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VAERS facts — contradicting anti-vaccine claims and beliefs

This article about VAERS facts, literally a FAQ, 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 vaccination’s social and legal policies. 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 diseases. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

Some of the new generation of anti-vaccine activists appear to have built their careers on misrepresentation of VAERS. One example is Dr. Jessica Rose, who apparently started her career as a legitimate young scientist, but at some point became a devoted anti-vaccine activist. Dr. Rose’s background is described by Orac thus:

Her background is more in the sort of computational biology that looks at protein structures and bioinformatics related to DNA sequences than it is to the sort of mathematical and statistical skill set necessary to delve into VAERS with any credibility. A perusal of her curriculum vitae, which is included on the profile, confirms my assessment, particularly her publication record, which includes a lot of molecular biology and virology, but nothing in the way of epidemiology.

In 2021, Dr. Rose joined the anti-vaccine organization IPAK as a research fellow, and she has published several papers in IPAK’s own publication, named Science, Public Health Policy, and the Law, whose editorial board is comprised of leading anti-vaccine activists.

Dr. Rose’s specialty appears to be doing bad analyses of VAERS and claiming, based on them, that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.

On August 9, 2022, Dr. Rose published a “Question and Answer” “facts” about VAERS, titled “A question and answer document on the subject of VAERS as a pharmacovigilance tool”. It is highly misleading. But it gave me an opportunity to provide information based on actual facts about VAERS.

If you want to see how it’s misleading, jump ahead to question 3 (and I hope you then go back and read the long discussion in questions 1 and 2).

I will repeat each question, answer it, shortly summarize Dr. Rose’s claims, and explain why they are misleading. Note that this discussion is limited to the mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine, which are the ones used in the United States and subject to reporting to VAERS – Novavax is newer and is not the subject of most of the misinformation from the anti-vaccine activists misleading people about VAERS. 

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anti-vaccine

Anti-vaxxers don’t want to be called “anti-vaccine” — boo frickin’ hoo

A few days ago, some anti-vaxxer on Twitter complained that she didn’t want to be called anti-vaccine. She said it was a personal attack on her. And that she really wasn’t anti-vaccine.

Well, that’s just an incredibly laughable position that is unsupported by anything in reality. These anti-vaccine activists want to appear rational, thoughtful, and scientific, when, in fact, their position is anything but rational, thoughtful, or scientific.

We call someone anti-vaccine because they refuse to accept the vast scientific consensus about every vaccine on the market. No matter how many times we talk about a large, well-analyzed, unbiased study about a vaccine, they ignore it, and then they give preference to anecdotes and false authorities that confirm their pre-ordained conclusions about vaccines.

Now, just to be clear, parents who sit on the fence because they are confused about vaccines are not anti-vaxxers. They aren’t promoting anti-vaccine nonsense, they are trying to find good evidence to support getting vaccinated. I try to target this group lately because they seem to be working in good faith about vaccines. I’ve had numerous people over time that information I’ve prevented has moved them from “vaccine-hesitant” to pro-vaccine. That’s my mitzvah.

I’m going to write about true anti-vaxxers who present bad information about vaccines while complaining that they are being characterized as “anti-vaccine.” They deserve the label, and I’ll show you why.

Read More »Anti-vaxxers don’t want to be called “anti-vaccine” — boo frickin’ hoo
premature ovarian failure

Premature ovarian failure and HPV vaccine — bad anti-vax “research”

Let me start right from the top — no link has been found between the HPV vaccine and premature ovarian failure. But that didn’t stop some “researchers” from dumpster-diving into the VAERS database to try to establish a link between the HPV vaccine and premature ovarian failure.

Since I enjoy doing this, I am going to review this paper and tell you, once again, why good vaccine research should never rely upon VAERS.

Read More »Premature ovarian failure and HPV vaccine — bad anti-vax “research”
VAERS

VAERS once more with science — how to use it and how to abuse it

I have written numerous times about the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) because it is the database of choice for the anti-vaccine world to “prove” that a vaccine is dangerous. It is misused even though it does not tell scientists whether a vaccine is harmless or harmful.

Even though I’ve discussed it many times, I’ve usually critiqued VAERS here and there in different ways, so I wanted to write down, in easy-to-consume, bullet points. I love bullet points since if you have a limited amount of time to read through thousands of words, you can find the information you need easily.

So here we go, let’s take a look at the dumpster-diving into the VAERS database.

Read More »VAERS once more with science — how to use it and how to abuse it
physicians for informed consent

Physicians for Informed Consent — VAERS-loving anti-vaccine group

Physicians for Informed Consent is another one of those science-denying groups trying to pretend to be all about vaccine “informed consent,” but they spread anti-vaccine nonsense, no different than what we hear from the usual suspects like Del Bigtree and Robert F Kennedy Jr.

I’ve written about Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) a few times, but I wanted to tell you all about the characters that are at the forefront of this anti-vaccine group. Talk about the usual suspects.

Read More »Physicians for Informed Consent — VAERS-loving anti-vaccine group

Vaccine adverse effects may be in our heads — a systematic review and meta-analysis

Vaccine adverse effects are a point of contention with anti-vaccine activists. They always seem to overstate their frequency and claim that it’s much more frequent than reported. On the other hand, many of us on the science side agree that the number of adverse events is vastly overstated, especially in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), which is not a very good system for tracking these things.

Well, a new systematic review and meta-analysis, published in a respected journal, indicates that many reports of adverse effects in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials can be attributed to the placebo effect. As I like doing, let’s review this new paper.

Read More »Vaccine adverse effects may be in our heads — a systematic review and meta-analysis
pseudoscience medicine

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

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.

Read More »Why does pseudoscience in medicine and vaccines seem so popular today?
woman holding sign

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

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.

Read More »COVID vaccine safety and effectiveness for 5-11-year-olds
adverse events COVID-19 vaccine

Adverse events surveillance after 11.8 million COVID mRNA vaccine doses

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.

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Paper claiming COVID vaccines and myocarditis link is RETRACTED

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).

Read More »Paper claiming COVID vaccines and myocarditis link is RETRACTED