Vaccine scientific knowledge – how to review and understand papers

vaccine scientific knowledge

This article about vaccine scientific knowledge is from a series of tweets from Lucian DiPeso, a Ph.D. candidate in the Hatch Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where he studies chromothripsis and micronuclei.

Below is a slightly edited version (with links) of the thread. Continue reading “Vaccine scientific knowledge – how to review and understand papers”

Physicians for Informed Consent goes after aluminum in vaccines again

physicians for informed consent

Recently, Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) claimed they hold a bombshell, by claiming there is an erratum in the study published by Mitkus and colleagues (1). Using some PR mouthpiece (such as PRNewswire) to spread the breaking news around, PIC, under the patronage of Shira Miller (who runs PIC), claimed they provided a rebuttal to the study of Mitkus stating that there is an important factual error.

In this breaking news, Physicians for Informed Consent announced that a study published by Mitkus and colleagues (1) contained a major flaw in the estimation of aluminum burden, using differences in oral bioavailability used in the study (allegedly 0.78%) and reported by the FDA (0.1%). In their conclusion, the authors claim that such differences were significantly underestimating the exposure of aluminum from vaccines with the claim that the actual “safe” level is 7.8X lower than Mitkus established.

Is there any part of the truth in it? And does the PIC statement hold any scientific evidence? 
Let’s figure this out. Continue reading “Physicians for Informed Consent goes after aluminum in vaccines again”

Flawed Lyons-Weiler vaccine study further critiqued by a real scientist

This review primarily stemmed from my previous blog post in which I pointed crucial experimental flaws in the most recent study published by Lyons-Weiler and colleagues [1]. The reply was swift and expected, a diatribe written on his own page that was vociferous, slanderous and completely inappropriate for a public statement.

I was surprised that a man claiming to be from science, and that should be “seasoned” by now about handling on critiques from reviewers would have shown an unmeasured tone in such official communication.

Surprised? I was not, and confirmed the reason why I use a pen name. Before submitting it as a post, I considered directly sending my letter to the editor of the journal, only to recuse from it by fear of retaliation and harassment from Lyons-Weiler or by some random anti-vaccine person to my institution.

In this delicate period of my academic career, such a decision can have devastating consequences on unfolding events related to my career. Shall I be in a better position, I would not have hesitated to send the letter to the editor.

Interestingly, such a slanderous attack of the messenger seems a staple amongst anti-vaccine crowds, but not expected from scientists. Yet, such slanderous behavior is not exclusive to the author. Recently, a letter to editor written by peers of the authors (in the name of Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, and Romain Gherardi as they co-authored the retracted counter-letter) was judged so slanderous against a scientist that raised important and valid concerns on a study published by Crepeaux and colleagues in “Toxicology” journal [2].

It is important to note to the reader not familiar with academic publishing that the retraction of a letter to the editor is so rare, that it suggests the extreme gravity of the slanderous claims made.

More recently, a similar behavior (albeit less slanderous) came from the recent retraction of the recent study by DeLong and colleagues [3], following critiques and concerns on PubPeer. Instead of addressing directly the stipulations raised by readers, the author underwent a series of diatribes while failing to address the major flaws of the paper.

During my professional development, learning to accept rejection and criticism from peer-reviews (be it a manuscript submitted to a journal or a grant proposal) is part of being a scientist. We do not mince words, and we will say bluntly (but with academic finesse) when a study or grant is not considered “competitive” and “compelling”.

We learn to undergo the stage of grievance and learn to deal with it several times a year. Yet, we also learn to never ever write a reply in the spur of the moment, in the full rage and anger. One day, my department chair told us (in one of these lab meetings) to never ever send an angry letter because you may regret (and will likely regret) it later.

Sending an angry letter will not change the editor or program officer to accept your paper or your grant proposal. Worse, it will backfire on you and reduce your chance of having your manuscript or grant proposal accepted in the future, as you will be labeled “that annoying scientist”.

Sure, write that angry letter. But don’t send it. Leave it to sediment overnight on your desk and come back to it the day after and re-read it. You will be surprised once the haze of anger is gone how callous and slanderous the letter was and failed to make a constructive and detailed counter-response to the reviewers.

This post is not intended to be a counter-response to Lyons-Weiler, that would be futile and sterile. However, I want to use this as a learning experience by using a study cited by the author [4] that Lyons-Weiler used against me as it claims it vindicates him (*spoilers* it does not, quite the opposite indeed. Read the rest of the post to have a detailed explanation) and discuss on why this study is indeed adding an additional stone in making the point of the overall safety of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines.

For those coming from his page, I want you to come with a neutral and objective mind and read carefully the following sections and follow me through my review. To the authors of this study, I would like to address you my fullest gratitude for your recent work published by your research group in helping advance the (very) complicated and punctuated literature on the pharmacokinetics of aluminum adjuvants over the last 40 years.

My apologies if I use your figures in this post, but I consider it essential to provide these to the readers that may not have access to your publication. Continue reading “Flawed Lyons-Weiler vaccine study further critiqued by a real scientist”

Ex-scientist James Lyons-Weiler publishes junk science about vaccines

james lyons weiler

Another day, another junk science study published by our anti-vaccine scientists. This time, former scientist James Lyons-Weiler teamed up with a notorious anti-vaccine pediatrician.

As in mathematics, adding two negative values results in additive effects. Here too, the combination of two science deniers made an already flawed set of claims even weaker than it was initially.

With a certain cynicism, I would question why Lyons-Weiler refused to publish in the journal created by his own organization, IPAK – the new journal named Science, Public Health Policy and Law. I guess having two authors (JLW and PA) sitting in the editorial board would make the lack of meaningful review too obvious.

But something more sinister is folding, the predation of peer-reviewed journals with decent impact factors by anti-vaccine (AV) scientists. Historically, the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry has been a safe haven for AV scientists for years – until one paper from Christopher Shaw (University of British Columbia) got flagged at the end of 2017 for blatant data manipulations (spliced immunoblots and agarose gels).

Since then, the journal apparently revved up the review process to ensure a more rigorous review, especially when it comes from authors with questionable quality in their publication.

Here comes the Journal of Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine.  As Lyons-Weiler’s new safe haven, the journal seems to give a free and unfiltered pass to several scientists publishing low-quality anti-vaccine work – Christopher Exley (three papers), James Lyons-Weiler (two papers including this one), or a climate denialist named Albert Parker (writing under a pseudonym, his real name is Alberto Boretti), who, according to this website, writes from his garage.

These papers were published despite major methodological flaws, or sometimes comments close to libel (see the comment letter written by Christopher Exley targeting the Chair of the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization which was critiqued here).

Seeing such blatant “studies” that do not fit a rigorous standard for publication-quality and yet got approved by a panel of reviewers suggest a breach in the peer-review of this journal is troubling.

Considering that these publications will be used as a cannon fodder by the anti-vaccine movement which will claim these are legit studies (spoiler: they are not, and I will show why in the rebuttal below), this journal is de-facto contributing in the spread of “fake news” and fuels vaccine hesitancy, bringing more fuel to fires already burning. Just look at the number of measles outbreaks that occurred this year, setting us to record levels never seen since the publication of the fraudulent paper by Wakefield, and the honor of the AV movement identified as one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019.

To keep it rigorous and respectful, I have written my rebuttal as a hypothetical letter to the Editor. I wish I could submit such a letter, but given my particular situation in my life, I prefer to not make waves that could capsize my tiny sloop. Continue reading “Ex-scientist James Lyons-Weiler publishes junk science about vaccines”

Christopher Aluminum Exley “publishes” vaccine pseudoscience again

Christopher Aluminum Exley

Christopher Aluminum Exley, who is just a pseudoscientist who makes his money by creating false narratives about vaccines. He is another in a long line (see Tetyana Not-An-Immunologist Obukhanych and Christopher Retraction Shaw) of false authorities beloved by the anti-vaccine religion because anti-vaxxers have no scientific evidence supporting their “claims.”

So what has Christopher Aluminum Exley done now? Well, he has written an opinion piece, not a real science article, and convinced some obscure journal to publish it.

No, it’s not new “science,” it’s just a rant from someone who has made it his mission to increase the risk of diseases in children and adults by creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines.

As we do here at the secret lair of the feathered dinosaur, mocking and ridiculing the anti-vaccine “heroes” makes us happy. I hope it does the same for our loyal readers. Continue reading “Christopher Aluminum Exley “publishes” vaccine pseudoscience again”

Dr. Jim Meehan anti-vaccine rant – examining his claims

Jim Meehan

An anti-vaccine doctor from Oklahoma, Dr. Jim Meehan, wrote an online post about why he would no longer vaccinate his children. It’s pretty clear that his post is not so much a discussion of his own children (most of whom are adults) as an attempt to deter other parents from protecting their children from preventable diseases. His post is basically a set of claims trying to convince parents that vaccinating is very dangerous.

His claims are nothing new – they are strictly out of the anti-vaccine playbook. But the post has received some attention in the anti-vaccine world and was shared several thousand times, likely because many people treat an MD as an authority on the subject. So I decided to take a few minutes to explain why his claims are not good reasons to reject expert opinion and not protect children from disease.

Dr. Meehan’s claims fall into several categories (which will be discussed individually below):

  1. The diseases we vaccinate against are not dangerous, and it’s okay, even good, to encounter them naturally.
  2. Vaccines have toxic ingredients.
  3. Vaccines are dangerous to children.
  4. The science behind vaccines is corrupt because the pharmaceutical industry controls it and then corrupts it.
  5. We should listen to him because he is a doctor and knows what he is talking about.

Note: Dr. Meehan’s post doesn’t present these claims in that order. I have changed the order because I want to address the claims in a logical order, that is, first his claims about vaccine safety, then the conspiracy theory that underlies them, and finally, his appeal to authorityContinue reading “Dr. Jim Meehan anti-vaccine rant – examining his claims”

Christopher Exley & aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – scientific critique

christopher exley

This article examines a recent commentary letter titled “An aluminium adjuvant in a vaccine is an acute exposure to aluminium” by Christopher Exley (Keele University, UK). Although the author may have several valid points, the presence of several logical flaws and the selective citation of the existing literature related to aluminum adjuvants safety is a concern, especially in times in which vaccine hesitancy and refusal have been defined by the World Health Organization as a global threat in 2019. Continue reading “Christopher Exley & aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – scientific critique”

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”

Toxic vaccine chemicals – the dose makes the poison

toxic vaccine chemicals

If you spend any amount of time on the internet researching science and pseudoscience, you’ll find alarming claims about toxic vaccines chemicals – you know, aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, and whatever unpronounceable molecule are all the rage for the anti-vaccine crowd. Of course, we obsess over substances not only in our vaccines, but also in our foods, air, water, and coffee. Many of us try to present scientific evidence about those toxic vaccine chemicals. It can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Generally, the pseudoscience argument proceeds along the lines of “these unpronounceable chemicals are going to cause cancer.” Followed by a new trope or meme that something in vaccines does something, often without a picogram of evidence. 

But what the vaccine deniers are pushing about vaccines is based on a lack of knowledge about how toxicology – the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, determines what is or isn’t toxic.

Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss-German physician, alchemist, astrologer, is traditionally thought to have founded the discipline of toxicology, an important branch of medicine, physiology, and pharmacology. Paracelsus wrote one of the most important principles of toxicology:

All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.

In other words, if you’re speaking about substances in foods or vaccines or anything, the most important principle is that the dose makes the poison (or toxin). Everything that we consume or breathe is potentially toxic but most important, overriding principle must be the dose.

So, I’m going to a disservice to the whole field of toxicology, which takes a lifetime of research and study, and I will attempt to digest it down to a few paragraphs, especially as it relates to those vaccine chemicals.

Continue reading “Toxic vaccine chemicals – the dose makes the poison”

Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree – not credible on vaccines

Over the past few months, Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree, who formerly worked on the show The Doctors, has made numerous statements about vaccines and vaccine safety. His claims about fraud by the CDC have been addressed in the past, and the evidence doesn’t support his beliefs. But the claims he makes about vaccines go beyond the movie, and he makes an effort to present himself as an authority on the issue.

Mr. Bigtree’s statements are consistently inaccurate, suggesting he is not a good source of information about vaccines. It’s impossible to address every single wrong claim Mr. Bigtree has made about vaccines, of course. But these problems should demonstrate that Mr. Bigtree’s claims about vaccines cannot be relied on. Continue reading “Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree – not credible on vaccines”