Since it’s the end of the year, and all good bloggers do some sort of 2018 top ten list. Of course, I’ve been doing this since 2012, so it’s a tradition. At least for the last seven years. My 2018… Read More »The official 2018 top ten list from the Skeptical Raptor
The anecdotal beliefs from the anti-vaccine religion that vaccines kill babies, children, and adults (warning, the link is from Natural News, one the worst websites for scientific credibility) is frustrating. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and I have written two articles, about Nick Catone and Colton Berrett, that refute parental claims that vaccines killed their children. Those boys deaths were tragic, but according to the best evidence we have, neither were the result of vaccines.
Deaths attributed to vaccines are often not causally related. It may feel like one event that follows another event is related, which is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. There may not be any correlation, let alone causality, that would make us accept that vaccines kill.
Those of us who accept the fact that vaccines are very safe, and indeed, not really a risk for causing death, have found no evidence that there has been a single death attributed to vaccines over the past couple of decades. But that’s just examining the high quality scientific and medical literature, which may or may not be 100% inclusive of all post-vaccination mortality.
Now, I’ve always contended that there is no evidence that there has ever been a death attributed to vaccines. I never agreed with the old adage that “science can’t prove a negative,” but I do think that the burden of proof is on those making that claim. Where is the evidence of a link between vaccines and mortality? Sometimes, the absence of evidence can be evidence of absence, Carl Sagan’s claims notwithstanding, especially if we look very carefully for that evidence.
Let’s move on to this pivotal study in our understanding of whether vaccines kill. They don’t.
Over the past couple of the months, this website has published three tragic vaccine stories – each involved the death of a child whose life was taken too early. Each of these grabbed everyone’s heart and made all of us empathetic to the pain of the parents. However, these stories were much more nuanced and complicated than what has been presented in some parts of the internet. And they put some of us in the crosshairs of the anti-vaccine world.
Whenever our side (you know, the pro-science, pro-vaccine side) writes about these stories, people invent strawmen claiming that we are not empathetic or sympathetic to the families whose child had died. Of course, every one of us who writes about these stories is incredibly affected by them. They make us cry. They make us hug our children.
Nevertheless, we still feel compelled to sort fact from fiction. We look at these stories with skeptical eyes, not because we want to attack the parents of these children. Instead, we want to make sure that the scientific facts are not ignored, which could lead to a false narrative about vaccines.
Of course, many of us wish we didn’t have to write these stories. I personally try to ignore them, because the stories are so incredibly complex, and I feel so incredibly sympathetic towards the parents, even if they are pushing an unfortunate narrative about vaccines. Eventually, these vaccine stories become tropes on social media, and, at some point, I feel like an analytical approach to the story is necessary. Which leads to this article – I want to make make it clear what I feel and how I react to these vaccine stories. Read More »Tragic vaccine stories – being empathetic while reporting the facts
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.Read More »Gardasil killed Colton Berrett? The evidence does not support this claim