Why does pseudoscience in medicine and vaccines seem so popular today?

pseudoscience medicine

These days, it appears that pseudoscience in medicine, everything from homeopathy to anti-vaccine beliefs to cancer treatments to chiropractic to naturopathy, has taken hold of many people’s choices. It’s become so frustrating to read stories about people forsaking science-based medicine to use some quack treatment to treat their cancer.

I think there’s a basic reason for it — science is hard. Whether it results from the lack of education in science to a misunderstanding of science is irrelevant, too many people think that science-based medicine doesn’t work. Except it does.

I’ve written about pseudoscience over a hundred times, but I never answered the question of why it grabs the attention of people. I’m going to try to answer that here.

Continue reading “Why does pseudoscience in medicine and vaccines seem so popular today?”

COVID vaccine safety and effectiveness for 5-11-year-olds

woman holding sign

On 30 December 2021, the Centers for Disease Protection and Control (CDC) released two studies on COVID-19 vaccine safety for 5-11-year-olds that showed that there were few serious safety issues and showed that the vaccines prevented serious illness and hospitalization.

These two studies provide strong evidence for COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness for children and should provide confidence for parents to make sure their children get the vaccine.

This post will examine these peer-reviewed articles and pull out the key data for the reader.

Continue reading “COVID vaccine safety and effectiveness for 5-11-year-olds”

Adverse events surveillance after 11.8 million COVID mRNA vaccine doses

adverse events COVID-19 vaccine

A paper was just published that reviewed adverse events after 11.8 million COVID-19 mRNA vaccine doses were administered in the USA. Because it is the topic of discussion these days, I felt it was important to review this paper.

Even though anti-vaxxers love to claim excess adverse events after people receive the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, there are excellent methods that the CDC has developed to monitor these issues in vaccines, and this new paper looks at one of them.

The news is good, in case you’re wondering.

Continue reading “Adverse events surveillance after 11.8 million COVID mRNA vaccine doses”

Paper claiming COVID vaccines and myocarditis link is RETRACTED

pexels-photo-5863389.jpeg

An anti-vaccine group run by the discredited James Lyon-Weiler tried to show that the COVID-19 vaccines are linked to myocarditis in a vain attempt to discredit them. The paper they published was just retracted. Of course.

Ironically, when the paper was published last week, I was going to write about it. However, it lasted about a week before Retraction Watch reported that the publisher retracted it. So, I’ll write about how this is a terrible article and why it got retracted (actually, the publisher isn’t being transparent, so we really don’t know).

Continue reading “Paper claiming COVID vaccines and myocarditis link is RETRACTED”

COVID-19 vaccine mortality risk is lower than in an unvaccinated group

COVID vaccine mortality

The COVID-19 vaccine mortality risk has been a subject of a lot of myths and misinformation ever since the vaccines were released. Too much of the false information relies upon dumpster diving into the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) rather than good science that might show causality.

The CDC published a study in the peer-reviewed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on 22 October 2021 which examined the risk of non-COVID mortality in a COVID-19 vaccine group compared to an unvaccinated group. So that I don’t bury the lede, the risk of death from non-COVID causes was much higher in the unvaccinated group compared to the vaccinated one.

Let’s look at the details.

Continue reading “COVID-19 vaccine mortality risk is lower than in an unvaccinated group”

Vaccine adverse events are very rare – vast benefits outweigh risks

shoenfeld

Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices, or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small.

For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication. Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable.

But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that.

They check the packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may have been found to be dangerous (the best example is Vioxx).

But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living. 

Continue reading “Vaccine adverse events are very rare – vast benefits outweigh risks”

Don’t fall for the Nirvana fallacy – COVID vaccines are safe and effective

glass blur government health

I bet you’ve read that the new COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% perfect, so employing the Nirvana fallacy, must be avoided. That’s just not how one should look at medical data – whether examining vaccine safety and effectiveness or the usefulness of chemotherapy in treating cancer.

No medical procedure is perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Physicians and scientists never make those kinds of claims. In evidence-based medicine, benefits are weighed against risks based upon peer-reviewed published data.

I always like to say that when a physician reduces a fracture of the arm or leg, there is a small, but statistically significant chance of dying from something like a clot forming that goes to the heart or lungs. However, if you don’t reduce the fracture, there is a might higher chance of dying or permanent disability. Yet, I doubt that anyone would refuse the procedure despite the inherent risk.

Unfortunately, the bad math of the anti-vaccine world means that any risk that is not absolute 0% is rounded up to 100%, and vaccine effectiveness that is not absolutely 100% is rounded down to 0%. Yet, I’m sure if they had a broken arm, they would have the fracture reduced immediately.

This article is going to take a look at the Nirvana fallacy and how it relates to the acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Continue reading “Don’t fall for the Nirvana fallacy – COVID vaccines are safe and effective”

Anti-vaxxers misuse VAERS against COVID-19 vaccines – bad science

COVID-19 vaccines VAERS

Recently, a poorly written pre-print article uses VAERS “data” to show that the COVID-19 vaccines cause myocarditis in children 12-17 years old. Although we do have some data that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines may be linked to myocarditis in some age groups.

I, and many others, have frequently criticized the use of VAERS, and I will do it again in this article, so just hang on. It cannot be used for anything by gross observations, and it certainly cannot be used as the basis for an article that condemns a vaccine.

So, let’s once again go down the rabbit hole of misusing VAERS to evaluate the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Continue reading “Anti-vaxxers misuse VAERS against COVID-19 vaccines – bad science”

Gardasil researcher Diane Harper is pro-HPV vaccine – shocking, right?

Gardasil researcher diane harper

Anti-vaxxers love their false authorities, so they invoke Gardasil researcher Diane Harper, MD as the authority of choice with regard to HPV vaccines. Obukhanych is truly a false authority, but Dr. Harper is much more complicated. She actually is an authority for HPV vaccines, but not in the way that the anti-vaccine world would like you to believe.

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded beliefs about vaccines, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or false authorities to support their case about the lack of safety of vaccines.

The so-called “lead Gardasil researcher,” Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck and GSK, had some responsibilities in the clinical trials for their HPV vaccines. But the claims about whether Dr. Harper supports or dislikes those vaccines are substantially more complicated than what the anti-vaccine zealots would like to claim about her.

Amusingly, every few months the social media haunts of the anti-vaccine crowd explode with claims that Dr. Diane Harper, lead Gardasil researcher, hates HPV vaccines.

Let’s take a look at the story and see what we find.

Continue reading “Gardasil researcher Diane Harper is pro-HPV vaccine – shocking, right?”

Vaccines mandates, religion, and the law – Cait Corrigan edition

vaccines mandates

This article about vaccines mandates, religion, and the law was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

As vaccines mandates spread around the United States in response to the virus, there is naturally those who are unhappy. Committed anti-vaccine activists are, unsurprisingly, less happy than most, and driven to express their unhappiness in a variety of forums and a variety of ways including employing religion.

In one example, a relative newcomer on the anti-vaccine scene, student Cait Corrigan, has written a complaint to her former college, challenging their vaccines mandate, after she was removed from their Facebook group for offering to help people game exemptions based on religion.

By itself, this is not particularly important; the complaint is unlikely to go very far, and the college’s legal advisor would likely be able to point to the college’s authorities its many flaws (and the one point that the complaint is right about, and that the college should correct). But the complaint provides an opportunity to examine several arguments anti-vaccine activists make in other forums and address the way anti-vaccine activists build arguments.

Continue reading “Vaccines mandates, religion, and the law – Cait Corrigan edition”