Human foreskin in vaccines – another anti-vaccine zombie myth”

The Pathological Optimist – vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield documentary

The Pathological Optimist

I was having a peaceful evening. I fired up my Apple TV to watch the Trailers app to see upcoming movies that I might watch. Unfortunately, right at the top row, I see Andrew Wakefield’s face on the trailer for a new documentary about him, “The Pathological Optimist“.

Why would anyone want to see another documentary about this man? Well, it’s horror film season, and Wakefield is one scary man.

In 2016, we got his self-serving fraudumentary, “Vaxxed,” a film that invented a conspiracy about the so called CDC Whistleblower, a thoroughly debunked myth. However, “The Pathological Optimist” was not produced by Wakefield himself, it was developed and produced independently. However, the film ended up putting him in a favorable, and complicated, light.

Let’s take a look at the movie, but I want to remind everyone that Andrew Wakefield is not a favorable character in any play about vaccines. He committed a demonstrable fraud which has harmed children across the world. He might be “The Pathological Optimist,” but there is a lot of evidence that he is a pathological something.

Continue reading “The Pathological Optimist – vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield documentary”

Flu treatments – do any of them work, or should I just get the vaccine?

Flu treatments

So you’ve decided to forsake the flu vaccine because you buy into the easily-debunked myths of the anti-vaccine world. Then you catch the flu, which is considered a very dangerous disease despite some of the myths. Then, you send someone to go down to the local drug store to find one of those advertised flu treatments. It’s time to look at these common “flu treatments” and determine whether there is any scientific evidence supporting their usefulness.

I’ve written previously about various supplements and treatments for the common cold, and they mostly don’t work. Or the evidence is so weak that it’s a waste of money to use them.

These ineffective treatments exist for one reason – money. Common cold and flu treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry. And the industry is largely unregulated, so they can make unsupported claims, and people buy them based on the woo.

Let me be frank – your best, and really, only choice to prevent the flu is getting the seasonal flu vaccine. It is the only method to boost your or your children’s immune system against the flu.

Although there’s some overlap between common cold and flu treatments, there are a large number of flu treatments that get sold over the counter, although one is sold by prescription. Are any effective? Let’s find out. Continue reading “Flu treatments – do any of them work, or should I just get the vaccine?”

Gun control regulations and firearms mortality – UPDATED

Gun control regulations and public health.

Firearms mortality, either murder, accidental or suicide, has always been a public health issue in the USA. There have been several good epidemiological studies that have examined whether gun control regulations and firearms mortality risk are related – and the results are surprisingly vigorous.

From recent epidemiological research, there is some convincing evidence that establishes a correlation between state-level gun control regulations and firearms mortality rates. However, the link is not as black and white as one might wish – the relationship between firearms regulations and mortality depends on the quality of the law.

The nation’s leading public health organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is essentially prevented from analyzing and publishing any epidemiological research that would help us understand what, if any, links there are between gun control and firearms mortality. The Republican dominated congress have done everything they can to prevent the CDC from using any funds to study the issue.

Furthermore, because the CDC cannot (or will not) fund research into gun control, it has lead to a chilling effect on gun control research in academia. According to the Washington Post, “young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers. And the odd gun study that got published went through linguistic gymnastics to hide any connection to firearms.”

But maybe because this public health menace can no longer be ignored, a smattering of well done epidemiological research is being published in very high quality medical journals. Let’s look at one.

Continue reading “Gun control regulations and firearms mortality – UPDATED”

Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states

anti-vaccine tweets

Although there’s evidence that the anti-science beliefs surrounding vaccines cross a broad political spectrum, I’ve always wondered if rich white liberal women were the center of the anti-vaccine universe – this is based on my own personal anecdotal evidence, so let’s just consider that a belief than a fact. A recent analysis of anti-vaccine tweets may or may not confirm my beliefs about these rich white liberals.

There has been a dramatic increase, over the past few years, in the volume of tweets that claim that life-saving vaccines are linked to autism. Anyone who reads this blog knows that that claim is demonstrably and scientifically false. Despite the science, the belief that vaccines cause autism remains. And this view is promulgated on various locations on the internet.

Like with a lot of other controversial topics, the Twitter outrage about the danger of vaccines doesn’t actually reflect a sudden surge in anti-vaccine beliefs amongst the general population. According to a recently published peer-reviewed article, most of increase in these anti-vaccine tweets represent a very specific demographic. Individuals from affluent, populated areas in five states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania – seem to be the backbone of this sudden increase in anti-vaccine tweets.

Let’s take a look at this new paper. It could provide us with some information about the who is pushing the anti-vaccine narrative. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states”

Science denialism politics – vaccines, GMOs, evolution, climate change

science denialism politics

On an episode of his HBO political talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher repeated his contention that the Republican Party, more generally the right wing of the American political spectrum, is the party of science denialism politics.

I am no fan of Bill Maher, because, in fact, he himself is is a science denier. Maher hits some of the top 10 list of science denialism: he’s an anti-vaccine crackpot, he’s pro-alternative medicine, he’s on the verge of AIDS denialism, and, to top it off, he hates GMO foods.

In other words, Maher, a leftist by any stretch of the meaning, embraces science denialism politics in a way that would probably inspire your local climate change or evolution denier on the right.

HBO’s other political news-ish program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, features British comedian Oliver, who is pro-science on every issue I’ve heard, including scientific research and vaccines.

Neil deGrasse Tyson was a guest on Maher’s episode, and contradicted him regarding the claim that Republicans hold the monopoly on junk science:

Don’t be too high and mighty there, because there are certain aspects of science denials that are squarely in the liberal left.

I like to generalize about the politics of science denialism politics – I and many others have claimed that the anti-GMO crowd is nothing more than the left’s version of climate change deniers. But some people have taken umbrage with Tyson’s comments, and believe that science denialism cannot be correlated with political beliefs.

One caveat about this article – it is primarily focused on American politics. In many countries, both the left and right accept the consensus on scientific principles like evolution and vaccines. Only in America is science denialism the default position, crossing party boundaries.

Let’s take a look at left vs. right ideas about science, and how each embrace science denialism and pseudoscience. It’s quite a bit more complicated than you can imagine.

Continue reading “Science denialism politics – vaccines, GMOs, evolution, climate change”

Influenza kills – the flu vaccine saves lives, it’s fairly simple

influenza kills

During the 2016-17 flu season, over 100 children died from the virus. Yet, only 60% of children were vaccinated, despite the fact influenza kills.

Not only do children die of the flu, but between 12,000 – 56,000 adults die every year from the flu in the USA. Some of those people are healthy young adults. In some years, the flu kills more people than many other things that we consider dangerous, like firearms and cars.

It’s difficult to understand why parents seem to ignore the flu vaccine for themselves or for their children. Many people just don’t think the flu is that dangerous. Or they think the vaccine doesn’t work. Or they believe in some other myth that simply isn’t true.

Whatever the reason for avoiding the vaccine for children or adults, it’s important that people know what the flu can do, even for a healthy child or adult. It’s not a disease you can ignore, despite the claims of the anti-vaccine corps. And the flu cannot be treated or prevented by supplements or vitaminsContinue reading “Influenza kills – the flu vaccine saves lives, it’s fairly simple”

HPV vaccine causes infertility and primary ovarian insufficiency – myth

HPV vaccine causes infertility

The HPV vaccine causes infertility through primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) – a belief unsupported by evidence. And the claim appears to be based on anti-vaccine ideology instead of real science.

Yes, I know, this story seems to repeat itself, but stay tuned, this is a good one. So let’s examine this myth from a scientific aspect and show how the HPV vaccine is actually unrelated to POI. Continue reading “HPV vaccine causes infertility and primary ovarian insufficiency – myth”