Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around. In science, quality is often far more important than quantity, and you have to critically examine studies rather than blindly believing them (details here; here and here; examples here and here). So that is what I want to do in this post. I am going to walk you through both the anti-vaccine and pro-vaccine lists to see which position is actually supported by the evidence.

I have three key target audiences here. First, to any parents who are concerned about vaccines and are truly and sincerely looking for good information rather than just trying to find evidence to support their preconceptions, I hope that this post will be a helpful tool for you and will dispel much of the nonsense on the internet. There are so many frighting stories and claims out there that I fully understand why you would be concerned. So I have done my best to thoroughly cover all of the evidence, and I hope that you will carefully consider it. Second, for those who have already reviewed the evidence, but are tired of explaining it over and over again in debates, I hope that this post will provide a resource that will save you some time. Third, for those who are not particularly interested in the autism/vaccine debate, I hope that this post will provide a nice worked example of how to critically analyze a large body of literature. There are, sadly, a lot of bad scientific publications out there, and it is important that you know how to sift through them and separate the high quality studies from the statistical noise. Finally, to those who are already convinced that vaccines cause autism, although you are not my target audience, I do hope that you will read this, but I have one simple request to make of you. If you choose to continue reading, then I want you to seriously consider the possibility that you might be wrong and actually examine the evidence presented here. If you aren’t willing to do that, then there is really no point in you continuing to read.

This post is necessarily long, so for your convenience, I have included a short summary section at the beginning, and it condenses the entire post into a few paragraphs. If you really want to understand this topic, however, I suggest that you skip past this section and read the detailed analyses of both the pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine literature. I have made a list of hyperlinks (below) that you can use to jump to any particular sections that interest you.

Note: Throughout this study, I will refer to “pro-vaccine studies” and “anti-vaccine studies.” I am simply using those terms as an easy way to distinguish between studies that failed to find an association between vaccines and autism and studies that found an association. Please do not misconstrue those terms or view them as implications that the research was biased or agenda driven.

hierarchy of evidence

Not all study designs are equal (details here)

General Overview/Summary
I want to start with the pro-vaccine lists (for example, here and here). These lists boast over 100 studies, but many of those papers are admittedly small, used relatively weak designs, or are non-systematic reviews. So I am just going to focus on the really high quality evidence, because there is a lot of it.

Some studies have either looked for general correlations between autism rates and vaccines (Dales et al. 2001) or have looked for changes in autism rates following either the introduction (Taylor et al. 1999; Chen et al. 2004) or removal (Honda et al. 2005) of the MMR vaccine. None of these studies found a significant relationship.

Other studies have used a more robust design known as a case-control analysis (Destefano et al. 2004 [642 people with autism; 1824 people without autism]; Smeeth et al. 2004 [991 with; 4469 without]; Price et al. 2010 [256 with; 752 without]; DeStefano et al. 2013 [256 with; 752 without]; Uno et al. 2015 [189 with, 224 without]). Case-controlled studies start with two groups (one with and one without the effect of interest) then work backwards to test a potential cause. This makes them a very powerful design for detecting associations with relatively rare events (such as autism*), yet none of these studies found those associations (also note that those sample sizes are smaller than you would need for something like a cohort study, but they are quite good for a case-controlled study because of the way that the design works).

*Note: Although autism is common, at a rate of only 1 in 68, it is still rare enough that you need very large sample sizes for most studies before you can detect significant changes (e.g., if you had 680 patients, you would only expect 10 to develop autism). Case-control studies solve that problem by starting with a group that already has autism, then working backwards.

Next, we have cohort studies that compared autism rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. This is one of the most powerful experimental designs, and these studies were particularly large (Madsen et al. 2002 [440,654 children]; Verstraeten et al. 2003 [124,170 children]; Anders et al. 2004 [109,863 children]; and Jain et al. 2015 95,727 children]). Take another look at those sample sizes, they are enormous (far larger than any of the anti-vaccine studies), but once again, they did not find any significant differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

Further, there is a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children (Taylor et al. 2014) which also failed to find evidence of vaccines causing autism. Meta-analyses are the most powerful type of paper because they combine the results from multiple studies, thus greatly reducing the odds of a false result. Further, the larger the sample size, the more powerful the study. So this meta-analysis is the most powerful method available, and it used an incredibly large sample size, which makes it an extremely robust and convincing study.

Additionally, there are also studies that looked at whether vaccines can specifically cause regressive autism, and they also failed to find a significant effect of vaccines (Richler et al. 2006; Uchiyama et al. 2007).

On the anti-vaccine side, I went through their lists of papers (here, here, and here; 126 papers total), and 31 of them weren’t actually about autism, 60 weren’t about vaccines, 20 were animal trials, 17 were in vitro studies, 50 were on mercury or thimerosal, 8 were case reports/conference abstracts/opinion papers/some other non-research paper, 28 were non-systematic reviews (only 6 of which were relevant to the topic at hand), and only 12 were actual human trials that looked at whether or not current vaccines were associated with autism (some papers were in multiple categories). None of these studies were very large, and none of them were capable of demonstrating causation.

Animal studies and in vitro trials are very weak designs because they have limited applicability to humans. Thus, they should only be used as preliminary studies, and you cannot use them as evidence against large case-controlled or cohort studies (there were also animal and in vitro studies supporting vaccines, but I did not talk about them for the same reasons). Similarly, case reports, conference abstracts, etc. are preliminary and do not constitute good evidence.

The thimerosal studies are also irrelevant. For one thing, many of them were also in vitro or animal studies, but even the human studies used comparatively small sample sizes and could not detect causation. Further, many of the large pro-vaccine studies (such as the meta-analysis; Taylor et al. 2014) also looked specifically at thimerosal, and failed to find any significant patterns. Also, an additional cohort study (Hviid et al. 2003; 446,695 children) compared autism rates among children who received vaccines with and without thimerosal, and they did not find any significant differences. Even if all of that isn’t enough to convince you, thimerosal is no longer in childhood vaccines in most developed countries, and it hasn’t been there for around 15 years. Further, removing it from vaccines had no effect on autism rates, which clearly indicates that it was not responsible for the supposed “autism epidemic” (Madsen et al. 2003; Schechter and Grether 2008).

The 12 studies that are actually relevant for the current vaccine schedule aren’t much better. None of them were large, and all of them were association studies (i.e., they could not show causation because correlation does not equal causation). Further, most of them had numerous problems and were extremely unreliable. Additionally, many of them relied on the idea that autism rates are increasing, but there is a substantial amount of evidence that the increase is largely (if not entirely) due to changes in how autism is diagnosed rather than an actual increase in the number of people with autism (Rutter 2005; Taylor 2006; Bishop et al. 2008; Baxter et al. 2015; Hansen et al. 2015). Finally (and most amusingly), one of those 12 studies was actually a pro-vaccine study that directly contradicted the results of two of the other studies.

Thus, when you consider all of the evidence, it is completely fair to say that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports that conclusion that vaccines do not cause autism, and there is no reliable evidence to the contrary. To be clear, that’s not just the opinion of a blogger. Rather, at least seven systematic reviews have looked at the literature and come to the exact same conclusion (Jefferson et al. 2003; Klein and Diehl. 2004; Parker er al. 2004; Hurley et al. 2010; Stratton et al. (eds). 2011; Demicheli et al. 2012; Margaret et al. 2014).

To be fair, the anti-vaccers also have reviews, but none of their reviews were systematic (Rimland and McGinnis. 2002; Singh. 2009; Ratajczak 2011; Sienkiewicx et al. 2012;Shaw and Tomljenovic. 2013b; Shaw et al. 2014a). This is important because systematic reviews use pre-defined search terms and criteria to find papers. Thus they include all of the relevant papers, regardless of whether they were pro or anti-vaccine. In contrast, non-systematic reviews include whatever papers the authors felt like including. As a result, it should not surprise you to learn that the anti-vaccine reviews ignored the large meta-analysis, cohort studies, etc. and instead focused on the small studies. In other words, they painted an inaccurate and deceptive picture that did not represent the actual state of knowledge. Further, none of the papers cited in those reviews actually presented concrete evidence of vaccines causing autism. Rather, the reviews constructed hypotheses about how vaccines could in concept cause autism. That would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that those hypotheses have been tested and discredited via the case-controlled studies, cohort studies, etc. In other words, if the hypotheses were true, those studies should have found evidence of vaccines causing autism, but they didn’t. Therefore, we must reject the hypotheses.

In short, the idea that vaccines cause autism has been extremely thoroughly tested by numerous scientists working for different universities and organizations from around the world. It has been tested via multiple different methods and populations, and it has been addressed from multiple angles (e.g., different vaccines, different vaccine components, age at vaccination, number of antigens, number of doses, etc.), and the result is exceptionally clear: vaccines do not cause autism. There are no large, properly controlled, epidemiological studies that disagree with that result. For more details about both the pro and anti-vaccine studies, please read the rest of this post.

Note: very few of the pro-vaccine papers had conflicts of interest (i.e., they were not funded by pharmaceutical companies), and conflicts of interest were also present in many of the anti-vaccine papers. More details are provided in the rest of this post.

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The Autism/Vaccine Hypothesis
Science is all about making hypotheses and testing seeing whether or not their predictions come true. Therefore, it is always a good idea to establish exactly what you are asking before you look at the literature. In this case, the question is whether or not vaccines cause autism, but that needs to be nuanced a bit. According to the CDC, about 1 in 68 children in the US have autism, with other developed countries reporting varying, but largely comparable levels (Elsabbagh et al. 2012). Those numbers have gone up over time, which has led anti-vaccers to refer to the situation as an “autism epidemic,” and they often make dire predictions like, by 2022 autism rates will be 1 in 9. I’m not going to take the time to explain why that math is absurd,  but I will point out that there is a large body of evidence showing that most, if not all, of the increase in autism rates is due to changes in how autism is diagnosed (Rutter 2005; Taylor 2006; Bishop et al. 2008; Baxter et al. 2015; Hansen et al. 2015). In other words, autism rates are higher now than they were in 1990 because people who would not have been considered autistic in 1990 are considered autistic today (Dr. Novella wrote a good post on this several years ago that includes some additional sources).

The point is that we have two different hypotheses that make different predictions. If vaccines are actually causing an autism epidemic, then when we compare vaccinated and unvaccinated children, we should find that autism rates are much lower among the unvaccinated children. If vaccines don’t cause autism, however, then the rates should be the same. Importantly, the larger our sample sizes, the more power that we will have to detect significant differences. In other words, even if vaccines are only responsible for a very small portion of autism cases (rather than an epidemic), we could still detect that with a large enough sample size. Now, with that in mind, let’s see what we find in the literature.

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Studies that failed to find evidence of vaccines causing autism
I want to start with the pro-vaccine studies, and there are quite a few of them. Indeed, you can find several lists on the internet that boast over 100 studies demonstrating that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). I am, however, a bit cautious about lists like this. They can be quite useful, and I have linked to them multiple times on this blog, but a quick examination of these lists will reveal that they do actually contain quite a few low quality studies with weak designs or tiny sample sizes, opinion papers, etc. So I am not going to talk about all of the studies in these lists. Rather, I have painstakingly gone through them to eliminate all of the studies with really weak designs (like animal studies), tiny sample sizes, questionable statistics, etc. This type of filtering is a really good idea when you are examining a topic because it weeds out the statistical noise and leaves you with the reliable studies (importantly, however, you need to have a good understanding of experimental design, statistics, etc. before you can do this properly).

My filtering left me with four correlation/time-series studies, five case-control studies, four cohort studies, one meta-analysis, and seven systematic reviews that examined the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism (there are also a few tangentially related studies that I will talk about as we go through these).

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Correlation/time-series
Several different designs were used for these studies. One of them simply looked for correlations between vaccine coverage and autism rates (Dales et al. 2001). If vaccines cause autism, we would, of course, expect there to be higher autism rates when vaccine coverage is higher; however, this study failed to find that trend (i.e., vaccination rates and autism rates were not correlated). Another pair of studies specifically looked for changes in autism rates when the MMR vaccine was introduced to the UK (Taylor et al. 1999; Chen et al. 2004). The MMR vaccine is a favorite target of anti-vaccers, and if it actually causes autism, then we should see a spike in autism rates immediately following the introduction of that vaccine into a population, but neither study detected a significant change.

A final study, (Honda et al. 2005) took the opposite approach. In 1993, Japan abruptly stopped using the MMR vaccine, so Honda et al. (2005) examined the autism rates across the entire city of Yokohama (roughly 300,000 people) from 1988-1996. This study provides a nice balance to  Taylor et al. (1999) and Chen et al. (2004), because just as you would expect autism rates to spike following the introduction of MMR (if MMR caused autism), you would also expect the rates to drop after the vaccine is removed. Just like the previous studies, however,  Honda et al. (2005) failed to find any evidence of the vaccine causing autism (i.e., autism rates did not drop when the MMR vaccine was removed).

It’s worth mentioning that these types of studies cannot establish causation, because they only show correlation, and correlation does not equal causation. The fact that two things occur together absolutely does not mean or even suggest that they are causally related. Nevertheless, a lack of correlation does indicate a lack of causation. In other words, if X causes Y, then X will be correlated with Y. So if X and Y are not correlated, that also suggests that there is no causal relationship between them.

Note: I had originally included Kaye et al. (2001) in this section; however, someone pointed out a flaw in it that I had missed, and I agreed that the study was unreliable so I have removed it.

Note: this type of design was not included in the original image on the hierarchy of evidence that I have been including throughout this post, but these studies would usually rank about the same as a cross sectional study.

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Case-control studies can't establishes causation, but they are one of the best designs for looking for associations with rare relatively rare outcomes (e.g., autism). Details here.

Case-control studies can’t establishes causation, but they are one of the best designs for looking for associations with rare relatively rare outcomes (e.g., autism). Details here.

Case-control studies
Case control studies are another type of correlation study, but rather than simply looking for correlations in a population, they take two groups that are similar except for an outcome (e.g., autism). They then work backwards to test for a potential cause of that outcome (e.g., you compare a group with and without autism to see if they differ in their vaccination rates). These design can only show association rather than causation, but it is very a very powerful way of at looking at relatively rare outcomes, and it allows you to get very robust results out of relatively small sample sizes (compared to other designs), making it an excellent method for looking for associations between vaccines and autism.

I found five reasonably large case-control studies that compared vaccination rates among groups of people with and without autism (Destefano et al. 2004 [642 people with autism; 1824 people without autism]; Smeeth et al. 2004 [991 with*; 4469 without]; Price et al. 2010 [256 with; 752 without]; DeStefano et al. 2013 [256 with; 752 without]; Uno et al. 2015 [189 with, 224 without]). None of these studies found evidence that vaccination was associated with the development of autism.

Additionally, although all of these studies addressed the question of vaccines and autism, several of them were focused on a particular facet of the question or examined multiple sub-questions. For example, Destefano et al. (2004), Smeeth et al. (2004), and Uno et al. (2015) looked specifically at the MMR vaccine, whereas Price et al. (2010) looked more generally at thimerosal exposure (both from vaccines and other sources). DeStefano et al. (2013) took an entirely different approach and looked at antigen exposure. This is really important because one of the most common tropes of the anti-vaccine argument is the, “too many too soon” argument, which argues that the antigens in vaccines will overwhelm a child’s immune system and lead to problems like autism. This study directly addressed that concern.

Finally, several of these studies looked at whether or not the age at vaccination was important for the development of autism, thus addressing the argument that vaccines should be delayed (Destefano et al. 2004; Smeeth et al. 2004; Uno et al. 2015). In all fairness, Destefano et al. (2004) did find slightly higher vaccination rates among the autistic children for their 36 month age-group (93.4% vs 90.6%), but there were no differences at 18 or 24 months, and in the case of the 36 month-olds, many of them had started to show signs of autism before receiving the vaccine, so the vaccine was clearly not at fault.

*Note: Smeeth et al. (2004) also did a larger analysis of 1294 people diagnosed with “pervasive developmental disorders” which included those diagnosed with autism and those diagnosed with other developmental disorders, and that analysis also failed to find a significant effect of vaccines.

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Case-controlled studies can be very powerful (especially with large sample sizes) and can actually show causation (details here).

Cohort studies can be very powerful (especially with large sample sizes) and can actually show causation (details here).

Cohort studies
Next, we have the cohort studies. These work in the opposite direction from case-controlled studies. They start with a group of people (cohort) that are similar except for their exposure to some potential cause (e.g., vaccines). Then, the researchers track these individuals to see if they eventually differ in some outcome (e.g., autism). In other words, if vaccines cause autism, then you expect the members of the cohort that received vaccines to develop autism significantly more frequently than the members of the cohort that were unvaccinated.

I found many small cohort studies, but only four of them were large enough to be worth talking about (IMO). Those four studies were, however, extremely large and provide very convincing evidence that vaccines do not cause autism. Anders et al. (2004) used 109,863 children to study the DTP/DT vaccine, Madsen et al. (2002) and Jain et al. (2015) used 440,654 and 95,727 children (respectively) to examine the MMR vaccine, and Verstraeten et al. 2003 used a cohort of 124,170  children to look more generally at vaccines containing thimerosal. Really think about those numbers for a minute. Those sample sizes are extraordinary and gave the researchers tremendous power to detect significant trends, yet none were found.

As with the case-control studies, several of studies also examined additional aspects of the topic. For example, Madsen et al. (2002) also examined the effects of age at vaccination, and did not find a significant effect. Perhaps most importantly, Jain et al. (2015) also looked specifically at a subset of 1,929 children who had a sibling with autism. This is a brilliant design because we know that autism has a genetic component. Even most anti-vaccers agree with that, they just argue that the genes make you more susceptible to the effects of vaccines. If that was the case, however, then it should be much easier to detect vaccine-associated autism in children who have a sibling with autism. In other words, infants who have an older sibling with autism have a higher risk of developing autism than infants whose siblings do not have autism (i.e., if your sibling has autism, then it is likely that the genes that predispose you to it are in your family). This means that by examining siblings, you are looking at a “high risk” group, thus maximizing your statistical power. Even with this design, however, they failed to find any significant effects of vaccines.

Finally, I want to briefly talk about Hviid et al. (2003). I did not include this study in my main list because unlike all of the other studies that I have been talking about, it compared vaccines with thimerosal to vaccines without thimersoal, rather than comparing vaccinated children and unvaccinated children. Nevertheless, I want to make a few brief comments on it for several reasons. First, anti-vaccers often accuse thimerosal of being the causative agent for autism. As I will explain more later, that position has been thoroughly debunked, but this paper provides additional evidence against it, because it had an enormous sample size of 446,695 children and did not find that thimerosal was associated with autism. The second important point from this study is that it also looked at dose effects and failed to find any evidence of them. This is significant, because even if there was something in vaccines other than thimerosal that was causing autism, you would still expect that to show up in this study. Finally, this once again provides evidence against the “too many too soon” argument.
Addendum (5-5-16): I mistakenly originally said that Hviid et al. looked at the MMR vaccine, which was a mistake. I apologize for the confusion.

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Systematic reviews and meta-analysis are the highest category of evidence because they combine the results of multiple studies, which makes them less prone to false conclusions (details here).

Systematic reviews and meta-analysis are the highest category of evidence because they combine the results of multiple studies, which makes them less prone to false conclusions (details here).

Systematic reviews
At the start of this section, I want to distinguish between a systematic review and a general or non-systematic review. A systematic review looks for papers using a predefined set of search terms and databases. For example, you might search PubMed and Web of Science for papers containing both the terms “vaccine” and “autism.” Then, you take that list of papers and filter by some other pre-defined criteria. For example, you might be interested only in studies that were case-controlled, cohort, or randomized controlled trials. Then, you write the review on the papers that are left.

Setting up these reviews this way with pre-defined search terms and inclusion criteria is a really powerful way to comb through the scientific literature because it avoids bias. If a study meets your criteria, then it gets included regardless of what its conclusions were. Thus, you get a fair and accurate representation of the literature. To be clear, you can still bias these if you use absurd search terms (like, “vaccines do not cause autism,” for example), so you should always check systematic reviews to see what their inclusion criteria were.

In contrast, non-systematic reviews use any papers that the authors thought should be included. These reviews can still be quite good, but they also can be very problematic because the authors’ biases can have major influences over the papers that get included. If you are anti-vaccine, for example, you can write a “review” that only includes anti-vaccine papers, and ignores all of the pro-vaccine papers, thus creating the illusion that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence against vaccines (we’ll encounter some of those later in this post). The inverse is, of course, also true. A pro-vaccine scientist can bias a review just as easily as an anti-vaccine scientist. This is why systematic reviews are much better than regular reviews, and when you have multiple systematic reviews that all agree with each other, you can be fairly confident that the literature is pointing in a consistent direction.

In the case of autism, that direction is most decidedly away from a link between autism and vaccines. I found seven different systematic reviews of the topic, and they all said the same thing: the evidence does not support an association between vaccines and autism (Jefferson et al. 2003; Klein and Diehl. 2004; Parker er al. 2004; Hurley et al. 2010; Stratton et al. (eds). 2011; Demicheli et al. 2012; Margaret et al. 2014). One of these (Demicheli et al. 2012) was even a very lengthy and thorough Cochran review (one a side note, it also found that, “Exposure to the MMR vaccine was unlikely to be associated with autism, asthma, leukaemia, hay fever, type 1 diabetes, gait disturbance, Crohn’s disease, demyelinating diseases, bacterial or viral infections”). I also found several non-systematic reviews that concluded that vaccines don’t cause autism, but I decided not to include them for the reasons explained above.

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Meta-analysis
Finally, we have a meta-analysis. Meta-analyses are the single most powerful tool available to scientists, because they actually pool the results of multiple studies, and run statistics on that pooled data set. This provides much larger sample sizes than you could normally achieve, and it largely overcomes the fact that sometimes a study reaches the wrong conclusion just by chance (i.e., the odds of the pooled data from multiple studies producing an erroneous conclusion is much, much lower than the odds of a single study being wrong). As a result, these studies are considered to be the highest level of evidence.

There is only one meta-analysis for vaccines and autism, but it’s a big one (Taylor et al. 2014). It had a sample size of over 1.2 million children, which is an extraordinarily large sample size that provides tremendous statistical power. Nevertheless, this study did not find any associations between autism and vaccines, thimerosal, or mercury. That is as conclusive of an answer as you could ever hope to have.

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Randomized-controlled trials
There are no large randomized controlled trials on vaccines and autism, and there are two very good reasons for that. First, autism is rare enough that you would need an absurd sample size to have a reasonable chance of detecting a significant effect. So they aren’t practical (case-controlled and cohort studies are more well-suited to the question at hand). Second, the benefits of vaccines have been established beyond any shadow of a doubt, so it would be unethical to deliberately give people placebos rather than vaccines.

The lack of randomized controlled trials is not a problem, however. Randomized controlled trials are the most powerful experimental tool for establishing causation, but the other methods are perfectly capable of showing a lack of causation. For example, case-controlled trials can only show correlation, not causation, but since a lack of correlation also means a lack of causation, they can be very powerful tools for showing that two things are not causally related. So if you were arguing that vaccines cause autism, then a lack of randomized controlled trials would be potentially problematic (depending on the strength of the other studies, especially the cohort studies), but the lack of randomized controlled trials is really irrelevant for a negative result.

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Regressive autism
At this point, you may be thinking, “fine, vaccines don’t cause autism, but people with autism are more sensitive to vaccines, and vaccines can make things worse and cause regressive autism.” Well, we have tested that hypothesis as well, both by comparing regression rates in children who did and did not receive vaccines (Uchiyama et al. 2007) and by looking for relationships between the timing of vaccination and the onset of regression (Richler et al. 2006). The number of studies and sample sizes are admittedly more limited on this topic, but both studies agreed, and no studies have found evidence of vaccines causing regressive autism or in any way making autism worse. So there is no basis for this argument.

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Conflicts of interest
At this point, you may be thinking, “but all of those studies were conducted/paid for by pharmaceutical companies, so they can’t be trusted!” I anticipated that argument, however, and checked for conflicts of interest as I went through these papers. I only found six, and only one of them was serious enough to be concerning. For two of the case-controlled studies (Smeeth et al. 2004; Price et al. 2010), some of the authors had previously received funding from pharmaceutical companies for other projects. In other words, these two studies were not funded by pharmaceutical companies, and the authors don’t work for those companies, but the companies had funded some other projects that were conducted by some of the researchers. That’s hardly damning evidence of corruption.

Two of the other conflicts surrounded Dr. Jefferson. In 1999, he worked as “an ad hoc consultant for a legal team advising MMR manufacturers.” This was acknowledged in his review (Jefferson et al. 2003) and in Demicheli et al. (2012). Jefferson was not an author on the final paper for Demicheli et al. (2012), but the paper stated, “The review authors wish to acknowledge Tom Jefferson and Deirdre Price as previous author.” In other words, he was involved at some stage, but not with the final product. Once again, showing that one of the researchers involved used to be a consultant for a legal team, hardly indicates that all of his research has been corrupted.

Another one of the conflicts also comes from a review. Hurley et al. 2010 stated, “All authors are employed by MED Communications, Inc., which provides medical and drug information services to multiple pharmaceutical firms, including several manufacturers of various vaccines.” So they were employed by a company that provides info to vaccine manufacturers, but they were not employed by the vaccine manufactures themselves. Again, that’s not really concerning.

Finally, one of the time-trend analyses (Kaye et al. 2001) was partially funded by a pharmaceutical company. This is the most concerning of the conflicts of interest, but it still does not automatically show that the research was corrupted. In other words, a conflict of interest should make you look more closely at a study, but it does not give you carte blanche to blindly reject it. Note (11-Aug-16): after positing this article, someone pointed out a methodological flaw in this study that I had missed before, so I have now removed the paper from the data sections of this post.

Nevertheless, let’s say that you did want to completely reject those six studies. That would still leave us with four correlation/time-series studies, three case-control studies, four cohort studies, four systematic reviews, and one massive meta-analysis, which, as far as I can tell, did not have conflicts of interest. They were funded by numerous different agencies, and the researchers worked for various universities, hospitals, and government agencies from all over the world (you can find more details about the funding for some of these studies here).

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Sample size and statistical power
Before I leave this section, I want to make a very important point about that nature of negative results in science. Technically speaking, it is not actually possible to demonstrate that vaccines don’t cause autism, but it is possible to demonstrate that if they cause it, they do so at a very low rate. In other words, if you have a sample size of 100 people, you haven’t tested the possibility that vaccines cause it at a rate of 1 in 1000, and if you have 1000 people, you haven’t tested the possibility that vaccines cause it at a rate of 1 in 10,000, etc. (note: those numbers are not precise). So no matter how large your sample size is, it is always possible that the effect is just smaller than what you were able to detect.

Now, when we apply that to vaccines and autism, what we see is that if vaccines do cause autism they do so at an absurdly low rate. Given that we have a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children, and a cohort study with over 400,000 children, and 3 cohort studies with around 100,000 children, we have the statistical power to detect even a very low rate. It’s a bit difficult to calculate exactly what that rate is, but even a rate of about 1 in 10,000 would likely show up in the larger studies. Remember, however, that the claim being made by anti-vaccers is that vaccines are causing an “autism epidemic,” and that claim is clearly false. Even if vaccines were only responsible for 5% of autism cases, that would be a rate of less than 1 in 1,300 people, which is well within the range that these studies had the power to detect. Further, even if vaccines only caused 1% of autism cases, that would be a rate of 1 in 6,800 people, which is still low enough that we should have detected it.

My point here is that these studies had an extraordinary power to detect even very tiny effects of vaccines, yet they failed to find any evidence of vaccines causing autism. This means, that if vaccines do cause autism, they do so at an incredibly low rate that shouldn’t be concerning (remember, every decision has risks, including the decision not to vaccinate).

To be 100% clear here. I am not in any way shape or form suggesting that vaccines actually do cause autism at a very low rate. There is utterly no evidence to think that they do (thus assuming that they do is an argument from ignorance fallacy). Rather, I am bringing this up because I am trying my best to give a fair and honest representation of the current state of our knowledge, and it is not technically correct to say that we have demonstrated that vaccines don’t cause autism, because what we have actually done is demonstrate that they probably don’t cause autism at a meaningful rate, or, to put it another way, if they cause autism, they do so at an extremely low rate, which still means that anti-vaccers’ claims are false.

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Anti-Vaccers’ Lists of Papers
Introduction to anti-vaccers’ papers
Before I go into the lists of papers that, according to the anti-vaccers, demonstrate that vaccines cause autism, I want to specify exactly what we would need to find in order for anti-vaccers’ claims to be legitimate. Remember, sample size and experimental design are extremely important in determine the quality of a study. Therefore, given that we have very large case-controlled and cohort studies, as well as a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children, all of which say that vaccines don’t cause autism, for the claim that vaccines do cause autism to be plausible, we would need multiple studies of similar size and power. That’s how science works. You don’t get to trump a massive meta-analysis with a tiny association study. So with that in mind, let’s look at anti-vaccers’ lists of papers, and see if there are any large, high quality studies.

The largest list (to my knowledge) was compiled by Ginger Taylor and currently contains 124 papers “supporting the vaccine/autism link.” There’s also, “30 solid scientific studies that prove vaccines cause autism” and “22 medical studies that show vaccines can cause autism.” All three of these lists have been widely shared so you may find them in different places with different names (as well as older versions with fewer studies), but in my searches, these were the three that I found over and over again. For the most part, they are redundant with each other, but I still painstaking went through them one paper at a time to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. This produced a total of 126 papers.

To get that number down to something manageable, I did a series of filtering steps to get rid of the papers that weren’t worth talking about (you can download an Excel file showing how I categorized them here). Now, before you accuse me of cherry-picking, please remember that I did the same thing for the pro-vaccine lists. I took lists of over 100 papers, and I wilted them down to just the ones that were worth talking about. Further, as you’ll see in a minute, I was far more generous to the anti-vaccine lists than I was to the pro-vaccine lists. For the pro-vaccine list, I filtered by content, study design, sample size, and study quality. In contrast, for the anti-vaccine lists, I only filtered by content and study design, because if I had filtered by the same sample size and quality standards that I applied to the pro-vaccine lists, I would have had exactly 0 studies left to talk about.

Note: some of the papers that I am not going to talk about were perfectly fine studies, they just have no relevance to the topic at hand. Many of them were, however, seriously flawed. You can find more details about many of those studies at I Speak of Dreams. (addendum: shortly after I published the initial post, DocBastard published an impressive post in which he commented on all 124 papers in the Ginger Taylor, so please see it as well).

Note: many papers fit into multiple categories, so if you simply try to add up the numbers from each of the following categories, it is going to look like I suck at math.


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Studies that weren’t about vaccines or weren’t about autism
It may or may not surprise you to learn that an enormous portion of the papers in these lists had absolutely nothing to do with vaccines and autism. Of the 126 papers, there were 31 that were not about autism and 60 that were not about vaccines. I’m really curious about how a study that never even uses the words “autism” or “vaccine” can prove that vaccines cause autism. To be clear, I was generous in assigning papers to those categories. I did not score animal studies in that category (even though demonstrating autism in animals is essentially impossible) and I didn’t include papers on thimerosal (even though thimerosal is no longer in childhood vaccines). So right off the bat, we have a pretty good reason to be skeptical of these lists.

Before I move on, however, I do actually want to talk for a minute about a few of these studies, because they provide a nice example of the misguided way that some people try to use scientific papers, and one of my goals here is to teach you all how to understand scientific literature. Some of these papers were so off topic that I have absolutely no clue why they were included. For example, Guy et al. (2015) was on the relationship between pre-term birth and autism, and presented evidence that infants who are born prematurely have a higher risk of developing autism. I have absolutely no clue why Taylor thought that paper was evidence that vaccines cause autism (since it’s not about vaccines), and there were lots of papers like that in the lists (like Carvalho et al. 2011 which was on methods of treating mercury poisoning, because nothing shows that vaccines cause autism better than showing that X treats mercury poisoning [sarcasm]).

Other papers were on extremely tangentially related issues. For example, there were several studies on methyl-mercury (e.g., Rice. 1989; Charleston et al. 1994), but methyl-mercury has never been in vaccines. The mercury that used to be in vaccines was ethyl-mercury, which is a very different chemical with different properties. You can’t say, “methyl-mercury does X, therefore ethyl-mercury also does X.” That’s not how chemistry works (also most of those mercury studies weren’t about autism either). Similarly, there were a few papers showing that some component of vaccines were toxic in very high doses, but the dose makes the poison. The fact that chemical Y is dangerous at a very high level is irrelevant to whether or not it is dangerous at the low levels present in vaccines.

Others were about general neurotoxic effects or effects other than autism. Many of these had specific problems that I won’t go into here, but the point that I want to make is that you can’t jump from, “vaccines cause X” to “vaccines cause autism.” Even if these studies had successfully demonstrated that vaccines cause neurological problems other than autism, that wouldn’t indicate or even suggest that vaccines actually cause autism. Each disorder is different with its own set of causes and triggers, and you can’t just assume that the same causal relationships exist for all of them.

The remainder of the studies were, I think, intended to demonstrate various components of hypothetical pathways that supposedly lead from vaccines to autism. For example, there were numerous papers showing associations between oxidative stress and autism, and the argument (I assume) is that vaccines cause oxidative stress, and therefore vaccines can cause autism. There are several problems with that though. First, correlation isn’t causation, and none of those papers established causation, so it could be that some aspect of autism causes oxidative stress rather than the other way around. Additionally, the evidence that vaccines cause oxidative stress is very limited.

To put this another way, what the anti-vaccers are doing is laying out a hypothetical pathway in which vaccines cause oxidative stress which in turn causes autism, but we don’t know if either of those steps are actually true. Further, even if each step was true independently, you couldn’t actually assume that one will lead to the other in actual patients. The human body is remarkably complex and biochemical pathways and interactions are complicated and difficult to predict. So it’s often the case that under the right circumstances, A causes B, and under the right circumstances B causes C, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that A will go all the way to C in an actual person. Finally, and most importantly, in science, you use hypothetical pathways to design experiments, but the pathway itself is not evidence. In other words, you do large studies to see whether or not the pathway is true, and, in the case of vaccines, if this hypothetical pathway actually worked, then the large case-controlled and cohort studies should have found a significant difference between vaccinated and unvaccianted children, but they didn’t.

Other papers constructed similar hypothetical pathways involving things like febrile seizures and mitochondrial disorders, but they all suffer the same basic problems. Namely there are steps that involve association by not necessarily causation, there are steps that involve gaps in our knowledge, and they are all hypothetical. You absolutely cannot present a hypothesis as evidence for your position, but that is exactly what is happening here. These hypotheses have been thoroughly refuted by the large studies that I discussed earlier, and, therefore, they must be rejected.

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In vitro trials and animal studies
The anti-vaccine lists contained 20 animal studies and 17 in vitro studies (these are studies done on cells and tissues in a petri dish). There are two important reasons why I am filtering these out (remember that I also eliminated animal trials and in vitro trials from the pro-vaccine lists).

First, and most importantly, these types of studies are always at the bottom of the evidence pyramid. The human body is obviously vastly more complicated than a dish of cells, and in the human body, there are far more chemicals for a drug to interact with, not to mention the fact that you have the kidneys and liver which are actively filtering harmful compounds from your body. As a result, it is very often the case that a chemical will behave one way when directly exposed to a plate of cells (such as nerve cells), but behave very differently in the body where it must travel to the cells without being filtered out or becoming overly diluted, avoid interacting with other chemicals, etc. Similarly, humans, mice, monkeys, etc. are all biochemically different, and chemicals don’t always behave the same way in each species. Because of all of these factors, in vitro studies and animal trials are preliminary studies that are used as a first pass filtering mechanism. In other words, they are used to decide which topics merit further research, and you absolutely cannot use them as evidence against large epidemiological trials. When an animal trial says X and a cohort study says Y, you go with the cohort study (unless, of course, you can actually find real problems with the cohort study).

The second reason that I am filtering out these trials is that they have very limited applicability to the topic of autism. You cannot diagnose a petri dish as having autism. The best you could do is say, “after being exposed to chemical X, the cells had characteristics that were similar to those of an autistic patient,” but again, association is not causation. So unless you know that those cellular characteristics cause autism, you can’t really say much. Further, showing that a chemical damages a nerve cell does not mean that it will specifically cause autism. Similarly, how would you diagnose autism in a rat? You can say, “the rat is behaving differently,” but again that doesn’t necessarily mean that it specifically has autism.

Finally, I do want to make a few brief comments about a particular set of monkey trials. Anti-vaccers are very fond of citing Hewitson et al. (2008) and Hewitson et al. (2010), which claimed to find evidence of vaccines causing neurological damage in rhesus macaques (anti-vaccers also sometimes cite Hewitson et al. 2009, but that study was withdrawn). All of these were preliminary studies based on ongoing research. Hewitson et al. 2010 literally has the words “pilot study” in the title, and Hewitson et al. 2008 was a conference abstract, not a peer-reviewed paper. Further, the sample sizes were laughably small.

The full study with a more proper sample size has finally come out, and, as often happens in science, the preliminary data were wrong. In the full study, there was no evidence of vaccines causing neurological problems (Gadad et al. 2015). Also, it is worth mentioning that Hewitson is an author on the Gadad paper, and, amusingly, the study was actually funded by an anti-vaccine group!

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Mercury and thimerosal studies
Mercury is by far the most common vaccine component to be accused of causing autism. Therefore, it should not be surprising that 50 of the papers were specifically about it. However, I’m am not going to talk much about those papers for several reasons.

First, many of these papers were on elemental mercury (Hg) or methyl-mercury, but the preservative used in some vaccines (thimerosal) is actually ethyl-mercury. The mercury in thimerosal does not behave like other types of mercury because it is bound to a ethyl group (just like the chlorine in table salt does not behave like chlorine because it is bound to sodium; details here).

Second, even for the studies on thimerosal, none of them were large human trials that were capable of establishing causation. There were lots of small trials, animal trials, in vitro trials, association studies, etc., but large cohort studies were completely lacking. In contrast, remember that several of the papers in the pro-vaccine list specifically looked at thimerosal (as well as the whole vaccine) and failed to find any relationship. These pro-vaccine studies included a meta-analysis with 1.2 million children  (Taylor et al. 2014), a cohort study with 124,170 children (Verstraeten et al. 2003), and a case-controlled trial with over 1,000 children (Price et al. 2010; several of the other studies also used vaccines that contained thimerosal, but they did not explicitly test that component). Additionally, we have a cohort study with 446,695 children that compared those who received vaccines with thimerosal to those who received vaccines without thimerosal (Hviid et al. 2003). These massive, high quality studies completely obliterate the small low quality studies presented by the anti-vaccers. That is how the hierarchy of evidence works.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, most industrialized countries do not currently have thimerosal in their childhood vaccines, and thimerosal has been absent for roughly 15 years (depending on the country). In the USA, Canada, and countries in the EU, for example, currently only certain strains of the flu vaccine contain thimerosal. Similarly, in Australia it is absent from all childhood vaccines except for certain Hep B vaccines.

This removal of thimerosal is important for two important reasons. First, if you live in a developed country (which is where most of my readers are) then thimerosal in childhood vaccines is a non-issue for you. Even if early exposure to thimerosal did cause autism (which it doesn’t), thimerosal isn’t in childhood vaccines, so you have nothing to worry about.

Second, the nearly world-wide removal of thimerosal from vaccines provides an excellent test of the hypothesis. If thimerosal in vaccines was actually causing autism, then there should have been an obvious drop in autism rates following its removal, but there wasn’t (Madsen et al. 2003; Schechter and Grether 2008). Look at the autism rates over time for any of these countries, and you will not find a noticeable difference following the removal of thimerosal. That is extremely clear evidence that thimerosal does not cause autism.

Now, you may protest and say, “but aren’t trace amounts of it still present in some vaccines?” Yes, trace amounts are present in some vaccines, but think about what you just said, “trace amounts are present.” We are talking about less than 1 microgram of thimerosal per dose. Let me put that in perspective, a small paper clip weighs about 1,000,000 micrograms! We are talking about a dose that is much smaller than any study has ever found to be harmful, and, of course, the dose makes the poison. Finally, if thimerosal caused autism, then the shift to only trace amounts in a few vaccines should still have resulted in lower autism rates.

To quote Orac/Monty Python,

“The hypothesis that mercury in vaccines causes autism is about as dead a hypothesis as there can be. It’s passed on. The hypothesis is no more. It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It’s shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! This is an ex-hypothesis!”

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Conference abstracts, case series opinions, other non-research
The lists contained several conference abstracts (which should always be considered preliminary and should not be used as evidence), case reports/series (which are glorified collections of anecdotes), opinion papers, and other non-research papers (such as a bizarre, non-peer-reviewed student paper on court cases [Holland et al. 2011]).

I do, however, want to briefly talk about one of the case reports, because it is very famous in anti-vaccine circles. I am, of course, referring to Poling (2006). The paper documents the story of a girl who developed normally until she received a vaccine, then she regressed into autism. So it is every anti-vaccer’s story, just published in a scientific paper. However, the fact that it was published does not make a causal conclusion any more legitimate than if someone had said it on the internet. Saying, “X happened before Y, therefore X caused Y” is a logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc. It does not prove or even suggest that X caused Y. There are also some other really disturbing aspects of this paper. For example, the subject of this study was Hannah Poling. That’s right, she is the author’s daughter (conflict of interest anyone?). In my opinion, parents publishing about their children’s health is probably not a great idea, especially when that parent proceeds to seek a financial settlement for their child’s health (as happened in this case).

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Actual human studies on current vaccines and autism
After all of that filtering, we are down to just 12 studies and 6 non-systematic reviews that are actually about humans and are relevant to both autism and the current vaccine schedule.  So let’s look at them. Some of these are grouped together, and I have proceeded each cluster with the title(s) of the paper(s) contained therein (titles are underlined and in quotes).

“A positive association found between autism prevalence and childhood vaccination uptake across the U.S. population”
“Empirical data confirm autism symptoms related to aluminum and acetaminophen exposure”
“Impact of environmental factors on the prevalence of autistic disorder after 1979”
“A comparison of temporal trends in United States autism prevalence to trends in suspected environmental factors”

organic food autism corrleation logical fallacy

Correlation does not equal causation. Organic food sales and autism rates are tightly correlated, but that does not mean that organic food causes autism. Image via the Genetic Literacy Project

First, I want to talk about DeLong (2011)Seneff et al. (2012), Deisher et al. (2014), and Nevison (2014). These four were association studies that looked for correlations between autism rates and vaccinations rates. That’s automatically a problem, because association does not mean causation, so even if these studies were good, they would not present evidence that vaccines cause autism. Also, there are additional problems. For example, the DeLong study used very crude state-wide data, failed to account for all possible confounders, and lumped speech disabilities in with autism for the analysis (more details on the problems with this paper here).

Similarly, Seneff et al. (2012) didn’t actual measure autism rates, but instead looked for mentions of it in the self-reported VAERS database (which went up over time), then tried to match that to the amount of aluminum in vaccines. Because it is self-reported, VAERS is notoriously unreliable for things like this, especially in this case because there is so much evidence that autism rates aren’t actually increasing (Rutter 2005; Taylor 2006; Bishop et al. 2008; Baxter et al. 2015; Hansen et al. 2015). Think about it, autism has become an increasingly hot topic over time, so you would naturally expect it to show up more often in VAERS over time, thus completely negating the study (other problems are described here).

Next, we have Deisher et al. (2014). This study attempted to look for correlations between the release of certain vaccines and increases in autism rates, and it is honestly a very hard paper to read because it is so horrible. The writing is nearly impossible to follow, the methods are nonsense, the statistics are total crap, the conclusions aren’t merited by those statistics, and the fundamental premises of the paper are refuted by numerous other studies (i.e., it assumes that autism rates are actually going up, which, once again, they likely aren’t). In short, what they did was take a data set that would normally be analyzed by linear regression, then chop it up based on cherry-picked data points. Other authors have explained the problems in detail, so I’ll defer to them (here and here).

Finally, we have Nevison (2014). In short, this study claimed to find an increase in autism rates over time (which is debatable), and it found that the increase correlates with glyphosate use and aluminum in vaccines. As illustrated earlier, however, you can also make a nice graph that shows a correlation between autism and organic food sales. Just because two things increase together does not mean that one causes the other. I think that you probably get the picture by now, so I won’t waste any more time on this paper.

“Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism? ”

Now we arrive at the infamous Tomljenovic and Shaw (2011) study. It’s a paper that is so fundamentally flawed that I don’t even know where to begin, and it would take me an entire (and lengthy) post to go over all of the problems with it. Fortunately, others have done that for me, so I will defer you to them and just hit the highlights.

First, this study looked at two regressions: autism and aluminum in the US, and autism and aluminum across countries. We have lots of problems here. First, as Orac explains in more detail, you have a problem known as an ecological fallacy where you lump a very large data set (i.e., a country) into a single data point. In other words, they aren’t showing that individuals who receive vaccines have higher autism rates. Rather, they are showing that countries with lots of vaccines have higher autism rates. That is a huge problem because there are obviously tons of factors other than just vaccination rates that differ among countries (which means that we can’t be sure that vaccines are the thing that is causing the difference in autism rates). Additionally, as explained here, the sources of the data for different countries varied widely and involved different cohorts, and it appears that the authors cherry-picked their sources.

Even if we zoom in on the correlation in the US, we have serious problems. To assess autism rates, they looked at the number of autistic children who were reported via the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) database, which is an extremely problematic and inappropriate way to measure autism levels because it is affected by diagnostic changes, and, once again, the increase in autism seems to be largely due to diagnostic changes rather than actual changes (Rutter 2005; Taylor 2006; Bishop et al. 2008; Baxter et al. 2015; Hansen et al. 2015).

Finally, this is yet another association study. It cannot demonstrate causation, but that doesn’t stop the authors from trying. They misappropriate Hill’s criteria, which is a series of nine diagnostic criteria used to assess whether or not causation is likely. I will outline and discuss them below.

  1. Strength (robustness): Although they did get low P values, their methods have multiple problems and confounding factors that they did not account for. So this study fails the strength test.
  2. Consistency (consistent with other results): This study is extremely inconsistent with all of the large studies discussed early.
  3. Specificity (if you are dealing with a very specific, isolated event, causation is more likely): This was done at the country level. It is as far from specific as you can get.
  4. Temporality (cause happens before affect): This could not be assessed by this study.
  5. Biological gradient (i.e., higher dose = stronger effect): This was not evaluated by this study, but I cited several studies earlier that failed to find a relationship between the number of vaccine doses and autism.
  6. Plausibility: Once upon a time, the vaccine/autism hypothesis was plausible, but now that it has been so thoroughly tested, it is no longer plausible.
  7. Coherence (agreement of laboratory and epidemiological findings): There are lots of in vitro and animal trials that have found vaccines to be safe.
  8. Experiment: not relevant for this particular topic
  9. Analogy: not relevant for this particular topic

It’s pretty obvious that this paper epically fails Hill’s criteria. So, in short, this paper showed some shoddy correlations that were based on crude, inappropriate, and cherry-picked data sources. It absolutely is not evidence that vaccines cause autism.

“Hepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1-9 years”
“Hepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and autism diagnosis, NHIS 1997–2002.”

Next, I want to look at two studies by Gallagher and Goodman. Gallagher and Goodman (2008) is another study that used general developmental disorders, rather than autism specifically (which automatically makes it problematic and means that we can’t reach any conclusions specifically about autism). Further, it was yet another association study, and it relied on parental surveys (which are often prone to biases). Additionally, it had fairly small sample sizes (228 unvaccinated boys, 678 vaccinated boys, 217 unvaccinated girls, and 571 vaccinated girls). Most importantly though, its results are entertainingly problematic. It found higher levels of EIS (special education services) in vaccinated boys than unvaccinated boys (7% vs 3%), but it also found significantly lower levels of EIS in vaccinated girls than in unvaccinated girls (2% vs 6%). That is extremely clear evidence that the results of this study are simply statistical noise produced by a weak study design and small sample sizes. To put this another way, if you want to use this study as evidence that vaccines cause autism in boys, you must simultaneously use it as evidence that they prevent autism in girls.

Now, let’s look at Gallagher and Goodman 2010. This was a cross-sectional study, which is a study design that looks at the rate of something in a population, then looks for possible causes of that thing. This is a very weak type of association study which cannot establish causal relationships and is easily biased by numerous factors. Additionally, this study also had a very small sample size of only 31 boys with autism (which is what they used for the stats). The sample for non-autistic children was much higher, but the study is limited by the smallest sample size, and when you couple a weak experimental design with a tiny sample size, you get unreliable results, which is the best word to describe both Gallagher and Goodman studies: “unreliable.”

“Serological association of measles virus and human herpesvirus-6 with brain autoantibodies in Autism”
“Abnormal measles-mumps rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism”

Next, let’s talk about two papers for which Vijendra Singh was the primary author. First, we have Singh et al. 1998, which is another really sorry excuse for a paper. It is yet another association study, and it also had tiny sample sizes (48 with autism and 43 controls; you should be detecting a theme by now). Most importantly, their numbers are so far off that I am willing to label it “fraudulent.” The authors looked at serum levels of HHV-6-IgG, measles-IgG, anti-MBP, and anti-NAFP, and found that 70% of the autistic children were positive for anti-MBP. Simple math tells us that 70% of 48 is 34 (after rounding). So 34 of their autistic children had anti-MBP; however, in table 1, where they are presenting the “associations” on which their entire paper is based, they reported that 37 autistic children had both measles IgG antibodies and anti-MBP. That is not possible if only 34 autistic children had anti-MBP. Similarly, they said that 57% of autistic children were positive for anti-NAFP. So 57% of 48 is 27 autistic children with anti-NAFP. Yet they claim that 30 autistic children had both measles IgG and anti-NAFP. Whenever you find inconsistencies of this magnitude in the core results of a paper, you should toss out the whole paper, because at that point, you don’t have any reason to trust anything in it. There are also lots of other problems with this study, such as the fact that there was no significant difference in viral levels in the autistic and non-autistic group (which is the opposite of what you would expect if exposure to the virus caused autism), but the numerical inconsistencies are so great that I don’t feel the need to go any further.

The next study from this group, (Singh et al. 2002) also looked at serum levels. Specifically, it was looking for antibodies produced by the MMR vaccine as well as anti-MBP. Once again, it is a small association study (125 autistic children, 92 controls), and the results are, unsurprisingly, a bit suspicious. They used two different techniques for detecting the antibodies, and the main one (which was used for the primary comparisons) found MMR antibodies in 60% of autistic children, or at least that’s what the text says. According to to figure 5, it was only about 55%. Again, inconsistencies like that in the main results are enormous red flags. At best, they mean that the authors were really sloppy (which should make you question every part of the study and analysis), and at worst, they are dishonest and fudged the results. Additionally, this technique did not detect MMR antibodies in any of the control children. This is extremely surprising, because all of the control children were vaccinated, which means that most of them should have had those antibodies. Further, their other technique (which was used on a subset of samples) did detect MMR antibodies in some of the controls, which means that either their primary method was not sensitive enough to be useful, or they lied. Either way, this paper is busted.

“Possible immunological disorders in autism: concomitant autoimmunity and immune tolerance”

Next, I want to talk about Kawashti. (2006). The inclusion of this paper in the anti-vaccers’ list amuses me to no end, because it is designed very similarly to the Singh et al. papers (i.e., it looked for antibodies from the MMR vaccine in children with and without autism), but it found the exact opposite! It found the antigens for measles, mumps, and rubella were present in 100% of non-autistic children, but only 50%, 73.3%, and 53.3% of autistic children. Further, it concluded “At this stage, we can conclude that M.M.R. vaccine may not be a cause of autism.” That’s right, this is not actually an anti-vaccine paper. This, once again, shows just how little quality control went into constructing the anti-vaccine lists. This paper directly contradicts other papers in the list, yet it was still included (note: this is another small association study, so I’m not touting it as evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism; rather, the point is simply that the anti-vaccers screwed up and put a pro-vaccine paper in their list).

“Can awareness of medical pathophysiology in autism lead to primary care autism prevention strategies?”

Now, I want to shift gears a bit and talk about Mumper (2013). This is a truly bizarre “study.” It was published in the North American Journal of Medicine and Science, which is a journal that is so minor that I couldn’t even find an impact factor (in laymen’s terms, that means that no one cites this journal or takes it seriously). Further, the paper itself doesn’t follow any of the standard conventions for a scientific paper, it includes bizarre sections like anecdotes of the author’s travels to other countries, and perhaps most amusingly, the figures were clearly made using default Microsoft Excel formats (which is something that we tend to laugh at in science). It looks more like an undergraduate report than a scientific paper.

It may seem like I am being nitpicky, but all of those things are actually clues that this is a subpar paper that did not go through a proper review process. You should learn to watch out for flags like that as you read scientific papers. Then, of course, we have the actual experimental design (and I’m use that term very loosely). The author works at a private pediatric clinic that stresses a lot of different things like breastfeeding, probiotics, nutritional counseling, flexible vaccine schedules, etc. Some of those are good, some are bad, but what she did, was go back through her records since 2005 to see if any of their infants had been diagnosed with autism while under their care. She found that out of 294 infants, none had been diagnosed with autism. This is lower than the national background rate of 1 in 68, so she made an astronomical jump to the conclusion that her clinic’s practices prevent autism (or at least avoid the causes of autism). That’s clearly an absurd conclusion. What she did is not even close to a proper study, but let’s assume for a second that it was. Let’s assume that there is actually something happening at that clinic that prevents autism. You still can’t jump to the conclusion that it was vaccines because there are so many factors. Maybe it was breastfeeding. Maybe it was probiotics, etc. This is not a real study. It is an anecdote that has been dressed up as a study.

“Detection and sequencing of measles virus from peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and autism.”

Kawashima et al. (2000) simply found DNA from the measles vaccine in the colons of nine autistic patients, which of course doesn’t mean anything other than that DNA from the measles vaccine was in their colons. That result is not even remotely evidence that the vaccine does anything harmful.

“Epidemiologic and molecular relationship between vaccine manufacture and autism spectrum disorder prevalence.
Note: This paper was not in any of the anti-vaccine lists, so it was not included in the original version of this post, nor is it included in the paper counts. It was brought to my attention after publishing the post, so I added it on 20-May-2016.

This paper (Deisher et al. 2015) was thoroughly debunked on Science-Based Medicine, so I will defer to that post, but in short, it is on an implausible hypothesis, the data were collected in a very questionable way, and the data were presented deceptively to show trends that aren’t really there. Additionally, this paper was on the MMR vaccine, which is also the vaccine that was specifically examined by most of the large cohort studies, the massive meta-analysis, etc. All of those studies were far more powerful than this study, so you really can’t use this paper as evidence that those papers are wrong. Finally, this paper was published in an extremely minor journal (the impact factor is roughly 0), which is a huge red flag that it is junk science.

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Reviews
At this point, I have gone through the relevant anti-vaccine literature and showed that all of the studies are small and incapable of demonstrating causation, and I have showed that many of them are riddled with problems. So you may be wondering, “what could the reviews possibly be on?” Well this is where we come back to the importance of systematic reviews. If you recall in the pro-vaccine section, all of the reviews that I cited were systematic, meaning that they used pre-defined search terms and criteria. The anti-vaccine reviews, however, are not systematic. Thus, they completely ignored all of the large studies that have discredited the vaccine/autism hypothesis, they ignored all of the problems with the anti-vaccine studies, and they used all of those tiny, problematic studies to spin a fanciful tale in which, through a complex, unlikely, and thoroughly discredited series of events, vaccines cause autism. In other words, all that these “reviews” do is set forth a hypothesis. Doing that would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that the hypothesis has been discredited by numerous massive studies. Again, you always reject a hypothesis based on the evidence. You never reject the evidence based on a hypothesis, but that is exactly what these papers are doing. They are deceptively only showing the papers that support their position while ignoring all of the papers that refute it.

Here is the list of reviews: Rimland and McGinnis. 2002, Singh. 2009, Ratajczak 2011 (details of problems here and here), Sienkiewicx et al. 2012 (details of problems here) Shaw and Tomljenovic. 2013b, and Shaw et al. 2014a. Most of these contain numerous blatantly false (or at least highly misleading) statements, but the main point that I want to drive home is simply that they are stating hypotheses rather than presenting evidence of causation, and they are ignoring the fact that those hypotheses have already been tested and refuted.

Note: to be fair, Rimland and McGinnis (2002) was written before the large studies were available, so they were stating a hypothesis that had yet to be thoroughly tested, which is fine, but most of these reviews were written after the hypothesis had been thoroughly refuted.

Note: There were actually 28 reviews in all, but most of them were not about vaccines, were about thimerosal, etc. So only the six listed here were actually relevant for the current vaccine schedule.

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Conflicts of interest
Anti-vaccers are very quick to point out conflicts of interest in pro-vaccine papers (or, more often, assume that they exist before they even check for them), but they are very slow to acknowledge them in their own papers. So I want to briefly provide a few examples to show that they do in fact exist (I did not check for conflicts in all of the anti-vaccine papers).

First, it is worth mentioning that this whole vaccine/autism mess got started when Andrew Wakefield falsified evidence against the MMR vaccine and conspired with lawyers to sue pharmaceutical companies, all while covertly working on a patent for his own vaccine which he planned to replace the MMR vaccine with (details here and here). Similarly, Geier, who is the author of a case series that anti-vaccers love to cite (Geier and Geier 2007) as well as several other anti-vaccine studies, has had his medical license suspended for unethical behavior and, “incompetence or multiple instances of negligence.” The heroes of the anti-vaccine movement leave much to be desired. Further, those two are far from alone. As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Poling published his infamous case report while in the process of seeking a financial settlement for his daughter’s “vaccine injury.”

Dr. Shaw and Dr. Tomljenovic are also two fantastic examples of conflicts of interest. These are two of the most prominent anti-vaccine scientists, and eight of the papers in the anti-vaccers’ lists were authored by at least one of them. However, both of them have served as consultants or expert witnesses in vaccine lawsuits, Shaw is the chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for an anti-vaccine group, and at least one of their studies was funded by members of the governing board of that group (more info here). Funding from an activist group that describes vaccines as, “a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems” is just as big of a conflict of interest as funding from a pharmaceutical company. So, according to standard anti-vax reasoning, this should cast doubt on all of the authors’ work.

Similarly, Dr. Singh (who you may remember authored two of the papers and one of the reviews that I talked about) was funded by the Autism Research Institute, which, at the time that he received funding, ran a program called “Defeat Autism Now!,” which actively promoted the idea that vaccines cause autism. Further, remember that horrible DeLong (2011) paper that I talked about earlier? Well DeLong is a board member of the prominent anti-vaccine group “SafeMinds,” and, like Poling, is the parent of an autistic child.

I could keep going, but I think that I have made my point clear. Anti-vaccers like to pretend that all of their studies are conflict free and represent true, unbiased research. In reality, there are plenty of anti-vaccine organizations that are happy to fund anti-vaccine studies, and many of the authors are deeply involved in the anti-vaccine movement. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we should automatically reject these papers because of those conflicts (we should reject them because they are junk science), but I wanted to point out that, despite what anti-vaccers like to think, they are not free from conflicts of interest.

Note: please see these two posts for more info on when and how it is OK to attack a source.

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Studies that I did not include
You may have noticed that I did not talk about either the original Wakefield study or Hooker (2014). That is because both of these studies were so flawed that they were retracted (I talked more about Hooker’s study here).

All of the anti-vaccine papers fall into the lowest categories of evidence, and none of them were capable of showing causal relationships (details here).

All of the anti-vaccine papers fell into the lowest categories of evidence, and none of them were capable of showing causal relationships (details here).

Overview of anti-vaccine papers
In short, the vast majority of papers cited by anti-vaccers aren’t even about vaccines and autism. Of the ones that are, many of them are animal trials and in vitro trials, or they are about thimerosal, which is no longer in vaccines and has been documented to be safe via several very large epidemiological studies. Indeed, there were only 12 experimental studies on humans that were about both vaccines and autism and were relevant to the current vaccine schedule, but none of them were case-controlled or cohort studies, and there were no meta-analyses or systematic reviews. The studies used small sample sizes and shoddy statistics to show crude correlations, and none of them had the ability to assign causation. Further, most of them were filled with problems, and one of them was actually a pro-vaccine paper. There were also six non-systematic reviews, but these were essentially glorified opinion papers that ignored all of the literature against a link between autism and vaccines. They simply presented hypotheses rather than evidence, and those hypotheses have been thoroughly discredited by large studies.

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Anecdotes, Court Cases, VAERS, etc.
At this point, it should be exceptionally clear that there is no good scientific evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism, which means that this is usually the point at which people start trying to use non-scientific evidence. Therefore, I want to very briefly explain the problems with some common non-scientific arguments.

The most common response to the statement, “vaccines don’t cause autism” is probably the appeal to anecdotes. The internet is full of stories of people who vaccinated their child, then watched as the child regressed. The problem is, of course, that anecdotes aren’t evidence. The fact that X happened before Y does not mean that X caused Y. In fact, arguing that X caused Y is a logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc. This is especially true for something like autism because the first signs of autism usually appear around the same age as many vaccinations. Therefore, given that the large number of people who develop autism, and the large number of people who are vaccinated, you expect there to be many cases where vaccination and the onset of autism occur together just by chance. Really think about that for a minute. If 1 in 68 children will have autism, usually with the first obvious symptoms occurring around 2-3 years of age, and over 90% of children receive vaccines around 2-3 years of age, then there should be lots of cases where parents notice the signs of autism shortly after vaccinating, even if vaccines aren’t the cause.

I fully understand why parents would blame vaccines. I understand why seeing your child develop autism shortly after receiving a vaccine would make you think that the vaccine was responsible, but you need to realize that lots of things happen together just by chance, and, as a result, anecdotes are not valid evidence. If vaccines actually did cause autism at the rates claimed by anti-vaccers, then the large, systematic studies should have found a significant difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. In the face of evidence like that, it is not logically or scientifically valid to cling to anecdotes.

An extension of the anecdote argument is to cite reports of vaccines causing autism in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS is, however, a self reported database. In other words, it is just a collection of anecdotes. The fact that someone reported an anecdote to VAERS doesn’t make the anecdote any more trustworthy. The point of databases like this is to allow doctors and scientists to identify potential issues that need to be studied. It is not meant to be used as evidence of causation, and, in the case of vaccines, the topic has clearly been extremely well studied (more details about issues with using VAERS as evidence here).

A final line of anecdotal reasoning involves appealing to the vaccine package inserts (which is the one and only time that anti-vaccers trust pharmaceutical companies). The problem is, once again, that the lists of adverse reactions do not demonstrate causation. Those lists consist of any symptoms reported during clinical trials, most of which were almost certainly not caused by the vaccine. In fact, the package inserts even state that the list of adverse reactions is not a list of confirmed causal relationships.

Another common strategy is to appeal to court cases. There have been various court cases in various countries where money has been awarded to people who claim that vaccines gave their child autism (there have also been plenty that were thrown out of court or later overturned). To anti-vaccers, these are admissions of guilt by governments and confirm that vaccines are dangerous. In reality, they are nothing of the kind. The fact that a judge concluded that a vaccine caused autism does not mean that the vaccine actually did cause autism. This is a blatant appeal to authority fallacy. Judges aren’t infallible, and they usually aren’t even scientists. A judge can be deceived about the current state of our scientific knowledge just as easily as anyone else. So you absolutely cannot say, “This court gave money for an autism case, therefore all of those massive studies with hundreds of thousands of children must be wrong.” Hopefully you can see why statements like that are absurd.

Finally, there has been a great deal of fuss over the “CDC whistleblower.”  I won’t go into the details because it is just too long of a story, but the short version is that there was no cover up and the CDC did not hide evidence or deceive the public. This argument is nothing more than typical conspiracy theorist ramblings. Many others have explained the situation in detail, so if you are prone to using this argument, please see their posts (for example, here, here, and here).

Addendum (20-May-16): If you are tempted to respond to this article by claiming that “most scientific studies are actually wrong,” please read this. If you want to respond by making the more general claim that science has been wrong before, please read this, and if you want to respond by demanding more studies, please read this.

Conclusion

If you made it all the way here, then congratulations on reading the world’s longest blog post (or at least an unusually long post). It should now be clear to you that the evidence really is overwhelmingly supportive of vaccines. Even though anti-vaccers claim to have lengthy lists of papers supporting their position, most of those papers are irrelevant, used weak designs, and had small sample sizes. In contrast, the literature supporting vaccine safety consists of multiple exceptionally large and powerful studies. So there really is no good scientific evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism.

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125 Responses to Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

  1. lizditz says:

    Thank you SO much for taking the time to assemble and to write this. I am deeply grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Initiative Rationnelle says:

    This is an outstanding work and an invaluable help.
    Thank you very much.

    (you wrote “the does” instead of “the dose”)

    Like

  3. Initiative Rationnelle says:

    Reblogged this on Initiative Rationnelle and commented:
    Un travail exceptionnel d’analyse des études investiguant le lien entre vaccination et autisme. Sans aucun doute une référence pour de futures conversations.

    Like

  4. Sam says:

    Thank you! This is an amazing amount of work to put all the information in one spot.. Awesome!

    Like

  5. Victor says:

    I love the article, but have to ask You…. do You know where the majority of funds come from at these places of systematic research? Pharmaceutical Companies! They make the most money out of the whole medical industry. They are the ones, that make the vaccines. Do You honestly think there is ANY real honesty at such places, styled below, from Your article? Great read and article though. 🙂 I say that sincerely. 🙂

    “…numerous scientists working for different universities and organizations from around the world. It has been tested via multiple different methods and populations, and it has been addressed from multiple angles (e.g., different vaccines, different vaccine components, age at vaccination, number of antigens, number of doses, etc.), and the result is exceptionally clear: vaccines do not cause autism… “

    Like

  6. Robert Davis says:

    I would urge Fallacy Man rapidly to check for typos, misspellings and duplicates. It is annoying to find a dozen such errors in an otherwise solid piece of work.

    Like

    • Bishop^ says:

      Though I was amused to read about a “meat analysis”, I was disappointed to find it was not a comparison of treats to satisfy my carnivorous appetite. 😉

      Like

  7. You don’t joke when you say ‘thorough’! Wow. Great that you took the time to do this.

    Like

  8. This is a thing of beauty. Thank you for it.

    Like

  9. ThinkAboutIt says:

    Well…major bonus points for all the work that you put into this. Although I need to study this a lot more to really see what is here and what is not here, I feel confident enough, based on my history of researching this subject, to make some early comments and contributions.

    First, this appears to be a heavily and detailed worded, long, scientifically supported version, of just about every argument or opinion piece that I have read or discussed on the subject of changes in brain functionality as they relate to vaccines. In other words, you are attempting to lock or secure, or put an end to this debate, simply by making sure that all possible studies are presented.

    That’s cool, and it certainly took some work, but all this really means is that we have a conclusion only based on the information and studies that we have done. It does not mean, that there is no link. And you can throw another 100 studies at this, and another 100 words, adding to the pile, and it would still not mean that there is no link.

    So here’s the deal. The reason why a link is assumed, and supported, is the history of reports of a child and children changing behavior as related to the delivery of the vaccine or multiple vaccines. In other words, there is a high enough number of parents reporting an immediate and dramatic and permanent change in the behavior of a child, that the link was established. This is the core of what needs to be understood and studied. It also appears that it continues to be ignored. In other words, until we study why these reports exist, and in the numbers that they exist, and focusing on just those particular children, we have not demonstrated the science needed to make a conclusion. We have to target the research and the studies at the root or origins in order to properly dismiss a link, and to the best of my knowledge, we have never done that.

    This is the reason why anti-vac positions continue to exist. You can present study after study, but when parents report a change in a child, in the manner they do, and frequency, valid or not, the belief is going to remain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fallacy Man says:

      There are a couple of important things that need to be noted here. First, you said, “That’s cool, and it certainly took some work, but all this really means is that we have a conclusion only based on the information and studies that we have done. It does not mean, that there is no link.” Technically speaking, it is always possible that all of the current studies are wrong, but you can’t assume that they are wrong without actual evidence (not anecdotes). If this type of reasoning worked, we could apply it to any topic. For example, “we haven’t shown that smoking causes cancer, because all that we really have is a conclusion only based on the information and studies that we have done.” Scientific conclusions are always formed by generalizing from the current studies, but you can’t assume that the generalization is wrong without compelling evidence for doing so.
      This is especially true for something like vaccines and autism because it has been so well studied. When you have multiple studies will well over 100,000 children, and a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children, the odds that you missed a real result are extremely low. To put this another way, if vaccines actually cause autism, then why didn’t any of those studies find that relationship?

      “In other words, there is a high enough number of parents reporting an immediate and dramatic and permanent change in the behavior of a child, that the link was established.” The link was not established, it was assumed. There is a world of difference between those two.

      “It also appears that it continues to be ignored. In other words, until we study why these reports exist, and in the numbers that they exist, and focusing on just those particular children, we have not demonstrated the science needed to make a conclusion.”
      I’m not sure exactly what you mean here. First, the reason that so many reports exist is simple probabilities (as explained in the post). Autism has a background rate of 1 in 68, with symptoms usually first appear at around 2-3 years old, and the vast majority of children receive vaccines at around 2-3 years old. Thus, even if there is no relationship between the two, we would expect there to be thousands of cases where the signs of autism started showing up shortly after a vaccination simply because both events usually take place around the same time. To give an analogous example, there is a strong correlation between ice cream sales and drowning, but the two clearly aren’t related. Rather, they both occur predominately at the same time of year (summer), thus they correlate. Even so, vaccines and the onset of autism symptoms occur at the same time, thus they correlate even though they aren’t causally related.

      Also, it sound as though you are arguing that we have not studied the actual cause of autism, which is incorrect. We have invested heavily in understanding it, and it appears to be largely genetic, with an environmental component that is mostly (if not entirely) related to maternal affects prior to birth (i.e., what the mother is exposed to).

      In short, when you have multiple studies of the size and caliber presented here, you cannot reject them unless you have extremely compelling evidence (i.e., other large high quality studies). Assuming that there is something that these studies missed is a logical fallacy known as an argument from ignorance.

      P.S. it’s not entirely clear to me if you were making a statement or an argument, so I apologize if this seems overly aggressive.

      Like

      • ThinkAboutIt says:

        Thanks. My main point is that I don’t have any respect for the amount of studies, the evidence, or the number of children in any of these studies, because I don’t feel they are studying the right thing. My big question is, if there is no link, then why is there such a long history of parents reporting immediate and permanent change in a child, consistent with autistic or brain damage like behavior, shortly after the administration of a vaccine? This goes back well into the 70’s and 80’s. And the reports that I have read, and the number of reports, make it hard to ignore. So…I’m not being pro or anti-vac, I’m just saying that we need to look at the core of where these reports are coming from and find out why. Perhaps the parents are wrong. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps there is a very small subset of kids that have an existing condition, that “flairs” up and causes this problem. So…what I want, is a scientific study that does nothing other than try to explain why these, and only these kids, and these parents, are presenting these issues.

        And again, these parent reports, are what is fueling the proposed link. If a mother tells another mother that she is certain that her kid was damaged from a vaccines, you can bet that that information is going to spread like wildfire, and no “there is no link” study or mountain of evidence is going to change that.

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          I’m not sure that I understand what you are saying. First you say that you don’t care about the studies that compared vaccinated and unvaccinated children, then you said that we need to understand the parents reports and whether or not they are correct. Why don’t you consider comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children to be a test of those reports? In other words, if those reports are actually showing a causal relationship, then the studies should find a difference between the vaccinated and unvaccianted children. Those studies did not find a difference, therefore the reports must not actually be causal. How exactly do you propose testing those reports other than comparing autism rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated children?

          Also, I am curious about what part of the probability explanation you find unsatisfactory.

          Like

    • Logicnerd says:

      The reason we see behavioural differences in children that age is because the age that they receive their vaccinations (usually around 2-3 depending on country & parents choice) is the time we see children begin to develop social skills & interact with their piers. Also age 3 is around the time we can start to diagnose Aspergers & Autism because the child is learning to interact with people & this gives great insight into their world.
      Post hoc ergo propterhoc.
      The anti-vaccine ‘proof’ is very flawed, a correlation of causation & nothing more. Research child behaviour & diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

      Like

  10. @advodiaboli says:

    Reblogged this on Losing In The Lucky Country and commented:
    An exceptionally detailed review of evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.
    Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.
    Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a valuable tool for similar endeavours.

    Like

  11. Nelly Kostova says:

    This is a really thorough review of the evidence on vaccines and is a powerful argument since it analyses both sides of the matter. I would like to use it in class (citing the source, of course), not that there are any anti-vaxxers among my students but I’d like to be really thorough.
    One thought, by the way, has anybody tried to explain why is there such a strong opposition to vaccines and how come those people are so blind, and obstinate in their beliefs? Why it is so difficult to argue with them?

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      Hi, you are welcome to use any of my posts in whatever way you see fit.

      As far as the reason for the anti-vaccine movement, I doubt that there is any one reason. It’s probably a combination of lots of different cognitive biases. All of us are, after all prone to biases and it surprisingly easy for people (including rational people) to get sucked down a black hole of ignorance. As Mark Twain may or may not have said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

      Like

  12. Mercury is gone and has been replaced with aluminum. This simple fact will wreak havoc on a child’s brain with a specific MTHFR mutation. If a child is genetically pre-disposed to not have the ability to rid his/her body of adjuvants, those adjuvants will eventually make their way to the brain and sit there. This is why some children can recover from autism with serious heavy metal detoxification. It’s now estimated that 40%+ of all people have MTHFR mutations. I’m waiting for a true vaccinated vs unvaccinated study before I draw any conclusions. Nearly every existing study pits one vaccine against another similar vaccine instead of a placebo.

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      “I’m waiting for a true vaccinated vs unvaccinated study before I draw any conclusions.” Please re-read the post. We have multiple very large studies that compared vaccinated and unvaccinated children (see the sections on case-control studies, cohort studies, and the meta-analysis). What is your justification for rejecting those studies?

      Also, no child has ever been cured of autism through heavy metal detoxification (and if you want to disagree with me on that, you are going to have to provide me with peer-reviewed studies that show children being cured of autism, nothing else will suffice).

      Like

      • Because none of us honestly know the true origins and funding of these studies from either side. You can throw studies at this topic all day long but they are nothing new and I’ve seen people destroy them on both sides. I want to see something new and large from a true independent platform. It will happen.

        Unfortunately you won’t see a study on reversing autism through heavy metal chelation. There is no money to be made in the pharmaceutical industry using a couple different cheap acids. I have sent several families to Dr Cave in Baton Rouge, LA for this treatment and the recovery rate has been between 60-100%.

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          “Because none of us honestly know the true origins and funding of these studies from either side” and “I want to see something new and large from a true independent platform.”

          First, many of the studies presented here are truly independent (I spent a whole section on this). We do know who funded them because it is stated in the papers. Further, if you don’t believe the scientists, contact the organizations and ask for their funding record (most will be happy to give it to you). So the problem isn’t that we don’t know the funding sources, rather the problem is that you are assuming that the funding is corrupted. That is not logically valid. You cannot just assume that the scientists are lying and were secretly funded by big pharma (also, don’t forget that even a study funded by an anti-vaccine organization found no evidence of vaccines causing autism). Finally, what would make you believe that a study was independent? In other words, you are asking for independent studies, but I presented you with multiple and you are choosing to believe that they aren’t independent (in technical terms, you are committing a logical fallacy known as “no true Scotsman”). So given that you are blindly assuming that these studies aren’t actually independent, how will you tell when a study is independent? Somehow I have a feeling that you will only conclude that it was independent when it agrees with you.

          As far as “no one will study this potential cure,” that’s pure rubbish. You seem to be under the delusion that all scientists work for pharmaceutical companies, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are thousands of scientists all around the world who have no ties to pharmaceutical companies, receive their funding through scientific grants, charitable foundations, etc. who would love to find a simple cure. Indeed, even if they were completely self centered, it would still be in their best interests to publish the cure because it would make them famous and establish their careers. Demonstrating a cure for autism would result in a Nobel Price. For that matter, why doesn’t your Dr. Cave do a proper trial and publish his results? Despite common misconceptions, companies have absolutely no control over the peer-review system. So if he did a proper study he absolutely could publish it (and then collect his Nobel Prize). In the vast majority of cases, however, things like this don’t get published for the simple reason that they fail proper testing. At the moment, all that you have is an anecdote that is no different from the success stories from faith healers, crystal healers, etc.

          In short, I can sum up your entire comment as, “you’re wrong and I know you’re wrong and nothing will even convince me otherwise because any evidence to the contrary must have been tainted by big pharma.”

          Since you have made it incredibly clear that you aren’t going to accept any studies that disagree with you, I see no reason to continue this. Fare well.

          Like

          • Honest Bob. says:

            Attacking me personally and making assumptions about my views wont win you any points in this. Why is it that every time something vaccine related hits the mainstream media, a blog similar to yours surfaces. The mumps outbreak 2 years ago, measles outbreak a year ago, and now the Vaxxed documentary that’s gaining momentum. Ive been on top of this topic for 3 years now and have started to see the trends. It would not surprise me one bit if you had some relation to a certain company.

            Like

            • ItExists says:

              He does – he has political ties. Each and every person who actively tries to discredit the parents and physicians who have children suffering from adverse reactions to vaccines, has a motive and connection somewhere. He cites biased studies from other ‘motivated’ individuals – but, if this were truly thorough, there would have been time spent with the actual ‘victims’ he so sorely tries to discredit.

              If you’re going to examine all sides, then do so. Interview, in person, the families and children affected by adverse reactions. Go through their tests, charts, and dated videos and pictures time lining the occurrence. Talk with their many physicians and therapists that concur the child was progressing, that there was notable change immediately following vaccination, and then a distinct regression of skills, speech, and mentality immediately following. Only then, after you’ve seen it with your own eyes, will you truly have a more closely unbiased and thorough article to present.

              Like

              • Fallacy Man says:

                So let me get this straight, you have absolutely 0 evidence of me having political ties, but because I disagree with you and trust multiple massive, independent studies rather than logically invalid anecdotes, I must be corrupt and be in this for some undisclosed political agenda? Clearly, no one would ever accept scientific evidence unless they had a secret agenda (sarcasm). It must be nice to have an absolute position that lets you blindly dismiss anyone who disagrees with you without ever having to actually consider their evidence or acknowledge the possibility that you might be wrong. Really think about what you are saying here. You honestly think that everyone who actively supports the safety of vaccine is corrupt? That’s quite an assumption.

                In technical terms, you are committing a logical fallacy known as “no true Scotsman” (it’s a type of circular reasoning).

                Example:
                Person 1: “No true Scotsman hates Golf.”
                Person 2: “Arran is a Scotsman, and he hates golf.”
                Person 1: “He’s not really a Scotsman, and I know this because he hates golf.”

                Do you see the problem? It forms a logical circle.

                Now, if we apply that here:

                You: (paraphrasing) “No one without political ties would actively advocate for the safety of vaccines.”
                Me: “I have no political ties, and I support the safety of vaccines.”
                You: “You do have political ties, and I know this because you actively advocate for the vaccines.”

                Do you see the problem? Your argument is a circular assumption. It’s not valid.

                Like

                • Honest Bob. says:

                  I think what he is saying is similar to what Ive brought up below. Why are you pushing an agenda that already has an abundance of scientific evidence and studies for it? You wont be changing anyones mind who has witnessed the damage done firsthand. For people like you, that is what it will take- or maybe it wont? What did you think about the documentary Trace Amounts? Have you watched Vaxxed yet? Just wondering what response you have to them.

                  Like

                  • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                    If I may, I think I know the answer. I don’t care about the complete irrational kind, saying “vaccines are evil” or “god exists, I saw him on my bread”. This is not supposed to change their mind. This is an answer to the rationalish kind, trying to convince undecided people that there is a debate. There is no debate. One side have all the guns and ammos, the other side is pointing fingers, shouting “bang! bang!”.
                    A single place to point that out is useful. And by reading the comments on this page, it is needed.

                    Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      The challenge is that on one side you have all this science that has shown no connection. On the other side, you have people (mostly parents) reporting findings that a child was damaged from an injection. Science has still not addressed what is happening in the real world, (be it right or wrong). Until there is some professional understanding of these reports, there is going to be debate. You will never convince a mother that is completely convinced that her child is damaged from a vaccine, that the science says that vaccines are safe.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “you have people reporting findings that a child was damaged from an injection”
                      This is wrong. People are reporting damages. They think it is due to injection. Science addressed the problem and answered in the most reliable way possible. You can choose not to listen what science says about vaccines, but reality is what remains even if you don’t believe in it. In that way, science is more in the real world than you are.

                      Also, science is addressing what is happening in the real wold every day. Science means “to know the real world”. Look around you, you’ll see science at work everywhere. It shaped the world as you know it.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      “This is wrong.”

                      Says you.

                      Have you or anyone done the research on this? Obviously not, and yet at the same time, those that object to an anti-vac position want to sweep this under the rug like it has no relevance.

                      What you would like to tell the mother that takes a perfectly healthy 4 year old to the doctor and returns home with a vegetable? That the “science is proven” and/or that she is “wrong” about her child? That it was just a coincidence and that her child was destined for autism anyways?

                      And what really good scientific explanation do you have for the radical rise in autism? Huh? Better diagnosis crap? You have nothing.

                      You’re being very insensitive and ignorant. Do your homework before you spout off about how much you think you know.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “Have you or anyone done the research on this?”

                      Are you Prove-me-I-m-wrong-ing me ? I won’t prove this and I won’t prove Voldemort does not exists. The burden of the proof is yours.

                      “What you would like to tell the mother…”

                      Tell me, this mother is right because she’s grieving so she can’t be wrong, or simply because mothers can’t be wrong ?
                      What if she thinks the neighbour did cast a spell on the child ? Can she go and kill him because she can’t be wrong ?
                      This is an appeal to emotions fallacy.

                      “And what really good scientific explanation do you have for the radical rise in autism?”

                      This is an appeal to ignorance fallacy. Not knowing what it is do not prevent us to find what is statistically nearly impossible to be: vaccines.

                      “Better diagnosis crap? You have nothing. You’re being very insensitive and ignorant”

                      To quote Honest Bob :
                      “it appears if someone has an argument against you on something you don’t like, you call them ignorant and insensitive. Way to continue the conversation…”

                      Like

                    • Honest Bob. says:

                      “This is wrong. People are reporting damages. They think it is due to injection. Science addressed the problem and answered in the most reliable way possible.”
                      Its not wrong. The estimate is that 10% or less or parents are reporting the damages done. When they call the doctor in the middle of the night when the child has an encephalitic scream for 12 hours and the doctor tells them its a normal reaction, it does not get reported by either parent or doctor. There are plenty of threads in the BabyCenter forum discussing this. I suggest you find your way into those threads and read about what is happening to real people in the real world today.

                      “Also, science is addressing what is happening in the real wold every day. Science means “to know the real world”. Look around you, you’ll see science at work everywhere. It shaped the world as you know it.”
                      Science has been wrong more times than anything else humankind has ever experienced and is continuously correcting itself. What is right in science today may very well be completely wrong tomorrow.

                      Like

                    • Honest Bob. says:

                      I’m hardly ignorant nor insensitive to the subject. I don’t claim to know any more than the next person. I have however been following this argument for over 3 years now and have seen nothing new on the pro-vax side of things. There are a few things that have come up on the other side that people in this thread think is garbage but I dont. I think there will be some clarity to Thompson’s case in the next 2 years that will reveal a lot more than you think. Yet honestly I don’t care what you think because it appears if someone has an argument against you on something you don’t like, you call them ignorant and insensitive. Way to continue the conversation…

                      Time will tell. The more time that goes by, the more things will be revealed. I’m just sitting back with my popcorn and waiting patiently.

                      And I dont have a concrete answer on the rise in autism but my money will be on epigenetics and other internal and external circumstances that have altered and damaged genes.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “Time will tell”, “my money is on” is an appeal to ignorance fallacy.

                      Could you tell us how long is long enough for you to consider there is nothing to find between vaccine and autism ?

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      Wow…a whole three years. You must be an expert.

                      What else have you got in your back pocket? Let me guess, anti-vac people are idiots because of Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield?

                      You have a lot to learn about science and even more to learn about vaccines.

                      Like

                    • Honest Bob. says:

                      “You have a lot to learn about science and even more to learn about vaccines.”

                      Says the internet scientist.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      I do not need to be a vaccine expert to spot a logical fallacy.

                      You do need to be a vaccine expert to tell vaccine experts why they are wrong.

                      That was a real question, by the way. How long is long enough to decide there is nothing to find ?

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      But they have not studied the right sort of things in the right sort of ways. So it’s not a function of time, it’s a function of precision.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      If you care to elaborate, I’m sure it will eventually make sense.

                      Like

            • louveha says:

              (Answering here so that the text is a bit more readable)
              Honest Bob : “Why is it that every time something vaccine related hits the mainstream media, a blog similar to yours surfaces. ”
              It couldn’t possibly be that some people in the medical / autism communities are honestly and personnally aggravated by these stories. [/sarcasm]

              And why, why, if no one listen to the parents’ reports, were studies on the vaccine-autism link conducted in the first place ? These reports were already there 20 years ago, back when the hypothesis still had credibility, because we lacked data. So parents’ reports WERE taken into account, and motivated the studies discussed in the article.

              ThinkAboutIt : “And what really good scientific explanation do you have for the radical rise in autism?”
              One thing that autism research found over the years is that autism is very complex. So, no, we don’t have a really good scientific explanation on autism’ causes at the moment. A lot of possible factors have and still are studied ; it is a shame I didn’t see you mention any of them ; it may mean that you are very well informed on autism research. Vaccines have been one of the most, if not the most studied hypothesis ; hence why scientists think that it is time to look elsewhere.
              And you have to take into account that part of this radical rise HAS to be because of classification changes, better diagnosis and information campaigns (logically, the more you discover about a disease and inform doctors and the public about it, the more it will be diagnosed). As a matter of fact, quite a lot of families in my country (France) have difficulties having their child diagnosed with autism, because a lot of professionals aren’t trained to diagnose autism, and some even reject modern diagnosis criteria. Quite a lot of autistic adults are in psychiatric hospitals under diagnosis of “psychosis”, “schizophrenia”, “mental retardation” etc, receiving inappropriate and regressing ; their families are fighting to have a correct diagnosis and get them out of here. So saying “better diagnosis crap” makes you look “very insensitive and ignorant”.
              I don’t think that it can account for all rise in autism rates, but it has to be acknowledged when you discuss autism causes. If you don’t acknowledge it, you don’t look credible.

              Like

              • ThinkAboutIt says:

                Thanks.

                My main concern with a plausible link between vaccine(s) and autism or autism like behavior is that I can’t find any such research that targets what appears to be the problem. For lack of a better description, the current research is too abstract. What has been fueling the anti-vaccine movement for decades, are the reports directly from parents, that swear up and down and inside and out, that their child was damaged from a vaccine. There are too many of these reports, with too much detail for there to not be something relevant. So…yes…I know..”the science” has done this, “the science” has done that, but…I have yet to see science provide an explanation for what appears to be happening right under our noses. I mean, we know vaccines are not perfect. Rarely, they can even kill a person. People seem to treat vaccines as if they were handed down by God as a gift. They are dangerous and have side effects and we need to better understand those side effects, both short and long term, because with the current CDC schedule, we might be taking a very VERY big risk with respect to long term health. So…I’m not anti-vac, and I’m not pro-vac. I just want us to be very careful about screwing with something as complex as the human body.

                Like

                • louveha says:

                  Regarding vaccines, I too acknowledge that there are side effects (see Urabe strain, OPV, etc.). Simply in this case, it does not appear to be autism.
                  Regarding the explanation : the problem is that you only take into account what people can recall. They recall the vaccination, and they recall that their child did not show signs of autism before. However :
                  – there are a lot of other environmental factors that people don’t pay attention to and won’t recall, at least not if you don’t ask the right questions. Vaccines are just easier to recall.
                  – Autism signs in general aren’t obvious before circa 12 months and more ; so it is natural that quite a few parents will observe something after a vaccination at that age. (However, when one review home movies from the 1st year, you can already see subtle signs ; but they are too discrete to really worry parents and most doctors.)

                  At the moment, research is much more in favor of something occuring in utero in genetically vulnerable populations.
                  We still have a lot of work because you have to sort through a crapload of factors ; some could be causative, but some others could be the consequence of the real factor.
                  (For example, induction/augmentation during childbirth is associated with increased odds of autism diagnosis. But is it the act itself that cause autism ? Or does something occur in utero, that cause autism AND make doctors decide to do an induced childbirth ?
                  http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1725449 )
                  I’m not even against the idea of a drug causing this ; after all, one of the last solid leads seem to be sodium valproate taken by the pregnant mother for epilepsy. Obviously not the only factor, but maybe there are other things that have sensibly the same effect.
                  http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1681408

                  Like

                  • ThinkAboutIt says:

                    You are making some very big assumptions about the validity of reports from parents, which is not fair and is wrong, and this approach, this way of thinking, is why we are stuck in the situation that we are in.

                    The “science has proven no link” crowd never wants to pull their heads out of the sand and even attempt to demonstrate some compassion to find out if there is any merit in these reports.

                    I mean, just think about what you just typed. You have no idea to the validity of these, but you decided to draw a conclusion, which is certainly lacking any scientific process, and then you went right back to your comfort zone of, “let me remind you of the science”.

                    I suspect that this is the problem with science in general. It doesn’t want to deal with people. It wants to look at petri dishes and databases and then made broad all encompassing conclusions.

                    You don’t know, until you know.

                    Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “You have no idea to the validity of these, but you decided to draw a conclusion, which is certainly lacking any scientific process, and then you went right back to your comfort zone of, “let me remind you of the science” ”

                      Let me remind you of the science. If you have no idea of the validity of something, you HAVE to conclude that you can’t conclude. This describes any anecdotes. Anecdote is basically cherry picking a single event among all the events that occured before. If you want answers about an alleged link between vaccine and autism, you HAVE to do studies.

                      “You don’t know, until you know.”

                      You don’t know if there is a link, but you assume there is a link. This is an appeal to ignorance fallacy.

                      There is no fallacy in assuming there is no link, because this position is backed up by the studies.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      There is an assumption of a link, based on reports. These reports have not been studied. Until they are, there will be an anti-vac movement, and there will be speculation about a link.

                      You are obviously dead set on ignoring anything other than your golden-god of so called proven science. Yes…we ALL know about your science. Now…how about if you open up that brain of yours and understand that there is still some sh*t going on that we don’t have answer to.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      You do not seem to understand that all the studies listed in this very page, have been done because of the reports that you claim where not studied. I understand you do not like the answers, but reality do not care about you and me.
                      Beside, please tell us how do you plan to answer to these sh*it without science. It is irrational to claim more scientific studies and to deny the scientific method.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      Correct. Those studies were done to help answer the question or concerns of if there is or is not a link. But clearly, the studies are not comprehensive because the evidence of a potential link is present.

                      The reason why the science stepped in is the same reason why we have an anti-vac movement. Real evidence that kids were getting harmed. So…again, I don’t care how many studies there are that prove one thing or another, all I care about is why we have seen so many parents reporting a problem.

                      You have got to understand that science can be used to prove many things are not happening when in fact they are. We’ve been down this path many times in history. For example, “the science” will show again and again, that certain drugs are safe. And then we learn later, they are not. So they get pulled. The human body, and vaccines, are very complex. And no one, on the science side, that I am aware, has looked directly at the source of the problem. Not one single study.

                      So I’m not discounting your science or saying that it is wrong. Clearly the studies are done correctly and they are accepted. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem, because, if we didn’t, then why is there still so much evidence that shows otherwise?

                      So…find me a study that explains why so many parents, some of which are doctors and scientists, are stating that there is a problem between vaccines and brain damage. Keep in mind that some of these people that feel this way are very smart, and very educated. They are most likely not wrong.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “But clearly, the studies are not comprehensive because the evidence of a potential link is present”
                      This is where you are wrong. Anecdoctes are unable to provide any evidences, only studies are. You have doubts, nothing more.

                      “some of these people that feel this way are very smart, and very educated. They are most likely not wrong”
                      This is an appeal to authority fallacy. It does not matter how smart you are, you can’t do what is logically impossible.

                      “But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem, because, if we didn’t, then why is there still so much evidence that shows otherwise?”
                      This is an appeal to ignorance fallacy.
                      The fact that you don’t know what caused this is not enough to conclude that vaccines did it. Maybe genetics did it, maybe aspartam did it, maybe gamma ray burst did it, maybe god did it. For now, these hypothesis are as much subtanciated as vaccines did it. In another time people where burnt for the same kind of “evidence” you claim you have.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      So…this is exactly the problem that we have. And your thinking is exactly the thinking of what this blog-article is.

                      Pro-vac people state there is no link, because science has proven there is no link.

                      Anti-vac people state they might be a link because of what they see happening with kids, and what parents are reporting.

                      Pro-Vac people don’t care about the reports because, they claim there is no scientific validity to it.

                      Anti-vac people state that there is no scientific validity to it because no one is willing to do, or has done a scientific study that focuses on this problem.

                      Pro-vac people state the science has been done and it’s proven there is no link.

                      Anti-vac people state the science hasn’t been because the science never looked at the real problem.

                      I think it’s odd that the pro-vac side continues to wave it’s “the science has proven there is no link” flag while they ridicule the need for a lack of science to study the reports that parents have about there being a link.

                      So yes, we have SOME science that shows there is no link, but until we can convert or fully understand the position of the anti-vac crowd, this debate is not going to go away.

                      It just comes across as arrogant and ignorant when someone states that the science has proven no link. It’s slap in the face of every single parent that witnessed a negative reaction.

                      So please, stop saying that the science has proven no link. That science that you speak of is correct. The actual studies don’t show a link. But it doesn’t mean that we are done. We need to study this deeper and try to understand why we have seen so many kids damaged from vaccines.

                      You just can’t ignore that.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “Pro-vac people state there is no link, because science has proven there is no link. Anti-vac people state they might be a link because of what they see happening with kids, and what parents are reporting.”

                      Well, one side is right because, you know, science, and the other side is wrong because, you know, science. You are describing the difference between truth and Colbert’s truthiness. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but this page is not about opinions.

                      “until we can convert or fully understand the position of the anti-vac crowd, this debate is not going to go away.”

                      Religion, pseudo-sciences, the repuplican party, … The anti-vac crowd is studied and understood as well as any other irrational crowd.

                      “It just comes across as arrogant and ignorant when someone states that the science has proven no link. It’s slap in the face of every single parent that witnessed a negative reaction.”

                      You are saying that parents are best fitted to see what is going on even when in contradiction with scientific evidences. This is arrogant and ignorant, but this is also dangerous. You are letting opinions in charge of what is medically relevant and what is not.

                      http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/04/27/the-death-of-ezekiel-stephan-quackery-and-antivaccine-views-go-hand-in-hand/

                      Again, and you haven’t answered to this, what if the parent says that his kid is not the same since that neighbor obviously did cast a spell in his foreigny language ? What if the public opinion is that gay people are spreading autism ? If you don’t want to see spanish inquisition all over again, you will need a referee. You will need scientific evidence.

                      “But it doesn’t mean that we are done. We need to study this deeper and try to understand why we have seen so many kids damaged from vaccines.”

                      Again, this is an appeal to ignorance fallacy. You suppose there is something else, not because of evidences, but only because you are not pleased by what have been found.

                      You haven’t answered to this: For you, how long is long enough to conclude that there is nothing to find between vaccine and autism and that we should look for something else ?

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      Well..that is a very nice long reply with really no new content.

                      And this is why we have such a strong division between the two sides.

                      The “science is proven” side is never going to accept that their science is not comprehensive. And the other side is going to only look at what is happening in the real word.

                      So the two sides will continue to disagree.

                      You still seem to think that people are saying that your science is wrong, which is not true. We know that your science is good and correct, it’s just that your science isn’t looking at the right stuff.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      Well, I have an answer for each of your points, while I have two direct questions in my previous “reply with really no new content” you have been avoiding. In this area too, things are not as symetrical as you think they are.

                      You still seem to think only you know what “the real world” is. In many ways, the world described by science is more real than the world you imagine is real.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      There is no content. You want me to counter your science with my science. I have no science, other than general observations, (which is the start or all good studies).

                      But the absence of that doesn’t mean that I’m (and all the others) are wrong about a plausible link.

                      It’s the same thing with gluten. For years, people were stating how much better they felt when they didn’t eat gluten. The “science” crowd denied this was the real case, because there was no science that proved it. So the battle was started. Real world results vs “the science”.

                      Then finally, science proved that gluten was a problem for non-celiacs. After they did, all of the “where’s the science” folks didn’t come back with their apologies, they just faded away.

                      So…it’s another reason to trust what we see happening under our noses, more than to trust the scientific community.

                      And you can’t be completely ignorant to the fact that science just can’t keep up. So you often have to cover your butt by monitoring what is happening in your world before science proves it.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “You want me to counter your science with my science. I have no science, other than general observations”

                      If you have anything relevant to say that can help people to approve your arguments AND disprove what that gentleman says below, please do. If not, you have to aknowledge that “gut feeling science” is not only wrong but also dangerous.

                      Bible Codes on the H1N1 Vaccination (http://www.hiddencodes.com/h1n1.htm) :
                      “Maitreya is in cohoots with Obama to enforce the H1N1 Vaccine on the people AND the RFID Bracelet….why? To Mass Murder them! And if this is the 666 warning of Rev. 13 taking place, to steal their souls!! We are commanded to WATCH and PRAY about end time events, be watchful folks and pray about them!! We are to Obey God rather than Man!!”

                      “I have no science […] But the absence of that doesn’t mean that I’m (and all the others) are wrong about a plausible link.”

                      That’s the point, it kinda does. You are as wrong as the guy at the corner of the street with a banner “the end is near”. Maybe one day a comet will hit the hearth, so he’s not completely wrong, but science tells us how statistically wrong he is. And if the comet happens, he will say “I was right”, but it would also be a mistake. He wasn’t right.

                      “all of the « where’s the science » folks didn’t come back with their apologies, they just faded away.”

                      If you look at your broken watch and say “hey, it’s 00:00:00!”, you are most certainly wrong. But statistically, it could be 00:00:00 and you could be right (technically, not logically). But beeing right for the wrong reason won’t give you any apologies from the people telling you “dude, if you want to know, look at the working clock on the wall”.

                      There are so many ways to show your biais. For my next message i’ll try to use only quotes from “12 bad reasons for rejecting scientific studies”

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      Okay…so lets talk about how many times the FDA approved a drug because the science was so right, only to have that drug later recalled at a cost of harming thousands.

                      Let’s talk about the opinions of the masses on gluten verses the science that said it didn’t matter. Only to find out later, via the right types of studies, that all those “crazy” people were right.

                      Next, let’s talk about how right the science and government was about a low fat, high carb diet, which as led to an untold amount of pain and suffering, which continues to this day.

                      How about you? Are you a perfect example of health? You should be since you seem to know everything about everything.

                      You treat your “science” like a religion. You pick and choose what you want to hear and what you think only supports your belief, and you do so, so that you can belittle others and separate yourself as some sort of a self proclaimed expert.

                      Ironically, you completely fail at the first rule of good science – keeping an open mind.

                      “Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary..” Albert Einstein.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “Okay…so lets talk about [FDA recall, and gluten, and diet]”

                      It is true that science has been wrong, but it has always been other scientists who have figured out that it was wrong. Further, it is logically invalid to blindly assume that it is wrong just because it has been wrong before.

                      Although there have been plenty of minor hypotheses which have been discredited, there have been very few core ideas that have been rejected in the past century. In other words, ideas which are supported by thousands of studies have rarely been rejected, and very few central ideas have been overthrown in recent decades.

                      To be fair, some scientists are corrupt and bad science does occasionally get published, but bad research tends to be identified and discredited by other researchers. In other words, there may be a high probability of a single paper being wrong, but when lots of different studies have all arrived at the same conclusion, you can be very confident in that conclusion.

                      Attacking science by asserting that it has been wrong before is utterly absurd because science is inherently a process of modifying our understanding of the world. In other words, science is self correcting. This is one of it’s greatest strengths.

                      Therefore, the fact that science has been wrong is actually a good thing, because if there were no instances where we had discovered that a previous idea was wrong, that would mean that science hadn’t advanced.

                      “How about you? Are you a perfect example of health? You should be since you seem to know everything about everything.”

                      Anecdotes do not matter in science, because anecdotes don’t allow us to establish causation.

                      If I asked you, “How many of your siblings died of a terrible childhood disease?” I’m guessing that the answer would be “none.” If I had asked that question a few decades ago, however, most of you would have lost at least one sibling to diseases which are now almost unheard of.

                      So no matter how you cut it, many of you wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for science. Science clearly works and you need an extremely strong justification for rejecting scientific results.

                      “You treat your « science » like a religion. You pick and choose what you want to hear and what you think only supports your belief, and you do so, so that you can belittle others and separate yourself as some sort of a self proclaimed expert.”

                      Science deals with facts, not opinions or beliefs. When multiple scientific studies all agree that X is correct, it is no longer a matter of opinion. If you think that X is incorrect, that’s not your opinion, you’re just wrong.

                      “Ironically, you completely fail at the first rule of good science – keeping an open mind.”

                      This response basically states that all scientists are forced to follow the “dogma” of their fields, and anyone who dares to question that dogma is quickly ridiculed and silenced. In short, that’s simply not how science works. Nothing makes a scientist happier than discovering that something that we thought was true is actually false. In fact, that is how you make a name for yourself in science. No one was ever considered a great scientist for simply agreeing with everything that we already knew. Rather, the great scientists are the ones who have shown that our current understanding is wrong and a different paradigm provides a better understanding of the universe.

                      ““Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary..” Albert Einstein.”

                      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan.

                      As promised, all the answers are direct quotations from: https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/11/30/12-bad-reasons-for-rejecting-scientific-studies/

                      I would like to point out that once again I have answered to your argument while you have completely ignored mine. So I leave you to your monologue.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      But for one science to prove the other science right or wrong, it takes time. And…it takes money.

                      Science that is used to protect or make money, comes first. The good old fashion science, the stuff done to find all the right answers for all the right reasons, comes later, if at all.

                      The science around coffee is a great example of this. 90% of it says that coffee is the most amazing stuff on the planet. 10% says, it’s not good for you. Why do you think that is? Do you really think coffee is that great? Of course not. We all know that it’s not that great for us, but we love it. So…we all buy into it.

                      We also love vaccinations. Makes our lives easier, less worry and the like. And hey, the “science” says there are perfectly safe. The reality, they are not perfectly safe. Just like coffee, just like gluten.

                      Listen, I don’t care. You don’t have to write me a book chapter of feelings. I live and breathe science and engineering everyday at my work and I know how imperfect it is. And I know that vaccines are not perfect. The writing is on the wall.

                      Best of luck.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “Science that is used to protect or make money, comes first.”

                      If pharmaceutical companies were really only after money, then they shouldn’t be producing vaccines because it costs far more to treat a disease than to prevent it.

                      More on that here: https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/04/18/follow-the-money-the-finances-of-global-warming-vaccines-and-gmos/

                      “The good old fashion science, the stuff done to find all the right answers for all the right reasons, comes later, if at all.”

                      This argument doesn’t apply here. There are litteraly thousands of studies available. If the right question is “are vaccines causing autism ?”, then the right answer is no.

                      “We also love vaccinations. Makes our lives easier, less worry and the like.”

                      Yes.

                      “And hey, the « science » says there are perfectly safe. The reality, they are not perfectly safe. Just like coffee, just like gluten. ”

                      This is where you are wrong. You claim that science is looking for answers only where there is money to cash, and then you are using coffee as an exemple of a big juicy area for bad greedy science.

                      But a simple search on pubmed will show you that there are 20 times more studies about vaccines than coffee (75 times more if we are looking for safety). And you can be sure that the vaccine studies are methologically stronger than coffee studies (For exemple, I doubt there are many meta-analysis on 1.2 millions people about coffee).

                      So, we’ve already seen it, your point is logically wrong, but the exemple to prove your point is also invalid.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      Yes, everyone that you disagree with is wrong. Got it. Thanks.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      You’re not wrong because I disagree, you’re wrong because you’re making irrational statements. I’ve been proven wrong by the past, and I am able to revise my views with a rational demonstration. What could make you change your mind about vaccines and autism ?

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      I’m not being irrational about anything. I’m telling you that there is a high number of parents that are saying that their child or children were damaged because of vaccines. This “word on the street” reverberates, driving and fueling the anti-vac movement. That’s a fact.

                      So. Two Issues.

                      1. Regardless of how much “science” you shake in their faces, they don’t care. They trust themselves and their neighbors more than your reporting of the science.

                      2. The science has not look at, precisely, why this is happening. How many are there, are they right or wrong, is there something unique about the kids, is there any merit to it? All that stuff.

                      So…STOP making this about how perfect your science is. These people don’t care. I don’t care. What I and others care about, is why so many of there reports are out there.

                      THAT’S IT. Got it?

                      And don’t down play it and say, “it’s in their heads” or any of that crap. These are people. Humans. Some of them very smart. Some of them are doctors. Right or wrong, we need to figure out why and where these reports are coming from, precisely. Ya know…scientifically. Which we have not done. So this anti-pro debate is a circle jerk until this gets an answer.

                      Like

                    • ThinkAboutIt says:

                      I sense that all you want to do is debate the validity of “the science”. I’m not saying that your science is wrong, I’m saying that we haven’t looked at the reason why so many parents have reported so many seemingly obvious problems.

                      You want to convince me? Tell me how it is that so many parents are reporting problems. And I don’t mean, “my kid got a vaccine last year and now he walks funny”. I’m talking about, “within 15 seconds of the jab, my kid went numb and has been brain damaged since”.

                      See the difference? See what I’m talking about? And it’s not 10 parents, and it’s not 100 parents. It might be hundreds of thousands. It might be as large as 1% to 5%. I don’t know, because no one has studied this. Which, seems funny to me.

                      You have obviously not been exposed to the number of reports of parents having problems, how many there are/were, and the type of problems (details of these reports). Are you not aware of why Wakefield was so motivated and why so many people hung their faith in him? People wanted answers, at that time, why their kids were getting sick/damaged from the vaccines. It’s why many doctors recommended breaking up dosages. It’s why they said to wait until kids were older. And to make sure that there were not sick before getting the jab. Why people wanted to break apart the MMR, and why so many people pointed the fingers at the adjuvants. Ringing any bells? All these things that people were debating and trying to keep their kids from getting damaged like what happened to the kid down the street.

                      Have you even looked at the history of why so many people are anti-vac? Do you think it’s like 50 or 100 people? It’s hundreds of thousands. It’s why some pockets the vaccination rate is as low as 60%.

                      Stop posting crap about your science. We don’t care. And then go do some homework.

                      Like

                    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

                      “I’m not being irrational about anything.”

                      I have noticed 9 irrational moments in the 2 messages I am answering here. Granted, you tend to dispatch the same fallacy on several places, but I think you get the point (you are wrong because you are irrational, not because I do not agree).

                      “1. Regardless of how much « science » you shake in their faces, they don’t care. […] 2. The science has not look at, precisely, why this is happening.”

                      Points 1 and 2 combined are basically saying “Stop using studies until these studies are proving my point”. This is irrational.

                      “These people don’t care. I don’t care. What I and others care about, is why so many of there reports are out there. THAT’S IT. Got it?”

                      I’ve got it since quite some time now. Studies investigating the cause of the inflation of autism rate had been done. You are saying that conclusions are “crap” for no reason other than it does not comply with your world view. This is irrational.

                      “I’m not saying that your science is wrong, I’m saying that we haven’t looked at the reason why so many parents have reported so many seemingly obvious problems.”

                      You are saying, in spite of the fact that it is a logical fallacy to conclude by anecdote, that we need to look for an answer other than “It is an irrational reaction to an irrational fear” which is what studies are telling us about the vaccine-autism link. This is irrational.

                      “You want to convince me? Tell me how it is that so many parents are reporting problems.”

                      Studies answered to this questions. You have discarded these studies without giving any valid reason. This is irrational.

                      “I’m talking about, « within 15 seconds of the jab, my kid went numb and has been brain damaged since. See the difference? See what I’m talking about? ”

                      I doubt 15 seconds after is the average time span reported, but even 15 seconds after could occur by chance.
                      What will you do with the reports of case happening before the shot ? Do we also have to investigate a vaccine-quantum-tachion effect ? No one has studied this either. You can’t cherry pick the cases that suit your views without looking at the whole picture. This is irrational. With the same logic, you can prove that autism is caused by milk, just because autism happened the same day the kid had breakfast.

                      “And it’s not 10 parents, and it’s not 100 parents. It might be hundreds of thousands. It might be as large as 1% to 5%. I don’t know, because no one has studied this. Which, seems funny to me.”

                      I could cut and paste the lines you should have read here, in this very post, about the studies you claim do not exist. Do you want me to ? Because these studies are pointing two things:

                      1. There is no increase in autism rates.
                      2. The origin is most likely genetic.

                      This is irrational to disagree with one of these points without anything to back up your affirmation.

                      “Are you not aware of why Wakefield was so motivated and why so many people hung their faith in him?”

                      I am aware that Wakefield fudged his data. he said problems occured a few days after vaccination. That was a lie for 11 of the 12 children.

                      “It’s why they said to wait until kids were older. And to make sure that there were not sick before getting the jab.”

                      I hope this analogy will help you to grasp how irrational this is:

                      If you are saying: “too much pressure on a children body is bad and cause autism, so it’s better if the kids avoid to use the safety belt in the car”.
                      And someone asks: “Do you have any proof of that ?”
                      Then you will answer: “Can’t you see all this children with autism ? They were all using safety belts. What other proof do you need ?”

                      “Why people wanted to break apart the MMR, and why so many people pointed the fingers at the adjuvants. Ringing any bells?”

                      Because of the Wakefield fraud ? (Ding! Ding!) It is well documented.
                      Btw, this is an appeal to popularity fallacy (This is irrational). Many people can be wrong together and science is not a popularity contest.

                      “Have you even looked at the history of why so many people are anti-vac? Do you think it’s like 50 or 100 people? It’s hundreds of thousands. It’s why some pockets the vaccination rate is as low as 60%.”

                      Again, have you even looked at the history of why so many people believe that god created earth 6000 years ago ? This is irrational. Popularity is not a valid argument and cannot be used to tell if something is true or false.

                      “Stop posting crap about your science. We don’t care. And then go do some homework.”

                      What Does It Actually Mean to “Do Your Homework”?

                      Anti-vaccers claim to fact check, but their version of fact checking is simply reading other unscientific blogs which merely act as echo chambers for what they already thought was true. Being well-informed and educating yourself requires you to use good sources. It does not matter how many blogs you read or memes you post, if you haven’t read the original peer-reviewed literature you aren’t well-informed and you haven’t done your homework.

                      https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/02/02/what-does-it-actually-mean-to-do-your-homework/

                      Like

      • ThinkAboutIt says:

        The biggest question that we have to ask ourselves is; Why do we have an anti-vac movement? Why are so many people, some of them even very smart people, including doctors and scientists, against the current CDC schedule?

        Are this many people, completely wrong?

        And despite the science that shows otherwise, it doesn’t seem to matter. I mean, I have never met or read about anyone that was anti-vac, that said, “Well…since that new science study proved that vaccines are safe, I’ve changed my mind”.

        The answer to this question is this – Real world results.

        Let me explain to this a bit more.

        I’ve been around this planet long enough to know how powerful personal opinions are. If a friend or a family members, certain one that I have a lot of respect for, tells me something, that carries a lot of weight with me. If they say, “don’t buy gas at the Quick-Mart because it’s bad) you can damn well bet I’ll be avoiding that gas station, even if the owners of the business, show or prove to me, (scientifically or not) that the gas is safe.

        Same thing with mothers. If one mother says “my baby had a bad allergic reaction to the Wiggly X Soy Protein Formula mix” then again, you will inherently see a radical reduction in the use of that product by other mothers.

        Bros trust bros. Mothers trust mothers.

        I could go on and on about how personal experiences and recommendation influence us more than ANYTHING that we read (studies…etc) and/or anything that is demonstrated via common marketing techniques.

        So…the reason for the anti-vac movement is numerous, but the a very VERY big part of it, are detailed personal reports, from many mothers and fathers, about a child having an immediate and permanent reaction to a vaccine. And we are not talking about a few, we are talking about thousands. Maybe even hundreds of thousands.

        This is the reason why Wakefield set out to prove something, and the reason why we have all these studies that are attempting to put moms at ease.

        Bottom line – despite whatever science is showing/proving/demonstrating, you can’t and should not ignore this.

        That said, this problem is never going to go away until the scientific research focuses on the core issue.

        Testing and looking at vaccinated kids, and unvaccinated kids, and those with and without a history….blah blah blah, does no good. It proves nothing other than what the study set out to proof – that under those observations, a definitive link or correlation is not seen.

        What we should be doing, IMHO, is the study that looks at nothing other than the kids, of the parents, that reported this condition or change in their child immediately after the vaccine was given. NOW…you might say “we have done that” but in reality, we have not.

        This is a very tight, small, specific group, (by comparison) that for some reason, have an allergic like reaction to a vaccine, on the very day (sometimes within minutes) of a jab. THESE ARE THE ONLY KIDS THAT WE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT.

        BECAUSE…THESE are the kids (their parents) that are driving the fear of vaccines, and creating and fueling the anti-vac movement.

        So..I don’t care about anything else other than understanding this group. I don’t care about the number or types of studies that prove one thing or the other. THIS group, is all that matters.

        Now…I can damn well tell you, that if and when this group is studied correctly, the scientist are going to find something. The writing is on the wall. They are also most likely going to find a connection to ADD/ADHD, Chron’s, ear infections, Aspergers, SIDS and so on. Just my opinion, but the little pieces are starting to make sense. Vaccines are not perfect, and the human body is very complex.

        We do not know everything and we are pumping a lot of vaccines into the little bodies of kids, at what seems like an alarming rate. Even fresh out of the womb kids, get a vaccine. It’s nuts.

        That said, I’m speculating. Total BS until we have proof. But…we need to study this correctly to know for certain.

        Like

    • lizditz says:

      “Mercury is gone and has been replaced with aluminum.” Uhm, no, on several levels.

      First, there was never elemental mercury in any vaccine. A mercury compound, thimerosal (C9H9HgNaO2S) used to be used in vaccines as a preservative — to prevent multi-dose vials from developing inimical microbial growths. Two reminders: elements have different chemical and biological properties than compounds. Sodium and chloride in their elemental forms are quite dangerous; as a compound, NaCl, essential to life. Second, “the dose makes the poison” — the amount matters.

      Likewise, elemental aluminum is not present in vaccines; two compounds are commonly used, Al(OH)3 Aluminium hydroxide (Alhydrogel) and Al(PO4)3 Aluminium phosphate (Adju-Phos). These compounds are not in vaccines as an anti-microbial but to stimulate the immune response — as adjuvants.

      You might find the article “Towards an understanding of the adjuvant action of aluminium” quite educational. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3147301/

      Like

    • lizditz says:

      Angstman, please provide evidence that MTHFR mutations raise the risk of adverse outcomes from immunization.

      Like

    • SullivanThePoop says:

      Aliminum adjuvants cannot replace a compound that is used as a preservative. Whoever told you that is lying to you. Thimerosal was added to vaccines I the 1930s after a horrible fungal contamination incident. Aluminum adjuvants were first added in the 1940s to improve the efficacy of the diphtheria vaccine.

      Like

    • Wilhelmina says:

      That’s the big thing right there – there hasn’t been a study on Vaccinated VS Unvaccinated children! Thank you angstman2014eezeekial for pointing that out.
      Ppl can toss around all these other studies and big fancy words, but the truth is, there have been NO studies of this nature done!
      Coleen Boyle was called out on it by Rep Bill Posey when she kept trying to beat around the bush after being asked a direct question. He finally asked her to say if they had definitely done the studies or not. To which she still tried to beat around the bush again, but did admit that there have NOT been any studies.

      The debate isn’t about all vaccines being the cause of autism. It is the multi-dose vaccines that are the problem. If everyone does their research on this subject without just taking articles such as this one, and really pay CLOSE attention to all the information in these studies, as well as the reported reactions, along with paying very very close attention to the way that there are so many ppl eager to discredit Dr Wakefield and others who have pointed out the problems with these multi-dose vaccines and not forgetting to add in the personal accounts of all of the children & families affected… They will see that it’s not as simple as believing that all vaccines are safe for all individuals. Sure, there are ppl who don’t have reactions, but then there are those who have had life changing reactions. How do you (not’ you’, but dr’s, scientists, & society in general) It just seems to me like there are so many ppl eager to help out these individuals who don’t care about those affected, by writing their own little blogs, books and articles using other PPLs biased articles. No one wants to talk about all the info that the CDC destroyed! They all just want to point their finger at ppl like Andrew Wakefield & call him a fraud. I wonder, have all (or any) of these ppl see his so called ‘Propaganda’? Having seen #Vaxxed several times, I can say that if I was pro-vax before seeing the documentary, I wouldn’t have been after walking out of that theatre! The documentary addresses the issues of him ‘falsifying’ information. He has been meeting with ppl across America along with others. He answers any and all questions asked if him, and doesn’t stumble over his words and try to come up with a way to talk in circles to confuse ppl the way that so many others do when they try to convince ppl that the CDC is an honest & trustworthy group of individuals, when in fact they are not. This is not the first time they have played with PPLs lives.
      I have seen first hand how a vaccine can negatively B affect a child & cause them to become impaired or develop issues other than Autism. Autism is only one of the issues that vaccines can cause. With that being said… Not all causes of autism are due to vaccines being directly given to a child. It is rare, but there are unvaccinated children that are ASD, but this could be due to many reasons.
      THAT IS WHY it is so necessary to have a study done of vaccinated VS unvaccinated children.

      Like

      • Fallacy Man says:

        I explained the problems with doing a full vax vs. unvax study in the other thread, so I won’t repeat it here.

        I will, however, point out that several of the studies looked at dose effects and failed to find any significant effect.

        Also, much of your post is an appeal to anecdotes, with is not logically valid. I explained why that reasoning was fallacious in several places in the post, and I wrote a more thorough post about it here. In short, the fact that you observe an adverse effect after vaccination does not mean that the vaccine caused it. It could be a total coincidence. In fact, arguing that the vaccine caused it is a logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc.
        https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/02/10/5-reasons-why-anecdotes-are-totally-worthless/

        Like

        • Wilhelmina says:

          How can you sit there and say that observing an adverse reaction AFTER a vaccine is given doesn’t mean it was the vaccine? So, what…? It’s just a random coincidence?

          I think not.

          Like

          • Fallacy Man says:

            “How can you sit there and say that observing an adverse reaction AFTER a vaccine is given doesn’t mean it was the vaccine? So, what…? It’s just a random coincidence?
            I think not.”

            Yeah, it’s random coincidence. Saying, “X happened after Y, therefore Y caused X” is a logical fallacy. You may not like it, but that doesn’t change reality.

            Let me provide an example. Suppose I fill my car with fuel, and one mile later it breaks down. Was it bad gas? Maybe, but it could be any number of other things. Given the enormous number of cars that break down and the enormous number of people who fill up their cars with fuel, it is inevitable that many cars will break down after being filled up just by chance.

            Even so, with well over 90% of children receiving vaccines (usually between 2-3 years old) and with 1 in 68 developing autism (usually with symptoms first appearing between 2-3 years old) it is inevitable that many children will begin to show the signs of autism shortly after receiving vaccines just by chance. The fact that two things occurred together simply does not mean that one caused the other.

            Basically what you are saying is, “I know that there is a connection, so no studies will ever change my mind.”

            Like

      • Craig Payne says:

        “there hasn’t been a study on Vaccinated VS Unvaccinated children! ”

        There has been several. Where are you getting your info from that there hasn’t?
        eg this one: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00036846.2011.566203#.Vy6lLYR96Uk (and it was not funded by bigpharma. It showed vaccinated kids were healthier and smarter than the non-vaccinated.

        As for the CDC whistleblower; now that we have access to full the full documents that the claims were based on, it obvious the claims were mostly made up. Go and read those original documents that Thompson released and show us where the cover up was.

        Like

  13. Where are the studies with multiple shots/different vaccines given at the same time?

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      I’m not sure that any of the studies have looked specifically at the question in the way that you are describing it, but we do have studies that looked at the effects of total antigen count as well as the total number of antigens received on a single day, the number of vaccine doses, age at vaccination, different vaccines individually, etc. Given that all of those studies have failed to find any significant trends, it would be extremely surprising if there was some multiple vaccine effect that had been missed. Perhaps most importantly, it’s logically invalid to assume that such a relationship exists without actual scientific evidence to support it. Indeed, no matter how well a topic like this has been studied, it will always be possible to find some particular angle that has not been specifically addressed, so you can’t assume that there is a relationship unless it has been tested and confirmed (to be clear, I don’t know where you were going with this, so please don’t read this as if I am assuming that are making an argument rather than asking a question, I am simply trying to cover my bases because it tends to save time in the ling run).

      Like

      • I know that no studies have looked into this specifically. And I’m not concerned about the antigens either. My concern is babies and children that are pre-disposed to genetic mutations, specifically certain MTHFR mutations, getting multiple shots at a time overloading their immune systems with adjuvants that cannot be properly processed. Since Rx companies no longer have any liability, again it will be up to a truly independent platform to research and test this.

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          Again, you’re essentially inventing a potential cause. We can do this all day with practically anything. There will always be something that we haven’t tested, which means that it will always be possible to say, “well it could be X,” but doing that is not valid. Also, again, several of the studies did look at dose effects and age at vaccination (which are extremely relevant to your question [as are antigens, because they are a proxy for the number of vaccines received]) and none of them found an association.

          Many of these studies were independent and you are choosing to ignore that (see my response under your other comment).

          Like

          • Honest Bob. says:

            “There will always be something that we haven’t tested”

            You shot yourself in the foot with this statement. The most important thing in discussion right now is MTHFR and you keep sidestepping it with every post. And that’s fine, its obviously something you aren’t familiar with because you keep going back to other studies that have nothing at all to do with what I keep bringing up.

            Going back to the studies, its no secret that most textbooks in college science departments are backed and produced by Rx companies. The science departments also receive grants from many of these companies. So to say that a certain study done at a school was not funded by an Rx company is only slightly true. Maybe not directly funded, but funding for the department itself does come from some Rx companies which would indefinitely skew any outcome of any study done at that school.

            Like

            • This is the end says:

              Just because a researcher receives money from a company doesn’t mean they skew their results. You don’t have a clue how research is performed. Vast majority of researches will publish their results even if it hurts the company that is paying them. Furthermore, extensive review goes into publishing a valid paper. But I highly doubt you know the process.

              Research also doesn’t pay for itself, so where would the funding have to come from to satisfy you?

              In the rare case that data is skewed, it can easily be determine by anyone who repeats the study. It is very common for researchers in the same field to confirm or refute results in this way. Therefore, the more studies performed the less likely the results have been tampered with. This is especially true with the results regarding vaccines. There are so many articles from sites around the world, different researchers, some are funded by Rx companies, and some are not, yet they confirm the same thing. Vaccines do not cause autism.

              It’s astonishing that you claim any research funded by a Rx company is skewed, and don’t say this isn’t what you claimed because you just made an argument that the funding source will always bias those receiving the funding. Another thing you should consider is that majority of research done on drugs is also funded by Rx companies. As you believe the research on these drugs is skewed, next time you go to the pharmacy and ask for the drug you need, don’t take it, because it will definitely not work according to your logic. Let’s see how far you get.

              Like

            • Fallacy Man says:

              I’m not sidestepping MTHFR, you just haven’t presented any evidence for it. For your position to work, you need to do 3 things:
              1). Provide high quality evidence that MTHFR affects neurological outcomes following vaccination
              2). Provide high quality evidence that those affects can specifically lead to autism
              3). Explain why the large studies that I have presented failed to find a significant difference (according to you, over 40% of people have MTHFR, and that +vaccines can lead to autism, but if that was true, large studies with hundreds of thousands of people should have found that affect). To be clear, the explanation cannot be an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about corruption via funding (that argument is logically invalid).

              If you can do all 3 of those things, then we will talk. If not, then you have no case, and I see no reason to continue this. So, can you present me with the peer-reviewed studies?

              P.S., You claimed that I “attacked you personally” by pointing out that you were assuming that studies had conflicts of interest even when they said that they didn’t (how that is an “attack” is truly beyond me), then you doubled down on your conspiracy claims and immediately suggested that I am likely a shill? lol. Also, what’s with the dual user names?

              Like

            • James Lind says:

              Do you have evidence that the consensus report of experts has missed?

              https://www.acmg.net/docs/MTHFR_gim2012165a_Feb2013.pdf

              Like

            • SullivanThePoop says:

              There are many different single nucleotide mutations associated with the MTHFR gene. A lot is know about this gene and none of the information points to a plausible mechanism that would cause a higher risk of adverse outcomes from vaccination. This is one of those ubiquitous things that con artists use to scare you out of your money.

              Like

    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

      Yes ! And where are the studies with vaccine + milk + strawberry + full moon ?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Whyser says:

    It’s somewhat frustrating to see how the majority of these studies that prove that vaccines are not associated to autism mainly focus on one vaccine (MMR), or one ingredient (thimerosal).

    Let’s say that I wanted to determine whether smoking cigarettes is associated to lung cancer. I’ll create a study that takes a population of smokers, and divide them based on whether they smoke Marlboro cigarettes (case group) or not (control group). We will determine whether there is a difference between the rate of lung cancer between each group.

    Upon compiling our data, we find that the rate of lung cancer between both groups is statistically insignificant. Therefore, I conclude, that Marlboro cigarettes are NOT associated to lung cancer. Therefore, I conclude, that cigarettes are not associated to lung cancer.

    Obviously, this doesn’t absolve that cigarettes are not associated to lung cancer. All I merely proved with the hypothetical study is that, if a person is going to smoke, one particular brand isn’t going to increase my rate of lung cancer anymore than any other brand.

    The same issue here with, say, the MMR studies. When these studies refer to the “unvaccinated”, they merely mean unvaccinated for MMR, and not completely unvaccinated like some people are lead to believe. I have emailed several study authors in regards to this subject, and they’ve all confirmed that they do not take into account the scope of other vaccinations.

    So hypothetically, we could have a case group that looks like this

    Case Group
    Hep B x 3
    DTaP x 4
    Hib x 3
    Pneumococcal x 3
    Polio x 3
    Influenza x 1
    Varicella x 1
    Hep A x 1
    MMR x 1

    And a control group that looks like this

    Case Group
    Hep B x 3
    DTaP x 4
    Hib x 3
    Pneumococcal x 3
    Polio x 3
    Influenza x 1
    Varicella x 1
    Hep A x 1

    The only difference between the two is that the case group has been vaccinated for MMR.

    Now, are you going to use studies like this to try to convince me that vaccines are NOT associated to autism? This is the same problem as saying that cigarettes do not cause lung cancer because I was able to show that between two smoking populations, the difference being that one smoked Marlboro, that their rates of lung cancer are similar.

    Those large epidemiological studies and systemic review articles really prove nothing because they all stem from the same design flaw as I’ve illustrate above.

    As for the other study by DeStefano that looks at the number of antigens… I don’t see the point of this study. We are exposed to tens of thousands of antigens a day. That study is also heavily weighted on whole cell pertussis (DTP) vaccines, because that vaccine alone has 3000 antigens. That means that a person could get EVERY OTHER VACCINE minus DTP, and they would fall into the LOWER ANTIGEN group than a person who got ONE vaccine (DTP) only. The other issue with the DeStefano study is that it’s also not taking into account the actual amount of antigen that a person is being exposed to. Don’t we always say that it’s the dose that makes the poison?? I might be exposed 10 antigens in the influenza shot, but I know that there’s also 15mcg of each flu strain in an average influenza shot. DeStefano’s study doesn’t prove anything.

    My conclusion is that the verdict is still out there, and it hasn’t NOT been proved that vaccines and autism are not associated by your post.

    Like

    • Honest Bob. says:

      That’s very interesting. Never thought about it that way. What say you Fallacy Man?

      Like

    • This is the end says:

      In your hypothetical scenario you will actually find that Marlboro cigarettes are associate with lung cancer. The reason: the main ingredients in cigarettes regardless of brand are the same. If you look at the ingredients in vaccines you will also find that there is quite a bit of overlap. Each vaccine available is rigorously tested prior to getting approval for use in humans.

      On top of all this, to have a study where children go totally unvaccinated as controls is unethical as you would be putting them at risk of far worse things than the unlikely possibility of getting autism.

      The reason why there are so many studies performed on the MMR vaccine is that a researcher who falsified his results said that this vaccine caused autism. Now you want to test every other vaccine, on what pretence? What proof do you have that any vaccine causes autism? Where is the research you have done to show this? You are saying that since one person lied about the MMR vaccine causing autism, it should now be thought that any vaccine can cause autism.

      What we do see with vaccines is the eradication of some horrible diseases, such as measles, rubella, polio, mumps, etc. So much money and time has been wasted on researching this link that does not exist between vaccines and autism. No matter what proof is out there, some people will choose not to believe it or will have an arbitrary idea as to why this is not so.

      Like

      • This is the end says:

        Another point: how many vaccines do you get after the MMR one? Maybe the HPV vaccine or the flu vaccine. And how many people get autism after these vaccines…

        Like

        • ItExists says:

          As of January 2016, there are now 74 doses and counting. Below is a link to the CDC’s vaccine schedule. It provides in detail each vaccine and its boosters, up to 18 years of age. This is the schedule provided to physicians in which they are to follow. A link is also provided on that page for all of the boosters required for adults to receive throughout their lives. So, no, it doesn’t end at the MMR. There are countless reported cases of adults having adverse reactions as well. One such individual is depicted in a documentary called Trace Amounts. I recommend viewing that to help see all sides, claims, and point of views in regards to this topic.

          http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html

          Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      There are a couple of important points here.

      First, the reason that so many studies have focused on the MMR vaccine is because that was the vaccine that everyone initially accused of causing autism. It was only after the evidence mounted against MMR causing autism that anti-vaccers shifted tactics (this is a logically flawed strategy known as moving the goal posts).

      Having said that, I certainly agree that the most definitive way to test this would be to compare entirely unvaccinated children with fully vaccinated children, but that test is nearly impossible to do. In short, there just aren’t enough fully unvaccinated children to do the test with any reasonable amount of statistical power (to really do it properly, you would need to enrol every unvaccinated child in the US, which is clearly not possible). So although that test would be ideal, it’s not realistic.

      Nevertheless, our current testing does provide very strong evidence for several reasons. First, once again, the MMR was always the vaccine that was blamed, and there is no evidence of it causing autism, and several other vaccines have been tested as well. Second, if vaccines caused autism, we would expect a dose response (i.e., the more doses/vaccines, the more likely to develop autism). Several studies did look at dose responses and failed to find a significant effect. Additionally, the assumption that children in the control groups had received every vaccine except for the MMR vaccine is unlikely. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to expect that parents who refused the MMR vaccine would be more likely to also refuse at least some of the other vaccines. Admittedly, it would be nice to have that qualified, but, again, with sample sizes like 1.2 million children, we should have been able to detect even a tiny difference. In other words, if there is some mechanism through which vaccines cause autism, there will be a dose response effect. As a result, there should be differences between children who received every vaccine but MMR and children who received every vaccine. That difference would be small, but we had the power to detect even small differences.

      This brings me to your cigarette analogy. In your example, you changed the brand of cigarettes, but not the number. In contrast, with vaccines, the total number received should have been different between the groups. So to make your analogy accurate, we should have the control group smoke 18 cigarettes a week (none of which are Marlboro), which the other group smokes 20 a week (2 of which are Marlboro). In that experiment (given a large sample size like say, 1.2 million people), you would actually find a significant difference thanks to the dose response effect (note: there are usually 2 doses of MMR, not 1).

      The core problem here is no matter how much testing has been done or how many ways we have looked at this, it will always be possible to bring up something or some way that things haven’t been tested. Indeed, the argument that we are having right now is a testament to that, because originally it was just the MMR vaccine that was targeted, and the view shifted once that was discredited. So yes, it is always possible that there is something that we have missed but, importantly, there is no reason to think that there is something that we have missed. There is no actual evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism, which makes it invalid to say, “we’ll they haven’t been shown to be safe because this particular test hasn’t been done.” We can make up an infinite number of these. For example, “we’ll there haven’t been any large tests showing that vaccines don’t cause cancer, therefore the science isn’t settled and we shouldn’t vaccinate until it is.” That’s not valid because there is no actual reason to think that they cause cancer. Even so, there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism, and the studies that we have are large enough that even if it is the combination of vaccines that causes it, we still should have found an effect.

      Like

      • Whyser says:

        Thanks for your response FallacyMan.

        “there just aren’t enough fully unvaccinated children to do the test with any reasonable amount of statistical power (to really do it properly, you would need to enrol every unvaccinated child in the US, which is clearly not possible)”

        In regards to the claim that performing a study of unvaccinated children vs vaccinated children (dose dependent) is not possible due to there not being enough fully unvaccinated children… I don’t know.. it seems to be enough.

        If we look at http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/pop1.asp, it shows that the average number of children age 0-17 ranges from 70-74 million in the past 15 years or so.

        The CDC says that
        http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6334a1.htm
        “The percentage of children who received no vaccinations remained below 1.0% (0.7%)”

        That means that the number of children available to be in the study would be approximately 500,000. Surely we only need about 5% of that population (25,000 unvaccinated subjects), that would be sufficient to get something statistically powerful enough… or at least enough to warrant a better look.

        I mean, how does the CDC even know that there are 0.7% of children unvaccinated? They obviously must have records of it… and if they are capable of calculating that number, then I’m sure a research group can have the capability to pull 5% of the unvaccinated children in the US.

        But perhaps there are other factors that I’m not understanding in being able to pull together a study like this…. moving on.

        “First, once again, the MMR was always the vaccine that was blamed, and there is no evidence of it causing autism, and several other vaccines have been tested as well. Second, if vaccines caused autism, we would expect a dose response (i.e., the more doses/vaccines, the more likely to develop autism). Several studies did look at dose responses and failed to find a significant effect.”

        Testing for one vaccine against a vaccinating population, even if it is MMR or any other individual vaccine, does not absolve the vaccine’s potential role in autism. As for your second point, I do agree that we would expect to see a dose response. Maybe you can point it out to me, but every study that I’ve seen that looked at dose responses, lumped the completely unvaccinated in with the partially vaccinated. Again, there is no true control group.

        “Additionally, the assumption that children in the control groups had received every vaccine except for the MMR vaccine is unlikely. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to expect that parents who refused the MMR vaccine would be more likely to also refuse at least some of the other vaccines. Admittedly, it would be nice to have that qualified, but, again, with sample sizes like 1.2 million children, we should have been able to detect even a tiny difference.”

        I do agree that it is likely that a family refusing MMR may refuse other vaccines, but that also may not be the case. You said it yourself earlier, that “the MMR was always the vaccine that was blamed”. I think it is equally plausible that a family would do every other vaccine except MMR because they were scared of it. But unless these factors were actually taken into account in an actual study, there only thing that we can do at this point is merely speculate that possibility based on behavioral bias.

        “In other words, if there is some mechanism through which vaccines cause autism, there will be a dose response effect”

        While I agree that the mechanism is not fully understood, there are certain things that scientists do understand about autism. You talked about it in your post, regarding oxidative stress. I’ll paste that below:

        “there were numerous papers showing associations between oxidative stress and autism, and the argument (I assume) is that vaccines cause oxidative stress, and therefore vaccines can cause autism. There are several problems with that though. First, correlation isn’t causation, and none of those papers established causation, so it could be that some aspect of autism causes oxidative stress rather than the other way around. Additionally, the evidence that vaccines cause oxidative stress is very limited.
        …To put this another way, what the anti-vaccers are doing is laying out a hypothetical pathway in which vaccines cause oxidative stress which in turn causes autism, but we don’t know if either of those steps are actually true.”

        I actually believe that there is something to this theory of oxidative stress. We know that autistic people are strongly associated with having high oxidative stress. We know that treating in ways where you either 1) reduce the oxidative stress, or 2) increase your capacity for dealing with oxidative stress, seems to be very effective treatments for alleviating autistic behavior.

        I think there are two factors at play here. One is of course, something that causes oxidative stress. The second thing is, that something prevents a person from dealing with oxidative stress (or glutathione capacity).

        If you look at the majority of the environmental or genetic factors that are seemingly associated to autism, you will find that they are all related to the two factors that I mention above.

        For example:
        Honest Bob talked about MTHFR gene mutation and its association with autism. The problem with the MTHFR gene is that it impairs the folate cycle, which in turns impairs the methionine cycle. The methionine cycle has far reaching biological consequences, and any impairment in that also affects the generation of glutathione (master antioxidant). Biomarkers in autistic people show that the majority of them have issues with the methionine cycle, meaning that they have an impaired metabolic status, and are more susceptible to damage due to oxidative stress.
        The ratio between boys vs girls who get autism is a pretty well established fact. An often mentioned reason for this is because of the gender differences in being able to deal with oxidative stress. For example: Gender Differences Among Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Differential Symptom Patterns (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865374/) it says “The key difference between male and female neuronal and lymphoid cells was the relative incapacity of male cells to maintain intracellular levels of reduced glutathione…Mitochondria from human females exhibit higher antioxidant gene expression and lower oxidative damage than mitochondria from males”
        There is speculation that tylenol is associated to autism? Why? Because processing tylenol produces a toxin (NAPQI) that uses glutathione to detoxify. A couple of studies look into this phenomenon (Acetaminophen Induces Apoptosis in Rat Cortical Neurons
        http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0015360 and Evidence that Increased Acetaminophen use in Genetically Vulnerable Children Appears to be a Major Cause of the Epidemics of Autism, Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity, and Asthma
        http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/aarm/jrm/2013/00000002/00000001/art00003)
        The depletion of glutathione is mainly concentrated in the liver, but it is also known that acetaminophen can bypass the blood brain barrier, which means that it has the potential to deplete glutathione in the brain, leaving it more susceptible to oxidative stress.
        Mitochondrial dysfunction – people with mitochondrial dysfunction have an impaired cellular oxidative reduction capacity, or in other words, they have difficulty maintaining their intracellular levels of glutathione. Because of this, people who have this condition are prone to extremely levels of oxidative stress when their body requires a lot of cellular respiration, such as when they need to fight off an infection by producing fever. Producing fever increases cellular respiration and the byproduct of cellular respiration is the increase in reactive oxygen species, such as peroxides and superoxides, that cause cellular and tissue damage if it is not dealt with by glutathione.

        In my opinion, I am seeing a common theme here, and it coincides with the issues that I’ve stated above that increases autism risk, 1) increasing oxidative stress, and 2) reducing antioxidant capacity.

        Vaccines have the potential to do both. Thimerosal and aluminum both depletes glutathione stores AND disrupts regeneration of glutathione by different pathways. As well, vaccines will increase energy requirements of the body due to the fact that the stimulation of the immune system (inflammation, fever, proliferation of immune cells, seizures, etc) will increase cellular respiration, and that increased cellular respiration will increase oxidative stress by the increased production of reactive oxygen species.

        I feel that I’ve demonstrated a biological plausibility for autism risk, and it’s one that does not put vaccines in the clear. The problem with science is that it’s not asking the right questions, and it’s TOO DAMN FOCUSED on that ONE FACTOR that is associated to autism. You look at all the associated risk factors for autism and you find a central theme, so it’s time that science stops looking for a specific “gene” or “environmental factor” and start asking the right questions.
        While you consider that the majority of vaccine and autism science is strong, I consider it to be extremely weak. A collection of weak studies coming to the same conclusion that one vaccine is not associated to autism does not make the conclusion that vaccination, as a whole, is not associated to autism, to be any stronger.
        And while you may cite studies that look at multiple vaccines or doses or antigens (which I already gave my reasons why I think they are not very strong), plus they are also very few, and never replicated because they keep asking different questions.

        Anyways, I’ll just stop for now. But I appreciate you letting me have a an open and mature discussion with you on the subject.

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          First let’s talk about the numbers. We can’t use nearly as wide of an age range as you suggested because that introduces too many confounders (i.e., a 17 year old and 1 year old aren’t equivalent because over the past 17 years, the vaccine schedule has changed, routine medicines have changed, etc.). So we’ll need to limit the study to a much narrower cohort. Let’s say a range of a 4 years. I couldn’t get the child stats link you posted to load, but according to the CDC, there are just under 4,000,000 US births a year. So at 0.7%, that gives us 28,000 fully unvaccinated children a year, so 112,000 fully unvaccinated children available. That would be a reasonable study size, if we could actually enrol all of those children, which clearly wouldn’t be the case. We would only be able to obtain ethical clearance and sufficiently detailed medical information for a small subset of those (the CDC estimates usually come from using a large sample and extrapolating, btw). Additionally, there will inevitably be some children that have to be thrown out because of various confounders and other issues. So once it is all said and done, you will probably only be able to get a very small subsample of those children. I’d be surprised if it was as high as 25,000, but even if it was, that actually isn’t enough to have much statistical power for something relatively rare like autism, and there is really no point in doing the study if it is underpowered (you can find a more detailed explanation of the statistical power here http://vaccineconspiracytheorist.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/vax-vs-unvax-study-myth.html).
          http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6334a1.htm

          There is also an additional problem that I hadn’t brought up before, but at this point I think that it is really relevant. Namely, comparing fully unvaccinated children with vaccinated children is inherently problematic. As you are no doubt aware, for the study to work, we need the vaxxed and unvaxxed kids to be as similar as possible in every regard except for vaccination status. The problem is that parents who oppose vaccines to the point of entirely refusing them often make other non-traditional medical choices as well (e.g., irregular doctors’ visits, heavy use of herbal remedies, etc.). Those studies can confound the study and make the results meaningless. You could try to implement some sort of a questionary so that you could match your cohorts based on other medical practices, but questionnaires tend to be unreliable, and that is once again going to reduce your sample size.

          As far as a dose response, I think that you are missing my point. Let’s say that the unvaccinatated group had all of the vaccines but MMR (which again, on average is probably not true), and the vaccinated group had all of the vaccines including MMR. In that case, the vaccinated group has more doses than the unvaccinated group. Thus, you should see a dose response.

          Most of the rest of your post is essentially the same thing as in many of the anti-vaccine reviews, and it suffers the same problem. Namely, it is highly, highly speculative. Laying out a chain like this is great in concept, but in reality, the human body is so complex that more often than not, these hypothetical chains fail, and in your chain, there are multiple steps that are correlative, but we still don’t know if there is a casual connection. We can make an infinite number of these hypotheses, and indeed anti-vaxxers have made quite a few, but they usually don’t pan out. To put this another way, you need to show both that oxidative stress causes autism (rather than simply is associated with it), and you need to show that vaccines can cause a significant amount of oxidative stress (significant enough to cross whatever threshold would be necessary for it to lead to autism).

          There is also, of course, the question of how long the oxidative stress needs to last for. The effects of vaccines tend to be very short lived (other than the immunity that they provide). So does long term oxidative stress cause autism or is a brief spike enough? On that note, you implicated inflammation, fevers, etc. in the causal pathway. That is not insignificant because vaccines actually prevent those. Oh yes, there are mild and short lived fevers in some patients immediately after vaccination, but nothing compared to the fevers that vaccines prevent. So based on your pathway, vaccines may actually be preventing quite a few cases of autism (not to mention lots of death and horrible diseases).

          This brings me to what is perhaps my most important point. There will always be risks and variables that we have not tested. No matter how many things we have tested, that will always be the case. However, for things like vaccines, the known benefits are enormous and far outweigh the hypothetical risks (as well as the actual known risks). I completely disagree that scientists are being too narrow on this topic. In addition to the vaccine studies, there are tons of scientists look at the autism problem from lots of different angles, and mostly they are finding that it is genetic and prenatal effects rather than environmental effects after birth.

          It’s also worth mentioning that in a large study of the genetics of autism, none of the candidate pathways that often get proposed for a link between oxidative stress and autism showed up as significant (you can find a good discussion of the study here https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-genetics-of-autism/)

          Like

  15. Max says:

    Thanks for such a detailed analysis of the research papers on vaccines! Keep up the good work!
    Do you also plan to do a similar thorough analysis on the research on GMO? I fall into the third category of your target audience, viz. “…those who are not particularly interested in the autism/vaccine debate..”. I am more interested in the GMO debate than the vaccine debate.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. JAQO says:

    The Stanford statistician John Ioannidis sounded the alarm about our science crisis 10 years ago. “Most published research findings are false,” Ioannidis boldly declared in a seminal 2005 PLOS Medicine article. What’s worse, he found that in most fields of research, including biomedicine, genetics, and epidemiology, the research community has been terrible at weeding out the shoddy work largely due to perfunctory peer review and a paucity of attempts at experimental replication. Ioannidis showed, for instance, that about one-third of the results of highly cited original clinical research studies were shown to be wrong or exaggerated by subsequent research. “For many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias,” he argued. Today, he says science is still wracked by the reproducibility problem: “In several fields, it is likely that most published research is still false.”
    https://reason.com/archives/2016/01/19/broken-science

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      If you are suggesting that Ioannidis’s work should make use question the safety of vaccines, then you are completely miss-representing his research. The problem that he is addressing is basically the problem of the “single-study syndrome.” There is admittedly a bias towards publishing positive studies (i.e., a study that found a significant difference). As a result you often have studies published that are really type-1 errors (i.e., false positives). So Ioannidis’s very insightful work stresses things like using large samples, and most importantly, reproduciblity. So his work in no way shape or form questions the reliability of the studies showing that vaccines don’t cause autism, because there are so many large studies that have been reproduced. Rather, what his work questions is the small studies that disagree with the consensus and have not been replicated. To put this another way, his work means that we should question those buzz-feed studies that claim to have found some new miracle cure or some extra-ordinary danger of a common product. We should try to reproduce those before drawing conclusions, but if those studies have been repeated multiple times, then they are probably correct. The studies on vaccine safety have, of course, been repeated many times, and are, therefore, most likely true.

      Like

      • Fallacy Man says:

        Again, that does not give you carte blanche to reject any studies that you choose. Yes, there are a lot of bad papers out there (I talked about multiple of them in this post), but once you understand statistics, experimental design, etc. you can usually spot them. The problem is that many people are publishing tiny studies with tiny effect sizes, uncontrolled type 1 errors, etc. (e.g., the anti-vaccine papers that I critiqued). The fact that those bad studies exist does not, however, mean that you can assume that a study is bad whenever it disagrees with you. Studies with very large sample sizes and no conflicts of interest (like the pro-vaccine studies) tend to be reliable. Perhaps most importantly, if a study produced true results, then it should be repeatable. So when you have multiple very large studies that were conducted by different independent teams and all arrived at the same conclusion, you can be very confident in that conclusion.

        To give a more full quote from Dr. Horton, “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

        Notice how that quote does not describe the large studies that I discussed in this post.

        Like

        • Honest Bob. says:

          And you cannot assume the studies are wholeheartedly the truth regardless of size when it agrees with what you want it to. Unfortunately I don’t have the time I once did to debate this issue. Why did you take the time to put something like this together if the evidence is so great for the pro-vaccine side of things? I have noticed over the years that whenever these debates happen, no one is changing anyones mind on either side. Your take and bias prove nothing at all to those people that have first hand seen the damage done. The damage that you call coincidental and anecdotal. You can post a thousand more studies and it will not change their minds from what they have witnessed with their own eyes on their own children or those children around them. That’s the bottom line. I’m one of those people that witnessed it. There is no excuse and no other reason why a child goes in for his MMR at 15 months with a 10 word vocabulary, screams a wretched, primal scream for the entire night, loses that vocabulary the next day, and takes him almost 2 years to get his speech back after serious therapy. This is a normal thing that just happens to toddlers right? You call it what you will and I will call it what I will. There is nothing that will change my mind after seeing this.

          Until the “one shot fits all” mentality has been dissolved and science realizes that not every child’s immune system is the same, I will have no love for the insane schedule of shots our children are getting especially for horrible diseases like HPV, chickenpox, and Heb-B…. Since when has any parent been worried about their newborn contracting a sexually transmitted disease in the first 15 years of life that it should be the first thing that enters that baby’s body immediately after it takes its first breath? Its a rhetorical question so please don’t bother defending it.

          Like

          • Fallacy Man says:

            “Why did you take the time to put something like this together if the evidence is so great for the pro-vaccine side of things?”
            Because there are many people like you who refuse to accept that evidence. More importantly, there are actually people who are sincerely after knowledge and are trying to figure out what is actually real, rather than simply following their biases.

            “You can post a thousand more studies and it will not change their minds from what they have witnessed with their own eyes on their own children or those children around them. That’s the bottom line. I’m one of those people that witnessed it.” EXACTLY, that is the problem. You have decided what is true, and nothing will ever change your mind. Think about what you just said. You just admitted that no amount of evidence will ever change your mind. Do you honestly not see why that is a problem?

            You’ll notice, btw, that in the opening of this post, I stated that this post was not designed for people like you, and I made one simple request of you: that you consider the possibility that you might be wrong. You are now openly admitting that nothing will ever change your mind and you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that you might be wrong. So continuing to have a conversation with you is tremendously pointless and I won’t waste any more time on it.

            Like

  17. Di says:

    Some vaccine inserts actually list autism as an adverse effect.

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      Please re-read the post, because I addressed that argument. In short, the vaccine package inserts list any adverse event that happened during clinical trials. That does not, however, mean that the vaccine caused those events (in many cases they almost certainly did not). In fact, the inserts themselves even say this and state that you can’t draw causal conclusions from the reported adverse events.

      Like

  18. James Lind says:

    Di, it is very important that people understand what that means. The insert says nothing about vaccines causing autism. Nothing. It only says that children received the diagnosis within the reporting period of the trial. You will also see things like skull fractures listed as adverse events. An adverse event is an event of a specified gravity within the reporting period.

    Like

  19. Sophie Scholl says:

    No mention at all of William Thompson ?
    No mention of Poul Thoresen ?
    No mention of SimpsonWood ?

    Without these subjects your entire article is invalid .

    Like

    • Guy Chapman says:

      Thompson has not published anything of interest and is on record as stating that vaccines are an important public health measure. Even if Hooker’s distortion of his statements were true, it would only “prove” a link for African-American boys vaccinated in a specific time window (the more specific a post-hoc subgroup like this, the more likely it is to be a statistical artifact, of course).

      Thorsen’s travails have no relevance to the published research: that is simply poisoning the well. Wakefield is struck off, but that is not what invalidates his retracted research, the retraction was because “the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false.” The two are related but separate.

      Simpsonwood is similarly irrelevant. It was not published research, it was a conference, a snapshot of the state of evidence at a specific point in time. As this post makes abundantly clear, the research has moved on: hundreds of studies covering millions of children in dozens of countries, all consistently show no link between vaccines and autism, and no plausible mechanism by which such a link might operate.

      Of course, if there was any significant or credible research showing a link, then there would be grounds for further discussion. But there isn’t. The paper that established the MMR-autism conjecture in the public mind, is retracted due to gross errors and misrepresentations. The paper that tried to place Thompson’s subset in the literature is also retracted, due to incompetence. Both were conducted by people with an undeclared financial stake in the outcome. Most of the authors noted as pro-vaccine have no such conflict of interest.

      There is a valuable lesson in life that the MMR-autism promoters need to learn. When everybody who knows what they are talking about tells you that you are wrong, it is usually because you are actually wrong, not because there is a vast conspiracy against you.

      Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      Well someone didn’t read carefully. I actually did mention Thompson, I just didn’t mention him by name (see the comments on the CDC “whistleblower.” As Guy Chapman explained, however, those people are totally irrelevant. You are essentially saying, “these people say your wrong, therefore all of those massive studies are wrong.” It is a blatant appeal to authority fallacy. The scientific studies are the only relevant sources for this topic.

      Like

      • ThinkAboutIt says:

        The scientific studies are not the only resources on this topic. You have a problem in the field – the real world. Kids getting injured. Science hasn’t come up with an answer for that. It has not even looked at the problem. So again, yes, you can prove no link, but you had better come up with an explanation why so many kids are having problems.

        Like

        • Fallacy Man says:

          “it has not even looked at the problem” What exactly do you think was the purpose of all of these studies? They were looking at the problem.

          Additionally, there is lots of research on other possible causes, and the result is very consistently that it is mostly genetic as well as some environmental influences during pregnancy. Yes, the picture is still incomplete, but we have been able to confirm several things that don’t cause autism, including vaccines.

          The fact that science hasn’t found the answers that you want doesn’t mean that it hasn’t found answers.

          Like

  20. lizditz says:

    Oh dear just noticed a rather important error.

    “Finally, I want to briefly talk about Hviid et al. (2003). I did not include this study in my main list because unlike all of the other studies that I have been talking about, it compared MMR vaccines with thimerosal to MMR vaccines without thimersoal, rather than comparing vaccinated children and unvaccinated children. ”

    MMR never had thimerosal — it’s a live virus vaccine & MMR would have killed the viriii. I am pretty sure what Hviid et al. did was to compare autism rates while the whole-cell pertussis vaccine was in use with autism rates after a thimerosal-free formulation was adopted.

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      Oops, I’m not sure how I screwed that one up. I’ve corrected the error. Thanks for catching it. I really appreciate people double checking my work.

      Like

  21. Great job! Thanks so much.

    Like

  22. Initiative Rationnelle says:

    I hope you won’t mind, I have translated this post in french (not entirely, only the “short” summary). I think this should be useful.

    https://initiativerationnelle.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/vaccins-et-autisme-un-examen-approfondi-des-preuves/

    Like

  23. ThinkAboutIt says:

    Funny but relevant piece.

    Like

    • Initiative Rationnelle says:

      I completely agree with you.

      “In science, you don’t just get to cherry pick the parts that justify what you were going to do anyway. That’s religion. You’re thinking of religion.”

      Like

  24. Honest Bob. says:

    Do we need to be reminded how many thousands of times science has been wrong over the last 2 millennia? Why should this issue be any different? Judging by past mistakes of science in general, this topic should tread with caution.

    Like

    • Fallacy Man says:

      I’m am leaving for a trip in a few hours, and won’t have internet access for over a week, so I won’t be able to continue this beyond this comment, but I explained the problems with that line of reasoning in detail here
      https://thelogicofscience.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/but-scientists-have-been-wrong-in-the-past/

      Like

      • Honest Bob. says:

        That’s one person’s take on the subject. It in no way at all absolves science from the thousands of errors and mistakes of the past. This topped with some of the most prestigious people in science telling the world that half or more of the studies out there are wrong for so many reasons.

        Like

        • ThinkAboutIt says:

          Yes, here’s a webpage to tell you that thinking outside of the box, and that thinking for yourself, has been proven by science, to be a bad idea. Therefore, this link only proves how much more the science is right and that everyone else must be wrong.

          People like you are, are like those really crazy people that take drugs and shot people, and kill babies. Yea…that’s right, if you are anti-vac and fail to believe in our science, then you’re just like those guys on the corners with cardboard signs declaring the end is near. Oh wait, those are climate alarmists, we don’t mean them. We mean…those other crazy people.

          Like

        • Initiative Rationnelle says:

          “This topped with some of the most prestigious people in science telling the world that half or more of the studies out there are wrong for so many reasons.”

          What criteria allow you to decide that these “prestigious people in science” are right ? Do you have any argument other than “it serves you ?”
          These people are using the scientific method and studies to say so, and these studies are telling us when and where we can expect studies to be bad.
          But you are using studies to dismiss any studies, how can you trust these prestigious people ? They are saying this in studies !

          Like

          • ThinkAboutIt says:

            But nobody cares. Nobody cares about “the science” when they see a very different outcome happening right under their noses.

            Get off your “the science” high horse.

            Start looking at what is happening in real life first. Then, apply the science.

            All I care about is why a whole lot of mothers are reporting what they are reporting. THIS is the only thing that matters. If the real world says 2+2 equals 4, and the science says 2+2 equals 6, I don’t care about the science.

            Like

          • Initiative Rationnelle says:

            “nobody cares”

            Nothing in your answer is about my question pointing out the logical fallacy of Honest Bob, so the question still stands.

            Like

        • Initiative Rationnelle says:

          “here’s a webpage to tell you that thinking outside of the box, and that thinking for yourself, has been proven by science, to be a bad idea.”

          If “the box” you are refering to is logic, then yes, it is a bad idea.
          Other than that, scientists love thinking outside of the box. Replacing old theories with new, more acurate ones is the essence of the scientific method. The key word is still “thinking”.

          “People like you are, are like those really crazy people that take drugs and shot people”

          I believe this comment is in reference of a comment I made somewhere else in this page, so I will clarify.

          I made a criticism of the method, asking you how can we make the distinction between the very good and very true quasientific facts backed up by non scientific evidences you are telling us here, and the dangerous rambling of a deranged lunatic. Because the lunatics almost always use the “very good and very true quasientific facts backed up by non scientific evidences” gambit.

          So, not saying you are eating babies, and still waiting for you to answer to this. (It is a question of methodology, not an ad hominem fallacy)

          Like

  25. stragu says:

    Thank you very much for this really important post. Be assured that many people really appreciate it and won’t necessarily comment here.

    Like

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