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Even COVID-19 can’t stop antivaxxers from publishing crappy “vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped antivax “scientists” from publishing crappy antivax studies that don’t show what they claim they show, as Paul Thomas and James Lyons-Weiler’s most recent “vaxxed/unvaxxed” study shows.

If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me, is that, no matter what else is going on, antivaxxers gonna antivax (that is, continue to spread antivaccine propaganda). It’s certainly true that very early on during the pandemic antivaxxers formed an unholy alliance with pandemic deniers/minimizers, antimaskers, anti-lockdown protesters, and promoters of unproven treatments for COVID-19, such as hydroxychloroquine—and QAnon. However, that new alliance, which, thanks to the pandemic’s being the all-consuming crisis and story of 2020, brought antivaxxers to arguably more prominence than they’ve ever achieved before, hasn’t stopped antivaxxers from continuing to do what they do to provide fodder for their disinformation blaming vaccines for autism and other neurodevelopment disorders, as well as all manner of other diseases and chronic health conditions. A favorite among these is what I like to refer to as the “vaxxed/unvaxxed” study, and another such study was just published this week by antivax pediatrician Dr. Paul Thomas and scientist turned antivax crank, James Lyons-Weiler.

What is a “vaxxed/unvaxxed” or “vaccinated/unvaccinated” study? Simple. It’s any study that compares health outcomes between a vaccinated cohort of children and those of an unvaccinated cohort. In its purist form, it is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing “vaxxed” to “unvaxxed.” Of course, such a study would be highly unethical because, by its very design, it would require that a group of children be intentionally placed in a control group that would be left vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases because the control group would only receive placebo vaccines. Antivaxxers don’t like it when that simple fact is pointed out to them, of course, because they really and truly believe that vaccines do more harm than good. Of course, it never occurs to them that their belief would make such a randomized, controlled clinical trial unethical as well, because they would be intentionally placing children into a group who would be—to them—being exposed to something they view as a grave threat to their health, vaccines. (After all, they believe that vaccines are toxins-laden interventions that cause autism, autoimmune diseases, obesity, alter DNA, render females infertile, and have created the “sickest generation” of children—and in some cases even kill.) True, their belief is erroneous, but intent matters. It all comes down to clinical equipoise, which is the genuine uncertainty over whether an intervention is on balance beneficial, harmful, or without detectable effect. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) of “vaxxed/unvaxxed” children violates clinical equipoise.

As a result, some of the savvier antivaxxers, who know that a “vaxxed/unvaxxed” RCT would be highly unethical (or who are at least willing to concede that the overwhelming view of physicians and scientists who do clinical trials is that a “vaxxed/unvaxxed” RCT would be highly unethical) have retreated back to suggesting observational “vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies, such as retrospective and epidemiological studies. The whole idea is that vaccines cause autism, the obesity epidemic, and in general the “sickest generation” of children, even though there is no evidence that they do. Of course, doing such a study is a hell of a lot more difficult than antivaxxers think, given how difficult it is to account for confounders and how many subjects are needed to provide sufficient power to detect differences in a condition whose prevalence is in the low single digit percentage range. Still, none of this has stopped antivaccine “scientists” and physicians from trying to do such studies. Unsurprisingly, the results are always dismal in that the studies are inevitably positive (i.e., claim to find that unvaccinated children are healthier than vaccinated children) but so poorly designed and executed that they are singularly uninformative and their conclusions are not supported by their data and design. Examples abound, unfortunately, such as risibly incompetent “vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies by Brian Hooker and Neil Z. Miller, studies by Anthony Mawson that were retracted and republished and retracted, Internet surveys by quacks about vaccinations, and a number of others that I could reference.

This brings us to Thomas and Lyons-Weiler’s incompetent study, Relative Incidence of Office Visits and Cumulative Rates of Billed Diagnoses Along the Axis of Vaccination, published in a journal I’d never heard of before (or at least don’t currently recall having heard of before), the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It was published on Sunday, and antivaxxers, such as Jennifer Margulis, are already crowing about it, claiming that it shows that vaccinated children are sicker. First, though, Margulis denies that doing a “vaxxed/unvaxxed” RCT would be unethical:

For over two decades, vaccine safety advocates have wondered if vaccinated children are sicker or healthier than their unvaccinated peers. These children’s health advocates have asked the CDC to conduct studies to compare health outcomes in completely unvaccinated children to those in vaccinated children, as per the CDC’s recommended schedule.

Every parent in America, and every doctor recommending vaccines, should want to see these studies done.

After all, in order to put the vaccine debates to rest, we must demonstrate that the current CDC-recommended vaccine schedule is actually safe.

But, despite constant hand-wringing over declining public confidence in vaccines, the CDC refuses to do these studies.

Their excuse has been that “it would be unethical” to withhold vaccines in order to study their safety.

This excuse assumes that randomized controlled trials, where children are randomly separated into two groups, one which gets vaccines and one which does not, are the only way to do such a comparison.

(If you’re wondering right now why it’s “unethical” to withhold vaccines to determine their safety but not unethical to recommend them for every infant before they are determined to be safe, you’re not alone.)

Note the antivax propaganda: “Vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies are not unethical because it hasn’t been shown that vaccines are safe and effective yet, and there are no long term studies showing vaccine safety. (They have been, many times, and there are several long term vaccine safety studies to confirm this.) There are no vaxxed/unvaxxed studies. (There are, and they don’t show what antivaxxers think they should show.) Not quoted above, but that all the “vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies out there currently don’t truly study unvaccinated children but “vaxxed versus slightly less vaxxed children. (Again, not true.) You get the idea. Margulis thinks that Thomas and Lyons-Weiler’s study is slam-dunk evidence that unvaccinated children are healthier, too:

Aware of the firestorm surrounding vaccine science, Lyons-Weiler and Thomas’s analysis is scrupulous and thorough. They analyzed the data several different ways to account for potentially confounding factors, such as an increasing tendency to avoid vaccination. They compared the new metric (RIOV) with the old measure of incidence. And they found that the new method correlates well but is more sensitive, thus more likely to reveal a true negative effect than the old one.

So what did Lyons-Weiler and Thomas find?

The results: cumulative office visits for asthma, allergic rhinitis, breathing issues, behavioral issues, ADHD, respiratory infection, otitis media, ear pain, other infections, eye disorders, eczema, and dermatitis were all much higher in vaccinated children than unvaccinated children.

In even the most conservative analysis, the study finds statistically significant elevated risks of anemia and respiratory virus infection in the vaccinated children.

Time to go to the tape, so to speak, and look at the “study” (such as it is) itself. The first thing to look at is the study design. Basically, if we’re to believe Thomas and Lyons-Weiler, it’s a retrospective comparison of all patients that were born into Dr. Thomas’ practice between June 1, 2008 and January 27, 2019, with a first visit before 60 days of life and a last visit after 60 days. The inclusion/exclusion criteria (basically stated just now) whittled down over 21,000 records to 3,324 patients, of whom 2,763 were “variably vaccinated,” defined as “having received 1 to 40 vaccines.” But what is the primary outcome studied? For this, Thomas and Lyons-Weiler make up a brand new metric that I’d never heard of before, the Relative Incidence of Office Visit (RIOV).

Before I get to that, I note that there are a number of epidemiological studies that rely on billing records and diagnoses submitted to insurance companies and third-party payors. The advantages of using such metrics are simple. They’re there. They exist already. They’re in the medical record. They’re relatively easy to access and fairly standardized. In the case of hospital systems and national insurance programs (like several in Europe), utilizing insurance data can provide huge numbers of data points to mine for correlations. There are a number of problems, however, as well, given that insurance and billing data are collected for financial reasons primarily, rather than for medical reasons. There can be selection bias (particularly in a concierge practice run by an antivax pediatrician) and the question of external validity (applicability to a more general situation outside of the practice) is a huge issue. Moreover, what is coded for a diagnosis for billing purposes often maps imperfectly (or even poorly) to actual clinical diagnoses.

At this point, I’d also like to make a general sort of comment about epidemiological studies (and, make no mistake, that’s what this study is, as it is, in essence, a retrospective cohort study). If you’re going to do a study like this, you need a competent statistician involved before you collect the data. The only two authors listed are Thomas and Lyons-Weiler, and the statistical methods are not well-described. It really also would have behooved them to have an epidemiologist or at least a clinical investigator with experience doing retrospective analyses to help them. Clearly, they did not. Margulis claims that they did, but this “independent statistician” (as she puts it) is not identified anywhere that I can see. (I’ll gladly identify the statistician allegedly involved with this study if I missed it somehow.)

Then there’s Table 7. Before I go on to the rest of the obfuscation of this paper, look at Table 7. Basically, Table 7 shows that vaccines work. Basically, the rates of any diagnosis of a vaccine-preventable disease were as follows: Vaccinated, 7/2647 (0.00264) vs. unvaccinated, 34/561 (0.0499). Personally, I was surprised that the difference was what it was, but it’s much more striking to note that all of the cases of vaccine-preventable disease in the “vaxxed” population were chickenpox (6) and pertussis (1), while the “unvaxxed” population had a lot more pertussis, chickenpox, and rotavirus. In any event, at the very least, this table shows that, even in Dr. Thomas’ practice, vaccines work and that likely the low level of vaccine-preventable disease in the unvaccinated is due to herd immunity.

But back to the RIOV. I did some PubMed searches, and I couldn’t find a single paper that used this metric as described by Thomas and Lyons-Weiler. Certainly, the authors do not cite any papers that have used this particular made-up metric before to justify its use, to demonstrate its advantages and disadvantages, and in general to provide the sort of information that any clinical investigator would want about an unfamiliar metric. Indeed, I’m always suspicious when I see a metric like RIOV. It strongly suggests to me, particularly in the case of a retrospective study, that the authors tried to do an analysis looking at more defined, traditional primary outcomes and failed to find any statistically significant results. In other words, this paper reeks of p-hacking, the practice of doing comparison after comparison until a “statistically significant” result is tortured out of the data. To see this, you have only to look at Table 2, where Lyons and Weiler do comparisons for 18(!) health conditions, after which they layer on analyses for family history (Table 6) for each condition, gender,

So, unable to dazzle us with brilliance, Thomas and Lyons-Weiler try to baffle with bullshit, presenting graph after meaningless graph of RIOV results. One that caught my eye was this one, Figure 3:

Figure 3

Notice the correlation between vaccine acceptance and visits for fever. This could well just be because fever is a common complaint after many childhood vaccines coupled with the likelihood that parents who are more accepting of vaccines will have different health-seeking behavior than those who do not, being far more likely to bring their children in to be seen when they have a fever. The authors claim that RIOV “reflects the total number of billed office visits per condition per group, reflecting the total disease burden on the group and the population that it represents,” but no good analysis or references are provided to show that RIOV does, in fact, correlate with disease burden, particularly when using billing data. Doing matched analyses for patients with similar “days of care” (DOC) in the practice, which is claimed to be “unbiased” (excuse me if I doubt this, given that there wasn’t really a good demonstration that this the choice of children with matched DOC was, in fact, “unbiased”) doesn’t change this. If the primary outcome is a new, unvalidated metric, it is incumbent upon the investigator to demonstrate its robustness.

Moreover, here’s another issue. These are billing records being mined for diagnoses and billed visits. What about unbilled services? What about phone calls, for example? Fever, for instance, is a biggie, a very common reason that parents call their pediatrician’s office. After such a call, it is up to the pediatrician to decide if the child needs to be seen in the office (or be sent to the emergency room) or if reassurance and home measures can be provided over the phone. Come to think of it, because it is billing records being analyzed, it is impossible to know how many emergency room visits there were in each group or how many unbilled telephone calls were received from parents of children in each group. At least, these measures cannot be determined without a chart review, which appears not to have been done. Thomas and Lyons-Weiler just looked at the number of billed visits there were for each condition, did some perfunctory attempts at correcting for length of time in the practice, and called it a day.

Finally, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about practices like this, it’s that “integrative” physicians (particularly antivaccine) integrative physicians like Dr. Thomas don’t practice the same way science-based pediatricians do. For example, remember Dr. Mayer Eisenstein? He famously claimed that he had zero children with autism in his practice, which is not plausible. Dr. Thomas claims that he has zero patients with autism among his unvaccinated patients and that all the cases of autism in his practice are among the group that is “most vaccinated,” whatever that means.

Similarly (and perhaps most importantly) the children in Dr. Thomas’ practice are likely to be quite different than children in a typical pediatrics practice, as I discussed before. For instance, there’s likely to be ascertainment bias, which is the systematic distortion in measuring the true frequency of a phenomenon due to the way in which the data are collected. How could this happen? Think about it. Dr. Thomas believes that vaccines cause autism. That right there introduces unconscious bias that could affect how likely he and his staff are to investigate subtle signs of autism and refer out to for evaluation based on vaccination status and how likely he is to ascribe various diagnoses to “unvaxxed” children compared to “vaxxed” children. One can easily imagine this bias leading to unvaccinated children to be less likely to be given an autism diagnosis than vaccinated children or to be—dare I say?—brought in to the office as often for various conditions that Dr. Thomas attributes to vaccines.

It also doesn’t seem to occur to Thomas and Lyons-Weiler that measuring the number of office visits for given diagnoses is likely to magnify differences between the cohorts, whether there are real differences or not or whether the differences between “vaxxed” and “unvaxxed” children observed are due to ascertainment bias due to Thomas’ quack practice and antivaccine beliefs plus differences in health-seeking behavior. Think about it. Any of the diagnoses examined in this study is likely to result in multiple office visits per diagnosis. Instead of one child with a diagnosis compared to one child without the diagnosis, you get many visits due to one child with a diagnosis compared to zero visits from one child without the diagnosis. RIOV looks custom-designed to amplify small differences, whether they’re clinically relevant or not. Maybe that’s the point. Heck, the authors even admit it when for Figure 6 they perform simulations to show that RIOV is “more powerful” than disease incidence:

The simulations were not intended to precisely model the data from the current study; instead, it is intended to demonstrate the principle that the loss of information caused by using the incidence of health condition rather than the more sensitive measure of the number of office visits results in a loss of power to detect adverse events.

Over the range studied, the average increase in power achieved from the analysis using RIOV compared to the odds ratio of diagnoses was doubled over that of odds ratio on incidence of diagnoses (133%) (Figure 6). RIOV was more powerful compared to OR on rates of diagnosis over the simulated range. Our results demonstrate that drug and vaccine safety studies should employ RIOV rather than OR on rates of diagnosis of health conditions that might be attributable to the treatment, therapy, or vaccine.

See what I mean? What they are doing is cranking up sensitivity at the cost of specificity. As for their argument that RIOV should be used rather than incidence of adverse events/diseases in vaccine safety studies, that’s utterly ridiculous, particularly given that they make this argument based on billing data and that prospective ascertainment of adverse events based on actual medical records will provide a far more accurate estimate than some made-up metric in a retrospective study using billing records.

The bottom line is that, COVID-19 or no COVID-19, antivaxxers gonna antivax, and that’s just what Thomas and Lyons-Weiler are doing here. They published a crappy study based on a metric they made up that hasn’t been validated elsewhere and use that to claim that “vaxxed” children are much less healthy than “unvaxxed” children, when in fact the data we have suggest emphatically that the opposite is true. This study is propaganda, not science, and there’s going to be more to come, as Margulis crows:

Researchers at IPAK (The Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge) tell me they are currently working on Phase 2 of the study. Phase 2 will specifically focus on whether there are different risks associated with aluminum-containing virus. aluminum-free vaccines, differences in health outcomes in children receiving live virus inactivated vaccines, and whether specific vaccines are associated with specific poor health outcomes.

Oh, goody. More p-hacking. How will I ever be able to predict the results of the followup study?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

70 replies on “Even COVID-19 can’t stop antivaxxers from publishing crappy “vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies”

My immediate question is “Who’s doing the billing, and is it the same person for every patient for the full ten years?” There’s no magical set way to bill, and with looking at only a single practice, any change they made in billing processes or in scope of practice is going to impact the data.

“Even COVID-19 can’t stop antivaxxers from publishing crappy “vaxxed/unvaxxed” studies”

Or you from blathering your biased and idiotic opinion about them.

We have no evidence that kcauqasicaro enjoys this activity. They may simply be burdened by an excess production of feces with no sanitary means of disposal other than flinging.

kcauqasicaro, Orac”s right though. Pro-vax or anti-vax, a properly carried out RCT would be unethical since it either leaves children vulnerable to VPDs or it gives them autism and makes them fat. Seems that antivaxxers are the ones who don’t give a shit about the ethics eh?

Indeed. That’s why I pointed out that, even if you believe antivax lies, an RCT would STILL be unethical because it would involve knowingly randomizing subjects to a group that would receive toxin-laden, autism-causing, immune system destroying vaccines. Seriously, antivaxxers don’t understand clinical equipoise or clinical trial ethics. No surprise there.

Re surprise that the rate for preventable diseases is as close it is: remember that in Dr. Thomas’ practice, likely no one is fully vaccinated. The comparison is partially vaccinated and unvaccinated. Some of these children may be on a delayed schedule for pertussis and chicken pox.

I also wonder if parents of children who were diagnosed, say, with severe autism or other serious problems would look for a more specialized or mainstream practice. I don’t know if that’s the case.

Thank you for going through this.

I tend to suspect that if a statistician was involved and wasn’t name, there’s a good reason.

Note that the turn around on peer review, including a revision, was less than a month. That raises some questions for me.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is part of the MDPI list. MDPI did not “quite” make Beall’s List

Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) – I decided not to include MDPI on the list itself. However, I would urge anyone that wants to publish with this publisher to thoroughly read this wiki article detailing their possible ethical/publishing problems. https://beallslist.net/

Good evaluation of yet another defective antivaxer study.

One proposed edit – the following appears in Orac’s article in a way that suggests he wrote it, when it’s actually a quote from Margulis:

“Aware of the firestorm surrounding vaccine science, Lyons-Weiler and Thomas’s analysis is scrupulous and thorough. They analyzed the data several different ways to account for potentially confounding factors, such as an increasing tendency to avoid vaccination. They compared the new metric (RIOV) with the old measure of incidence. And they found that the new method correlates well but is more sensitive, thus more likely to reveal a true negative effect than the old one.”

The red border that appears to the left of Margulis’ comments should extend to the above quote as well.

The bottom line is that mainstream medical cranks ain’t gonna do a real study to compare the outcomes of vaccinated vs the healthy unvaccinated cohorts and the poison pushers pushing poison as a cure are gonna continue to try and convince people they need poison to live and thats what Orac is doing here.

A. Note that the article links to a post that lists such studies. Also note that as the post points out with many links, there is an extensive literature showing vaccines have large benefits and low risks.

B. This is not, as the post explains, a valid study. So what is it good for?

Thank you for remembering this story Chris, which is even more relevant to Paul Thomas because when the child neared discharge after nearly dying from tetanus, his parents amazingly again refused to vaccinate him against tetanus. So whom did the parents find with hospital privileges to sign the discharge papers permitting them to leave without vaccinating? Why none other than Paul Thomas signed the discharge orders. His actions are nothing short of disgusting.

https://www.wweek.com/news/2019/03/20/pediatrician-paul-thomas-has-15000-patients-and-he-tells-them-the-measles-vaccine-might-cause-autism/

“remember Dr. Mayer Eisenstein?” The ‘Amish don’t get autism guy’? I ‘member.

I was a young child when a group of Mennonites came to town to help rebuild after a tornado — very nice people, or so I was told. When doing field work in a rural area, I sometimes stopped at the Amish-owned Gas station and bought homade cheese and soap. At the risk of sounding stereotypical, my first contact experience was ‘how would one know if that was autism?’ — probably for my own diagnosis as well from the point of view of the girl behind the desk.

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blockquote>There are clear ethical challenges that our work raises. Our methods, for instance, could be used to generate additional posts to a conspiracy theory discussion that fit the narrative framework at the root of the discussion. Similarly, given any set of domains, someone could use the tool to develop an entirely new conspiracy theory.

However, this weaponization of storytelling is already occurring without automatic methods, as our study of social media forums makes clear.
.
.
Perhaps with such a system in place, the arresting officer in the Pizzagate case would not have been baffled by the gunman’s response when asked why he’d shown up at a pizza parlor armed with an AR-15 rifle.</blockquote
https://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2020/11/how-ai-tool-distinguishes-between-conspiracy-theory-and-true-conspiracy/170309/

A machine learning approach to ‘mommy blogs’ (doi.org/10.2196/publichealth.6586) LoL.

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories https://youtu.be/xQ6mg67VcG0?t=257

I read through it – too much to go over now but 4.1. and 4,2 warrant a closer look. I’m thrilled that they included a COI section, the most honest thing here.
Why only two groups when the “vaccinated” one was quite highly variable?. I can probably guess why.
The major unaccounted confounder is Thomas himself.

PSA:

If anyone here is having thanksgiving gatherings, please, please crack open ALL the windows, run the central, and let the place stay ventilated. I was just watching on CNN the graphic of all the air traffic, and I suspect that part is miniscule. Maybe I’m just hyper vigillant now, but I have never noticed so many out of state plates from all over the country (people ascared to fly, I guess). And I mean just people driving in front of me, stopping in the middle of traffic, turning halfway into a lane to then straighten back up and creep to the next turn. You know, ‘tards that are not familiar with the route. And all the cars lined up in front of houses in the neighborhood. I’ve a friend that I’ve not been to his place in several years because he smokes like a chimney and will not crack a window. If I’m there and manage to get some airflow, then his mom (who runs a shop on the property) comes in and says “we’re not going to air condition the whole southeast.” They are very traditional when it comes to get togethers. I suspect that in three weeks the whole world will become aware of our travesty and subsequent disaster.

As an aside, Biden, whom until the last few months I’ve always hated, really knocked it out of the park today. https://youtu.be/5qrporK2aXk?t=1

Sorry, I was so bored half way through with the platitudes of American exceptionalism that I couldn’t continue. Not a word about Native Americans at that point. His whole tone was more depressing than uplifting. I’m thrilled Joe was elected, but not because he’s a brilliant speaker (though most have been better than this one). Does he really think that the 70 plus million who voted for Trump give a shit? That they will turn around on Jan 20 and put on their masks? I dislike his injection of faith into every speech without any mention of those who don’t share it.

I think he’s delusional if he thinks there’s going to be any shift in divisiveness. Justice Alito, for one, doesn’t seem to have got the message.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/us/supreme-court-coronavirus-religion-new-york.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

It’s freedom of religion not freedom of architecture, boneheads. I’ve heard tell that nascient Christianity was not too keen on large indoor gatherings.

I did a chuckling snortle over “PALMist.” Twice. — teleprompter fail?

Naturally, Trump emplored everyone to pack their nearest Pray’n’Spray:

“I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings {pardon, woman, man.. camera tv}”

🗣 🙇 🤦‍♂️

RIOV was more powerful compared to OR on rates of diagnosis over the simulated range.

Umm really?

They are just making this up as they go along.

Love in the time of Covid ?…

from news.com.au/ page six
This week, Elle MacPherson supported Andy Wakefield as he presented his latest film, 1986, to an audience in North Carolina during the pandemic saying that it was ” a divine time”, and “beautiful, sacred timing” for the film because “it’s so pertinent and relevant” when mandatory vaccination is being discussed worldwide..

Scaring people about the dangers of vaccination is exactly what is necessary when public confidence about vaccines is waning and model/ supplement pushers are obviously best informed about the subject.

As a side note: Elle received a huge divorce settlement so I imagine that funding for sequels will be assured.

Grifters gotta grift. Even though Elle’s cash probably means Andy doesn’t want for anything, he can’t help himself.

Andrew Wakefield is getting less and less traction with people that matter. He is becoming an irrelevance yelling into the void. It must be humiliating for him to be overtaken in importance by a know nothing like Del Bigtree.

I am at a loss to know what Elle sees in the creepy narcissist, but it takes all sorts.

It was entirely predictable that the anti-vaxxers would spend their time trying to frighten people about a COVID-19 vaccine. Personally, I will be lining up for mine pretty much as soon as it is available to people like me.

The irony is that you all created the anti-vax movement. Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a small group of people, around 1-2% of the population, who didn’t wish to receive vaccines. Only a few people and certainly not enough to make a dent in the mythical herd immunity of 95%. They merrily got on with their lives and were generally left alone.

But then the rulers got greedy and stupid and started to try and mandate vaccines or attach conditions to the people’s way of life if they refused the vaccines. The small group of people grew angry at their rights being taken away and began to speak out.

Then other people became curious about why the small group of people were angry and began to ask them questions. The other people were shocked at the information they were being shown, how could they have been so deceived?

The other people told other people who told other people and so a movement was born.

The moral of the story? Know when to keep your mouth shut. Don’t create a monster that you can’t slay, because that is what you have done.

P.S. Thanks for all your help in getting the message out there, we couldn’t have done it without you!

That’s quite a bit of revisionist history.

There was an antivaccine movement since Jenner. Removal of exemptions in California, New York followed large outbreaks that followed decades of exemptions rising. The political will to do that is created when antivaccine movements succeed in making people sick.

Antivaccine activists worked hard to spread misinformation long before the acts.

It’s true that legislative battle made the issue more visible, but then, so did the outbreaks that led to legislative change.

I will agree that legislative battles push people who were previously silent to be vocal about their position. On both sides.

Once upon a time there was a small group of people who didn’t want to be vaccinated. The trouble was, vaccinating saved lives, it saved money, it prevented misery later in life so the government decided to make it very hard not to be vaccinated when accessing government provided services. The people who didn’t want to be vaccinated were too cowardly to admit that they didn’t care about anyone but themselves, so they started lying about all sorts of harm that vaccines cause. Many people carried out many tests and spent huge sums of money to prove that these harms were not caused by vaccines. However, the people who didn’t want to be vaccinated just moved the goalposts and started adding all sorts of conditions that would have to be met before they would move the goalposts again. Some of them even realised that they could make fortunes by selling useless pills and unproven medical equipment. No one knows how they manage to justify this to themselves.

The end.

The only thing more unethical than a RCT of vaccines association with alleged vaccine injuries is NOT doing a RCT of vaccines association with the alleged vaccine injuries.

Especially when SIDS is the third leading cause of death for infants, versus “that one kid who could have died that one time”.

Vaccines don’t cause SIDS. This has been studied a as number of times. If anything, vaccines are protective against SIDS. I’ve written about this a number of times.

@ Orac,

The infant immunization schedule has not been tested against saline placebos in double-blinded randomized clinical trials, that were attempting to rule out vaccines being correlated with SIDS.

One group gets the scheduled immunizations; the other group gets saline. Then after 12 months, compare the SIDS rates of the vaccinated group to the SIDS rates of the unvaccinated group.

Until that is done; there is no scientific evidence that can state that the infant vaccines given per the recommended schedule; are not causing SIDS. Even if it is “unethical” to do that study, it still only means that you have no scientific evidence because it is unethical.

It does not mean that “because it’s unethical, the retrospective or otherwise lesser studies looking at just one vaccine are suddenly viable proof”.

You know what antivaxxers DO have? We have vaccinated babies who died of SIDS & almost all of them died within the first 72 hours after vaccines. We do have some kids who were vaccinated & did not die from SIDS.

But we DON’T have kids who were NOT vaccinated & died from SIDS. So show us the best proof that science can provide.

If increasing vaccine uptake is desired, then wouldn’t it be the greater good to just do the saline placebo, double-blinded randomized clinical trials to settle the matter once & for all? Provided the results could be replicated?

Or is it more ethical to lack the best scientific proof because it’s unethical to obtain it & proceed without the evidence. Given the fact that there are now 50 years worth of allegations that continue to defy the findings of the lesser studies.

You know; those siblings of the babies that died from SIDS after vaccines do grow up & have children of their own. And they refuse vaccines because they are the biological siblings of children who died from SIDS within 72 hours (or less) of vaccination.And you still can’t show them the best proof that it wasn’t the vaccines because it was “unethical’ to do the study. So you create a whole new generation of antivaxers. Which seems pretty unethical in itself; if you believe in vaccines.

Christine, Orac is tight. All the studies done do far either return no correlation between vaccines and SIDS, or say that vaccines havea slight protective effect.
As for:

You know what antivaxxers DO have? We have vaccinated babies who died of SIDS & almost all of them died within the first 72 hours after vaccines. We do have some kids who were vaccinated & did not die from SIDS.

I’ve seen this argument before, but when I ask for evidence, nothing.
As for:

But we DON’T have kids who were NOT vaccinated & died from SIDS.

Here’s an article for your consideration. Was SIDS The Cause Of Infant Deaths Even 150 Years Ago?
Summary:

Nineteenth century infant deaths attributed to smothering and overlaying, by either a co-sleeper or bedding, were in all likelihood crib deaths, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). These deaths would have been mislabeled by lawmakers as neglect and even infanticide, because SIDS had not yet been identified, according to new research.

SIDS predates modern vaccination by literally centuries.

A mom who has had unvaccinated child who died because of SIDS would not join an antivax group, so you would not meet them.
Epidemiological studies does include children like that, otherwise they would not conclude that vaccines prevent SIDS.

@ Aarno

A mom who has had unvaccinated child who died because of SIDS would not join an antivax group, so you would not meet them.

Oi. Very true. It’s a lesser form of the survivor bias.

Well, you have cases of moms who claim that their unvaccinated child was sneakily vaccinated behind their back.
Or that their unvaccinated child suffered from vaccines which were injected to the mom – long before her pregnancy.
But in these cases, of course, the unvaccinated child is deemed “vaccinated”.

”Once upon a time, there was a small group of people, around 1-2% of the population, who didn’t wish to receive vaccines. Only a few people and certainly not enough to make a dent in the mythical herd immunity of 95%.”

The main problem with this fairy tale (aside from referring to herd immunity as “mythical” and dodging the fact that antivaxers are focused on denying their children immunization) is that vaccine refusal gets serious attention when it starts fueling preventable disease outbreaks and endangering lives. By contrast, a few crackpots (in any sphere) tend to get little scrutiny.

In that respect, antivaxers’ “success” serves to fuel their defeat (as in the case of laws ending “philosophical” exemptions from vaccination).

The main problem with this fairy tale … is that vaccine refusal gets serious attention when it starts fueling preventable disease outbreaks and endangering lives.

Precisely. Nobody cared that much about a few crackpots until vaccine-preventable diseases came roaring back. The removal of all but medical exemptions for childhood vaccination in California was a direct result of the Disneyland outbreak, fuelled by entitled people who felt no compunction to help protect the vulnerable. These are some of the same entitled people who refuse to wear masks and refuse to social distance.

I must say I am annoyed beyond measure by the latest SCOTUS ruling. Religions fighting for the right to infect their parishioners with a deadly disease and help spread it through the community. Makes me glad that I am now living in a sensible country. Religious services are now back after our lockdown – capped numbers, space limits, social distancing mandated, everyone has to sign in and out.

Yeah, United States is now basically a massive The Handmaid’s Tale reenactment theme park. Get the popcorn.

Fortunately I live elsewhere.

@ Orac and company:

It’s important to counter misinformation when it appears.: RI, as a venue for SBM, shouldn’t be a channel for distributing anecdata and idiopathic mythology: it probably has more sophisticated readers than the most outlets but contrarians may use anti-vax tales published as fuel for their fires and grist for their mills confusing newcomers here and elsewhere: we know that parents are more likely to accept vaccine information from other parents than from experts so when a parent tells a horror story, vulnerable audience members may prick up their ears.

As you may know, I read anti-vax material from diverse sources nearly daily. In fact some of it is so bizarre and convoluted, I usually don’t report on it as it would take up too much valuable e-space but I am especially disturbed by mothers who lead others astray by stirring up fear and doubt about vaccines and other SBM on social media. as well as in-person activities like bothering new mothers in stores, speaking at anti-vax events, and leaving written material where others may find it like in doctors’ offices. If you look at Stop Mandatory Vaccination, Vaccine injury Stories, VAXXED, the High Wire, AoA, TMR, CHD you can witness some of their work, as well as twitter/ face book, etc..

Woo-meisters and anti-vaxxers often speak with absolute certainty, never letting doubt appear in their messaging which can convince less educated readers as well as frequently presenting themselves as authorities. A scientist saying, “It’s highly unlikely that this happens based on research” pales beside an emotional mother speaking ex cathedra as it were because she SAW it happen to her child in front of her eyes. Actually, whatever she saw may be somewhat real BUT how she interprets it matters although psychologists dispute the reliability of eyewitness reports ( Loftus) and have studied parents’ reports of regression opposed to trained observers’ ( Ozonoff)- actually, videos presented to show the early absence of autism can reveal its presence ( Cedillo case)

Anyway, you guys are great at sparring as well educating, I just want to be more meta these days.. .

@ Denice

It’s important to counter misinformation when it appears

Yeah, but it’s a bit difficult to do that everywhere. By example at one’s workplace.
For one thing, I am appalling at debating in person. I quickly get upset.
Not to mention that all the references and sources I need are only available via computer, I don’t have them in my back pocket.
If I had them in my back pocket, that may be a worrying sign of obsessiveness.

And anyway, I’m not paid to spend my time arguing with my colleagues. During breaks, it’s OK, but I have to go back to work.

Also, one quickly becomes this weird guy – the one who believes in aliens and won’t shut up about it. Because, from the point of view of the others, I’m the one who is misinformed and naïve and believes weird things.
It doesn’t help that I do am weird and naive.

On top of it, there is the hierarchy to consider. Depending on how I do it, It could be unprofessional of me to breach these topics and enforce my opinion on our students and techs. Captive audience. Conversely, contradicting publicly one’s boss and saying he is full of it… This is a socially-delicate exercise.

Tl;dr: I know that I really, really, should just shut up at work, smile and quickly finish my break whenever some of my colleagues (1) start talking about vaccines, Trump or Covid. Or feminists, or old statues of historical figues whose main achievements was enslavement and mass murdering.
(but it’s funny how we French can’t stop talking about stuff happening in the US – you have a very pervasive culture)

It’s not worth the trouble. I won’t convince them, and I’m just annoying the others.

And anyway, I’m not paid to spend my time arguing with my colleagues. During breaks, it’s OK, but I have to go back to work.

Reminds me on my first job. A friend of mine worked in the office during his schoolvacation and he had a discussion on evolution with a colleage, who had studied biology. At some point the director came in and interupted the the discusion with the words: “I think it’s time to get back to work.”or something simular.

@Renate, I’ve had to be that director before, when we had a new hire who thought it was appropriate to talk — at length — about how he spanks his daughter because the Bible demands it. After that, I wasn’t shocked when he turned out to be a very mediocre employee.

@ Athaic:

I really was limiting my advice to sceptical enclaves on-line like RI BUT
what you say is very important tough difficult because we obviously can’t debate everything. Sometimes you just have to ignore it and continue especially if it’s at work.

Imagine how hard it is if you had to educate or counsel people who have very unrealistic ideas that affect their wellbeing. You’re trying to help someone with their condition and they present mind-numbingly, not-even-wrong beliefs about causation of the condition or how to cure it. One commenter here can tell us about how anti-vaxxers have given him a hard time in his practice; I once had to cautiously debunk clients’ ideas about serious health conditions and it was no joke: usually they eventually accepted somewhat because they chose to come for assistance themselves in the first place.
In social life, I’ve often bitten my tongue.

re Trump and tearing down monuments to a slave culture. I’m glad to hear that because I assume that your colleagues are on the ‘right side of history’ but you never know. I’ve been alarmed about the rise of the right on both sides of the Atlantic:: not as bad where you are, I hope, as what our Polish commenter here reports.. ..

@ Denice

Sometimes you just have to ignore it and continue especially if it’s at work.

I feel a bit schizophrenic about it. There is my worker anima, and then there is my online anima. But yeah, it’s that I should do.

It’s funny, there is always one in every place. I mean, in my previous position, I had this colleague. I would read some debunking here on RI about some health-related topic, and, bang, next day, this colleague would be talking about it, as a proponent.
He was an engineer and also convinced the Moon landing was faked, because once you get over there, how do you come back? You don’t have any fuel left.
I was fully shocked. I’m pretty sure he would check his car tank before going on a long trip, but apparently NASA engineers are too dumb to think about that.

Well, new position, another colleague with crank magnetism in full action reading the opposite news to mine.

The reason I’m so flumaxed about it is that I had a et tu, Brutus? moment this past week when other colleagues seemed to side with the alt-med one. In retrospect, I saw it coming. Still, I’m disappointed.

Imagine how hard it is if you had to educate or counsel people who have very unrealistic ideas that affect their wellbeing.

Ouch. No, I can’t start to imagine that.
That they came and that it’s your expected job to counsel them should make it easier, but, in reality…
I know too well – from both sides, I’m afraid – how “listen to the expert you hired” is far from being an universal rule.

tearing down monuments to a slave culture

Ah, part of the issue on our side, is that,
– first, most European people have no idea that these Confederate monuments are, well, confederates – some of them in non-confederate states, to boot – , so they only see the apparent wanton destruction
We also somehow buy into the narrative of the “Northern Invasion”. That doesn’t help.
– and two, the issue spilled over to encompass our European past as imperialistic nations, notably colonizing Africa, and too many people become defensive and say “not everything was bad”.
Well, it sorta is my position: Glorify the good parts, but don’t put on a literal pedestal people who exemplify the bad parts.
We are also quite proud of our monarchic past, despite that our monarchs were, for the most part, a bunch of power-hungry sociopaths. I would put it this way: the author of Game of Throne hardly exagerated when describing the infighting between rulers of a feudal society.
So questioning the erection of royal statues, even to the most dreadful of them… Sacrilege.
I will stop here, it’s already too much of a thread derailing.

As with all topics, context is everything, and it’s the first thing to become lost in the information trail.

The president, though, wasn’t amused. Despite the fact that POTUS himself had joked in the past about the size of this particular desk, his response to Thursday’s trending mockery was to revert to demand that Section 230 be ended because “false ‘Trends’” were mocking him—a national security threat.

If I am remembered for getting the hashtag #DiaperDon to force the president to declare Twitter trends a national security threat I will be totally okay with that — Brett Meiselas (@BMeiselas) November 27, 2020

https://lawandcrime.com/opinion/trumps-first-instinct-was-to-threaten-overhaul-of-internet-law-as-diaperdon-trended/

@ Julian,

There was crib death before vaccines but crib death is not SIDS. SIDS is an immune mediated, fatal seizure. It kills the same way SUDEP kills adults with epilepsy. It’s just that these infants don’t have epilepsy; the cytokine storm causes the seizures.

SIDS , ICD-10, R95; is now the 3rd leading cause of death & kills 3-4,000/year.

You know of a study of the infant immunization schedule having been tested against saline placebos in double-blinded randomized clinical trials, that were attempting to rule out vaccines being correlated with SIDS? Not retrospective studies, because they offer an inferior level of evidence compared with prospective studies. Controls in retrospective studies are often recruited by convenience sampling, are not representative of the general population & are prone to selection bias. Retrospective studies are also prone to recall bias or misclassification bias. So enough with the flaw-prone “evidence”.

Compare unvaccinated babies to vaccinated babies for nine months. And while they’re at it, they should be genotyping every subject because I would bet there is a genetic predisposition at play. Then babies could be screened at birth (like they do for PKU, CF, etc) & those infants could be exempted from vaccines while still being protected by the herd immunity from the people that CAN tolerate them. A win-win.

It’s not “unethical” to not vaccinate for 9 months to get the least flaw prone data; it’s being CALLED unethical, because we have had the genotyping knowledge since at least the early 2000’s but haven’t used it (out of preference for ‘uptake metrics’) & someone would be liable for the 40,000-60,000 infant deaths that could have been prevented since then. As if the CDC “cares about babies, so they don’t want them unvaccinated for a study”. Lol; they don’t “care” & they sure as hell don’t “care” about our dead babies either … just the liability & they know that the study jeopardizes that; so they hide behind the flawed “proof”, consider our dead children “acceptable losses” & escape the liability.

Saline placebo is unethical if an effective treatment is available. Consider this statement carefully.
Why would whole schedule be unsafe, when every vaccine in it is safe ? How this can be plausible. Besides of that, I have never heard anybody say that my baby get the whole schedule and died because of SIDS. It is always an individual vaccine.
Why do you think that a retrospective study would unvaccinated children dead because of SIDS ? How could convenience of sampling produce thi9s result ?

@Christine:

There was crib death before vaccines but crib death is not SIDS.

I thought that was wrong, so I googled it. Lo and behold, the first two results I got back refute you.
From the Mayo Clinic website page on SIDS:

SIDS is sometimes known as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs.

From the NHS website page on SIDS:

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – sometimes known as “cot death” – is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.

You are engaging in the Fallacy of redefinition.

Not to mention the fallacy of Making Shit Up, as in deciding that SIDS is an ”immune mediated seizure”.

Funny how antivaxers can embrace genetics as a causative factor when it suits their purposes, but they deny genetics as the overwhelming cause of autism.

“This could well just be because…parents who are more accepting of vaccines will have different health-seeking behavior than those who do not, being far more likely to bring their children in to be seen when they have a fever.”

Yeah, reading Orac’s summary, I thought “DUH. I’d rather bring my kids in for what turns out to be an unnecessary visit than risk their dying of something because a qualified doctor or advanced-practice nurse, so yes, I do have more ‘sick child’ visits than my anti-vaxxing, give-em-elderberry-syrup peers.” Never for vaccine-related fevers, though–my oldest child got fevers after every single shot, but I always expected them and treated her at home. The next two, luckily, didn’t react that way–we’ll see how #4 takes shots.

Paul Thomas had his license emergently suspended December 3rd by the Oregon Medical Board. His actions have caught up with him:

At 5:15 p.m., on December 3, 2020, the Board voted to issue an Order of Emergency Suspension to immediately suspend Licensee’s medical license due to the Board’s concern for the safety and welfare of Licensee’s current and future patients. This Order is in effect until otherwise ordered by the Board.

https://omb.oregon.gov/clients/ormb/OrderDocuments/e579dd35-7e1b-471f-a69a-3a800317ed4c.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0SrAABvK–2fi4wysYOHe0YIDXjyRDX9rKvgQGdu0K53HV755bPj23yL0

[…] A proposito del co-autore Paul Thomas, sempre grazie a Science-Based Medicine, scopriamo che gli è stata sospesa la licenza di medico-pediatra giusto il 7 dicembre scorso, proprio per le sue attività antivax. Questo genere di studi, volti a dimostrare a tutti i costi che i non vaccinati siano più sani dei vaccinati, sono noti proprio negli ambienti No vax più radicali come «vaxxed/unvaxxed study». […]

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