Tag: cherry picking

Recommendations for Reporting About Vaccines

Historically, the media has played a huge role in pushing vaccine misinformation and scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The media created the MMR hoax, and they maintained it diligently for 10 years.”

Dr. Ben Goldacre Bad Science

Even before Andy Wakefield and his MMR hoax, the media helped fuel pertussis outbreaks by pushing the flawed research of John Wilson, which led to lawsuits against DPT vaccines and a big drop in vaccination rates.

None of it was true and the lawsuits failed, but the consequence was still that many unvaccinated kids died.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appearing on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?” is a great example of false balance.

Many others in the media have done a great job in promoting myths and fake controversies about vaccines and have used false balance in their interviews and articles to scare parents.

Fortunately, things have gotten better over the years.

Important Points for Reporting About Vaccines

Still, despite what some folks might think, health journalists aren’t going to get in trouble for reporting about vaccines.

They are going to hear about it if they do a bad job though.

“…it is important to recognise that the balance of media reporting does not necessarily reflect the balance of the argument among the involved professionals – by this is meant that equal weighting might be given by the media (and thus the lay community) to those for and against the vaccine although opponents of vaccination might be a very small number, as for example happened with both pertussis and MMR.”

David Baxter on Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR

Remember, the way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

So be careful when reporting about vaccines, as it gives you the opportunity to correct many of myths that scare people, while educating folks about the topic you are covering.

You should also:

Are you ready to cover your next story about vaccines or the next measles outbreak?

What to Know About Reporting on Vaccines

The way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

More on Reporting about Vaccines

Anecdotes as Evidence

Evidence is evidence, right?

Not really.

There is a hierarchy of evidence, from weakest to strongest, that help folks make decisions about science and medicine.

In an age when everything is evidence of something, remember that anecdotes are not scientific evidence.

That’s why you can’t just search PubMed, read abstracts, and say that you have done your research. For any study, you have to review and judge the quality of the evidence it provides.

Is it a case report (a glorified anecdote), case series, or animal study (lowest quality evidence) or a systemic review or meta analyses (highest quality evidence)?

What about case control studies, cohort studies, and randomized controlled trials? They lie somewhere in between on the hierarchy of evidence scale.

Anecdotes as Evidence

And where do anecdotes fit in?

“Anecdotes are uncontrolled subjective observations. I have often criticized reliance on anecdotes, which is especially problematic in medicine. The problem with anecdotes is that they are subject to a host of biases, such as confirmation bias. They are easily cherry picked, even unintentionally, and therefore can be used to support just about any position. For every anecdote, there is an equal and opposite anecdote.”

Steven Novella on The Context of Anecdotes and Anomalies

Anecdotes are not scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, some people use anecdotal evidence to make some very serious decisions, including skipping or delaying their children’s vaccines, leaving them unvaccinated and unprotected.

“An anecdote is a story – in the context of medicine it often relates to an individual’s experience with their disease or symptoms and their efforts to treat it. People generally find anecdotes highly compelling, while scientists are deeply suspicious of anecdotes. We are fond of saying that the plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.”

Steven Novella on The Role of Anecdotes in Science-Based Medicine

Believing that anecdotes are important scientific evidence is also what often drives some pediatricians to pander to fears that parents may have about vaccines, helping them create non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules.

What else do you need to know about anecdotal evidence?

Anecdotes are basically the fuel of the anti-vaccine movement.

“With little or no evidence-based information to back up claims of vaccine danger, anti-vaccine activists have relied on the power of storytelling to infect an entire generation of parents with fear of and doubt about vaccines. These parent accounts of perceived vaccine injury, coupled with Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent research study linking the MMR vaccine to autism, created a substantial amount of vaccine hesitancy in new parents, which manifests in both vaccine refusal and the adoption of delayed vaccine schedules.”

Shelby et al on Story and science

Well, anecdotes and fear – often combined in vaccine scare videos.

If you have been making your vaccine decisions based on anecdotes, it is time to do a little more research and get better educated about vaccines.

What to Know About Anecdotes as Evidence

Anecdotes, although they are easy to believe, are not scientific evidence, and certainly shouldn’t persuade you that vaccines aren’t safe, that vaccines aren’t necessary, or that vaccines are associated with autism.

More on Anecdotes as Evidence

 

Who Is Kelly Brogan?

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist.

Why am I writing about a holistic psychiatrist?

More specifically, Kelly Brogan is a women’s health holistic psychiatrist who doesn’t seem to believe that vaccines are safe, that vaccines work, or that vaccines are necessary.

They are.

“…we have been recently convinced through the promise of technology and corporate prowess that processed food is more reliable, nutritious, and beneficial. We’ve been convinced that Hamburger Helper is better for our families than a homemade Bolognese.”

Kelly Brogan

For some reason, she does not seem to be vegan, as one might expect. Not even vegetarian…

She does seem to believe that people with mental health conditions not should be treated with medication. In fact, she thinks the medications that are routinely used to treat common mental health conditions are behind some of the biggest tragedies happening today.

“The records also listed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as one of his medical conditions” the proverbial smoking gun of every mass shooting in this country.”

Kelly Brogan on the Sutherland Church Shooting

And she was mentored, not by a psychiatrist, but by a doctor who pushed “a largely dietary treatment for cancer including an individualized organic diet, large amounts of supplements, and pancreatic enzymes,” a regimen that was actually studied and found to be harmful and reduced the quality of life for people with a deadly form of cancer.

Who Is Kelly Brogan?

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist.

“Eastern wisdom tells us that when we think we know, we don’t. But when we admit ignorance, we achieve enlightenment. The most profound part of my departure from conventional medicine has been the depths of my surrender to all that we do not, cannot, and must not understand about the body and its experience. Humble awe and wonder are truly the only appropriate states for approaching the complexity of the human condition.”

Kelly Brogan

Do holistic psychiatrists use a different definition for the word humble?

“All suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction.”

Dalai Lama XIV

Kelly Brogan, a holistic psychiatrist, also pushes a lot of anti-vaccine talking points about epigenetics, germ theory denialism, MTHFR, and the need for detoxing from vaccines.

These beliefs can cause suffering if she can get others to believe them too, as can pushing the idea that babies shouldn’t get their hepatitis B vaccine or a vitamin K shot.

I’m actually surprised that she hasn’t written about RhoGAM. Maybe she hasn’t gotten around to it. But she doesn’t disappoint. She has shared an article on her Facebook page that claims that the RhoGham shot is just a “Big Pharma Profit Ploy.”

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist that wants you to live a medication free life. I guess that could have made her some kind of psychoanalysist, but that doesn’t seem to be the route she went.

“In fact, ‘treatment’ with chemotherapy and radiation not only disrupts a complex process that needs to actually be supported, but also it induces secondary harm, both psychically and physiologically. When we interfere and war with the body, we keep the fight alive – you can’t win the battle against yourself.”

Kelly Brogan

Is she telling people to stop their cancer treatments?

Do folks get a lot of training in treating cancer in their psychiatry residency these days?

And she advises that you “think long and hard about vaccination.”

“As we discover more about the near infinite sophistication of your interconnected bodily systems, and the hyper-individuality of any cause and effect process resulting from a healthcare decision, the one-size-fits-all, indemnified vaccine program may begin to make less and less sense to you. Educate yourself before you make a choice that could change everything for you and your family. Trust your body. Invest in your immunity. And explore a mindset shift that offers you a fear-free way to understand health and wellness.”

Kelly Brogan

Shortly after talking about informed consent, she lets you know how she really feels about vaccines.

“Don’t buy into the lore, don’t make assumptions, and understand that the philosophical underpinnings of the vaccination program are predicated on an antiquated perspective: warring against and attempting to eradicate bad germs. Science has left that childlike notion in the dust, and so should we.”

Kelly Brogan

I think Dr. Brogan misspelled pseudoscience

Why don’t you need to get your kids vaccinated and protected? Because Kelly Brogan has a “tremendous faith in the potential for the body to heal when naturally supported.”

Do you?

Will you during a measles outbreak?

“One of my favorite medical terms, anosognosia, means lack of awareness of a deficit. I have come to find this useful in description of so many of my colleagues who practice the medicine they were trained to practice without conscious acknowledgement of its gross limitations and even hazards.”

Kelly Brogan

Kelly Brogan didn't make history in getting a case report published in a low impact journal who's editorial board includes a Reiki Master, chiropractors, and naturopaths.
Kelly Brogan didn’t make history in getting a case report published in a low impact journal who’s editorial board includes a Reiki Master, chiropractors, and naturopaths.

Does anyone else think that it is wildly ironic that anosognosia is Kelly Brogan’s favorite medical term?

Psychiatry explains Kelly Brogan well.

Actually, it might be cognitive psychology that explains her actions.

Can a psychiatrist be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect?

I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that a holistic psychiatrist can.

A history-making case report? Considering that case reports are the weakest type of scientific evidence, just above YouTube videos and articles on her website, that’s not likely.

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist who has flirted with HIV denialism.

You can get educated about vaccines if you are on the fence, but it won’t be from Kelly Brogan, a women’s health holistic psychiatrist.

What to Know About Kelly Brogan

Kelly Brogan is a holistic psychiatrist who seems to charge folks a lot of money in private consultations to help them know that she has faith in their potential to heal themselves naturally – with her help.

More About Kelly Brogan

Updated December 2, 2017

What Is Cherry Picking?

Everyone has heard of cherry picking.

If you are talking about vaccines, this probably isn’t that kind of cherry picking though.

What Is Cherry Picking?

Have you ever been to a cherry orchard?

“Pick only the cherries that are fully red (or whatever color they are supposed to be when ripe!). Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden cherries ready for harvest.”

Cherry Picking Tips and Facts

Cherries don’t continue to ripen off the tree, so you want to pick them at exactly the right time. Not too early and not too late.

So when you go cherry picking, you are looking for the perfect cherries.

That’s what folks do when they go cherry picking for just the right information to fit their beliefs, but ignore any and all other information that might prove them wrong.

“Whatever one might think about Andrew Wakefield, he was just one man: the MMR autism scare has been driven for a decade now by a media that over-emphasises marginal views, misrepresenting and cherry picking research data to suit its cause. As the Observer scandal makes clear, there is no sign that this will stop.”

Ben Goldacre on MMR: the scare stories are back

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most anti-vaccine folks are very good at cherry picking.

A cherry picker isn't going to save you from a bad argument.
D’oh! A cherry picker isn’t going to save you from a bad argument.

Someone is cherry picking when they:

  • uses only one or a few out-of-context quotes that seem to support their argument, but ignores the rest of the article or study that doesn’t
  • talks about the one study that supports their position, but ‘forgets’ to mention the ten that don’t
  • mentions a few years of data that support their argument, but leave out the years that don’t

Need a good example?

Have you ever heard someone say that the package insert for Tripedia vaccine proves a link to autism?

SIDS and autism are listed in Tripedia package insert, but are not causally linked to the vaccine.
SIDS and autism are listed in Tripedia package insert, but are not causally linked to the vaccine.

This is classic cherry picking because they are ignoring all of the other information in the package insert, all of the other package inserts that don’t list autism as an adverse reaction, and all of the other evidence that autism is not associated with vaccines! It is also a bad argument against vaccines because they don’t explain why it is in the package insert.

How can you easily spot when someone is cherry picking?

You have to get educated and do your own research.

What to Know About Cherry Picking

Cherry picking occurs when someone chooses to use just the right information to fit their beliefs, but ignores any and all other information that might prove them wrong.

More on Cherry Picking