Look over here, NOT over there
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.