Thursday, May 23, 2013

Irony at Work: Andrew Wakefield and Academic Integrity

A friend pointed me to a link showing the schedule of events for the AutismOne conference, and aside from the normal players like Jenny McCarthy, Dr. Eisenstein, and the father-son Geier duo, I couldn't help but notice that they have actually asked Andrew Wakefield to speak.

The best part?  The topic of his speech is "Defending Academic Integrity and Research".

Here is a summary of his little chat:

"Doctors and scientists working in the public interest and specifically for the wellbeing of their patients – particularly those involved in researching vaccine safety – are coming under attack as never before. This talk emphasizes the reasons why we should value the individual over the concept of a "herd," the importance of maintaining academic integrity, and the progress that has been made despite systematic oppression of scientific and medical enquiry."

That's rich.  A guy who was stripped of his medical license due to fraud, a man who failed to disclose financial conflicts of interest, and a man who was found to have manipulated and falsified data within a published study (which was subsequently retracted) is speaking about academic integrity.  

Let's keep in mind Wakefield is the same person who (among many other things) was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children.  The sheer number of proven charges would boggle the mind... yet this is the type of person AutismOne invites to speak about academic integrity?

Sort of makes you wonder if they have Bernie Madoff scheduled to speak about Economic Ethics.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Benefits of Vaccinations: History Continues To Frustrate Antivaxxers

When it comes to vaccines, do the benefits really outweigh the risks, or is there a chance you are simply
gambling your health each and every time you opt for vaccinations?

If you are an anti-vaccinationist (antivaxxer) the answer is clear -  there is no such thing as a safe vaccine, and vaccines are clearly not worth the risk. On the other hand, if you look at history, or if you study the actual impact of vaccines you soon realize that not only are vaccines incredibly safe and effective, but they are responsible for saving millions of lives that otherwise would have been lost to various diseases.

Needless to say, some argue about these benefits, and some like to act as if the jury is still out.  Antivaxxers are continually attempting to suggest that society would be better off without vaccines, and I felt it was well past time they offer some evidence to show us why they feel that is the case.

Enter the Challenger

For those of you following along at home, Lowell Hubbs is a narcissistic anti-vaccinationist who not only has served as inspiration for many of the posts on this blog, but someone who comments (or attempts to comment) on a very regular basis.  In fact Mr. Hubbs has added hundreds of comments to this blog just as he has contributed thousands upon thousands of comments to practically every other vaccine-related blog, forum or website that he can find.

Now it should be noted that although Mr. Hubbs doesn't actually hold a degree in a science related field, and although he doesn't hold a degree at all, and even though he has never spent a single day in any form of post-secondary education - he does consider himself an expert in subjects like vaccinations, medical conditions, the source of disease, the history of medicine, and pretty much any topic which is even remotely connected to modern medicine.  Whether this expertise was gained during his time in the State Penitentiary serving time for one of his four felony DUI offenses, or whether this knowledge was gained from his time working at a meat-processing facility as a day laborer I cannot say, but rest assured Mr. Hubbs claims he is a trusted expert, and therefore you are expected to take his word for it... credentials be damned.

The reason this is important is because Mr. Hubbs is one of the antivaxxers who routinely claims that vaccines cause more harm than good, and in his view (and in the opinion of most antivaxxers) vaccines should never be used - EVER.  Therefore, as I know this is a commonly held belief with antivaxxers, I've asked Mr. Hubbs to provide me the evidence to support this viewpoint.

If you are really interested in the details, you may wish to read the comments from a prior blog post here.  However I will do my best to summarize below.

This all began when Mr. Hubbs submitted a comment which read in part:
"I have put in front of you multiple times the long list of studies that prove in any honest and rational mind, that the claims of vaccine doing more harm than good, are indeed true."
Of course I countered this with a response that Mr. Hubbs clearly doesn't understand what the terms "scientific study" actually mean and how to date there hasn't been a single study which shows vaccines cause more harm than good.  One might think if this were actually the case, one of the more well known anti-vaccine organizations would have performed some level of study comparing the risks of vaccines against the benefits - or perhaps even a summary study of existing data... but alas it doesn't appear it has happened.  Of course Mr. Hubbs claimed there were "numerous studies in Pubmed" and accused me of hiding the truth and twisting the facts and lying to deceive the public yada, yada, yada.

It was about this time that I decided it was time to put this little issue to rest once and for all since Mr. Hubbs, and other anti-vaxxers like him, continue to make these claims on a near daily basis. Therefore I proposed the following solution to Mr. Hubbs:
"Please post a comment with ONE SINGLE peer-reviewed AND published study that shows vaccines cause more harm than good or that vaccines cause autism and we can discuss it."

I then added some ground rules in a silly attempt to limit this discussion and prevent it from wandering away into some unrelated anti-mainstream medicine rant or a discussion about metal tooth fillings or chemtrails as so often happens when you attempt to engage an antivaxxer.  Those rules were listed as follows:

  • Do not attempt to link me to your personal website and call it "proof" as I won't publish it.
  • Do not attempt to cut and paste a laundry list of dozens upon dozens of links to various articles, blog pages, or anti-vaxxer websites and claim they are scientific because I won't publish it.
  • Do not attempt to change the subject and rant about me, this blog, or any other unrelated issues as I won't publish it.
  • Do not attempt to post a link to an anti-vaxxer website and claim it is a published study.
  • Do not attempt to link to a summary document or an abstract or a partial summary report because I won't publish it.
  • Do not attempt to post a transcript of a speech or interview as you attempt to pass it off as a published study because I won't publish it.
  • Do not attempt to link to a non-recognized 'journal' like Medical Hypotheses or Medical Veritas or anything which isn't listed in MEDLINE because I won't publish it.
  • In short - stick to legitimate peer-reviewed studies rather than opinion pieces, blog posts, interviews, or unpublished nonsense.

Ok - so that seems straightforward enough right?  So if our antivaxxer friend can post a study proving how vaccines are actually causing more harm than the benefits of said vaccine, this should be a slam dunk.  Honestly I wouldn't even be as picky as I make it seem, so if he could provide me with a summary study that even attempts to compare the risks of vaccination against the benefits I would be happy to discuss it.  Surely if you make such a claim you should have the supporting evidence to back it up, so I might think it someone is so adamant about their statement they might actually have some level of evidence at the ready just in case someone challenges them.

I fully understand it is silly to ask for a study that proves vaccines cause autism or a study that proves vaccines cause more harm than good, because we all know these studies don't actually exist.  Of course I also know antivaxxers refuse to look at the entire body of evidence and they refuse to acknowledge all of the good that has come from vaccinations, thus asking them to provide a study seems only fair.  After all - if you make a claim, it is your duty to support that claim with evidence, and therefore it shouldn't be difficult for Mr. Hubbs to support his wild statements with a study or two.

The Response:

So how does Mr. Hubbs respond to this challenge?  Do you think he is able to follow a few simple rules and provide a study in support of his beliefs?

Not exactly.

The initial volley from Mr. Hubbs should have contained perhaps three or four sentences and a URL pointing to this mythical study of his... but that just won't do for an antivaxxer.  Therefore I present to you the two part response that Mr. Hubbs felt was a logical reaction to a very simple question:

Part 1 of 2:
"This reply will be in two parts.

I am getting more than a little tired of that kind of persistent hypocrisy in your claims, in regard to your own personal attack on me throughout the pages of this blog, and as well in your allowing all the as a fact, slanderous reply comments to be published, that you have. Your continual and false self elevation to some sort of expert here and on these issues, is beyond laughable. A self proclaimed blogging expert with as well absolutely and intentionally, no personal identity. As far as statements of opinion; why is it that you claim to and believe that yours are the only ones that correct; no matter what the subject matter, and no matter how well founded your oppositions claims are.
Look at what you are doing here. All you had to do was publish my original and first reply, and be done with it. But oh no, you refused to do that, and here you are weeks later still avoiding the content of that reply and its reference material. Here you are still making pathetic and repeat false excuses, one after another, for why you could not publish that reply as it was. Here you are as well making reply posting rule after rule, that actually has and had nothing to do with the dis-allowance of that said reply. You simply refuse to allow the truth information and all that unbiased science to be promoted; it is to much truth. Your agenda is NOT truth' and it all to clearly never has been nor ever will be. Your agenda is one of self selective denial.
And don't even go there in any attempt to claim you have not been to my website, as you know exactly what is there, and that is why you refuse to link to any of its pages. You quite clearly used to as well scour the original site in an attempt to find some dirt, and you were never successful. You as well simply refuse to allow any readers know that I have a counter blog to this one, and/or to ever reference to it. What should that tell the readers, when you go on blogging and creating more and more titled blog pages, having never answered to the truth information that exists on that blog? A blog that contains many repeat copies of the rebuttal and correct information replies, you refused to publish on this blog."

Ok so let's go ahead and dissect part one of this comment.  First of all you will note Mr. Hubbs was unable to provide a link to the study that was requested.  This is obviously not unexpected and as I've dealt with more than a few antivaxxers in my time, I fully expected this type of response.

What Mr. Hubbs does offer us is a list of complaints.  He complains about my 'hypocrisy', my identity, the  comments I've published on the blog, the comments I haven't published on the blog, my 'agenda', the rules I've set forth in this discussion, or why I won't link to his many blogs or websites.

Did you catch the part where he actually provided the evidence or the study showing how vaccines are so harmful?  Yes I guess I missed it too... because of course instead of offering some level of evidence, Mr. Hubbs feels his laundry list of complaints are worthy of multiple paragraphs and are more important.

Rest assured however, that Mr. Hubbs wasn't done yet.  Thus he posted the following comment some time later (perhaps after he opted to clam himself down via some Earl Grey tea and yoga).

Part 2 of 2:

"Part 2 of your reply.
You see what you are avoiding here again is any realization as well of the fact that it is not just one study that is the total of the evidence. It is multiple studies and data all showing the same or similar findings. It is when you put that all together, that you have the total package of realization and understanding. So, what are you doing? You are again censoring the reply information you have been given. I do not find it acceptable, nor do I have any desire whatsoever to play along with your twisted censorship games, Editor.

However, even though I have explained to you the situation, and I could give you dozens of good vaccine harm and ASD related studies, I am going to give you a single study, to see what you come up with. Actually I am going to give you two studies, because they are somewhat interlinked as a basic info package. These studies are obviously quite self explanatory. The first one deals with the spectrum of ASIA: ‘Autoimmune (Auto-inflammatory) Syndrome.
The spectrum of ASIA: ‘Autoimmune (Auto-inflammatory) Syndrome induced by Adjuvants
PLoS One. 2009; 4(12): e8382. Published online 2009 December 31.Self-Organized Criticality Theory of Autoimmunity
Systemic autoimmunity appears to be the inevitable consequence of over-stimulating the host's immune ‘system’ by repeated immunization with antigen, to the levels that surpass system's self-organized criticality. (Full study)
By the way; when we get done with this, we can move on to the issue of aluminum vaccine adjuvants, combined with vaccine contamination. Be sure that you as well provide any counter studies in any arguments you make, and just your opinions, are of course, not acceptable. Claims as well from Paul Offit and the CDC, that dietary consumption of mercury and/or aluminum is the same thing as injected forms of it, and claimed to be handled by the human body and detoxed the same way, are as well and of course not acceptable, as it is not backed by any real physiological data nor science."

So again Mr. Hubbs begins his comment with excuses.  Excuses on why such a study (showing vaccines cause more harm than good) doesn't exist.  Excuses on why he can't comply with a simple set of rules.  Excuses on the format of his response.  We've seen this before and such excuses are fully expected.  However then Mr. Hubbs goes on to say he will provide a single study - and then changes that to say he will provide "two studies".

Great - I can work with two studies... two studies isn't a big deal, and if either of them - or both of them combined lead me to believe his statement about vaccines causing more harm than good may have some validity then by all means I'm willing to hear him out.

The problem is, Mr. Hubbs cannot count, and apparently he has no idea what a 'study' is.  He doesn't provide links to just one or even two studies, but instead his comment includes no fewer than nine different links to various documents, summaries, and a few studies.  This isn't to say the studies he references aren't interesting because they are, but the issue is they don't even attempt to claim vaccines cause more harm than good.  So much for following simple rules.

Alas, let's humor our antivaxxer compatriot as we delve down into the fractured mind of a man who has been known to claim 9/11 was an inside job or how you can cure cancer with baking soda.  Surely it will be a fun ride.

The Analysis:

Link Cited:

First, it is probably worth noting the very first link Mr. Hubbs provided isn't even a study.  This begs the question on whether or not Mr. Hubbs really knows what a study actually is, but we will ignore that point for now and discuss the actual content.  What he actually has provided is an article which begins by explaining how a Saudi Sheikh was diagnosed with probable systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and how the disease re-presented itself after a flu vaccine.

Great - so even if we assume the flu vaccine triggered the re-emergence of his auto-immune disease and was 100% responsible this still does not in any way prove that vaccines cause more harm than good.  In fact, the article discloses the fact that he had the condition prior to the vaccine, and it also states the condition was treated with steroids.  This is an example of one person having a reaction to a vaccine, so is the premise here that because one person had a reaction that vaccines on the whole are simply harmful?  Nonsense - that is the logical equivalent of claiming because someone drown in a swimming pool we should ban water.

The article does cite several other articles, summaries, and even a few studies that discuss this same subject matter, and of course Mr. Hubbs actually links to some of them separately later (which I'll discuss below).  There are few interesting statements within this article however. Number one, the article states "[...] although immunization with the flu vaccine is considered safe for most SLE patients, for this particular patient, re-immunization should be considered with caution".  Also, earlier in the same article they authors state "[...]vaccines are beneficial for the vast majority of subjects [...]".  Those statements don't really seem to be very harmful for vaccines but rather they seem to suggest that side effects are rare and that the benefits outweigh the risks.  If this is the best Mr. Hubbs can do, it isn't looking good for him.

Link Cited:

For his second link, Mr. Hubbs shows us an abstract for a proposal entitled 'ASIA' - autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants.  This isn't a study, but rather a review of other data which result in the authors suggesting four conditions (siliconosis, Gulf war syndrome (GWS), macrophagic myofasciitis syndrome (MMF) and post-vaccination phenomena) should be classified as ASIA.

Great - that's helpful I suppose, but there is nothing withing the proposal that provides actual data and it isn't even pretending to be a study so I'm unsure why Mr. Hubbs felt this should be included (other than the fact he most likely copied and pasted this entire series of URLs from a different antivaxxer website).

Link Cited:

Moving on to the third link, it appears Mr. Hubbs finally gets to the point where he has actually provided a link to a study.  This is a supposed study of 114 people (of which 93 are used within the study) diagnosed with immune-mediated diseases following immunization with hepatitis-B vaccine.  There is value to summarizing this data, unfortunately there are some serious flaws with this methodology.  Now I know this will upset antivaxxers, but the fact is this 'study' only looked at people who consulted with legal representation as they blamed their symptoms upon vaccines. Needless to say this isn't exactly the way to perform unbiased research.

Where are the confidence intervals linking the hepatitis B vaccine with the auto immune conditions?  Why didn't they bother to use a control group?  Where is the 'meat' of how they performed their research?  How many of these patients had histories of existing auto-immune diseases?  I wish I could answer these questions, but the information isn't present, so we are left to guess.  What we do know is the authors indicated there were common clinical characteristics which in their view suggests a common denominator in the diseases. Fair enough... but this is far below the burden of proof to suggest vaccines cause more harm than good.

So if we ignore the lack of detail in the study for a moment and simply assume that all 93 of those people had some form of a reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine and that there was no other possible cause of their illnesses, does that therefore mean the vaccine itself is harmful and that it should be eliminated?  Unfortunately the authors don't extrapolate their data to the population as a whole, and we aren't provided with details on how their selected their subjects or what methodology was employed to find them, therefore we can't really know how these numbers would apply to a large population.

We do know however that hepatitis B can lead to liver failure, cirrhosis, and cancer - so it is a serious condition. The American Medical Association (AMA) has indicated that in the US 11,000 people a year are hospitalized as a result of hepatitis B, and according to an article found in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, around 5,000 people in the US die each year from the disease.  That same article indicates that each year as many as 1,000,000 people worldwide (that is 1 million!) die of hepatitis B-related cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma (cancer).  The article also states the following:
"The incidence of acute hepatitis B in the United States has declined from 8.5 per 100,000 population in 1990 to 2.1 per 100,000 population in 2004, with the greatest declines (94%) in children and adolescents, coincident with an increase in hepatitis B vaccination in these age groups."
So we have a vaccine which has been showing to reduce hepatitis B by over 75% and up to 94% in children and adolescents... yet antivaxxers try to suggest because the vaccine may trigger a re-occurrence of an auto-immune disease this is sufficient reason to eliminate it from the marketplace?

Per the AMA, the hepatitis B vaccines have been administered to more than 20 million people in the US and more than 500 million people in the world, and oddly enough we aren't hearing about thousands upon thousands of vaccine-related deaths or injuries... so doesn't that suggest the vaccine is far more beneficial than harmful?

The truth is, the evidence against the vaccine which suggests it can lead to auto-immune diseases is anecdotal, but even if we assume such a link exists and is certain there still isn't sufficient evidence to suggest the vaccine isn't beneficial.  We know it can prevent people from contracting hepatitis B, we know it will prevent hospitalizations for tens of thousands, and we know it saves thousands of lives each year in the US alone.  Is that not enough evidence to show the vaccine is worthwhile?

Link Cited:

This is an abstract speaking of Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and how it may be part of the ASIA.  It isn't a study, and the article does not try to claim the aetiology (cause of the disease) of GWS is even known. The article readily admits that GWS could be due to exposure to environmental factors or chemical drugs, vaccinations or the adjuvants in them - but they make no claims, and offer no evidence to support these statements. What this article is attempting to communicate is nothing other than that fact that they feel GWS should be part of the ASIA classification. That may be interesting, but it is not at all useful in this discussion - it appears Mr. Hubbs most likely pasted this link as it was included in a list of ASIA related URLs he found elsewhere. Color me surprised he didn't bother to review the material he was attempting to base his case upon.

Link Cited:

This is yet another article about ASIA. This one specifically relates to "illegal injections of foreign substances for cosmetic purposes" such as silicone, mineral oil, collagen, and other substances. It in no way relates to vaccines, and in no way relates to this discussion.

Once again it is not only clear Mr. Hubbs didn't bother to read beyond the first link or two in this list before pasting it into his message, but it is clear he is unable to follow even the most simple of rules.  Apparently asking for actual medical studies is far too difficult.

Link Cited:

Oh look yet another article about ASIA.  If there was any doubt Mr. Hubbs copied a list of ASIA related links from another website, it seems to have pretty much been confirmed as yet again it appears the material doesn't actually support the statements he is attempting to make.

We have already been shown several articles that discuss what ASIA is... so what is the benefit of offering this one?  Once again this isn't a study, it offers no comparison between risk and reward, it doesn't even attempt to suggest vaccines should be eliminated or reduced, and it speaks in very general terms rather than attempting to blame vaccines for ASIA.  For example, it explains that autoimmune disease may be caused by both genetic and environmental factors, and that those environmental factors can include infections, toxins, drugs, and other agents.  We can't deny that vaccines would fall into this list here, but what conclusion should be drawn from this?  Sadly - Mr. Hubbs doesn't seem to know.

What we do know is the article Mr. Hubbs tries to use as evidence to support his position that vaccines cause more harm than good actually states the following:
"Vaccines have been safely and effectively administered to humans and animals worldwide for 200 years, thereby enabling the elimination of many serious and life-threatening infectious diseases."

It seems to me that the article actually helps promote the idea that vaccines are beneficial.  They do explain there are risks and yes they offer examples, but clearly based upon the body of evidence, even the authors felt it was worth noting that there are significant benefits to vaccines.

Science: Ten Billion.... Antivaxxers: 0.

Link Cited:

This is getting rather repetitive.  This is yet another article (or rather an abstract of an article) that discusses ASIA, and although it doesn't delve into the benefits vs. risks of vaccines, the very first sentence does state that "adjuvants may induce autoimmune diseases in susceptible individuals". (emphasis mine)  So essentially they aren't even claiming adjuvants actually are the root cause of ASIA, but rather they may be in certain cases, when people just happen to have other genetic traits that make them susceptible.

Awesome - isn't that helpful!  Actually, sarcasm aside, it is an interesting article provided you acknowledge the research involved measuring post-vaccination levels of pathogenic antiphospholipid antibodies in genetically prone mice.  Does this help Mr. Hubbs with his case that the risks of vaccinations outweigh the benefits?  Not in the slightest... but at this point it is abundantly clear Mr. Hubbs not only has no idea how to actually read and comprehend this information, he also has no idea how to offer supporting evidence that works for his position rather than directly against it.

Link Cited:

Well I'll give credit to Mr. Hubbs for one thing... at least this one is an actual study. It doesn't do much to suggest the risk of vaccines outweigh the benefits, but it does do a great job at explaining how if you repeatedly inject massive amounts of antigens into mice it may lead to systemic autoimmunity.
The authors of this study admit the levels of antigens they are introducing are beyond the system's "self-organized criticality", and frankly that is what research generally does.  They test to extremes to determine the outcome which would never occur in normal daily life, thus injecting various substances into mice every five days may be the equivalent of injecting 5ml of the exact same antigen into a human every week for several decades.  It isn't that anyone is suggesting we do this of course, and such a test would be unethical, but the researchers are knowingly and willfully going far beyond a level which is considered "normal" in the mice in order to test a theory.

The real problem here isn't with the study at all... but rather Mr. Hubbs interpretation to the study.  In fact the study is testing exposure to massive amounts of antigens, but they are not suggesting this is linked to exposure from vaccines, and they even openly state that "[l]iving organisms are constantly exposed to a broad range of environmental antigens, as exemplified by the recent re-emergence of measles virus infection among a subpopulation of Japanese young adults who were not vaccinated against the virus."

So as you can see, the researchers are actually focused more upon environmental antigens impact those who aren't vaccinated rather than those who are.  That isn't to say someone couldn't be overstimulated via vaccinations, but it appears it would require exponentially more vaccinations than any human being is ever exposed to in multiple lifetimes, because in terms of vaccinations a human wouldn't be exposed to the same antigens dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of times.

Now I fully realize why antivaxxers like these types of studies, because they draw their own conclusions from them which typically result in phrases like "this proves vaccines will cause autoimmune diseases" or "vaccinations will inevitably lead to autoimmune diseases".  The problem here is that these same antivaxxers clearly do not understand how these studies are performed, and they are improperly interpreting the results without understanding the testing methods.

This is sort of like claiming eating tuna will lead to heavy metal poisoning, or that drinking alcohol will lead to liver failure and therefore tuna and alcohol should be outlawed.  Of course we all know eating tuna or drinking alcohol is perfectly healthy in moderation.  The problem is when you consume too much of either - and then there can be side effects.  There can be medical complications, and if you continue down this path long enough it can even lead to death.

The point is, if antivaxxers are so insistent that we eliminate anything that can harm us if exposed to it long enough, they would have to ban everything on the planet including water, oxygen, and sunlight.  Good luck with that.

Link Cited:

This is yet another example of why we know Mr. Hubbs doesn't actually read the content he links to and instead just copies and pastes lists of URLs from antivaxxer websites and blogs.  How do we know this?  Well, if you actually visit the link above you will find it is the exact same study posted previously... but hosted on a different website.  It is as if Mr. Hubbs bragged that he saw both a Mountain Lion AND a Cougar during a recent camping trip and therefore we should be doubly impressed.

Note to Mr. Hubbs:  A Mountain Lion and a Cougar are the same animal.

The Results:

So there you have it.  A list of nine links, not a single one of which actually even attempts to suggest (much less prove) that vaccines cause more harm than good.  Out of the nine we saw several repeated themes, duplicated information, and a general misunderstanding of what constitutes a study, and although the link dump is impressive in terms of the number of websites included, it falls short of actually reinforcing the argument that vaccines cause more harm than good.

The thing is, I won't deny that vaccines have some side effects.  Nobody will deny that.  Nobody will pretend anything consumed by or injected into the human body may not have side effects in some small number of people, because the reality is anything that comes into contact with humans will have side effects to someone.  Some vaccines have contained egg byproducts would be harmful to those with egg allergies - but do we pull all vaccines off the market because of the potential it might cause an allergic reaction?  No.

We understand that with every product on the planet, there are potential risks.  Peanut butter has been known to kill many people, but you won't see anyone protesting in front of the JIF factory claiming it should be banned.  There are even people who are allergic to sunlight (photodermatitis) - so does that mean we should only allow people out at night?  Obviously not.

In short Mr. Hubbs, you didn't show me a study that backs up your previous statements.  At all.  You failed - and to make matters worse you couldn't even come up with this list yourself.  Instead you had to copy and paste it from one of the many lists that originated as part of an antivaxxer movie like this one:

I must ask myself, why is this so hard for antivaxxers?  Why are they unable to provide the evidence that they claim exists, and instead they simply cut and paste various links that not only don't relate to the issue under discussion, but actually include data that specifically counters their arguments?  How incredibly sad.  I'm not sure if I should be saddened that they obviously are unable to understand the material, or simply disgusted that they have these concepts explained to them time and time again yet refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Trying to suggest vaccines cause more harm than good is one thing, but you need to be able to provide evidence to support that view.  I can find a study that shows there are side effects of vaccines, but out of context that is meaningless.  What is required is for someone making such a claim to include information about the benefits of the vaccine as well - and then there can be a comparison.

For example I might claim aspirin is harmful and then link to a study like this one.  I can now prove that aspirin can be a major risk factor and contributor to bleeding events and can even lead to death... but does that tell the whole story?

Not exactly.

Therefore if I wish to be honest, I would also need to factor in the benefits of aspirin.  I could link to an article like this one which details the benefits of aspirin when used for cardiovascular prevention.  Some compare and contrast is required - and ultimately the full picture becomes clear and we soon realize that the risks of taking aspirin are minor, while the benefits many.  This helps explain why you can run down to practically any corner store in the nation and buy a bottle without a prescription, and why millions of doses are taken daily with very few issues.

Thus when it comes to vaccines, we need to be honest about not only the risks, but also the benefits.  Merely listing all of the potential side effects or negative consequences of a vaccine is not being truthful about the issue, thus we need to also consider what benefits may exist.  After all... isn't that the entire point?  If you want to know if the risk outweigh the benefits you can't simply ignore the benefits - you need to address them head on.

Benefits of Vaccines:

Let's look at just one vaccine - the smallpox vaccine.  I've discussed this before, but it bears repeating.

Towards the end of the 18th century, approximately 400,000 Europeans died annually from smallpox. Around that same time, approximately 10% of all children born in Sweden died from smallpox, and even worse one out of every seven Russian children died from the disease.

In the early 1800s, the United States passed a law (aptly named the Vaccine Act of 1813) to ensure the safe and legitimate smallpox vaccine would be available to the public. By the late 1800s, smallpox was effectively eliminated within the US due to the vaccine.  This wasn't just a coincidence, and contrary to what anitvaxxers have tried to suggest, smallpox did not get renamed to something like chickenpox (if you have ever seen images of someone infected with smallpox, you wouldn't even try to suggest such insanity).

Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century, and killed approximately 25% of those who were infected (obviously more serious than chickenpox).  Smallpox was killing up to two million people a year as recently as the late 1960s and yet due to a large-scale vaccination initiative, we actually eradicated smallpox in 1979.  It not longer exists in the wild and there hasn't been a case reported since.  Even though many nations on the planet still suffer from a lack of clean drinking water and there are still many diseases spread via a lack of sanitation - we were still able to eliminate smallpox.

So what is the end result?  Well for starters even if we don't factor in the population growth we know the vaccine has saved approximately two million lives a year.  Since 1979 that is 68,000,000 lives saved... all from a single vaccine.  Therefore I must ask the question... are those 68,000,000 lives less important than a small chance that someone, somewhere might suffer a side effect from a vaccine?

When we look at the benefits of other vaccines we see the same picture.  In some developing nations, measles used to kill as many as 34% of those infected by the disease, yet due to a vaccine it is a disease which for the most part can be prevented and in areas where vaccination rates are highest the mortality rate of measles is near zero.  This is yet another example where a vaccine has saved hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of lives - so if one wishes to debate the risks vs. benefits, it seems the benefits are many.

Look at the polio vaccine, the pertussis vaccine, the rabies vaccine, or vaccines for diseases like diphtheria, rotovirus, or hepatitis B and you will find much of the same.  Vaccines prevent disease, vaccines prevent suffering, and vaccines prevent death.

In Summary:

I knew asking for evidence from an antivaxxer was an exercise in futility.  The overwhelming evidence that concludes vaccines save lives is irrefutable, and vaccines are commonly held as one of mankind's greatest triumphs.  To suggest the risks of vaccines somehow outweigh the benefits requires one to revise history, to ignore decades upon decades of existing research, and to close their eyes, minds, and hearts to the facts surrounding them.

However let it never be said that I didn't give an antivaxxer a chance.  Mr. Hubbs has obviously failed, and although I know he will twist the facts and distort these words in some vain attempt to pretend he knows more than generations of scientists, doctors, and researchers - the point remains that vaccines save lives.  Vaccines aren't perfect... they likely never will be, but when we let the evidence and facts guide us we can come to no other conclusion that to equivocally state that the benefits of vaccines far, far, far outweigh the risks.

And  this ladies and gentlemen is why you can't bother to argue with an antivaxxer, because they ignore science and facts as they spew nonsense.  They can't support their views even when given the opportunity to do so, and when presented with a detailed analysis of their incoherent ramblings, the only thing they can do is respond with more insults, more denials, and more lies.

I've given then the opportunity to present their case and they failed... the discussion is over and now you can see with your own eyes why I don't bother to engage these people on a regular basis.  Sorry antivaxxers - if you aren't going to bother to read materials before you actually cite them as evidence I see no reason to waste my time engaging you further.

You've had your chance... you blew it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Vaccinations: What Antivaxxers Don't Want You to Know

Antivaxxers have been known to tout out a risk of contracting Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) as a reason to avoid all vaccines, and to be clear at one point in the 1970s there was a risk associated with a specific flu vaccine. However vaccines have changed, and according to a recent study that involved millions of patients, there is no discernible risk of contracting GBS after a vaccination.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, determined the odds ratio of various vaccinations ranged from 0.7 to 1.4 with a 95% confidence interval. Therefore simply put... there is no evidence linking vaccines to GBS.

So how do you think antivaxxers would react to such a study? Surely they would at least mention it right?

Nope - a visit to "" finds zero references to this study. Maybe they should change their name to "" instead.

So how about our friends over at they claim they just want people to be informed of the risks of vaccination so they would have no reason to hide this information right? Nope... they don't have a single reference, although they do include several references to the debunked claims about other vaccines causing GBS (it seems they are willing to post anecdotes, but they shy away from peer-reviewed science).

How about No luck there either... they have several articles speaking of the issue with flu vaccines in the 1970s, but no mention of current science produced on the issue. Apparently the last 40 years if scientific research aren't all that important when you have an agenda to push.

An interesting point about NaturalNews is how often they continue to claim vaccines are associated with GBS as if it continues to occur and how they don't even bother to look for any study that might prove or even suggest such a link.  In some cases, they won't even make the claim about vaccines causing GBS directly, but rather they will make statements such as "some experts say" vaccines can cause GBS etc. as well as making claims that new vaccines will cause GBS even before the vaccines hit the market.

Then again... NaturalNews isn't really known for relying upon science and has even been known to post unpublished 'studies' while presenting them as accepted fact.  They have also made it clear they aren't fans of vaccines for any reason, even going so far as to claim that vaccines are a "total hoax".  Needless to say they aren't shy about their obvious bias.

So what does all of this mean?  Well for starters it tells us that these "vaccination information" centers aren't really concerned with telling the whole story about vaccines and rather they are simply concerned with hiding legitimate science from the people who happen to frequent their pages.  That in itself isn't really news as we have known that all along, but what does this particular study mean to antivaxxers?

The simple reality is, studies like this one are just more nails in the coffin of the arguments that vaccines cause more harm than good.  As antivaxxers make claims about vaccines, they are repeatedly and routinely shot down time and time again.  They have people like Andrew Wakefield claim vaccines cause autism, and he is later found to be nothing more than a fraud.  They claim vaccine ingredients such as thimerosal cause autism, yet studies show the rate of autism doesn't change one bit after thimerosal is removed from practically all childhood vaccines.  They try to blame the aluminum content of vaccines as being a potential killer, yet fail to acknowledge the amount of aluminum in our bodies and in the environment around us. They complain that vaccines cause conditions such as GBS, and studies overwhelmingly show that not to be the case.  They claim the Amish don't get autism because they don't vaccinate, and research proves that not only do the Amish vaccinate, they also have been known to have autism.

Whether it be the argument about "too many, too soon" or the debunked claims about vaccine safety it seems the only things antivaxxers are really good at is not paying attention, and putting their fingers into their ears while yelling "na na na na, I can't hear you".  Yet these are the same people who complain when they aren't taken seriously within the medical and scientific community.  Isn't it ironic?