Tag: cherry picking

Anti-Vax Debate Techniques

It shouldn’t be a surprise that few people want to debate someone who is against vaccines, especially when you become familiar with their typical debate techniques.

Anti-Vax Debate Techniques

Since all arguments against vaccines have been refuted a thousand times, what do these folks do when they get in a situation where they have to talk to someone about vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases?

At a gathering for the New York Alliance for Vaccine Rights and First Freedoms Community during the recent "alleged" New York City measles outbreak, Larry Palevsky (left) made wide use of many of the anti-vax debate techniques discussed below.
At a gathering for the New York Alliance for Vaccine Rights and First Freedoms Community during the recent “alleged” New York City measles outbreak, Larry Palevsky (left) made wide use of many of the techniques discussed below.

Science isn’t on their side, so they instead have to resort to fallacious debate tactics to try and trick and scare people into believing them, such as:

  1. copypasta – arguments, stories, or links that people save and repeatedly copy and paste into online forums and Facebook groups.
  2. gish gallop – trying to drown or overwhelm someone in arguments, often by posting copypasta.
  3. firehosing – similar to a gish gallop, but occurs “over time and in multiple venues.”
  4. JAQing off – these are the folks who say that they are “just asking questions…”, but aren’t really looking for answers.
  5. cherry picking – when someone chooses to only use information that fits their beliefs (often conveniently packaged in anti-vax binders), ignoring any and all other information that would prove them wrong.
  6. gaslighting – making someone doubt their reality.
  7. scare stories – telling vaccine injury stories are perhaps one of the prime tools that are used to scare parents on the Internet.
  8. vaccine choice – why do some people think that “they” are going to force their kids to be vaccinated without their consent?
  9. false balance – when all opinions are given the same weight, even those that have no facts to back them up or have already been disproven and discredited.
  10. dismissing everyone they disagree with as Big Pharma shills.

Whatever technique they are using, don’t fall for it.

You are not making an informed choice if your decision is based on misinformation and propaganda.

“Well, if you’re going to inform yourself about vaccines, I think anybody who’s truly informed will realize that getting a vaccine is much better than not getting one. If you’re choosing not to vaccinate your child, it’s because you’re getting, frankly, bad information about vaccines.”

Paul Offit, MD

Instead know that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

More on Anti-Vaccine Debate Tactics and Techniques

What Happened at the Global Vaccine Safety Summit?

Did Del Bigtree catch scientists from the WHO questioning the safety of vaccines at the Global Vaccine Safety Summit?

Did Del Bigtree catch scientists from the WHO questioning the safety of vaccines at the Global Vaccine Safety Summit?

While Del seems to imply some kind of investigative reporting, can you “catch” someone who readily puts all of their videos online? The Global Vaccine Safety Summit is available for everyone to watch on the WHO website…

What Happened at the Global Vaccine Safety Summit?

That some of the scientists would be questioning vaccine safety should not be surprising.

The purpose of the Global Vaccine Safety Summit is “to enhance WHO’s work on vaccine safety” and “feature the most recent state-of-the-art vaccine safety science as we transition to the next decade.”

It’s a shame that Del Bigtree and his followers didn’t take some time to objectively listen to the Global Vaccine Safety Summit presentations. Instead, he cherry picks out of context quotes to misrepresent what the experts at the Global Vaccine Safety Summit really said.

Del WHO?

To be clear, Del Bigtree was not at the Global Vaccine Safety Summit.

Heidi Larson is an expert on boosting vaccine confidence.

And it’s pretty obvious that all of the folks who have taken up his attacks haven’t even bothered to take the time to watch the video presentations from the Global Vaccine Safety Summit.

If they did, they would soon learn that the presenters didn’t say anything to support their cause.

Most health professionals understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.
Most health professionals understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.

For example, what did Dr. Heidi Larson have to say?

“The most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider and if we lose that, we’re in trouble. We haven’t lost it yet, but we talked about it earlier, some of the challenges are when the front line professionals are starting to question or they don’t feel like they have enough confidence about the safety to stand up to it to the person asking them the question.

I mean most medical school curriculums, even nursing curriculums, I mean in medical school you’re lucky if you have a half-day on vaccines. Never mind keeping up to date with all this.”

Heidi Larson on Vaccine safety in the next decade: Why we need new modes of trust building?

This doesn’t mean that doctors and nurses don’t learn a lot about vaccines in school.

The “keep up to date with all this” means that they don’t learn about vaccine hesitancy, vaccine conspiracy theories, and all of the misinformation that is thrown at them when parents question vaccine safety.

“In terms of confidence, HCPs with more knowledge about the vaccine were also more likely to recommend vaccination, although more support is needed, especially for managing difficult conversations with a vaccine reluctant patient or parent. Studies with different HCP groups in multiple settings identified a lack of preparedness for advising patients about vaccination and a lack of training as inhibiting factors for recommending the vaccine.”

Larson et al on Vaccine hesitancy and healthcare providers

More training about vaccine hesitancy would be a good thing!

Did she say that they aren’t using misinformation to influence people to think that vaccines aren’t safe or necessary?

It's still propaganda...
It’s still propaganda…

Nope.

At this point in her presentation, she was simply talking about the latest propaganda techniques that might scare parentsbillboards.

I know that the ingredients in vaccines are safe, with few risks.
I know that the ingredients in vaccines are safe, with few risks.

And how they use techniques to instill doubts about vaccine, even if they don’t include overt misinformation.

“A lot of it is not misinformation, it’s asking questions. The people who are questioning, particularly the ones who are more motivated to disrupt than necessarily asking genuine questions, are putting questions on billboards.”

Heidi Larson on Vaccine safety in the next decade: Why we need new modes of trust building?

While there is certainly nothing wrong with asking real questions, that’s not what is happening here.

These folks are simply JAQing off – they are “just asking questions…”, but aren’t really looking for answers.

It is a propaganda tool.

“One of our biggest challenges I think now is getting rid of the term anti-vax, getting rid of the hostile language, and starting to have more conversations, to be open to questions, to make people feel like they shouldn’t be judged when they are asking questions. As crazy as those questions might seem to you, as stupid as they might seem, or as ignorant as they might seem, we can’t risk losing another person’s confidence in safety right now.”

Heidi Larson on Vaccine safety in the next decade: Why we need new modes of trust building?

That some folks are misusing the things Heidi Larson said to instill doubts about vaccines is quite ironic.

“This is about politics, geo-politics, development and a hyper-connected, anxious populations”

Heidi Larson on Vaccine safety in the next decade: Why we need new modes of trust building?

In the long run, her extensive work on boosting vaccine confidence will help get more kids vaccinated and protected.

More on the Global Vaccine Safety Summit

About Those Binders of Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Anti-vaccine folks don’t have to just turn to Facebook or the Sears Vaccine Book anymore – they are preparing their own binders of anti-vaccine misinformation.

There are a few versions of these binders of anti-vaccine misinformation going around.
There are a few versions of these binders of anti-vaccine misinformation going around.

How does that work?

Binders of Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Apparently, they just collect and print all of the anti-vaccine articles from their typical copypasta arguments and load them all up into binders.

Including copyrighted material in your binders might make you want to stop selling them too...
Including copyrighted material in your binders might make you want to stop selling them too…

Here is one the entries from Ashley Everly‘s binder, from the section on “asymptomatic transmission and shedding:”

The rash started two days after his fever, too short a time for measles, and there wasn't even any documentation of prolonged fever.
The rash started two days after his fever, too short a time for measles, and there wasn’t even any documentation of prolonged fever.

Does it provide evidence for asymptomatic transmission or shedding of measles?

Nope.

The child had a rash after having his measles vaccine and had the flu. He likely didn’t have measles. Not even vaccine-associated measles.

Anyway, as is typical for these binders, they only use one example that might reinforce their argument, but leave out all of the ones that don’t.

“In the end we are left with a powerful sense of knowledge – false knowledge. Confirmation bias leads to a high level of confidence, we feel we are right in our gut. And when confronted with someone saying we are wrong, or promoting an alternate view, some people become hostile.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is not just a curiosity of psychology, it touches on a critical aspect of the default mode of human thought, and a major flaw in our thinking. It also applies to everyone – we are all at various places on that curve with respect to different areas of knowledge. You may be an expert in some things, and competent in others, but will also be toward the bottom of the curve in some areas of knowledge.”

Steven Novella on Lessons from Dunning-Kruger

These binders are just like their Facebook groups – echo chambers of anti-vaccine misinformation.

They won’t help you do research about vaccines and they certainly won’t help you win any debates or arguments with someone who truly knows something about vaccines.

More On Those Binders of Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Inappropriate Use of Vaccine Studies

Have you ever wondered how anti-vaccine do their vaccine research?

These types of binders of anti-vaccine information are typically filled with vaccine studies that folks end up misusing to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.
These types of binders of anti-vaccine information are typically filled with vaccine studies that folks end up misusing to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

While they used to have to rely on Google University for their vaccine research, they now have folks making them ready made binders chock full of misinformation!

Misusing Vaccine Studies

As with their misuse of Google and Pubmed, a lot of the problems with these binders is that anti-vaccine folks cherry pick studies that support what they want to hear.

And in many cases, they read things into studies, thinking they support their views against vaccines, when they really don’t.

You're not gonna catch measles from someone's urine....
You’re not gonna catch measles from someone’s urine….

Is this 1995 study, Detection of Measles Virus RNA in Urine Specimens from Vaccine Recipients, a warning about shedding?

Anti-vaccine folks would sure like you to think so, but the thing is, measles is a respiratory illness.

“In this systematic review, we have determined that there have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the measles vaccine virus.”

Greenwood et al on A systematic review of human-to-human transmission of measles vaccine virus

Detecting vaccine strain measles in urine isn’t something to be concerned about because it can’t lead to an infection.

Anyway, you’re not going to get measles from shedding after someone was vaccinated. If you do, you will be the first!

Misusing MTHFR Tests

Have you wondered why anti-vaccine are so concerned about their MTHFR test results?

“In conclusion, the invalid interpretation that the determination of the MTFHR variant is an acceptable reason for vaccine exemptions is not based on the precepts of replication and rigorous clinical testing. It is unfortunate that the loose application of our exploratory report has been misinterpreted and used to inappropriately justify exemption of children from medically indicated vaccines.”

David M Reif, Ph.D. on the Inappropriate Citation of Vaccine Article

Turns out it is because a few anti-vaccine doctors misinterpretated an old study about the smallpox vaccine.

Now that the author of that study has called them out, will they stop?

Other Vaccine Studies That Are Misused

Of course, there are more…

The article totally misinterpretated the study...
The article totally misinterpretated the study…

Remember when anti-vaccine folks thought that the polio vaccine was causing outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease?

“Well, that’s actually totally backwards. Our article suggests that FAILURE to get vaccinated with polio vaccine might set you up for Hand Food Mouth disease (EV71).”

It wasn’t…

And then there is the study that had anti-vaccine folks thinking that 38% of the kids in the Disneyland measles outbreak were vaccinated.

This isn't a study about vaccine-associated measles...
This isn’t a study about vaccine-associated measles…

The study was about new ways to detect measles vaccine reactions.

“During measles outbreak investigations, rapid detection of measles vaccine reactions is necessary to avoid unnecessary public health interventions.”

Roy et al on Rapid Identification of Measles VirusVaccine Genotype by Real-Time PCR

These are folks with a fever and a rash after their MMR vaccine.

This is not people with vaccine-associated measles.

Misusing Scientific Research

Remember when they thought that the study, Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997–2013, reported that 79% of deaths in VAERS occurred on the day a child received a vaccine?

Did they read the study?
Did they read the study?

That’s not what the study said…

The study simply said that “For child death reports, 79.4% received >1 vaccine on the same day.”

It wasn’t the same day they died though.

“No concerning pattern was noted among death reports submitted to VAERS during 1997–2013.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

In fact, the study “did not detect any concerning patterns that would suggest causal relationships between vaccination and deaths.”

What about when anti-vaccine folks say that only 1% of vaccine side effects are reported to VAERS? That has to be true, right?

Not exactly.

That claim is based on an old study about drug reactions and was not specific to vaccines.

“To counter the propaganda by anti-vaccine activists, the research and public health communities have to adjust their communication.”

Stephan Guttinger on The anti-vaccination debate and the microbiome

Does any of this surprise you?

Can we counter this type of anti-vaccine propaganda and keep it from scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids?

Sure.

But first we all have to recognize that they are doing it!

More on Misusing Vaccine Studies