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How Do Anti-Vaccine Folks Think?

Does it sometimes seem like anti-vaccine folks are speaking a foreign language?

It definitely seems like they misunderstand and misuse a lot of scientific terms, like evidence, research, and toxin, doesn’t it?

Anti-Vaccine Glossary

The first step to understanding someone who is truly anti-vaccine and unnecessarily puts their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, might be to understand how they misunderstand most things about vaccines…

Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.
Anti-vax folks get the message of the Brady Bunch measles episode all wrong…

For example, many of them believe that anecdotes and case studies are strong evidence and on par with the preponderance of evidence that has shown that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

What other terms do they get wrong?

When you say… Anti-Vaccine folks think…
research I googled it and found something on an anti-vaccine website that confirms what I already thought
peer review I had my anti-vaccine friends, some of whom are actually in charge of the journal, take a look at it
personal stories can only be anecdotal vaccine injury scare stories, but never about regretting a skipped vaccine or personal stories about vaccine-preventable diseases
aluminum mercury
consensus my anti-vaccine friends on Facebook
shills anyone who supports vaccines
pediatrician a vaccine pusher
science pseudoscience
learn the risk learn the exaggerated risks of vaccines that I’m going to scare you about
expert anyone who agrees with me
unavoidably unsafe vaccines can’t ever be safe to anyone in any circumstance ever
toxin anything and everything that sounds sciency
placebo pure saline
chemical anything that isn’t natural, not understanding that everything is a chemical
scientist anyone who took a science class in high school or college
doctor typically a chiropractor
medicine non-evidence based therapies that don’t involve Big Pharma, aren’t covered by insurance, and are likely very expensive
risk can only come from a vaccine, never from skipping or delaying a vaccine or from a vaccine-preventable disease
shedding what happens when someone gets a vaccine
vaccine injury anything and everything bad that happens to you in the days, weeks, months, and years after you get vaccinated or in the days, weeks, months, and years before you were born because of the vaccines your parents or grandparents received
religious vaccine exemption I just don’t want to vaccinate and protect my kids, so will lie and say it is about religion
vaccine preventable disease since many anti-vaccine folks don’t really think that vaccines work, they might act more confused if you use this term
informed consent when I tell you all of the bad stuff about vaccines, most of which isn’t true, and leave out any talk of benefits
leaky gut explains every major problem kids have after getting vaccinated
MAPS doctors the new DAN doctors
VAERS a list of vaccine-injuries
herd immunity doesn’t exist, but can only happen from natural immunity
hiding in the herd what used to protect unvaccinated kids, until more and more folks started listening to us to our anti-vaccine propaganda
package inserts can be used to scare parents about SIDS and autism
do your research go to an anti-vaccine forum or website
cherry picking what does picking cherries have to do with vaccines???
natural immunity easy life-long immunity without any consequences
vaccine choice I want to do it my way, no matter how many choices I have
germ theory germs don’t cause disease and if they did, vaccines didn’t stop them, it was better nutrition and sanitation
homeopathy vaccines don’t work, weekly chiropractic adjustments can keep you healthy, and natural immunity is best, but buy some homeopathic vaccines anyway
essential oils definitely not being sold as part of a multi-level marketing scheme
monkey pox just smallpox renamed
Guillain-Barré Syndrome just polio renamed
roseola just measles renamed
SIDS a vaccine injury
vitamin K a vaccine to be avoided
cognitive dissonance how we sleep at night after skipping or delaying vaccines and leave our kids unnecessarily unprotected from life-threatening diseases
Andrew Wakefield “…Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.”

Get it?

It’s why many people have a hard time talking to friends and family members who are anti-vaccine. And even visits to the pediatrician to talk about vaccines don’t always go so well.

More on the Anti-Vaccine to Science Translator

Hierarchy of Evidence and Vaccine Papers

Evidence is evidence, right?

Nope.

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

That’s why you can’t just search Google or PubMed, read abstracts, and say that you have done your research.

Hierarchy of Evidence

For any study, you have to review and judge the quality of the evidence it provides.

A meta-analysis with over 1.2 million kids found that vaccines were not associated with autism, while Wakefield's retracted case series included only 12 children.
A meta-analysis with over 1.2 million kids found that vaccines were not associated with autism, while Wakefield’s retracted case series included only 12 children.

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)?

“The first and earliest principle of evidence-based medicine indicated that a hierarchy of evidence exists. Not all evidence is the same. This principle became well known in the early 1990s as practising physicians learnt basic clinical epidemiology skills and started to appraise and apply evidence to their practice. Since evidence was described as a hierarchy, a compelling rationale for a pyramid was made.”

Murad et al. on the New Evidence Pyramid

What about case control studies, cohort studies, and randomized controlled trials?

They lie somewhere in between on the hierarchy of evidence scale or pyramid.

And there are other factors to consider when judging the reliability of a study.

“Ultimately, the interpretation of the medical literature requires not only the understanding of the strengths and limitations of different study designs but also an appreciation for the circumstances in which the traditional hierarchy does not apply and integration of complementary information derived from various study designs is needed.”

Ho et al. on Evaluating the Evidence

For example, you might also have to take into account the sample size of the study.

A study can be underpowered if it doesn’t have enough subjects. Unfortunately, even an underpowered study will give you results. They likely won’t be statistically significant results, but folks don’t always realize that.

Even a meta-analysis, usually considered to be at the top of the hierarchy of evidence pyramid, can have problems that make their results less useful, such as not using appropriate inclusion criteria when selecting studies and leaving out important studies.

All in all, there are many factors to look at when reading a medical paper and considering if the results are valid and should influence what you do and how you think. This is especially true when looking at low quality vaccine papers, many of which the anti-vaccine movement uses to scare people, even though they are often poorly designed, and several of which have been retracted.

What to Know About the Hierarchy of Evidence

Learning about the hierarchy of evidence can help you better evaluate medical studies and vaccine papers and understand that there is more to doing your research about vaccines than searching PubMed and reading abstracts.

More on the Hierarchy of Evidence

 

Using Pubmed to Do Research About Vaccines

A lot of the vaccine research that folks do is on PubMed.

Using PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“PubMed comprises more than 27 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.”

All of the studies that say that vaccines are safe, that vaccines work, and that vaccines are necessary are in PubMed.

So are the studies that show that vaccines are not associated with autism, SIDS, and other so-called vaccine induced diseases, like ASIA.

Unfortunately, there are also poorly done studies in PubMed that do purport that vaccines are associated with autism and that ASIA is a real thing.

Can You Use PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines?

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.

Just like anyone can put up a website or Facebook page and say whatever they want, almost anyone can get a study or article published in a journal and get it indexed in PubMed.

While PubMed is an index with over 27 million citations, it doesn’t do anything to evaluate those citations to see if they include studies with design flaws, conflicts of interest, or are simply fraudulent.

That means that you need to know that a study does not get a badge of legitimacy for simply being in PubMed!

And it does not automatically mean that the evidence and conclusions from the article are of high quality just because it is listed in PubMed.

So use PubMed to find articles to help you do research about vaccines, but then read the article from beginning to end, not just the abstract, and make sure it is an article you can trust:

  • Was it published in a legitimate journal, like Vaccine or Pediatrics, and some of these high-impact journals? (good)
  • Was it published in a predatory journals?  (bad)
  • Does it involve simply looking at VAERS data?  (usually bad)
  • Is it written by folks with a conflict of interest that makes the article biased?  (bad)
  • Has it already been refuted by other people because it wasn’t designed properly or had other major flaws?  (bad)
  • Is it written by people who have expertise on the topic they are writing about? (good)
  • Has it been retracted?  (very bad)
  • 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)?
  • Is it a case control study, cohort study, and randomized controlled trial, which lie somewhere in between case reports and reviews on the hierarchy of evidence scale?

Are you ready to get educated about vaccines?

That’s great, but PubMed shouldn’t be your first stop, or your only stop.

As you do your research or get bombarded with a list of links or abstracts from PubMed, remember that there is a hierarchy of evidence to consider before deciding if a paper or study is really evidence of anything. And finding a case report, study on rats, or an invitro study won’t win you an argument about vaccines when there are randomized control trials and systemic reviews on the other side.

What to Know About Using PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines

PubMed is a giant index of journal articles, but simply being in PubMed doesn’t mean that an article or study is reliable or of high quality, whether it is about vaccines, a vaccine-preventable disease, or any other medical topic.

More on Using PubMed to Do Research About Vaccines

Best Vaccine Websites

Need to do your research and get educated about vaccines?

There are plenty of great vaccine books to turn to.

Best Vaccine Websites

Rather use the Internet?

Caveant lector et viewor — Let the reader and viewer beware.

Silberg et al, on Assessing, controlling, and assuring the quality of medical information on the Internet

Unfortunately, you can’t just trust any website that pops up at the top of your search results on Google, Bing, or Yahoo or that is shared by a friend on Facebook. Some of these sites might push misinformation about vaccines and be filled with anti-vaccine talking points.

Whether you are on the fence or just have a few questions, instead of feeling lucky that Google will lead you to trusted information, start your research about vaccines on the following websites. They are the most reliable and trusted sources of immunization information you will find.

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. World Health Organization
  4. Every Child By Two
  5. EZIZ
  6. Families Fighting Flu
  7. Gavi The Vaccine Alliance
  8. Harpocrates Speaks
  9. History of Vaccines
  10. Immunise Australia
  11. Immunisation Scotland
  12. Immunization Action Coalition
  13. The Immunization Advisory Centre
  14. Immunize Canada
  15. Immunize for Good
  16. Institute for Vaccine Safety
  17. I Speak of Dreams
  18. Just the Vax
  19. Left Brain Right Brain
  20. Measles & Rubella Initiative
  21. Moms Who Vax
  22. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
  23. National Meningitis Association
  24. NHS
  25. Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters
  26. Nurses Who Vaccinate
  27. Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases
  28. The Poxes Blog
  29. Pro-Vaccine Parenting Group (Facebook)
  30. Shot of Prevention
  31. Skeptical Raptor
  32. TIP Talk
  33. Vaccinate Your Family
  34. the Vaccine Blog
  35. Vaccine Education Center
  36. the Vaccine Mom
  37. the Vaccine Page (Facebook)
  38. Vaccines on the Fence (Facebook Group)
  39. Vaccines Work
  40. Voices for Vaccines

Other websites that are also reliable sources of immunization information, but don’t focus on vaccines include:

Get all of your questions answered yet?

Your pediatrician should also be a good resource for questions about vaccines.

Evaluating Vaccine Websites

Be skeptical if looking elsewhere.

Some general questions experts recommend asking, and which will certainly help when visiting a website about vaccines, include:

  • Who runs the Web site?
  • Who pays for the Web site?
  • What is the Web site’s purpose?
  • What is the original source of the Web site’s information?
  • How does the Web site document the evidence supporting its information?
  • Who reviewed the information before the owner posted it on the Web site?
  • How current is the information on the Web site?
  • How does the Web site owner choose links to other sites?

Fortunately, anti-vaccine websites are fairly easy to spot.

Anti-vaccine websites often filled with conspiracy theories, talk about BigPharma, and about how everyone else is hiding the truth about vaccines.
Anti-vaccine websites often filled with conspiracy theories, talk about BigPharma, and ideas about how everyone else is hiding the truth about vaccines.

They are often filled with vaccine injury stories and articles about how vaccines are filled with poison (they aren’t), don’t really work (they do), and aren’t even needed (they certainly are).

Tragically, their pseudo-scientific arguments can sometimes be persuasive, especially if you don’t understand that they are mostly the same old arguments that the anti-vaccine movement has been using for over 200 years to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

What to Know About the Best Vaccine Websites

With current information, a clear purpose (informing users, not selling supplements in an online store), and authors who are well-respected, our collection of the best vaccine websites can help you get educated about vaccines from a trusted source.

More on the Best Vaccine Websites