I’ve ripped through the nearly 200 articles on the HPV vaccine I have written to put together some of the best debunkings and refutations of HPV vaccine myths and tropes pushed by our anti-vaccine friends.
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”
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.
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”
And here comes another anti-vaccine lie – oft-retracted pseudoscientists are pushing a claim that the tetanus vaccine was used for mass sterilization in Kenya. Yes, you read that right.
This false claim about the tetanus vaccine comes from an anti-vaccine pseudoscience paper foisted onto the world by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic. These two University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology (you know, the study of eyes) have no background or training in any area vaccine research, including immunology, epidemiology, microbiology, virology or anything else remotely related to vaccine science.
Along with many others, these two represent the epitome of low-quality anti-vaccine “research” – they are truly false authorities.
Yet, every time these anti-vaccine shills publish anti-vaccine pseudoscience articles in low ranked journals, the anti-vaccine religion jump all over it and try to use those articles as “science” to dismiss the scientific fact of vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Shaw and Tomljenovic have a long record of retracted articles, which were generally published in low impact factor, predatory “pay-to-play” journals, and pushing anti-vaccine pseudoscience that has been hammered by respected scientific organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO).
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”
The old Skeptical Raptor took a bit of a break to recharge their batteries to tackle all of the pseudoscience that will be coming out in 2020. In lieu of new content, I will be republishing the top 10 most read articles on this blog during 2019. Here’s number 1 – the queen of the false authority of the anti-vaxxers – Tetyana Obukhanych.
One of their favorite pseudoscientists of the anti-vaccine religion is Tetyana Obukhanych, someone who appears to have great credentials. Unfortunately, once you dig below the surface of her claims, there is no credible evidence in support.
One of the most irritating problems I have with the anti-vaccine movement is their over-reliance on false authorities – they overrate publications (often in worthless predatory journals) or commentary from someone who appears to have all of the credentials to be a part of the discussion on vaccines, but really isn’t close to being a real vaccine scientist.
Nevertheless, credentials don’t matter – an “authority” on vaccines must follow the evidence that vaccines are safe and effective unless those “authorities” can provide robust, peer-reviewed, published evidence that vaccines aren’t. Someone like Tetyana Obukhanych almost never does.
For example, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, have, for all intents and purposes, sterling credentials in medicine and science. However, they publish nonsense research (usually filled with the weakest of epidemiology trying to show a population-level correlation between vaccines and adverse events) in low ranked scientific journals.
Following in the footsteps of Shaw, Tomljenovic, James Lyons-Weiler, and Christopher Exley, let’s take a look at the background and education of the anti-vaccine hero, Tetyana Obukhanych. Continue reading “Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority”
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, 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”
I’ve written nearly a metric tonne of articles about Gardasil safety facts over the past eight years. Most of my posts covered peer-reviewed studies and meta-reviews that support the overall HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness profiles. It is settled science.
There are so many myths, memes, and tropes about HPV vaccine safety, all of them based on anecdotes, false claims, and stories – all of them lack the support of robust scientific evidence.
For example, there have been several recent stories about the claimed dangers of the HPV vaccine, like Colton Berrett’s tragic suicide after contracting transverse myelitis. The parents blamed Gardasil for Colton’s disease, despite the fact that there is simply no evidence of such a link. Of all of the vaccines on the market, the anti-vaccine world appears to reserve their most unscientific hatred for Gardasil.
There is one common point about my boatload of articles about Gardasil safety facts – they are backed by literally dozens of powerful, unbiased, statistically significant, repeated clinical and epidemiological studies.