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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Your one stop shop for the anti-vaccine hate debate

vaccine hate debate

I and others have written several articles on this website about the anti-vaccine hate debate – discussing the atrocious and hateful behavior of a large portion of the anti vaccination cult.

This kind of “free speech” goes beyond simple mockery, ad hominem attacks, or, though it rarely happens, arguments about the science. Ad hominem attacks are, by definition, personal attacks that are used in lieu of real evidence. So, if you lack evidence to support your side of a debate (even a fake debate like what is happening with vaccines), you attack the person, rather than the evidence.

Of course, if you do lack evidence, you will be mocked mercilessly for lacking said evidence. Cherry-picked evidence doesn’t count. Appeals to authority as evidence doesn’t count. Employing the Nirvana fallacy doesn’t count. The only evidence that matters must come from high quality sources that are repeated many times and are often rolled up into a substantial meta-review.

The vaccine hate debate on exists because they have nothing – no evidence of harm, no evidence of a lack of benefit. None. Ground zero of the Facebook anti-vaccine hate crazies is The Vaccine Resistance Movement (VRM) – read their hatred and lies. Donald Trump would be proud of them.

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Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood using Facebook

Antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood

Allison Hagood is a professor of psychology and a public advocate for science and public health, particularly vaccines. She co-authored the book, “Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines Are Safe and Save Lives” (with co author Stacy Mintzer Herlihy and a foreword by Paul Offit, MD). Recently, antivaccine activists attack Allison Hagood using Facebook to push their agenda.

Hagood is very active in social media, administering several Facebook pages, including the Anti Vax Wall of Shame (AVWoS), a page created to document, track and mock comments made by anti-vaccine activists. In the past, AVWoS has been the target of concerted attacks from anti-vaccine activists, and these attacks continue today. It has not let up for over a year.

Last month, Facebook banned Ms. Hagood for 30 days, for posting an image that “violates community standards”.  The image, with a caption Allison added, is shown below.  This was her third ban in a row.

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Anti Semitic hate speech of the antivaccine cult

I think I’ve said this close to a million times (give or take a few hundred thousand) – the only thing in science that matters is evidence. That’s it.

It’s been clear to me for a long time once those one the anti-science side realize they lack evidence, they go for the ad hominem attacks, in all kinds of forms from accusing people of being shills for whatever company to going full-Godwin, that is, if you wait long enough while in an internet discussion, someone will claim something or someone is a Nazi.

Well, the anti vaccine cult has reached a new high (or is it low) for breaching Godwin’s Law, bypassing a lame relationship between vaccines and Nazis, and going straight for anti Semitic hate speech and bigotry.

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The one vaccine clinical trial design to rule them all

If you spend time observing the “vaccine debate” (it’s not a debate), you’ll hear every dumb argument to deny science. But one thing that you’ll see repeatedly from the antivaccination cults are that they would support vaccinations if there were better vaccine clinical trial design.

The problem with the cult’s demand for better vaccine clinical trial design is really one of several moving targets for their denialism, relying on a form of the Argument from ignorance, claiming that if we can’t absolutely “prove” that vaccines are safe, then it must be absolutely unsafe.

For example, there are literally thousands of articles,  ( an example here and was discussed here), that actually provide overwhelming evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines using real science, real statistics, and real hard work. The antithesis of the fake science, bogus statistics, and 2 hours of Google.

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Facebook bans then unbans a pro-vaccine group

Facebook-banFacebook can be a wonderful tool for disseminating information. Checking out high school photos. Keeping in contact with family members who you don’t see enough. But in the end, I have had always had mixed feelings about it. I think people think that posting a meme about Republican liars or Walmart’s pay practices is really going to make a difference. I come from the era when we actually protested by protesting in public. We sat out in cold winter snows to listen to speakers rail on about wars and the incompetent Chancellor of the University. Change was made by action.

But if used properly, Facebook gives us a social outlet for real scientific ideas. Many of us have used several Facebook groups to discuss the scientific merits of vaccines, GMO’s and evolution. Some of the groups just involve themselves in discussing the science. And then there are others that mock, ridicule and belittle the lies and ignorance of the anti-science world with all of the contempt that can be mustered. One of those groups, the Anti Vax Wall of Shame (AVWoS), prided itself on its denigration of vaccine deniers, whatever their form.  Continue reading “Facebook bans then unbans a pro-vaccine group”

The one study to rule them all–the vaccine denier’s dream

If you spend any time in the “debate” (actually, one side has scientific evidence and the antivaccination side denies all science, so to avoid falling for a false equivalency, debate gets scare quotes), you’ll hear every dumb argument to deny science. But one thing that you’ll see repeatedly from the vaccine deniers is that they would support vaccinations if there were better clinical trials.

The problem with the vaccine denier’s clinical trial proposals is that they are a moving target, relying on a form of the Argument from ignorance, claiming that if we can’t absolutely “prove” that vaccines are safe, then it must be absolutely unsafe. For example, there are dozens of articles, including one of the latest (published here and discussed here).

The actual process for vaccine clinical trials.
The actual process for vaccine clinical trials.

My good friend Allison Hagood, co-author of Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines Are Safe and Save Lives, wrote a commentary about the antivaccine community’s perfect clinical trial. Follow along! (Allison’s commentary is presented in whole, but I’ve edited the formatting and added links where necessary).

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Failure of vaccine denialism–most US kindergarten students are vaccinated

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for August 24, 2012 reported that most kindergartners in the United States received their recommended vaccines for measles and other diseases during the 2011-12 school year but that unvaccinated clusters continue to pose a health risk. Overall, 47 states and DC reported 2011–12 school vaccination coverage, median MMR vaccination coverage was 94.8%, with a range of 86.8% in Colorado to 99.3% in Texas. Four states reported <90% MMR vaccination rates: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas and Pennsylvania. Continue reading “Failure of vaccine denialism–most US kindergarten students are vaccinated”