Last updated on June 14th, 2023 at 12:28 pm
Steve Kirsch, one of the newer anti-vaccine zealots, seems to be digging up all of the ancient tropes of the anti-vaccine armamentarium. Most of these have been thoroughly debunked by myself and all of the other pro-vaccine scientists out there but like a zombie, they keep coming back to munch on the brains of those who listen to people like Steve Kirsch.
So, I will review some of the anti-vaccine nonsense from Kirsch and provide you with scientific facts. As I keep saying, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are settled science. If Steve Kirsch wants to “unsettle” the science, then he ought to get a Ph.D. in epidemiology, immunology, public health, biochemistry, or anything related to the science of vaccines, and then publish some actual articles in real peer-reviewed medical journals that dispute our claims about vaccines. But no, he’s too lazy to do that, so he takes potshots at everyone without an iota of science supporting his claims. Not one tiny speck of science.
The sad thing about Steve Kirsch is that he brings nothing new to the anti-vaccine rhetoric. He’s spouting nonsense that many anti-vaxxers no longer use because they’ve been so thoroughly debunked. It’s kind of pathetic.
Once again, I’m going to debunk the anti-vaccine lies. It’s so easy, most of you can do this in your sleep.
Steve Kirsch and vaccine placebos
We’ve dealt with this recently in two articles that I have posted. Basically, Kirsch claims that we can’t know the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine because they aren’t tested against true placebos. As I’ve written many times before, this is simply not true for lots of reasons:
- If there is an antecedent vaccine, it is unethical and immoral to perform a clinical trial that gives one group a placebo. For example, if we develop a new measles vaccine, it will be tested against the control group which will get the old measles vaccine. No researcher would create a clinical trial that puts children at risk of getting measles by giving them a placebo. Period, end of story.
- Despite the lack of placebo-controlled studies (for some vaccines), there are many other ways to determine if a vaccinated group has background levels of adverse events. Large case-control and cohort studies can find rare adverse events compared to a moderate or large clinical trial. Because Kirsch lacks any experience or knowledge of these types of vaccine studies, he doesn’t understand how they are used to follow vaccine safety. And these studies contribute to my statement that vaccine safety and effectiveness are settled science.
- In fact, many new vaccines, that do not have an antecedent version, do undergo clinical trials with a placebo. The HPV vaccine was tested against a placebo. Many other vaccines have been tested against a placebo.
- There are vaccine databases, like the Vaccine Safety Datalink, that provide data to scientists at the CDC, FDA, and academia to monitor the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines. Kirsch seems to think that once a vaccine is released, we ignore it. After Mr. Andrew Wakefield published his fraudulent study claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, scientists spent billions of dollars examing the link. And we’ll get to that in a moment.
Vaccines are NOT linked to autism
Recently, Steve published an unscientific screed filled with logical fallacies trying to “prove” that vaccines cause autism.
Let me remind the reader that there are over 160 peer-reviewed, scientific articles published in respected medical journals that have thoroughly and conclusively debunked any link between any vaccine and autism spectrum disorder. These studies are either clinical trials, epidemiological studies, meta-analyses, and/or systematic reviews. And just to remind the readers, meta-analyses and systematic reviews are considered the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research.
But Steve Kirsch calls all of this vaccine research, “bullish!t.” In other words, he has precisely zero research data to support his claims of a link, so he just waves his hands and claims that top scientists across the world are wrong and his pseudoscience is right.
The problem is that science doesn’t work that way. Steve Kirsch is NOT a vaccine scientist, he is just some random anti-vaxxer that pretends to be scientific (that’s why he’s a pseudoscientist), but actually has no science supporting his claims.
Scientists across the world have tried to find a link between vaccines and autism — without a doubt, they found nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Kirsch thinks his unscientific poll is scientific
Kirsch tried to “prove” that there is a link between vaccines and autism using a survey, I kid you not. To be fair, a survey can be used in a legitimate study, although those types of studies fall near the bottom of the hierarchy of biomedical research. The reason why these types of studies lack legitimacy is basically one thing — bias.
People are claiming left and right that their children are autistic because of vaccines, but they have no evidence of it. Nevertheless, they are included in Kirsch’s polling.
Real studies, such as a case-control study, would use a large managed care database (available in the USA and other countries that have a managed healthcare system) and compare the rates of autism in a vaccinated and unvaccinated group. They would have actual medical histories, not claims of parents that may or may not be supported by facts. This type of study is unbiased and uses databases of thousands, if not millions, of patients.
That’s real science, something that goes over the head of Steve.
And he tries to claim that his biased survey helps satisfy the Bradford Hill criteria, which are a set of rules for determining whether correlation means causation. Here are some of the problems with his claim about Bradford Hill:
- The Bradford Hill criteria require that one has established a correlation. No one has ever shown that there is a correlation between vaccines and autism. NO ONE.
- In fact, we have powerful scientific evidence that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism. If anything, Bradford Hill leads us to conclude that there is no causation. None.
Even if Steve’s pathetic survey were actual evidence of a correlation, he fails on every other part of the Bradford Hill:
- The data are not strong. There are hundreds of studies that show no correlation, and Steve’s biased study may or may not show a correlation, but it is one poorly designed study that has no meaning.
- The data are not consistent. In fact, the only consistent data has shown that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism.
- The data are not specific. Again, the only specific data has shown that there is no correlation.
- The data must be temporal. In other words, you must show that there is a timely link between vaccines and adverse effects. In fact, science has shown that there is no temporal link between vaccines and autism. None.
- The data presented by Steve does not show a dose-response effect. He cannot because he used a survey that is not scientific.
- The link between vaccines and autism is not biologically plausible. Anti-vaxxers, including Steve Kirsch, have never been able to provide a scintilla of a mechanism that could theoretically link vaccines to autism. None.
- The data is not coherent. There are simply no peer-reviewed, published articles that show any kind of link between vaccines and autism. None. Either Steve Kirsch is an amazing scientist who finally uncovered the link, and every other vaccine scientist in the world is wrong, or Steve is full of it. I’m going with the latter.
Let’s just remember that the whole vaccine and autism link was based on a fraudulent study. It was a complete and utter fabrication. And yet, the world has spent billions of dollars looking at the link and they found nothing.
Vaccines do not cause autism. But we’ve shown that over and over and over.
Steve Kirsch and anti-vaccine nonsense
This is easy. Steve Kirsch has nothing to offer about vaccines except to retread debunked anti-vaccine tropes. There’s nothing to see there.
- Retraction–Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 2010 Feb 6;375(9713):445. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-4. PubMed PMID: 20137807.