Friends on social media pointed me to this infographic the other day. It states that it wants to “set the record straight” on vaccines and autism, and it uses all of the tricks that we know anti-vaccine cult members use to try and deceive those who are uninitiated. So let’s take it one panel at a time and dissect this thing for all the fail that it is.
The answer from the paper was not “yes.” The answer from the paper, as I’ve told you before, is that there was no association between the MMR vaccine and the syndrome (chronic enterocolitis). It was Andrew Jeremy Wakefield who stated that it was his gut feeling that this association existed, and that chronic enterocolitis led to autism. Now, that whole thing about Walker-Smith being absolved and so should Wakefield, well, it’s not that simple. When two people commit a crime in tandem, finding that one was duped by the other into committing the crime doesn’t absolve the duper, only the dupee. And, of course, Wakefield was never “charged” with research fraud because it’s not a chargeable offense. His peers and independent investigators found that his research was a fraud, which is different than charging him.
Now, notice how the authors of this infographic try to explain to us what the study was all about. They call pathology reports “statistical data.” What the hell is that? They’re trying to say that the data was somehow valid, but it wasn’t. It was taken from children who underwent invasive procedures to get pathology samples. There is also the issue of a control group. Of course it was needed. A control group is always needed to ascertain associations and causation. If I take nine people off the street and note that they all wear size 9 shoes, can I say that all people on the planet wear size 9 shoes? No, I’d go to another city and take a bigger sample of people from there and measure their shoe size. But that would have been too much work for Andrew Jeremy, I guess.
Let’s go on to the next panel, because this one did a piss-poor job of defending the Wakefield fraud.
A “rush”, huh? There was no such rush. If anything, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s study was rushed. Other studies looking at vaccines and autism — the serious and credible ones — take months to design and months to conduct. They’ve looked at rates of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated. It’s the same rate. They’ve looked at rates of vaccination in autistics and neurotypical kids. It’s the same rate. They’ve looked at how many vaccines and at what age autistics get their vaccines. It’s the same number and at the same age as neurotypical kids. Everything has been explored, but, because the cult of anti-vaccine activists need a demon to fear, they keep clamoring for more and more “research.” When the findings of said research doesn’t pan out, it’s not because there is no association between autism and vaccines. It’s because, in their mind, there is a big, huge conspiracy directed by a guy with horns and hoofed feet.
Also, as was explained in the now deleted comments of the infographic, epidemiological studies can be both about associations and about causation. (Correlation is not something you get from a study. You get that from simply plotting data on graph paper.) If Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s study was so ground-breaking, why did his published paper not talk about causality? They never made sure to say that the kids were free of enterocolitis before they had autism. They just said, “Hey, these autistic kids have enterocolitis.” Period.
You have to give it to the anti-vaccine fanatics. They really do think that CDC is the end-all, be-all of things epidemiological. It’s not. It’s a big institution, yes, but not all research is conducted there. In fact, most research on vaccines and vaccine safety is done by universities and the manufacturers themselves. But these people think that a group of sadists sit around and find ways to create a product that will harm the most people for the lowest price. Those cases mentioned in this panel are laughable examples of “rampant fraud.” First, the CDC whistleblower clearly doesn’t seem to understand biostatistics. Tom Verstraeten? He himself explained why the data were analyzed the way they were. Hint: It was to get at the truth and not be confused by confounders. The Merck lawsuit? Let the Skeptical Raptor explain it better than I ever could:
“The heart of this is that there is no evidence that vaccine effectiveness is, in fact, lower than described. In fact, there’s evidence against that.
The number of mumps cases is still very low. Before the vaccine, the United States had over 150,000 cases a year. The outbreaks reported now are in the single thousands – the 2006 outbreak had 6500 cases total, and the 2009-2010 about 3500. With respect to the 2014 mumps outbreak, the CDC stated that “from January 1 to August 15, 2014, 965 people in the United States have been reported to have mumps.”
There is more than a little evidence suggesting that the problem – if any – with the mumps vaccine is waning immunity, rather than ineffectiveness when given. This evidence includes most of the outbreaks in question occurred on college campuses, i.e. long after immunization and not among school children, which supports waning immunity, rather than initial low effectiveness, as the problem.
Other evidence supports the claim of waning immunity as the likely culprit rather than lack of effectiveness.
Also, the major textbook, Vaccines, states that “such estimates may also be indicative of waning of immunity, which is not a factor in controlled clinical trials with a relatively short follow-up period.” (See Page 435.)”
Somehow, because the vaccine is less effective in the real world than in the lab, it must all be a conspiracy.
Paul Thorsen? So he stole money and was an author on a paper. So what? There have been plenty of papers written that confirm those paper’s findings. Bringing his actions up is just a way to trick people away from things that bother anti-vaccine activists.
One of the things that make me laugh about the anti-vaccine crowd is that they think that they’re “free thinkers” just because they go against facts. Going against facts doesn’t make you a “free thinker” or even smarter than anyone else. It just makes you that weird uncle who believes in UFOs, especially when there is plenty of evidence against your claims. What is even more laughable is that whoever created this infographic wants to come off as intelligent when it comes to science and math by writing “…and these U.S. parents statistically have collegial educations”. Statistically what? Significant? Are you trying to write “statistically significant” as in “there is a statistically significant proportion of non-vaccinating parents who are college educated”? So what? Being college educated doesn’t save you from being gullible to anti-vaccine fabricated pseudofacts.
Also, 1.8% may opt out completely from vaccination, but there are plenty of pockets were more than enough opt out of vaccination to bring us below the “not presumed but factual” herd immunity threshold. (Anti-vaccine people with fears of persecution like to deny that herd immunity exists much like Tea Party Conservatives like to deny that CO2 causes global warming.) And those “1000s of credible studies”? Well, search PubMed and you get a few hundred:
Totally not thousands
But that’s what anti-vaccine, irrational people do. They inflate the numbers… Or, as you will see, they deflate them as well.
Notice how in both instances the “fully vaccinated” in outbreaks were in the minority. If you look up a couple of panels, the same people claim that anti-vaccine people are in the minority. Which is it? Proportionally, more anti-vaccine people — or unvaccinated people for whatever reason — will be part of an outbreak. They will represent more than their share of cases. Why? Because they’re not protected.
And that measles graph that supposedly shows that measles was gone before the vaccine? It only shows that deaths from measles were in decline. We got good at keeping people alive over the years. A better, more honest graph is this one:
Cases of measles dropped precipitously when the vaccine was given. When a second dose was recommended in the 70s, the cases dropped to almost nil in the United States. But you won’t see that graph (published all over credible science websites) from anti-vaccine paranoids because it blows their argument out of the water. I mean, what, is it a happy coincidence that the vaccine went to market and cases dropped to nothing? Furthermore, we once thought that measles was done here in the US, but those pockets of unvaccinated people are bringing it back in a roaring fashion.
Pertussis is also one of those things that lack of complete vaccine coverage has brought back. And, no, there are no findings that state that “the unvaccinated are not to blame” or that “pertussis vaccines do not control whooping cough”. This is all cherry-picking findings in studies. Just because there are some outbreaks with vaccinated people in them doesn’t mean that the vaccine is worthless. That’s the Nirvana Fallacy that a lot of these anti-vaccine types live in. They want all vaccinated to be disease-free (any disease) or the vaccines are not to be trusted.
The truth is simple. If you are fully vaccinated, you are less likely to get vaccine-preventable diseases, and, if you do get them, you are less likely to be part of an outbreak. Those two panels up there actually said that, in so many words. Note how in both panels the “fully vaccinated” are in the minority when it comes to cases and cases in outbreaks.
Again, almost immediately, the creator of this infographic fails. Chemicals are only toxic at certain concentrations. At the concentrations found in vaccines, they are not toxic. Hell, some of them are downright inert. But these people want you to believe that you are bring injected with Satan’s own semen, it seems. “Live viral agents!” Jesus Christ! The LIVE VIRUS VACCINE is going to have “LIVE VIRAL AGENTS” because that’s how the vaccine works. And those “live viruses” are attenuated to the point that they cannot cause disease.
Then, the recommendation for the flu vaccine is for people 6 months and older, including pregnant women. It’s not just “6 months old & those who are pregnant.” It’s everyone. Thimerosal at the concentrations found in vaccines is safe. And that claim that the injection is not the same as daily contact is a truism. Daily contact with one of these things can kill, whereas vaccines won’t. Shedding? It only happens with certain attenuated virus vaccines, not with killed virus vaccines like injectable influenza, the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine, and others. And, again, the live viruses have been attenuated to not cause disease. (Also, the MMR vaccine so feared by Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, though he was working on his own measles vaccine, never had thimerosal in it.) This panel is nothing but lies and fearmongering, plain and simple.
Is there something that vaccines don’t cause? Nope, apparently not. Never mind that there is no evidence of most of these things (or that they think that “sequela” is a bad thing). Likely, these people took the package inserts, which must post everything that participants experienced after getting the vaccine in the clinical trials, and ran with it. I also can’t help but notice a couple of things that have not been proven but are talking points by people who sell “natural” supplements to treat these things.
So made this infographic?
Ah, yes, Ms. Heather White. She shows up once in a while in anti-vaccine gatherings and blogs to talk about her knowledge of science, which always ends up giving me a chuckle. Ms. White more than likely has no formal training in science, which explains all her misconceptions about vaccines and autism (and thinking that “sequela” is a disease)… And her misunderstanding of numbers.
Ms. White, there are not “thousands” of studies linking autism to vaccines, especially not in a causal way. There are maybe a handful of those, and most are by cranks who’ve chemically castrated autistics and spread far and wide by people who see autism as an excuse to kill a child. And there are not “hundreds of thousands” of children with vaccine injuries. There just aren’t. Just like there are no monsters under your bed.