Fool me eight times, shame on me

Today a friend post­ed a link to an arti­cle titled Stud­ies Prove With­out Doubt That Unvac­ci­nat­ed Chil­dren Are Health­i­er Than Their Vac­ci­nat­ed Peers1 to his Face­book stream. Just two days ago I said I was done lis­ten­ing to any­thing about vac­cines, but I end­ed the post with:

If you have a study or actu­al data of some kind to cite, do it. 

I should have known by the fact that the title used the plur­al stud­ies rather than study that there would be no real infor­ma­tion here. But it fooled me into click­ing on the link. The arti­cle itself has foot­notes which cite ref­er­ences as well, pro­vid­ing the illu­sion that it was backed by facts of some kind.

Here is what I found: a descrip­tion of a New Zealand study which claims to have observed a small num­ber (495) of chil­dren over the course of 20 years and found much high­er inci­dences of cer­tain dis­eases in those who had received vac­cines, and a chart which claimed to com­pare the results of two dif­fer­ent Ger­man studies.

The first thing that must be point­ed out is that none of the cita­tions are to the pri­ma­ry sources the arti­cle reports on. There is a link to the CDC’s Data and Sta­tis­tics page for Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der, but since the arti­cle’s sta­tis­tics say noth­ing about the inci­dence of autism it real­ly only serves as a scare tac­tic to try to make us remem­ber Andrew Wake­field­’s paper in the 1998 Lancet, but hope­ful­ly not to remem­ber it well enough to remem­ber that it Dr Wake­field lost his license to prac­tice med­i­cine over his fraud­u­lent paper and the suc­cess­ful con­spir­a­cy to make a lot of mon­ey from law­suits sup­port­ed by the fraud.

Even on its face the arti­cle con­tains no mean­ing­ful evi­dence. Accord­ing to the arti­cle The New Zealand study was con­duct­ed by giv­ing ques­tion­air­res not to ran­dom sub­jects but to mem­bers of an anti-immu­niza­tion lob­by called the Immu­niza­tion Aware­ness Soci­ety. The link to their domain con­tains a blog with no posts as of this writ­ing. The ethics of using a lob­by­ing group’s own mem­bers in a study at all should be enough to dis­miss any find­ings, but only includ­ing self-report­ed results from mem­bers of an anti-vac­ci­na­tion group takes con­fir­ma­tion bias and turns it into per­for­mance art.

The New Zealand study, accord­ing to this arti­cle, includ­ed «chil­dren» up to age 46. They were the adult chil­dren of mem­bers of the IAS.

Nev­er mind all that: the arti­cle sim­ply nev­er tells us any­thing about the results of the study:

Dur­ing the study, anoth­er inter­est­ing fact emerged. Researchers dis­cov­ered that 92 per­cent of the chil­dren requir­ing a ton­sil­lec­to­my oper­a­tion had received the measles vac­ci­na­tion, indi­cat­ing that the vac­ci­na­tion for measles may have made some of the chil­dren more sus­cep­ti­ble to tonsillitis. 

Note that this is not infor­ma­tion from the study, but rather a dis­cov­ery by unnamed researchers that was made dur­ing the study. It fails to men­tion that measles immu­niza­tion cov­er­age among 1‑year olds in New Zealand is present­ly 92 per­cent.2

Pre­sum­ably the immu­niza­tion cov­er­age rate by 5 – 15 when ton­sil­li­tis is most com­mon3 would be high­er than 92 per­cent, which sug­gests that the fail­ure to vac­ci­nate for measles made the chil­dren more sus­cep­ti­ble to ton­sil­li­tis. Of course, that claim would ignore a host of fac­tors which would need con­sid­er­ing, but then, so does the orig­i­nal claim.

The arti­cle goes on:

Researchers con­clud­ed that:

“While this was a very lim­it­ed study, par­tic­u­lar­ly in terms of the num­bers of unvac­ci­nat­ed chil­dren that were involved and the range of chron­ic con­di­tions inves­ti­gat­ed, it pro­vides sol­id sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence in sup­port of con­sid­er­able anec­do­tal evi­dence that unvac­ci­nat­ed chil­dren are health­i­er that their vac­ci­nat­ed peers.”[1]

Again, unnamed researchers. The foot­note is there to pro­vide the illu­sion of author­i­ty, but links to a YouTube video by Dr May­er Eisen­stein, who is not a researcher4 but who in any case did not say those (or sim­i­lar) words in that video anyway.

The arti­cle goes on to com­pare the results of two Ger­man stud­ies: One is the KiG­GS sur­vey by the Robert Koch Insti­tute which does­n’t men­tion vac­ci­na­tion at all. The oth­er study is not named.

Let me reit­er­ate that: The oth­er study is not named.

There is a foot­note with a link an arti­cle5 claim­ing that the results of two stud­ies show that vac­ci­nat­ed chil­dren are less healthy than… wait, that’s the exact same claim. That site uses the same graph as well. For­tu­nate­ly in this case, the source of the study of unvac­ci­nat­ed chil­dren was named: It was the results from peo­ple who had filled out a ques­tion­aire at the web­site There are links to the study results.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly those links to study results all return 403 For­bid­den pages.

So this was, once again, a wild goose chase.

Let me be clear about this: I do not claim to have any data on the effects of vac­ci­na­tions. I wel­come evi­dence on this sub­ject. My com­plaint is just this: those who are mak­ing claims about the adverse effects of vac­ci­na­tions don’t seem to have that evi­dence either. Back up your claims, or sier­ra tan­go fox­trot uni­form.

  1. No, I’m not going to link to it and boost their SEO rat­ings for telling lies. But if you real­ly care, it’s http://circleofdocs\.com/studies-prove-without-doubt-that-unvaccinated-children-are-healthier-than-their-vaccinated-peers/ 
  2. Immu­niza­tion cov­er­age data from the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion. 
  3. Risk fac­tors for ton­sil­li­tis, Mayo Clin­ic 
  4. …and kind of shady, accord­ing to the Chica­go Tri­bune 
  5. http://healthimpactnews\.com/2011/new-study-vaccinated-children-have-2-to-5-times-more-diseases-and-disorders-than-unvaccinated-children/ 

One Reply to “Fool me eight times, shame on me”

  1. “Fool me Eight Times.…“
    Bra­vo! I espe­cial­ly like this sen­tence…” The ethics of using a lob­by­ing group’s own mem­bers in a study at all should be enough to dis­miss any find­ings, but only includ­ing self-report­ed results from mem­bers of an anti-vac­ci­na­tion group takes con­fir­ma­tion bias and turns it into per­for­mance art.” and “sier­ra tan­go fox­trot uniform.” 

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