Vaccine adjuvants – another misguided FOIA request from ICAN

vaccine adjuvants

This article about an FOIA request for information about vaccine adjuvants was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In August 2020, the anti-vaccine organization, the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), posted on their site a letter from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dated July 19, 2019, under the (misleading) title that “NIH Concedes It Has No Studies Assessing The Safety of Injecting Aluminum Adjuvants.”

As in the past, ICAN’s use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request result is highly misleading, in at least three ways. First, FOIA is not a mechanism for science query, only a way to get existing administrative records, and this is a misuse of FOIA. Second, there are abundant scientific studies on the safety of aluminum vaccine adjuvants, but this request was not a way to get them. And third, even if there were no studies on the safety of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, vaccines are tested as a whole, and the safety data on them cover all their ingredients. Continue reading “Vaccine adjuvants – another misguided FOIA request from ICAN”

Vaccine settled science – it is not based on faith or belief, just evidence

I decided to write about vaccine settled science, based on comments I saw on Facebook after someone posted an article I wrote about recently polling on American attitudes towards vaccines. The headline of that article said “atheists support vaccines,” but that was not even close to what the article was about.

In fact, the article described how recently polling showed that nearly 90% of Americans thought that the MMR vaccine was safe and effective. In other words, most Americans think that vaccine science is settled. 

Anyway, the comments to the post digressed wildly from the point, because anti-vaxxers wanted to claim that science is based on faith and belief, just like a religion. And that evolution is based on faith, and creationism is really a science. And that atheism is a belief. 

The forum admins shut down the thread because it began to have nothing to do with vaccines. 

Nevertheless, science is not based on faith or belief, it’s based on evidence. Creationism is a pseudoscience with zero supporting evidence.

And atheism was not the point of the article, which convinces me that too many people read headlines and not the article. This saddens the old feathered avian dinosaur who spends several hours researching and writing these articles.

This article will talk about vaccine settled science, but also what constitutes science. And it has nothing to do with faith and belief. Continue reading “Vaccine settled science – it is not based on faith or belief, just evidence”

Retracted anti-vaccine papers – ultimate list of pseudoscience and bias

retracted anti-vaccine papers

Retracted anti-vaccine papers are a staple of my articles published here. Usually, they try to create some fake link between vaccines and autism, but these papers try to say anything that casts vaccines in a bad light.

As we know, real science has established that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Anti-vaccine papers generally try to show this link without epidemiological or clinical studies – they just try to make some specious biologically implausible claims trying to link something about vaccines to autism.

Much of the anti-vaccine research is so bad, so poorly designed, that it’s relegated to low quality, predatory journals which have laughably poor peer-review systems. Even then, we can find the occasional retracted anti-vaccine papers, because they are often so bad that even these predatory publishers are embarrassed.

So, I present to you, the loyal reader, a list of retracted anti-vaccine papers (and I use that term very carefully). It’s not a comprehensive list, it’s just what I’ve seen over the past few years. If you know of a retracted paper that I missed, leave a citation in the comments. Continue reading “Retracted anti-vaccine papers – ultimate list of pseudoscience and bias”

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”

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”

Anti-vaccine arguments that don’t convince pro-science humans

anti-vaccine arguments

There are so many annoying anti-vaccine arguments that make me laugh and cause my rational brain to explode. The anti-vaccine religious acolytes don’t understand one basic thing – we scientists would accept their claims if they presented actual scientific evidence. They haven’t.

Most scientists and skeptics are open-minded to new ideas and evidence. Yes, they may be resistant, especially if the evidence is preliminary. I was in graduate school during the early 1980s when Luis and Walter Alvarez proposed that the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and about 99.99% of life on Earth during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event was caused by a huge bolide impact.

When they first proposed it, scientists laughed. Today, it is widely accepted as a scientific fact. But it was accepted because of powerful evidence that kept supporting the original hypothesis, not because of “beliefs.” Being “openminded” doesn’t mean that we accept any silly claim made by random people – it means being openminded to reviewing the evidence, then,  determining if that evidence supports the claims being made.

The anti-vaccine religion screams and yells to push their lies about vaccines because they don’t have evidence. It gets tiresome, and some of us just laugh when we hear it. Yesterday, for example, I wrote about how the anti-vaccine pseudoscientist, Christopher Exley, was banned from receiving funding because his research is both incompetent and false. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd whined that some nefarious Big Pharma conspiracy was keeping Exley from his money. 

So I’m going to be a nice old carnivorous dinosaur (remember, birds are dinosaurs) and give advice to the anti-vaxxers – I’m going to list the anti-vaccine arguments that aren’t scientific and are worthless. If you want to convince those of us who value science, don’t use these anti-vaccine arguments. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine arguments that don’t convince pro-science humans”

Christopher Exley, notorious vaccine pseudoscientist, blocked from funding

Christopher Exley

Christopher Exley, a Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, has been blocked from raising funds for his pseudoscientific research. His grant applications were rejected by scientific research councils in the UK.

He then turned to GoFundMe to raise money, and they also rejected him. GoFundMe stated that “campaigns raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe’s terms of service and we are removing them.” 

Pardon me, while I laugh hysterically. Continue reading “Christopher Exley, notorious vaccine pseudoscientist, blocked from funding”

Children’s Health Defense anti-vaccine attack on Paul Offit – this again

Children's Health Defense

Maybe you don’t know much about Children’s Health Defense, but it’s a newer anti-vaccine group run by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has become one of the high priests of the anti-vaccine religion. RFK Jr., scion of the Kennedy family who dominated US politics for decades, has gone off the deep end of conspiracies from the assassinations of his father, Robert F. Kennedy,  and uncle, John F. Kennedy, to the discredited belief that vaccines cause autism.

Children’s Health Defense, as a proxy for RFK Jr.’s lunatic beliefs about vaccines, decided to utilize ad hominem attacks on Dr. Paul Offit as part of their offensive against vaccines. Why? Because the anti-vaccine crackpots lack any evidence of any of their claims, so the best they can do is attack people with childish name-calling and logical fallacies. If this wasn’t about saving children’s lives with safe and effective vaccines, I’d just laugh at these people. They are ridiculous members of a lunatic fringe.

Although I’m not going to waste your time tearing apart each absurd attack they make on Dr. Offit, I’ll tackle a few. For educational purposes only! Continue reading “Children’s Health Defense anti-vaccine attack on Paul Offit – this again”