Look over here, NOT over there

January 31, 2012 by
Filed under: Parents' Pages, Reviews of web-sites, Vaccine Science 

(and we strongly recommend that you just take us on faith).

Shot of Prevention recently put up a  blog article: Choosing Vaccination for Your Child is an Informed Decision   explaining where to go for information on vaccination.

I believe that parents must begin by understanding the importance of research, science and statistics in order to make an informed decision. In other words, it’s not that parents should look for a “neutral page”, as this mother suggests, but more importantly, an accurate one that uses scientific evidence to support their recommendations.

Insidevaccines agrees on the importance of using research, science and statistics to make an informed decision. The challenge is determining which pages are accurate and which use scientific evidence to support their recommendations. The writer on Shot of Prevention recommends various resources and provides links.

One thing the author does not recommend, and we find it an interesting omission, is to simply look at each resource she links to, choose a statement at random, and follow up on the references to see if the citations chosen actually support the statement or not, as the case may be. This simple step would demonstrate that she is actually pointing to science-based rather than faith-based information. We’ve written up evaluations of two vaccine supportive sites and found significant holes in the references. (see: Overinformed Refusal has to be Stopped and Written by Parents? Based on Science? )  This is not a terribly difficult step, and it will lay a real foundation of confidence in the data (or not). Any parent who has ever done a research paper has the basic skills required and the Internet makes it surprisingly easy to find article abstracts and sometimes even full-text articles.

So, let’s follow up on one of their recommended pages, choose a referenced statement and see if the references back up the claim made. We’ll give you a model of how we track down information so you can try this at home. We guarantee that vaccine research is not dangerous (why is independent research discouraged…) and can be pursued by any interested parent.

We decided to start with Vaccinate Your Baby as it is the parent of the Shot of Prevention blog. The challenge turned out to be finding a statement that is actually referenced. There are a lot of statements. There are almost no references. There are a lot of statistics. There are almost no sources. Actually following a piece of information home to its source turned out to be nearly impossible.

There is a page on ingredients. The first paragraph explains what vaccines are made from:

Vaccines are made up of small amounts of the bacteria, virus or other antigen and administered to stimulate the immune system to create antibodies to prevent future infections with the disease. Like many of the foods we eat, small amounts of chemicals may be added to the vaccine’s formula to preserve or improve its effectiveness and keep it sterile.

The second paragraph mentions that children may, rarely, have allergic reactions to one of the ingredients in a vaccine.

The third paragraph attacks “a small group of very vocal but misinformed individuals” who have raised concerns about the ingredients in vaccines. The next two paragraphs sort it all out. First, it is all a matter of proportion. In small doses toxins aren’t toxins. The example they give is that drinking too much water can injure or even kill you. Second, you need to understand that table salt is made up of two really toxic substances which become relatively harmless when combined.

They don’t actually get specific about which vaccine ingredients are harmless when combined but dangerous when separated. Nor do they explain how to determine which toxins (like lead) are dangerous to a developing child even in very minuscule doses and which are okay.

Then we get a  list of vaccine ingredients with vague explanations of why they are really okay.  Here is the paragraph on aluminum as an example of the quality and content of the information:

Adjuvants: Aluminum has been used in some vaccines for over 75 years to improve the vaccine’s performance by helping to stimulate the body’s immune system to produce antibodies. Without the use of an adjuvant we would need to administer more shots in a given vaccine series or face lower immunity and less protection from the disease. Aluminum is also commonly found in food, water, infant formula and even breast milk.

Vaccinate Your Baby has presented an entire page of information on vaccine ingredients. There is only one reference which follows the statement on polyethylene glycol not equaling “anti-freeze” a point which insidevaccines already covered in this article (see myth #1).  Except for that one reference, parents are expected to take all of the supposed “facts” being presented on faith.

Excuse me? What in the world is going on here? Where is the science? Where is the data? And how in the world are we going to demonstrate the process of following up on references?

We are forced to conclude that Vaccinate Your Baby is NOT a science based web-site. They do have lists of articles and links to other web-sites, but as an example of “…an accurate one that uses scientific evidence to support their recommendations” they have earned a failing mark.

We really did want to give you an example of how to check references. Alas, Vaccinate Your Baby doesn’t seem to feel that references are necessary.

“Choosing Vaccination for your Baby” might be an informed decision, but not if you base it on the science “referenced” at Vaccinate Your Baby.

 

Comments

13 Comments on Look over here, NOT over there

  1. informed on Sat, 4th Feb 2012 12:47 am
  2. Tons of links and sources on my page in support of what Vaccinate your baby says. The evidence is pretty clear. Not sure where you are coming from.

  3. admin on Sat, 4th Feb 2012 8:50 am
  4. Lovely. That is great. But claiming that you are science based and not bothering to reference your statements are incompatible positions. For a blog article to point to Vaccinate Your Baby as a good source of science-based information, Vaccinate Your Baby should actually be a good source of science-based information.

    Why don’t you contact them and offer to provide references for their statements?

  5. PutinReloaded on Fri, 24th Feb 2012 6:43 am
  6. I’ve got an anti-vaccine blog in Spanish. During a discussion with a pediatrician about measles and the efficacy of the vaccine he came up with this clinical study from 1968:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1991884/pdf/brmedj02085-0023.pdf

    The data seems to support about an 85% less incidence of measles among vaccinated children during the follow-up period.

    I would appreciate if you told me about any biases and flows you see in it. Thank you!

  7. admin on Fri, 24th Feb 2012 6:37 pm
  8. I’ll share it with the team and see what we get. It might take a little while, we are a pretty busy bunch in real life!

  9. admin on Sun, 26th Feb 2012 3:03 pm
  10. Hi PutinReloaded,
    One of our team responded to your query:

    Hello,

    I’m not sure what the specific debate with the pediatrician is so it is hard to comment on how this study applies to your discussion. I am quite convinced that the measles vaccine is effective in preventing a certain percentage of cases of measles over a specific period of time following vaccination. Unfortunately, that fact alone is not enough to justify mass vaccination for any disease. Efficacy is just one factor in the decision to vaccinate. Other factors include: safety of vaccine, length of protection, cost of the intervention, and a comparison to other avenues of disease mitigation (i.e. vitamin A treatment in the case of measles).

    This study does seem to be pretty complete in it’s analysis, and I only have a few minor complaints about it. My biggest complaint is that they don’t actually publish the confidence intervals for any of their calculated statistics. This makes it difficult to discern the possible error margins in the numbers presented. Another minor issue comes from page 451 where they summarize the severity of measles:
    “It is interesting to note, however, that all five cases of convulsions reported were in unvaccinated children. It may also be noted that only one case of encephalitis assoicated with measles was reported during the whole trial.” Personally, I think it is also interesting that the only case of encephalitis was in a vaccinated child especially since encephalitis is typically far more serious a problem than a febrile seizure. A last minor issue is that there is no conflict of interest statement (it was not normal to declare conflicts of interest in those days).

    When trying to gather a measure efficacy of a vaccine, there is little to complain about this study. They tested two different vaccine regimens and they included an unvaccinated control group. They also made the study long enough to cover two epidemics over 2 years and 9 months. They list the vaccine strains as well. All of these things indicate a decent design in the opinion of this author.

    The key point is that the results have a limited applicability because they only test efficacy to 2 years and 9 months and they do not effectively test for safety of the vaccine itself. The only vaccine reaction assessment was done at 3 weeks and it appeared to be an unstructured safety followup. That means that only obvious and immediate problems would be picked up. Also note that the safey data from this study can’t be used today because that vaccine is no longer widely available if at all.

    Providing this study alone as an argument for vaccination is completely inappropriate because no analysis of the costs/side effects of the program are studied and the length of protection is also unknown. Today, almost everyone uses the MMR vaccine which is different. The Cochrane group has done several analyses on the MMR vaccines and has concluded yet again, that there is a general lack of credible safety data on the vaccine. What does that mean? It means we don’t actually know the cost. If cost didn’t matter, I would be driving a Porsche. As I aluded to earlier, the cost and benefit of mass vaccination needs to be compared against alternate methods of mitigating the disease.

    Unfortunately, everything in the real world has a cost, and in the opinion of this author, ignoring the cost of a health intervention is not logical, scientific, and is just plain ignorant.

  11. PutinReloaded on Mon, 27th Feb 2012 10:05 am
  12. Thank you for the elaborate answer! Indeed the study seems reasonably well designed. On the other hand there are studies that report a higher incidence of measles in populations with higher vaccination coverages, for example:

    Pattern of susceptibility to measles in Italy. Serological Study Group.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2560816/pdf/10994277.pdf

    Page 952:”…The average annual incidence of measles in 1990–96for the population aged 0–40 years was higher in regions with high coverage (112 cases per 100 000 inhabitants) than in those with low coverage (77 cases per 100 000), and age-specific rates diverged after 4 years of age, higher incidences occurring in regions with higher coverage”.

    There are so many contradictions in “vaccine science” that I doubt whether anybody knows what’s happening at all.

  13. admin on Mon, 27th Feb 2012 10:49 am
  14. You said: “There are so many contradictions in “vaccine science” that I doubt whether anybody knows what’s happening at all.”

    I agree. I think the main thing holding up the vaccine balloon at this point is that most people don’t think to ask questions. Once someone seriously starts looking into vaccines the problems and concerns multiply like mad. So I think this is why there is so much derision directed at people who ask questions. The last defense of a bankrupt paradigm: lies and derision.

  15. JamieS on Sat, 3rd Mar 2012 3:47 pm
  16. Thank you for posting this article. I am a nurse with eight children, who does not vaccinate. i have been pointing out forever that the data used is generally outdated or insignificant. Two arguments that in my mind show complete ignorance are herd immunity and water intoxication. Neither is ever accompanied by fact or even logic.

  17. admin on Sat, 3rd Mar 2012 6:25 pm
  18. The pro-vaccine forces can get away with being incredibly sloppy. Tiresome. But thanks for commenting!

  19. LongevityStrategist on Sat, 7th Apr 2012 3:53 am
  20. It is a well-known fact that vaccines cause 100% neurological damage. Vaccines are useless and extremely dangerous. Children that get vaccinated are poor souls. There was, is and will never be a need for vaccines. I live in China where most children do not get vaccinated at all who are by far healthier than any vaccinated child will ever be in the US. It is an unspoken truth among the Chinese elite that vaccines shouldn’t be given to their children.

  21. David Paton on Sun, 15th Jul 2012 5:32 am
  22. Thanks for this! I am constantly frustrated by otherwise very intelligent people who can’t seem to think rationally about this subject. They deride people who present information about the dangers of vaccines, yet when it comes to the real science based questions… they fall silent. When pressed for a real debate, they often resort to name calling or comparing “antivaxxers” to people who believe Elvis is alive and well on the moon. It was my sister in law, a registered nurse, who helped us learn the sad truth, and we are so grateful. Our children have never been jabbed, go to public school, and are healthy, well adjusted and intelligent.

  23. David Rhodes on Fri, 14th Sep 2012 11:19 pm
  24. Simply wishing to pay my respects to you for writing very interesting and comprehensive replies to the measles vaccine question. I have learned a lot today from you. Thank you!

    Should you have time, spare a thought for the Australian anti-vaccine group (AVN) headed by Meryl Dory. She is under relentless attack from the likes of Ken McCloud and the “reasonable hank” website.

    In a fair and honest debate, they could not stand up to your professionalism, thoroughness and dedication.

  25. Boss on Sun, 16th Sep 2012 8:42 am
  26. Thank you for the kind words.

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