Anti-vaccine scientists (cough, cough) republish a retracted article

Anti-vaccine scientists

Here we go with the same old story that I’ve pursued for years – the one about University of British Columbia researchers, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, who are amongst the most laughable anti-vaccine scientists (and I use the word “scientist” very loosely) to ply their pseudoscientific nonsense onto the world. Their articles are regularly retracted by even minor journals, but like zombies, those articles return to life in even more obscure, minor journals.

Despite the utter junk that Shaw and Tomljenovic publish, the anti-vaccine religion embraces them like they are prophets of the impending apocalypse of vaccines. Every time one of their pseudoscientific papers gets published, even after devastating critiques, the anti-vaccine zealots embrace it without reservation.

So one more paper by the University of British Columbia team gets retracted, and then comes back to life in some other obscure journal. Do you really think I’m going to ignore piling on to Shaw and Tomljenovic? Oh hardly. This is why I have this website. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine scientists (cough, cough) republish a retracted article”

Gardasil killed Colton Berrett? The evidence does not support this claim

Gardasil killed colton berrett

As I mentioned in a previous article, reading articles about vaccines leads to many tragic and heartfelt stories. But as a scientist, I have to separate the emotional aspects of a story from the science-based evidence. This post is particularly tough because this story is so devastating, that I wanted to ignore it (and have ignored for a few days), but it has become a rallying point for the anti-vaccine religion against the HPV cancer-preventing vaccines. The internet is saying Gardasil killed Colton Berrett, but the scientific evidence says otherwise. Time to take a look.

The anti-vaccine religion hates almost all vaccines equally, but they hold a special level of hatred for the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine. There are boatloads of rumors, myths and outright lies about the vaccine, that I have debunked one by one over the past six years – unfortunately, these stories lead many people to say “no” to the vaccine.

Despite the vast body of evidence from huge case-control studies, that have established that individuals who receive the HPV vaccine are no more at risk for serious adverse events than the general unvaccinated population, there is a small group of people who try to convince the world otherwise.

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic have notoriously pushed “published” articles that have hypothesized that the HPV vaccines have some inherent danger. Yet, the anti-vaccine forces conveniently ignore the fact that their articles have been frequently been retracted for being of poor quality, or, having faked data.

And this leads us to the tragic story of Colton, a Utah teen who received the Gardasil vaccine, then contracted a neurodegenerative disease, and eventually died. His parents, the Vaxxed fraudumentary crowd, and the whole anti-vaccine world blame the HPV vaccine. And the clickbait headlines from the usual suspects in the anti-vaccine world attempt to scare anyone from getting the cancer-preventing vaccine – “Colten Berrett dies from his Gardasil HPV vaccine injuries” is a typical one.

Of course, I’m a scientist, and I only consider legitimate scientific evidence in applying causality – we need to look carefully at whether Gardasil killed Colton Berrett. And the real story is that no, Gardasil had nothing to do with this tragedy, as much as the anti-vaccine religion would like it to be so.

Despite how sad this story might be to all of us, it is time to examine the claims of a link, by reviewing real medical evidence.

Continue reading “Gardasil killed Colton Berrett? The evidence does not support this claim”

Aluminum toxicity in vaccines – here we go again with bad science

Aluminum toxicity

This year I got a special birthday gift; someone sent me a piece about vaccine aluminum toxicity written by the noted anti-vaccine activist, J B Handley. In part, it reads:

While you were (hopefully) enjoying the winter holidays, a study was published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry (it went online on December 27th) that could change the autism debate permanently.

I’d actually already been alerted to the paper, which is linked here. Some blogs of which I am a fan do a tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) summary at the end. I’m going to break with this and do it at the start.

This paper by several authors, including the anti-vaccine Christopher Exley and Romain K Gherardi, published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry (which has been a subject of this blog before) has one of the worst introductions I have ever read. The first paragraph is basically copy/pasted from others and then twisted to fulfill the anti-vaccine tone of the paper. From there on in it doesn’t get any better.

Many of the references don’t say what the authors want you to think they do. Genuinely, the authors introduce papers which conclude that there is a lack of evidence for causality, but the authors act as if they conclude the opposite.

Many other references are items by the authors – the self reference is rampant. They, apparently and willfully, misrepresent the current state of play regarding the EMA and certain members of the Nordic Cochrane group –it is almost unbelievably poor.

Time to take a look at this paper in detail. Continue reading “Aluminum toxicity in vaccines – here we go again with bad science”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience activists – they are nothing if not dedicated to their religious beliefs. And like the so-called “creation science” religion, which tries to “prove” their evolution denialist beliefs with pseudoscience published in creationist journals, the anti-vaccine religion tries to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous with bad science, pseudoscience, and misinterpreted science.

As of today, I’ve written a dozen or so articles about Christopher Shaw and   Lucija Tomljenovic, contemptible University of British Columbia anti-vaccine pseudoscience extremists. Shaw and Tomljenovic are well known for pushing garbage science to further their anti-vaccine religion. Of course, their “scientific articles” keep getting retracted, despite being published in low ranked journals whose standards rarely exceed “please use a good spell checker.”

Now, we have a new article trying to push the myth that somehow the tiny amounts of aluminum in vaccines are related to autism. Of course, we have hundreds of real scientific articles published in real scientific journals which have demolished the myth that vaccines cause autism. But these persistent anti-vaccine pseudoscience pushers keep trying. Because one of the central tenets of pseudoscience is to have a pre-ordained conclusion, and find any evidence, irrespective of quality, to support it.

So we’re going to take a look at this new “article.” I always examine anti-vaccine “research” from two perspectives – first, I take a look at the author(s), the journal, and other factors that might have an impact on our critique of the study. Second, I then critique the scientific data, methods, and conclusions.  So, here we go, into the fray. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum”

Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope

Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine

I am absolutely convinced that of all the vaccines on the market, the anti-vaccine radicals hate the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine more than any other. Nearly every day, I see article after article in pseudoscientific websites that make unfounded claims and outright misinformation about Gardasil, including one that crossed my path today.

The article, in a junk medicine website called RealFarmacy, blares this click-bait headline – “Merck’s Former Doctor Predicts Gardasil to Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time.” Oh no, I’m frightened, are you? The article relies upon the Four Horsemen of the Gardasil Apocalypse™ for their fake facts.

In fact, there is robust scientific evidence, gathered from huge case control studies, that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is incredibly safe, and may be one of the safest vaccines on the market. But we all know what the anti-vaccine folks think of scientific facts – they ignore them unless it supports their preordained conclusions.

This article will tackle the key points of the RealFarmacy (what’s with the spelling error?) article.  Continue reading “Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope”

UBC responded to retraction of Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper

UBC responded

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is home to two of the most infamous anti-vaccine “researchers” in the world – Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic. Shaw and Tomljenovic have a notorious history of retracted articles, reprimands, and pushing a pseudoscience in their search to publish misinformation about vaccines. Finally, after their latest article was retracted shortly after publication, UBC responded to the harsh criticism of what appears to be malfeasance.

There have been a lot of comments on various articles about this retraction as to why UBC continues to employ Shaw and Tomljenovic. They must be an embarrassment to the university, yet many reports show that UBC supports them. Anti-vaccine radicals frequently make an argument from authority, claiming that Shaw and Tomljenovic are legitimate researchers because they are at the University of British Columbia.

So UBC keeps a pair of researchers who do harm to children of the world, by making unsupported claims about the safety of vaccines. They represent a clear and present danger to the health of humans.

The only thing I should have read is that “UBC responded to the latest retraction, and terminated their relationship to Shaw and Tomljenovic.” Well, I wish.

Continue reading “UBC responded to retraction of Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper”

Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything

aluminum adjuvants

Here we go again, another attempt to link aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to something, despite the lack of real evidence for anything. Recently, an attempt by the disreputable pair of anti-vaccine researchers to show a link between aluminum adjuvants and autism was retracted by the journal.

Several researchers have proposed a systematic review (which are considered to be the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) to determine if there are any links between aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to some medical condition. Read that carefully – this paper does not provide any new evidence, it is merely a description of their reasons for looking at aluminum along with the meta-review protocol.

Mostly, I’d ignore these type of papers, because they aren’t providing us with any new information about vaccines. But in this case, I wanted to point out a bunch of flaws in their reasoning, which seems to indicate a high degree of bias. Therein is the problem – systematic reviews are powerful tools in science-based medicine, but many of these systematic reviews are filled with a large amount of bias. And this study is starting from a very biased point of view. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything”

Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group

Physician for Informed Consent

There are a bunch of anti-vaccine groups out there who invent legitimate sounding names in an attempt to appear to be rational, positive organizations. They’re mostly neither rational nor positive. A new one (at least for me) is a group called the “Physicians for Informed Consent,” whose “vision is to live in a society free of mandatory vaccination laws.”

Although there are individuals who are pro-vaccine but are opposed to mandatory vaccination, mostly on a politically libertarian point of view, almost all of these groups, especially in California, are specifically anti-vaccine. In fact, “informed consent” is one of those veiled code-words used by the anti-vaccine world, especially in the fight against SB277, California’s recently enacted law that removes personal belief exemptions to vaccinations for school age children.

This article is going to examine some of the issues around “informed consent,” then look at a recent statement from the radical anti-vaccine gourd, Physicians for Informed Consent. Continue reading “Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group”

Anti-vaccine paper retracted – Shaw and Tomljenovic lose again

Anti-vaccine paper retracted

A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical analysis of a paper by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic published in Inorganic Biochemistry that tried to convince us that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines caused autism. Predictably, it’s another anti-vaccine paper retracted by another journal.

Shaw and Tomljenovic have quite a history in retracted anti-vaccine articles. Last year, they wrote an article about aluminum adjuvants in the HPV vaccine – it was retracted, and eventually republished almost word-for-word in an inferior journal.

According to Retraction Watch, Inorganic Biochemistry’s editor, John Dawson of the University of South Carolina, stated that:

The paper by Shaw and co-workers is being retracted jointly by the authors and the editor.

Yup, another anti-vaccine paper retracted. Of course, the article was roundly criticized in numerous posts across the skeptical universe soon after it was published. For example, the piercing Orac wrote in his blog,

given Shaw and Tomljenovic’s history, it is not unreasonable to be suspicious of this study as well…

At best, what we have here are researchers with little or no expertise in very basic molecular biology techniques using old methodology that isn’t very accurate overinterpreting the differences in gene and protein levels that they found. At worst, what we have are antivaccine “researchers” who are not out for scientific accuracy but who actually want to promote the idea that vaccines cause autism….If this were a first offense, I’d give Shaw and Tomljenovic the benefit of the doubt, but this is far from their first offense.

Orac called the paper, “antivaccine pseudoscience.” Not that anti-vaccine is anything but pseudoscience.

Other bloggers, like The Mad Virologist, who is also an expert on DNA analysis, and the Blood Brain Barrier Scientist, who writes about the blood-brain barrier and heavy metal music, jointly analyzed the paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic. They did a masterful job in looking at some of the technical errors and other issues with the paper. I won’t pretend to summarize what they write, so I’ll use their own summary:

Based on the methods that were used in this paper, Shaw et al. went too far in declaring that aluminum adjuvants cause autism. But there are six other key points that limit what conclusions can be drawn from this paper:
1) They selected genes based on old literature and ignored newer publications.
2) The method for PCR quantification is imprecise and cannot be used as an absolute quantification of expression of the selected genes.
3) They used inappropriate statistical tests that are more prone to giving significant results which is possibly why they were selected.
4) Their dosing regime for the mice makes assumptions on the development of mice that are not correct.
5) They gave the mice far more aluminum sooner than the vaccine schedule exposes children to.
6) There are irregularities in both the semi-quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot data that strongly suggests that these images were fabricated. This is probably the most damning thing about the paper. If the data were manipulated and images fabricated, then the paper needs to be retracted and UBC needs to do an investigation into research misconduct by the Shaw lab.

Taken together, we cannot trust Shaw’s work here and if we were the people funding this work, we’d be incredibly ticked off because they just threw away money that could have done some good but was instead wasted frivolously. Maybe there’s a benign explanation for the irregularities that we’ve observed, but until these concerns are addressed this paper cannot be trusted.

Also, a lot of criticism occurred on PubPeer, a website devoted to a kind of extended peer review of published papers. The commenters were harsh. Oneclaimed that there was a “clear and deliberate” removal of control results in the paper. And many others either hinted or outright stated that DNA gel bands were duplicated, photoshopped or taken from a 2014 paper by Shaw and Tomljenovic (and published in a journal that’s not even indexed on PubMed).

Added to all of this is that the primary author has left the University of British Columbia, where Shaw and Tomljenovic do their “research,” taking all of the data with her. I don’t mean to be cynical, but I will be – yeah right.

As an aside, I don’t know why the University of British Columbia continues to house Shaw and Tomljenovic. They have had their “research” utterly discredited by the World Health Organization. They have had papers retracted. And when they do publish, they’re in low ranked, low impact factor journals. Finally, their “research” is supported by some of the most profoundly anti-vaccine sponsors in the world.  Frankly, the only good Shaw and Tomljenovic do for the anti-vaccine world is to allow those of us who are pro-science/pro-vaccine lots of fodder in embarrassing the anti-vaccine world.

So there we go. Another Shaw and Tomljenovic anti-vaccine paper retracted, and will probably be republished in the Journal of Homeopathy Vaccines (no, it doesn’t exist). By the way, I won the betting pool on when it would be retracted. Hopefully, the shills pay me for winning.

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Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED

aluminum causes autism

Every morning I wake up with the vain hope that the vaccine deniers will give up on the thoroughly debunked vaccines-cause-autism tropes. And every morning I’m disappointed. Today’s trope is that vaccine aluminum causes autism. Despite the claims, there still is no evidence.

Two of our favorite anti-vaccine shills, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, have been the subject of scathing reviews numerous times by the feathery dinosaur. And they’re back again, using bad science, trying to convince the world that aluminum in vaccines is somehow linked to autism.

Well, let’s take a look at research, but don’t expect a different result when I last looked at a Shaw and Tomljenovic article about aluminum in vaccines. Which was retracted. Continue reading “Aluminum causes autism? Anti-vaccine Shaw and Tomljenovic UPDATED”