Physicians for Informed Consent goes after aluminum in vaccines again

physicians for informed consent

Recently, Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) claimed they hold a bombshell, by claiming there is an erratum in the study published by Mitkus and colleagues (1). Using some PR mouthpiece (such as PRNewswire) to spread the breaking news around, PIC, under the patronage of Shira Miller (who runs PIC), claimed they provided a rebuttal to the study of Mitkus stating that there is an important factual error.

In this breaking news, Physicians for Informed Consent announced that a study published by Mitkus and colleagues (1) contained a major flaw in the estimation of aluminum burden, using differences in oral bioavailability used in the study (allegedly 0.78%) and reported by the FDA (0.1%). In their conclusion, the authors claim that such differences were significantly underestimating the exposure of aluminum from vaccines with the claim that the actual “safe” level is 7.8X lower than Mitkus established.

Is there any part of the truth in it? And does the PIC statement hold any scientific evidence? 
Let’s figure this out. Continue reading “Physicians for Informed Consent goes after aluminum in vaccines again”

RFK Jr denies vaccine scientific consensus but accepts climate change

vaccine scientific consensus

I have long criticized those who deny the vaccine scientific consensus but get angry about those who deny the climate change scientific consensus. In other words, they pick and choose what science they like or don’t like based on random things, mostly political expediency.

Robert F Kennedy Jr (and to save me typing too many letters, we’ll just call him RFK Jr) is a perfect example of this contradictory belief system. If you met him and told him that you deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change, he’d argue that you are wrong. 

RFK Jr said recently:

“All of the modeling for climate change” points to future “storms on steroids, droughts, famine, the disappearance of the ice caps, the disappearance of the glaciers on every continent, and that there’s going to be major disruptions, not just to humanity, but ultimately, to civilization.”

That modeling didn’t come from his imagination, it came from scientists, who have established the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. It is not based on faith, belief, or Uncle Harry. 

Of course, there is a similar overwhelming scientific consensus regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness, yet RFK Jr and his ilk reject it based on faith, belief, and pseudoscience. It’s clear that RFK Jr picks and chooses whatever science supports their pre-existing beliefs – that’s not science, that’s just illogical thinking.

More than that, how can one trust someone who denies one scientific consensus and accept another? I almost would rethink my position on climate change just because I don’t trust RFK Jr.’s opinion on it. 

But, I’m a good scientist – the scientific consensus on both vaccines and climate change (and hundreds of other scientific ideas like evolution, GMO safety, the Big Bang, etc.) is immense. To quote the esteemed David Gorski, MD Ph.D.:

Hostility towards the concept of scientific consensus is a good sign of pseudoscience.

This article will take a look at how denying the vaccine scientific consensus is equivalent to denying the climate change scientific consensus. Of course, I’m sure that there is a whole bunch of people who deny both, but since this is about RFK Jr., it’s his contradictions that matter. Continue reading “RFK Jr denies vaccine scientific consensus but accepts climate change”

Novel coronavirus myths – crazy conspiracy theories including vaccines

novel coronavirus myths

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard many novel coronavirus myths over the past few days as everyone is breathlessly watching the news about the disease. Well, this article is here to mock the conspiracy theories, just because.

This does not mean that we should ignore the new coronavirus, but we should be aware of the pseudoscience and fake news that’s out there these days. I’m sure that in 1750, people blamed smallpox on the devil. Or on Ben Franklin’s electricity experiments. Or on a solar eclipse.

This article will take on some of the weirder or scary novel coronavirus myths. But if you run across something that makes your eyes roll and makes you wonder about science education, please comment. Maybe I’ll incorporate it into part II. Continue reading “Novel coronavirus myths – crazy conspiracy theories including vaccines”

Vaccine settled science – it is not based on faith or belief, just evidence

I decided to write about vaccine settled science, based on comments I saw on Facebook after someone posted an article I wrote about recently polling on American attitudes towards vaccines. The headline of that article said “atheists support vaccines,” but that was not even close to what the article was about.

In fact, the article described how recently polling showed that nearly 90% of Americans thought that the MMR vaccine was safe and effective. In other words, most Americans think that vaccine science is settled. 

Anyway, the comments to the post digressed wildly from the point, because anti-vaxxers wanted to claim that science is based on faith and belief, just like a religion. And that evolution is based on faith, and creationism is really a science. And that atheism is a belief. 

The forum admins shut down the thread because it began to have nothing to do with vaccines. 

Nevertheless, science is not based on faith or belief, it’s based on evidence. Creationism is a pseudoscience with zero supporting evidence.

And atheism was not the point of the article, which convinces me that too many people read headlines and not the article. This saddens the old feathered avian dinosaur who spends several hours researching and writing these articles.

This article will talk about vaccine settled science, but also what constitutes science. And it has nothing to do with faith and belief. Continue reading “Vaccine settled science – it is not based on faith or belief, just evidence”

Flawed Lyons-Weiler vaccine study further critiqued by a real scientist

This review primarily stemmed from my previous blog post in which I pointed crucial experimental flaws in the most recent study published by Lyons-Weiler and colleagues [1]. The reply was swift and expected, a diatribe written on his own page that was vociferous, slanderous and completely inappropriate for a public statement.

I was surprised that a man claiming to be from science, and that should be “seasoned” by now about handling on critiques from reviewers would have shown an unmeasured tone in such official communication.

Surprised? I was not, and confirmed the reason why I use a pen name. Before submitting it as a post, I considered directly sending my letter to the editor of the journal, only to recuse from it by fear of retaliation and harassment from Lyons-Weiler or by some random anti-vaccine person to my institution.

In this delicate period of my academic career, such a decision can have devastating consequences on unfolding events related to my career. Shall I be in a better position, I would not have hesitated to send the letter to the editor.

Interestingly, such a slanderous attack of the messenger seems a staple amongst anti-vaccine crowds, but not expected from scientists. Yet, such slanderous behavior is not exclusive to the author. Recently, a letter to editor written by peers of the authors (in the name of Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, and Romain Gherardi as they co-authored the retracted counter-letter) was judged so slanderous against a scientist that raised important and valid concerns on a study published by Crepeaux and colleagues in “Toxicology” journal [2].

It is important to note to the reader not familiar with academic publishing that the retraction of a letter to the editor is so rare, that it suggests the extreme gravity of the slanderous claims made.

More recently, a similar behavior (albeit less slanderous) came from the recent retraction of the recent study by DeLong and colleagues [3], following critiques and concerns on PubPeer. Instead of addressing directly the stipulations raised by readers, the author underwent a series of diatribes while failing to address the major flaws of the paper.

During my professional development, learning to accept rejection and criticism from peer-reviews (be it a manuscript submitted to a journal or a grant proposal) is part of being a scientist. We do not mince words, and we will say bluntly (but with academic finesse) when a study or grant is not considered “competitive” and “compelling”.

We learn to undergo the stage of grievance and learn to deal with it several times a year. Yet, we also learn to never ever write a reply in the spur of the moment, in the full rage and anger. One day, my department chair told us (in one of these lab meetings) to never ever send an angry letter because you may regret (and will likely regret) it later.

Sending an angry letter will not change the editor or program officer to accept your paper or your grant proposal. Worse, it will backfire on you and reduce your chance of having your manuscript or grant proposal accepted in the future, as you will be labeled “that annoying scientist”.

Sure, write that angry letter. But don’t send it. Leave it to sediment overnight on your desk and come back to it the day after and re-read it. You will be surprised once the haze of anger is gone how callous and slanderous the letter was and failed to make a constructive and detailed counter-response to the reviewers.

This post is not intended to be a counter-response to Lyons-Weiler, that would be futile and sterile. However, I want to use this as a learning experience by using a study cited by the author [4] that Lyons-Weiler used against me as it claims it vindicates him (*spoilers* it does not, quite the opposite indeed. Read the rest of the post to have a detailed explanation) and discuss on why this study is indeed adding an additional stone in making the point of the overall safety of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines.

For those coming from his page, I want you to come with a neutral and objective mind and read carefully the following sections and follow me through my review. To the authors of this study, I would like to address you my fullest gratitude for your recent work published by your research group in helping advance the (very) complicated and punctuated literature on the pharmacokinetics of aluminum adjuvants over the last 40 years.

My apologies if I use your figures in this post, but I consider it essential to provide these to the readers that may not have access to your publication. Continue reading “Flawed Lyons-Weiler vaccine study further critiqued by a real scientist”

Ex-scientist James Lyons-Weiler publishes junk science about vaccines

james lyons weiler

Another day, another junk science study published by our anti-vaccine scientists. This time, former scientist James Lyons-Weiler teamed up with a notorious anti-vaccine pediatrician.

As in mathematics, adding two negative values results in additive effects. Here too, the combination of two science deniers made an already flawed set of claims even weaker than it was initially.

With a certain cynicism, I would question why Lyons-Weiler refused to publish in the journal created by his own organization, IPAK – the new journal named Science, Public Health Policy and Law. I guess having two authors (JLW and PA) sitting in the editorial board would make the lack of meaningful review too obvious.

But something more sinister is folding, the predation of peer-reviewed journals with decent impact factors by anti-vaccine (AV) scientists. Historically, the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry has been a safe haven for AV scientists for years – until one paper from Christopher Shaw (University of British Columbia) got flagged at the end of 2017 for blatant data manipulations (spliced immunoblots and agarose gels).

Since then, the journal apparently revved up the review process to ensure a more rigorous review, especially when it comes from authors with questionable quality in their publication.

Here comes the Journal of Trace Elements in Biology and Medicine.  As Lyons-Weiler’s new safe haven, the journal seems to give a free and unfiltered pass to several scientists publishing low-quality anti-vaccine work – Christopher Exley (three papers), James Lyons-Weiler (two papers including this one), or a climate denialist named Albert Parker (writing under a pseudonym, his real name is Alberto Boretti), who, according to this website, writes from his garage.

These papers were published despite major methodological flaws, or sometimes comments close to libel (see the comment letter written by Christopher Exley targeting the Chair of the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization which was critiqued here).

Seeing such blatant “studies” that do not fit a rigorous standard for publication-quality and yet got approved by a panel of reviewers suggest a breach in the peer-review of this journal is troubling.

Considering that these publications will be used as a cannon fodder by the anti-vaccine movement which will claim these are legit studies (spoiler: they are not, and I will show why in the rebuttal below), this journal is de-facto contributing in the spread of “fake news” and fuels vaccine hesitancy, bringing more fuel to fires already burning. Just look at the number of measles outbreaks that occurred this year, setting us to record levels never seen since the publication of the fraudulent paper by Wakefield, and the honor of the AV movement identified as one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019.

To keep it rigorous and respectful, I have written my rebuttal as a hypothetical letter to the Editor. I wish I could submit such a letter, but given my particular situation in my life, I prefer to not make waves that could capsize my tiny sloop. Continue reading “Ex-scientist James Lyons-Weiler publishes junk science about vaccines”

Genetics cause autism in new study – once again, it’s not about vaccines

Let’s start right at the top – a new, powerful study has shown that mostly genetics cause autism. Despite the fear, uncertainty, and doubt from the anti-vaccine religion, we have overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are not linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is settled science

Almost all legitimate science researchers who focused on autism never bought into the vaccines link. Not only was there no evidence of this imaginary link (thanks to the cunning fraud Andrew Wakefield), when scientists went looking for a possible link, they never found one. 

However, investigators have been searching for legitimate underlying etiologies for ASD – the hypothesis that genetics cause autism has been the center of research for years. 

So let’s look at this study in detail so that we all have more evidence to shut down the vaccines and autism tropes. Well, at least we can try, since the pseudoscience that permeates the anti-vaccine world is resistant to scientific facts (see Del Bigtree).  Continue reading “Genetics cause autism in new study – once again, it’s not about vaccines”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscientist fails to show vaccines are linked to autism

anti-vaccine pseudoscientist

Other than anecdotes, Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study, and a handful of speculative studies published in low impact-factor journals, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that vaccines are not linked to autism spectrum disorder. The question has been asked in literally hundreds of real scientific articles, and the answer keeps coming back that there is no link. But that doesn’t stop one after another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist coming forward with pathetic evidence to try to “prove” (see Note 1) that vaccines cause autism. They always fail.

So today we’re going to look at another “study” from another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist trying to promote a false religious belief that somehow, somewhere vaccines are related to autism. Despite the scientific consensus that has refuted those beliefs with robust and repeated evidence, this pseudoscientist makes a vain attempt and fails. Let’s take a look. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscientist fails to show vaccines are linked to autism”

Anti-vaccine James Lyons-Weiler writes about aluminum and autism

James Lyons-Weiler

Here we go again. Another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist publishes a paper that calls into question something about vaccines, and the anti-vaccine religion genuflects in their general direction. The anti-vaccine side has nearly zero evidence supporting their claims, so they have to cling to anything they can get. And a new article from James Lyons-Weiler continues that tradition.

The anti-vaccine religion is littered with these false authorities that have few credentials or experience in vaccines, yet, because of a “Ph.D.” after their name, the anti-vaxxers make it appear they speak for millions of scientists. There’s Tetyana Obukhanych, a former immunologist who has published no peer-reviewed articles about vaccines, who has denied all of her scientific education and training, and who makes egregious and simplistic mistakes about vaccines in all of her proclamations.

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are multiple-retracted “researchers” who shill for the anti-vaccine religion by publishing weak and easily critiqued research that doesn’t even stand up to the tiniest of criticism. We’ve often speculated as to why the University of British Columbia, where they do their “research,” hasn’t ended their relationship.

Look, I’m not impressed by credentials and degrees. I don’t care if someone is a janitor or a Ph.D. in immunology at Harvard University. If you deny established scientific consensus based on your whims, cherry picking evidence, or rhetoric, you have nothing. You bring nothing to a scientific discussion. If you want to overturn the scientific consensus on vaccines then you better be an expert in the area of vaccines, and you better have a broad, robust body of evidence that shows problems with the scientific consensus.

Now, it’s time to look at this new false authority in the land of vaccines, James Lyons-Weiler. Is he another false authority and pseudoscientist? Or does his new paper give us something new to examine about vaccines? Yes. No. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine James Lyons-Weiler writes about aluminum and autism”

Why do I call it the “anti-vaccine religion”? Let me explain

anti-vaccine religion

A few months ago, I started characterizing the anti-vaxxer fanatics as being members of the “anti-vaccine religion.” It wasn’t an important point to me, because as I constantly stress, the only thing that matters is scientific evidence – the vast bulk of which supports the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

In fact, I know a lot of pro-vaccine people, many of whom are leaders in pointing out the flaws of the anti-vaccine religion, are themselves religious. I am an atheist, but I do not decide who are my friends on social media or real life, based on their religious beliefs. Since almost every major religion in the world supports vaccination, and in almost every case, strongly so,  it’s clear that organized religion and vaccines are not in conflict.

For me, “anti-vaccine religion” was a throwaway line almost tongue-in-cheek, because, from my standpoint, the group acts as if it were a religious cult. In fact, some people I know, who loathe the anti-vaccine zealots, do classify them as a cult. Anyway, of all the things I represent, my obvious pejorative use of religion ranked near the bottom of my “care” list.

Then, this:

Now that Daniel Goldman has thrown down the gauntlet, I guess I’m going to have to fully explain my impeccable (or not) logic. Because from any perspective, the anti-vaccine religion functions like a religion, in some ways, an organized one. Let me explain. Continue reading “Why do I call it the “anti-vaccine religion”? Let me explain”