Chickenpox vaccine and shingles – the nuanced facts

chickenpox vaccine and shingles

There are a lot of nuanced facts and evidence about vaccines. The so-called “pro-vaccine” crowd looks at the body of evidence, then concludes that it saves children’s lives by stopping vaccine preventable diseases. The “anti-vaccine” side seems to rely on anecdotes, cherry picking bad studies published in really bad journals, and read anti-science websites, just to support their preconceived conclusions. And now there is a lot of junk science with respect to chickenpox vaccine and shingles, much of which we need to debunk.

One of the enduring myths of the antivaccine cult is that chickenpox vaccine will increase the rate of shingles, especially in older adults. A recent published article examines chickenpox vaccine and shingles – and like everything in science, it’s the nuanced data that makes the story. Not the headlines.

Continue reading “Chickenpox vaccine and shingles – the nuanced facts”

Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible

vaccine package inserts

One of the cherished strategies of the antivaccine group is to quote vaccine package inserts (called a Patient Information Leaflet in EU countries and Instructions for Use in other cases) to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous. Vaccine deniers consider the package insert to be golden tablets of the Truth™. It’s ironic that these antivaccine groupies rail against Big Pharma, as if they are demon reptilians, but the package insert, written by Big Pharma, is considered gospel. Irony abounds.

Just spend more than a couple of minutes in discussion in any vaccine “debate,” and you’ll eventually get someone pointing to a section in any of the many vaccine package inserts (PI) as “proof” that it is dangerous, contains dangerous stuff, or is just plain scary. Or that it doesn’t work.

The snarky Orac has proclaimed it “Argument by Package Insert” – it’s almost at the level of logical fallacy. David Gorski has just given it the Latin name, argumentum ad package insert, so it’s now officially a logical fallacy, at least for vaccine discussions.

Before we start, vaccine package inserts are important documents, but only if the information included therein is properly understood. However, vaccine package inserts are not documents that serve as medical and scientific gospel. But it is a document that can help clinicians use vaccines (or frankly, any medication) properly. Continue reading “Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible”

Vaccine adverse events are rare–vast benefits outweigh risks

protected-water-vaccinesLike all medical procedures, devices and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication.

Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable. But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx).

But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living.  Continue reading “Vaccine adverse events are rare–vast benefits outweigh risks”