Tag: PubMed

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

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

Who to Trust About Vaccines

We hear a lot about fake news these days.

Fake news on Facebook, Twitter, and from our Google search results.

So who do you trust, especially on an important topic like vaccines?

Who to Trust About Vaccines

Hopefully you can trust your pediatrician, but the fact that we now have holistic pediatricians and “vaccine friendly” pediatricians who encourage parents to follow alternative schedules means that even then, you might be listening to the wrong person.

“Pediatricians who routinely recommend limiting the numbers of vaccines administered at a single visit such that vaccines are administered late are providing care that deviates from the standard evidence-based schedule recommended by these bodies.”

Edwards et al Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

What about a study published in a medical journal?

You have to trust that, right?

Not necessarily, considering that predatory, pay-to-publish journals are a thing. Just like they sound, these journals will publish just about anything – as long as your check clears.

And of course, anyone can put up a website or publish an e-book pushing anti-vaccine talking points or simply get in front of a microphone and lie about vaccines in an interview.

So how do you find trusted vaccine information?

Which Vaccine Websites to Trust

You have to learn to be skeptical when looking for information about vaccines.

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey went on a mission to Green Our Vaccines in 2008.
Who are you going to trust about vaccines?

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?
  • What are they selling?

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). And many will try to sell you fake vaccine detox kits and autism cures at the same time they are making you terrified about vaccines.

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.

Which Vaccine Journals to Trust

Why do “fake” medical and science journals exist?

Probably because there is a lot of pressure to get published.

Unfortunately, almost all of them get listed in PubMed, which is why anti-vax folks with a list of studies from PubMed don’t usually get very far when trying to argue against the fact that vaccines work, are safe, and are necessary.

So how do you know if you can trust the conclusions of a medical study or journal article?

It can help if you look for studies about vaccines that:

  • are published in a legitimate journal, like Vaccine or Pediatrics, and some of these high-impact journals
  • are not published in predatory journals
  • you can actually read, as just reading the abstract isn’t enough to know if you can really trust the conclusions that have been made in the article
  • don’t involve simply looking at VAERS data
  • are not written by folks with a conflict of interest that makes the article biased
  • are written by people who have expertise on the topic they are writing about

Most importantly, look for studies that have not been refuted by others already, as it is often hard to fully evaluate studies to see if they have been designed properly or have other major flaws.

Also know that research into the safety and efficacy of vaccines is much more complete than anti-vax “experts” lead (mislead) some vaccine-hesitant parents to believe. And that the great majority of people understand that the great benefits of vaccines far outweigh any small risks.

What to Know About Finding Trusted Vaccine Information

Learn to find trusted vaccine information, so you don’t get fooled by the latest tactics of the anti-vaccine movement.

More on Finding Trusted Vaccine Information