Anti-vaccine doctors – naming names and listing lists

Anti-vaccine doctors

Recently, the vaccine deniers have pushed a list of anti-vaccine doctors, which gets copy-pasted from one website to another, and are similar to those lists of “scientists” who deny Darwinian evolution or climate change. But is this really made up of respected physicians and researchers? Does it really contain doctors who are experts or authorities on vaccines?

Well, thanks to Zared Schwartz, a senior at the University of Florida studying microbiology, cell science and neurobehavioral, who took it upon himself to look up each of these individuals and see if they’ve got anything to offer in the discussions about vaccines. Guess what? It doesn’t appear so.

So if you run across this list of anti-vaccine doctors and researchers, wondering if any of them speak from authority, just check them out on this list.

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine doctors – naming names and listing lists”

Appeal to false authority – who is Tetyana Obukhanych

There are so many annoying issues about the antivaccination cult, that most of us can’t even keep up with it. If only they would provide evidence published in high quality, peer reviewed journals (yes, a high standard, but if we’re talking about public health, a high standard is required), the fake debate would move into a real scientific discussion. One of their favorite feints against real evidence is to push people, like Tetyana Obukhanych, who appear to have great credentials, but once you dig below the surface, not much is there.

One of the most irritating problems I have with the antivaccination movement  is their over-reliance on false authorities, where they trumpet the publications or commentary from someone who appears to have all of the credentials to be a part of the discussion on vaccines, but really doesn’t. Here’s the thing – it simply does not matter who the authority is or isn’t, all that matters is the evidence.

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 population level correlation between vaccines and adverse events) in low ranked scientific journals.

Now the anti-vaccine world has a new hero – Tetyana Obukhanych. Continue reading “Appeal to false authority – who is Tetyana Obukhanych”

Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism

hierarchy of scientific evidence

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, today’s world of instant news, with memes and 140 character analyses flying across social media, can be overwhelming. 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.

I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful and nuanced articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I know science is hard. It’s difficult. Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking 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.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism”

Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated

vaccines and autism

Vaccines and autism are not linked or related according to real science, published in real scientific journals written by top scientists and physicians.

But this false claim is in the news again. Probably as a result of reports that more and more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. So let’s take a look at the science.

On 28 March 2014, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder of neural development, usually appearing before the age of 3 years, characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, continues to rise.  The picture of ASD in US communities is changing. Continue reading “Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated”

Another anti-vaccine article – bad journal, bad data

anti-vaccine article

Here we go again. An anti-vaccine article was published in a journal, and now every vaccine denier will use it as absolute “proof” that vaccines are evil, bad, and useless. And that means one of the pro-science community has to provide a critical analysis so that those on the fence know what is supported and not supported by real science.

The article, “New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination,” published in the International Journal of Vaccines and Vaccination on 23 January 2017. I want to examine this from the meta level, discussing the quality of the journal, down to the actual data. Spoiler alert – it’s bad. Continue reading “Another anti-vaccine article – bad journal, bad data”

Retracted HPV vaccine article – Shaw and Tomljenovic are back

HPV vaccine article

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about a retracted HPV vaccine article, “Behavioral abnormalities in young female mice following administration of aluminum adjuvants and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil,” published in the one of the top journals in the field, Vaccine. This article was authored by, among others, the leading lights of the academic side of the anti-vaccine movement – Christopher Shaw,  Lucija Tomljenovic and Yehuda Schoenfeld. In particular, Shaw and Tomljenovic seem to have an obsession with the HPV vaccine.

After withering criticism across the field, especially since the article was published in a prestigious, high impact factor journal, the editors at Vaccine decided to withdraw the article:

This article has been withdrawn at the request of the Editor-in-Chief due to serious concerns regarding the scientific soundness of the article. Review by the Editor-in-Chief and evaluation by outside experts, confirmed that the methodology is seriously flawed, and the claims that the article makes are unjustified. As an international peer-reviewed journal we believe it is our duty to withdraw the article from further circulation, and to notify the community of this issue.

The paper no longer exists in chronicles of Vaccine – about the best outcome possible.

Unfortunately, despite the strong criticism of the HPV vaccine article’s methods, analysis and conclusions, another journal, Immunologic Research, published the article, with small changes, in July 2016. Nevertheless, the formerly retracted HPV vaccine article has the same issues that were discussed months ago. Nothing has changed.

Let’s take a look what the article said, what changes were made in un-retracting it, and what are still the valid criticisms.


Continue reading “Retracted HPV vaccine article – Shaw and Tomljenovic are back”

Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

Aluminum adjuvant

With the success of California’s vaccination law, SB277, there appears to be a trend to increase vaccination uptake among school-aged children. And it’s a great thing that we protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd is still looking for lame excuses to not vaccinate – today, it’s the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines.

The anti-vaccine crowd has a tendency to ignore the vast and powerful scientific consensus on vaccines. Instead, they prefer to cherry pick research, often from biased “scientists” who publish in the lowest quality journals. That cherry picking is a form of confirmation bias – the individual seeks evidence that supports their a priori conclusions rather than letting the robust body of evidence point them to a conclusion.

Generally, these myths, based on cherry picking, are debunked. But the anti-vaccine cult is nothing if not creative. They just move on to a new boogeyman. This time, it’s aluminum adjuvants in vaccines. To be honest, anti-vaccine tropes are zombies, so we think we destroy those tropes, but they rise again, fed by new cherry picking. And debunking the danger of aluminum in vaccines has been an age-old discussion amongst the pro-science crowd.

Today, we’re going to look at one of those articles which was recently published. If one accepted this research, while ignoring critical analysis and the body of other science, then it would be a great one to confirm one’s own pre-conceived beliefs. But that’s not how we do science, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking”

Gardasil harms girls says American College of Pediatricians

Gardasil harms girls

Yes, I admit that is a clickbait title, especially for those of you who read this blog for science-based information regarding vaccines. But the point of the title is that it allows me to talk about two topics that got mashed together by an anti-vaccine website – whether Gardasil harms girls and whether the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is a legitimate group.

It would be a full time job to search the internet for every piece of junk science that attacks vaccines. Since Big Pharma Shill Checks™ only cover a couple of seconds of work, I have to limit my takedowns to a few select pieces of silliness on the internet.

And this one is particularly silly. Not only does Gardasil protect girls from sexually transmitted disease, it protects them against cancer. There is no harm.

And the American College of Pediatricians is a whole other story. Continue reading “Gardasil harms girls says American College of Pediatricians”

Gardasil causes behavioral issues – more myth debunking

Gardasil causes behavioral issues

This article has been updated and can be found here. The comments for this article have been closed permanently.

I could have a full-time job just debunking the rumors and myths about the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, Gardasil. I’d bet one year of my Big Pharma Shill Income™ that the anti-vaccination gangsters make up more junk science about Gardasil than all other vaccines put together. And now, bogus claims that Gardasil causes behavior issues – time for a critical analysis.

This new claim about Gardasil arises from an article, “Behavioral abnormalities in young female mice following administration of aluminum adjuvants and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil,” published in the well respected, relatively high impact factor, journal Vaccine. When it was first published, my thoughts were that the editors of Vaccine missed something. Given that it’s been “temporarily removed,” I guess they did.

But let’s look at this claim with our critical thinking skills, which most of the readers here have.

Continue reading “Gardasil causes behavioral issues – more myth debunking”

HPV vaccine anecdotes – not the basis of real science

Anecdotes are a fundamental part of the anti-vaccine propaganda machine. We have a tendency to overstate the importance of anecdotes, because they usually have an emotional appeal to them. Anecdotes are not data, not even close. At best, they are observations, but they give no indication of temporal correlation, let alone causality.

HPV vaccine anecdotes have become part of the discourse about Gardasil and other HPV vaccines. It has become  full-time job just to debunk the myths that arise from a handful of anecdotes.

I have written on a number of articles about the HPV cancer-prevention vaccines, Gardasil, Cervarix and Silgard. These vaccines prevent infection by up to 9 different types of genital and oral human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the USA.

The virus is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is very easy to transmit, and according to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are infected with HPV–approximately 14 million Americans contract HPV every year.

HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous with regards to cancer as tobacco. Most individuals don’t even know they have the infection until the onset of cancer. And about 27,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the USA every year.

There is  a robust body of evidence supporting the fact that HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing HPV infection. There are also several large studies (also, here and here) that strongly support the high degree of safety of the HPV vaccine.

Recently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA, European Union’s version of the US FDA) had started a review of human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines “to further clarify aspects of their safety profile,” although the agency also points out that this review “does not question that the benefits of HPV vaccines outweigh their risks.”

The outcome? The EMA found that the HPV vaccine was safe.

Continue reading “HPV vaccine anecdotes – not the basis of real science”