Vaccine effectiveness – correcting misunderstandings about COVID-19 vaccines

vaccine effectiveness

I keep reading how people think that when a COVID-19 vaccine is reported to have 95% effectiveness it must mean that they have a 5% chance of catching COVID-19 after being vaccinated. But effectiveness doesn’t quite mean that, and I wanted to clarify.

Part of the reason this needs clarification is that until we have herd immunity against COVID-19 (along with all of the variants), it’s important to practice all of the public health measures like wearing a mask and social distancing even if you have been vaccinated.

So, this will be a little bit of mathematical analysis of vaccine effectiveness, so that you know what it means.

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Coronavirus vaccines – massive list of vaccine candidates for COVID-19

coronavirus vaccines

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the interest in coronavirus vaccines has been quite high (to say the least). I have been keeping an updated list of vaccine candidates in another article, but it was becoming so cumbersome to update, and I wanted to make information clearer to read, I decided to completely rewrite it.

This article about coronavirus vaccines will also be regularly updated, so stay tuned. Continue reading “Coronavirus vaccines – massive list of vaccine candidates for COVID-19”

COVID-19 vaccines – rampant myths as annoying as Del Bigtree’s claims

COVID-19 vaccines

I have tried to answer questions across the internet about COVID-19 vaccines, but it is getting frustrating. Some of these fantasies are as amusing and annoying as any of Del Bigtree’s ignorant claims about any vaccine on the market. 

Although I have written an article, which is regularly updated, about coronavirus vaccine development, apparently people want to believe that there are miraculous, magical COVID-19 vaccines just around the corner. 

Here’s a list of FAQs debunking some of the most pernicious myths about COVID-19 vaccines. Continue reading “COVID-19 vaccines – rampant myths as annoying as Del Bigtree’s claims”

Coronavirus vaccine development – Donald Trump gets it all wrong again

coronavirus vaccine

Donald Trump’s ignorant comments about how the COVID-19 pandemic would be over by April makes people believe there is a coronavirus vaccine just around the corner. There isn’t. 

Of course, Trump is ignorant about the vast swaths of science from climate change to vaccines, so if he says anything about science, it should be immediately ignored.

Even if he claimed that the blue sky was caused refraction of light, I’d immediately go outside, check the color of the sky, then pull out a physics textbook to confirm what he said. I’m that skeptical of anything that comes out of his ignorant, anti-science mouth.

His claim that the epidemic will be over by April is in direct opposition to real scientists and experts at the CDC, WHO, and elsewhere, all of whom are extremely concerned about a coronavirus pandemic.

His comments, and questions across the internet, seem to imply that a coronavirus vaccine is around the corner, and we shouldn’t worry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s take a look at vaccine development, and I am going to especially focus on some of the technical challenges for a coronavirus vaccine. Just because we need some fact-based evidence so that pro- and anti-vaccine people understand what’s going on.

I’m assuming that most anti-vaxxers will publicly or secretly get the coronavirus vaccine. Just a guess, but maybe they’ll get information here first.

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Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible

vaccine package inserts

One of the cherished strategies of the anti-vaccine religion is to quote vaccine package inserts (called a Patient Information Leaflet in EU countries and Instructions for Use in other areas) to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous. These vaccine deniers consider the package insert to be the golden tablets of the Truth™.

Yes, it is cynical that these anti-vaccine groupies rail against Big Pharma as if they are demon reptilians, but the package insert, written by Big Pharma, is considered gospel. And there is another broken irony meter.

Just spend more than a couple of minutes in discussion in any vaccine “debate,” and you’ll eventually get someone pointing to a section in any of the many vaccine package inserts (PI) as “proof” that it is dangerous, contains dangerous stuff, or is just plain scary. Or that it doesn’t work.

The snarky Orac has proclaimed it “Argument by Package Insert” – it’s almost at the level of logical fallacy. David Gorski has just given it the Latin name, argumentum ad package insert, so it’s now officially a logical fallacy, at least for vaccine discussions.

Before we start, vaccine package inserts are important documents, but only if the information included therein is properly understood. However, vaccine package inserts are not documents that serve as medical and scientific gospel. But it is a document that can help clinicians use vaccines (or frankly, any medication) properly. Continue reading “Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible”

Debunking myths about vaccine testing and safety

vaccine testing

The goal of this article is to respond to a number of recurring myths raised by anti-vaccine activists regarding vaccine testing and safety – a common trope used against vaccines.

The bottom line is that vaccines are extensively and carefully tested for safety, and that vaccine safety is shown by many, many studies from a variety of sources, reinforcing each other and all pointing to the same result – serious problems from vaccines are possible, but extremely rare. And those small, rare risks are far outweighed by the benefits vaccines provide by protecting us against much larger risks.

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Cure cancer in one year according to Israeli scientists – just bovine feces

cure cancer

If you’ve been cruising Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ lately, you’d have seen some breathless headlines claiming that Israeli scientists have discovered a miracle cure for cancer. And it will be ready in one year.

What a load of rubbish, balderdash, codswallop, claptrap, and nonsense.

I’d end the article right there because nothing more really needs to be written. But you come here for the snark, but stay for the science. Or come here for the science, and stay for the snark. Either way, I need to spend a few minutes of your time, and a couple of thousand words, to put this pile of equine excrement into a waste pit.

So let’s take a look at how some Israeli scientists will cure cancer. Spoiler alert – they can’t. Continue reading “Cure cancer in one year according to Israeli scientists – just bovine feces”

Vaccine clinical trials – the anti-vaxxer pseudoscience is wrong again

Of all of the ridiculous tropes, memes, and lies about vaccines pushed by the pseudoscience of the anti-vaccine religion, vaccine clinical trials are the most annoying. They simply get it wrong on so many levels.

The anti-vaccine myths have popped again in a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from Del Bigtree, the producer of the fraudmentary Vaxxed, who has approximately zero credibility on vaccines. He, and his anti-vaccine organization, Informed Consent Action Network, is nothing more than a sycophant to Mr. Andrew Wakefield, serving to push Wakefield’s fraudulent claims about vaccines for money and profit.

The aforementioned letter is an 88-page, yes, 88-plodding-pages, treasure trove of cherry-picking, pseudoscience, appeals to authority, other logical fallacies, lies, ignorance, misinformation, and delusion about vaccines. This is a letter is a follow-up to a response from HHS to Bigtree’s original laughable letter to HHS from January 2018.

Since my tearing down an 88-page rant would take 100,000 words, unless I showed some brevity and simplified my response to “Bigtree is a dumbass,” I thought I’d focus on a few key points over a few days. Of course, I might get bored and give up after this one article.

Given all that, I’m going to focus on Bigtree’s vast ignorance of vaccine clinical trials. He gets it all wrong. He doesn’t understand it. And, he is a dumbass. Not necessarily in that order. Continue reading “Vaccine clinical trials – the anti-vaxxer pseudoscience is wrong again”

Testing vaccines – another anti-vaccine myth requiring debunking

testing vaccines

There are so many myths, tropes, and memes pushed by the anti-vaccine religion that it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with it all. One of the most ridiculous is that vaccines aren’t tested, especially in clinical trials. This is ridiculous on so many levels, the most important of which is that testing vaccines are critical to receiving regulatory approval across the world.

The anti-vaccine religion believes that vaccines aren’t tested thoroughly before being used on unsuspecting infants. I do not know where this started, or why it started, but like much in the anti-vaccination world, it really doesn’t matter. It just passes from one person to another across social media, and individuals with no research background hold this particular belief as if it were the Truth™.

On the contrary, testing vaccines is a thorough process – each vaccine is tested for safety and effectiveness before being marketed. Not only are vaccines thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy before being marketed, they also are rigorously tested in various combinations with other vaccines. And I’m not cherry-picking a few articles to support my point of view, unless by cherry-picking you mean I’m picking the best articles from the highest quality journals in medicine.
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Male birth control side effects – no, men are not wimps

male birth control

A new male birth control method, which utilizes a hormonal injection, was designed to slow or block sperm production. However, according to various media reports, this new birth control method won’t be available anytime soon because men are weaklings, unable to handle the side effects, such as moodiness and acne, which women on birth control tolerate. As a result of these side effects the study was terminated.

In between all of the political news that seems to be monopolizing all of our social networking feeds, you probably saw a few articles that said that a male birth control clinical trial was terminated because “men can’t handle side effects women face daily.” Other reputable websites, like the Atlantic, ran headlines pushing the same trope, stating that “a clinical trial of contraceptives for men was halted because of side effects—side effects that women have dealt with for decades.”

But it didn’t stop there. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were flooded with memes that pushed the male birth control clinical trial proves men are wimps compared to women. To be clear, I think that male birth control is a great idea, and sociologically, it forces men to share in the burden of contraceptives. Cynically, I’ll bet that right wingers will be less controlling of male birth control than they are with women’s reproductive rights. But hey, I’m nothing if I’m not a cynic.

The problem with the memes and tropes is that they’re completely wrong. The study was halted because one of the two independent committees that monitor this trial’s safety data (something that happens with all drugs undergoing clinical trials in the USA) was concerned about the high number of adverse events the men experienced. Furthermore, the incidence of adverse events was higher than what is experienced by women using hormonal birth control.

Lucky for us, the data from this study was published in a peer reviewed journal, so we can take a look at what actually happened.

Continue reading “Male birth control side effects – no, men are not wimps”