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”