Aluminum and vaccines, it’s time to clear up the pseudoscience

aluminum and vaccines

The moving goalposts of the anti-vaccine arguments can be annoying. First, it was mercury (no mercury in vaccines). Today, it’s aluminum and vaccines. What next, the water in vaccines causes something because of reasons?

There is overwhelming and solid evidence that the tiny levels of aluminum in some vaccines are biologically irrelevant. Of course, the anti-vaccine religion is rarely convinced by science, because of only their beliefs matter.

The anti-vaxxers have a preconceived conclusion that vaccines are dangerous –  aluminum and vaccines cause it. Then they find every bit of “evidence” to support that conclusion, irrespective of the mountain of evidence that says they are wrong. Continue reading “Aluminum and vaccines, it’s time to clear up the pseudoscience”

Autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants – Shoenfeld vaccine myth

autoimmune syndromes

One of the enduring myths (there are so many) about the HPV vaccine is that it is linked to one or more autoimmune syndromes, an abnormal immune response to a healthy body part. These claims, pushed by an Israeli physician, Yehuda Shoenfeld, are called “autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA)” and, sometimes, Shoenfeld’s Syndrome. 

But we call it a myth, a lie, pseudoscience, and quackery. Despite the rejection of Shoenfeld’s bogosity by scientists worldwide, he was recently elected to the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. What were they thinking?

But let’s get back to ASIA – it is not accepted by the scientific and medical community (and see this published article), was rejected by the United States vaccine court as a claim for vaccine injury, and should not be accepted by parents deciding whether they should vaccinate their children.

Furthermore, the European Medicines Agency, which is the primary regulatory body in the EU for pharmaceuticals, has rejected any link between the HPV vaccine and various autoimmune disorders. The science stands in direct opposition to autoimmune syndromes being caused by any vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO)  has scientifically rejected the quackery of ASIA (if it even exists) is caused by vaccines, notably, the HPV vaccine.

Despite the lack of evidence supporting the existence of autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants, and even more powerful evidence that it doesn’t exist, the anti-vaccine religion still cherry-picks articles to support their preconceived conclusions that the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine is dangerous.

So, let’s take a look at Yehuda Shoenfeld and his ridiculous ASIA claims. Then we’ll criticize the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities for seemingly endorsing his junk science.

Continue reading “Autoimmune syndromes induced by adjuvants – Shoenfeld vaccine myth”

Did a recent poll claim that 45% of Americans doubt vaccine safety? NO

You’ve probably seen the clickbait headlines across the press that, in a recent poll, 45% of Americans doubt vaccine safety. At first, such a poll would make me think that the anti-vaccine zealots were gaining some sort of traction with their fear, uncertainty, and doubt campaign against the settled science of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Then a friend of mine, a pro-vaccine nurse in northern California, gave me a heads-up as to the actual data.  And it wasn’t even close to that number doubting vaccine safety.

Even the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which is one of the leading American science organizations, which generally casts a very critical eye toward this kind of data, kind of got it wrong. 

Let’s take a moment to review the polling data, and show that the poll actually said that only 8% of Americans doubted vaccine safety, which feels about right. Clickbait headlines that never examine the data do a disservice to all of us. Continue reading “Did a recent poll claim that 45% of Americans doubt vaccine safety? NO”

Too many vaccines – debunking another unscientific anti-vaxxer myth

too many vaccines

Each day, I have plans to write about something other than another anti-vaccine myth, like we give our kids too many vaccines. But like Al Pacino said in The Godfather, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Now I get pulled into another anti-vaxxer myth.

Unfortunately, my wonderful, well-researched, 15,000-word article about the existence of Sasquatch will have to wait for another day. Yes, it makes me sad. 

Seriously, the “too many vaccines” trope pushed by the anti-vaccine religion is one of the most annoying in the discussions about vaccines. Their bogus claim is that we give children too many vaccines too early in life, and that causes all kinds of harm.

Per usual, the anti-vaccine zealots lack any robust scientific evidence supporting their claims, but you know those people – there’s no trope, myth, or meme that they won’t employ, irrespective of evidence, to push lies about vaccines.

So let’s take a look at this old anti-vaccine myth of too many vaccines in light of a recently published, powerful study that provides more evidence that this particular myth doesn’t hold any water. Continue reading “Too many vaccines – debunking another unscientific anti-vaxxer myth”

California vaccination rate down – linked to fake medical exemptions?

California vaccination rate

The California vaccination rate had been slowly growing since the implementation of SB277 in 2016, which eliminated the broadly abused personal belief exemptions to vaccines for students. Unfortunately, anti-vaccine parents abused the law by getting mostly fake medical exemptions (see Notes) to vaccines, which seems to have exploded over the past year or so.

In fact, the California Medical Board had put one of the more famous anti-vaccine pediatricians, Dr. Bob Sears, on probation for abusing vaccine medical exemptions and other issues. In 2016, the Executive Director of the Medical Board of California, represented by the office of the California Attorney General, then headed by Kamala Harrisbrought a complaint against Dr. Sears (pdf).

And in June 2019, a complaint against Dr. Sears was brought by Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California, which alleges that Sears signed vaccine medical exemptions for two siblings. Those children did not have medically-recognized contraindications for any vaccines, based on their medical records.

Dr. Sears is merely the tip of a huge iceberg of physicians and other medical professionals signing off on fake medical exemptions – many of these physicians charge exorbitant fees for this “service.” There are several Facebook groups where anti-vax parents share information about these physicians who lack any concern for the long-term health of children. 

As a result of this ongoing abuse, the California legislature proposed SB276, which puts some stricter controls on medical exemptions. Essentially, SB276 states that the physician writing the exemption would have to submit a copy to the California Department of Health, and the department would create a system to review medical exemptions from schools with less than 95% immunization rates or doctors who submitted more than 5 exemptions.

SB276 won’t eliminate all abuse, but it should help.

Unfortunately, until SB276 is passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor, the misuse of medical exemptions continues. And that might have led to a decrease in the California vaccination rate. Continue reading “California vaccination rate down – linked to fake medical exemptions?”

Dr. Ron Kennedy loses appeal against providing records to medical board for vaccine exemptions

Ron Kennedy

On 14 June 2019, a California Court of Appeals issued a decision (pdf) that means, in essence, that Dr. Ron Kennedy (see Note 1) has to provide the Medical Board of California with medical records of three patients for whom he wrote vaccine medical exemptions. This is part of an ongoing saga around Dr. Kennedy’s exemption writing.

Ron Kennedy is a licensed MD who owns a clinic called the Anti-Aging Clinic in Santa Rosa, CA,  which offers, apparently, anti-aging treatments. The Yelp reviews for the clinic suggest he has a long history of filling medical marijuana prescriptions. 

I am going to review Dr. Ron Kennedy’s background and the case in this article. Continue reading “Dr. Ron Kennedy loses appeal against providing records to medical board for vaccine exemptions”

ACIP vaccine recommendations – updates for HPV, HepA, MenB, flu

vaccine recommendations

On 26-27 June 2019, the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) updated vaccine recommendations for several vaccines including the human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis A (HepA), and serogroup B meningococcal disease (MenB). These vaccine recommendations do not become official until they are published in the CDC’s peer-reviewed journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

This article will review the ACIP process and new recommendations. Continue reading “ACIP vaccine recommendations – updates for HPV, HepA, MenB, flu”

CDC vaccine patents – Robert F Kennedy Jr gets this one wrong too

CDC vaccine patents

There are some very elaborate conspiracy theories set up by the anti-vaccine tinfoil hat crowd, but I ran across a new one that uses such a tortured path of logical fallacies and outright misunderstandings that I just had to review it. The claim is that the CDC vaccine patents are so valuable that the CDC itself sets aside all morality and ethics to endorse these vaccines to make more money for the CDC.

This particular conspiracy theory arises from none other than Robert F Kennedy, Jr, one of Donald Trump’s lapdogs for vaccines. Kennedy has made this claim for several years now, but repeated it in a recent interview, stating that, “the CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually.”

Typically, Kennedy provides absolutely nothing in the form of supporting evidence. It makes no sense to argue against an imaginary claim – this is a pretty good example of an opinion rather than facts.

But along comes Ginger Taylor, one of the most ardent and science-ignoring anti-vaccine activists around these parts. In fact, she inspired my article entitled, Vaccines and autism science say they are unrelated

Taylor, who apparently has an autistic child, believes that vaccines “damaged” her child because, as a mother, she knows more than actual scientists. She considers science to be an elitist pursuit, it’s not data and evidence that matter but only her opinion.

Seriously, Taylor has an utter lack of self-awareness, which apparently broke one of Orac’s favorite Big Pharma Irony Meters™. Her opinion of her own scientific knowledge, i.e. her Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias, is betrayed by the reality of the vast mountain of scientific knowledge supporting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

So this same Ginger Taylor, vaccine denying silly person, decides to write an article with another torturous description of the CDC vaccine patents conspiracy theory, trying to support Kennedy’s outlandish claims. And she wrote this article in GreenMedInfo, one of the most ignorant anti-science websites on the interwebs, just a bit below NaturalNews in quality.

The problems with Taylor’s article are multi-fold – but generally, like so many other anti-vaccine zealots, they think they know a lot about a topic based on their 15 minutes of Google search time, rather than doing the tens of thousands of hours of actual vaccine research using science.

But because Taylor is utterly uneducated and inexperienced with not only science but also patents, she gets nearly all of her conspiracy theory wrong. Like almost all conspiracies.

So here we go, debunking another anti-vaccine myth. Continue reading “CDC vaccine patents – Robert F Kennedy Jr gets this one wrong too”

Predicting US measles outbreak – vaccine uptake and international travel

The locations of the current US measles outbreak (or epidemic) was predicted by researchers in an article recently published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. The amazingly prescient predictions were not based on magic, but on a scientific analysis of two factors – the vaccination rate and international travel tendencies by county in the United States.

And the statistical website, Five Thirty-Eight, took the predictions and listed out what happened during this US measles outbreak. The predictions were spot on.

Time to look at this study and its predicted results.

Continue reading “Predicting US measles outbreak – vaccine uptake and international travel”

Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they generally try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, that’s the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines”