## Why are there so many reports of autism following vaccination? A mathematical assessment

The idea that vaccines cause autism is one of the most persistent myths that I have ever encountered, and it seems that no amount of evidence will ever cause it to disappear. Indeed, I recently wrote a lengthy post in which I thoroughly reviewed the scientific literature on this topic, and I showed that there are no high quality studies supporting this myth, but there are multiple very large studies that debunked it. Nevertheless, many people responded to the post by insisting that vaccines must cause autism because there are so many cases of parents reporting the onset of autism shortly after vaccinating. They were adamant that these anecdotes could not be chance results and must mean that vaccines cause autism. To quote one commenter,

“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.”

Given how common this argument is, I want to look at these anecdotes and what they actually mean, and, as part of that, I want to actually do some math and calculate the probability of a child developing autism shortly after being vaccinated if the vaccine isn’t responsible. In other words, I want to calculate the odds of observing autism “AFTER a vaccine is given” just by “random coincidence.”

The problem with anecdotes
Anecdotes are extremely problematic for multiple reasons. I’ve explained them in detail before, so I will just discuss the core problem here. Namely, using anecdotes as evidence of causation commits a logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc. This fallacy occurs whenever you say “X happened before Y, therefor X caused Y” (e.g., “Billy was vaccinated shortly before showing the first signs of autism, therefore the vaccine caused the autism”). The problem is that just because one thing happens before something else does not mean that the two are related. It could, in fact, be a complete coincidence (more on that later). Many people often become very indignant when I say that (as the commenter that I quoted did), but these aren’t arbitrary rules that I have made up. This is just how logic works. The fact that X happened before Y does not in any way demonstrate that X caused Y. You need additional information (such as knowledge of confounding factors) before you can assume that they are related.

Here is an example that I often like to use. Imagine that I fill my car with fuel and it breaks down a mile later. Can I assume that the fuel was bad and that’s what made my car break down? Obviously not. There are lots of parts on a car that can break, and it is entirely possible that one of them just happened to break shortly after fueling up. In other words, it could my be a complete and total coincidence. Think about it, thousands of people fill up their cars every day, and thousands of people break down every day. So it is inevitable that there will be lots of cases where someone just happens to break down right after filling up. The fact that fueling up happened before breaking down does not mean that fueling up caused me to break down, and that exact same logic applies with vaccines and autism.

To give another example, imagine that someone takes a new medication, then has a heart attack the next day. Can we conclude that the medicine caused the heart attack? No, we can’t. Heart attacks are extremely common, so it shouldn’t be surprising that, just by chance, some people will have heart attacks shortly after taking a medicine, even if the medicine didn’t cause the heart attack.

How to study anecdotes
Although anecdotes are not very useful as evidence of causation, they can be very useful as starting points for scientific investigation. To go back to my heart attack example, if there were multiple reports of people having heart attacks shortly after taking the medication, doctors and scientists would take those reports seriously, and they would use them as the justification for doing a study. This is a crucially important point: the only way to actually know whether or not the medication causes heart attacks is to compare heart attack rates in people who do and do not take the medicine (or at least compare different doses) while controlling confounding factors. Only then, once you have controlled the confounding factors, can you conclude that the relationship is causal rather than simply being a coincidence. In other words, you have to control all other possibilities and compare two treatment groups before you can conclude that the medicine is the cause. Otherwise, you can never be sure that it’s not just a coincidence.

Now, if we go back to vaccines and autism, we find an identical situation. The fact that many parents have observed autism shortly after a vaccine does not in itself indicate that vaccines cause autism, but it does give scientists something to investigate. In other words, to test those anecdotes and find out whether they are arising from chance or from a causal relationship, we need to compare autism rates among children who did and did not receive a given vaccine. Scientists have, in fact, done that numerous times, which is why anti-vaccers’ comments are a bit strange. I constantly encounter anti-vaccers who insist that scientists aren’t taking parents seriously and haven’t examined the reason that autism often seems to follow vaccines. For example, someone made the following comment on my post about the scientific studies on vaccines and autism.

“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.”

Notice how the commenter suggests that scientists have ignored parents reports and aren’t studying those reports. That is a rather bizarre accusation given that we have multiple very large studies on whether or not vaccines cause autism. In other words, we know that the anecdotes are wrong because scientists took parents’ concerns seriously, carefully tested vaccines, and repeatedly found that there is no relationship between vaccines and autism. Further, just to be clear, scientists didn’t just do one small study then call it quits. Rather, they have looked it this from multiple angles such as testing different vaccines, examining the effects of age at vaccination, studying children that are at a high risk of autism, testing different doses of vaccines, etc., and some of those tests have been enormous (the largest used over 1.2 million children!). So scientists absolutely took parents’ concerns seriously, but it turned out that the parents’ concerns were unnecessary. In other words, the issue isn’t that scientists are ignoring parents. Rather, the issue is that they didn’t find the results that anti-vaccers wanted them to find. Scientists have very carefully examined vaccines to see if the anecdotes actually represent a causal relationship, and anti-vaccers are simply refusing to accept their results.

See the text for sources and more details.

Looking at the math
Despite the fact that anecdotes can’t demonstrate causation and the fact that multiple studies have shown that the anecdotes are in error, many people continue to insist that the temporal relationship between vaccines and autism simply can’t be a result of chance. So let’s look at that with some simple math. What I want to do is calculate how many times we expect the first signs of autism to closely follow vaccines if vaccines don’t actually cause autism.

Note: I will explain the math below, but for your convenience, I have laid it all out in the image above.

According to the CDC, there are roughly 3,988,000 children born in the US each year  (Hamilton et al. 2015). This gives us a nice annual cohort that I want to follow. Over 90% of children in the US receive their full vaccine schedule (Elam-Evans et al. 2014), so that gives us 3,589,200 vaccinated children per annual cohort (0.9*3,988,000). Now, in the US, 1 in 68 children develop autism (Christensen et al. 2016), so if vaccines and autism are not in any way related, we expect that 1 in 68 of our 3,589,200 children will develop autism. Thus, we should have 52,782 children each year who have autism and are fully vaccinated (3,589,200/68).

In roughly 80% of cases, parents first notice the signs of autism prior to a child’s second birthday, and usually not until after around 6 months old (Giacomo and Fombonne 1998). Therefore, for our 52,782 children, there should be 42,226 for which parents first noticed the signs of autism between 6 and 24 months old (0.8*52,782). Now, let’s assume for a minute that there is an equal probability of the first signs of autism appearing on any day during that period (I’ll talk about that assumption in a minute). As a result, we expect 77 children to show the first signs of autism on any given day (42,226 children/548 days).

Now, let’s bring all the pieces together. According to the recommended CDC vaccination schedule, most children receive vaccines on at least 2 days between age 0.5 and 2 years. So if we use that as a conservative estimate, then each year, we expect 154 children (77 cases*2 days) in the US to show the first signs of autism within 24 hours of being vaccinated just by chance (that number goes up dramatically if you spread the vaccines out over more than 2 days). Similarly, each year 1,079 children should show the first signs within 1 week of receiving a vaccine, and 4,623 should show the first signs within 1 month of receiving a vaccine. In other words, so many children develop autism and so many children are vaccinated, that even though vaccines do not cause autism, we still expect there to be hundreds or even thousands of cases where the signs of autism were first noticed shortly after receiving a vaccine (note again that this is the same situation as my fuel example earlier). So we do, in fact, expect there to be lots of coincidences where the detection of autism just happened to follow vaccination.

To be fair, my calculations obviously include two major assumptions, so let’s talk about those for a second. First, I assumed that vaccination only took place on two days, but that is actually a conservative estimate. If everyone vaccinated over 3 days, for example, then we expect there to be 231 annual cases of autism appearing within 24 hours of a vaccine.

Second, I assumed that the rates of autism detection were constant over the period we were talking about. That assumption is clearly false. In actuality, the detection probability goes up over time, but given that one of the days of vaccination is usually early in our time frame and the other is late, that should largely balance out. Also, realize that right now we are quibbling over the exact numbers that I calculated, rather than my central result. In other words, the exact numbers are almost certainly off, but the central point stands (i.e., we expect there to be lots of cases where, just by chance, autism is detected shortly after a vaccine).

Additionally, we would actually expect the odds of a parent noticing the symptoms of autism to skyrocket shortly after a vaccine is administered. Many parents are very concerned about a vaccine harming their child, and, as a result, they will tend to watch their children very closely after vaccinating them (even if they don’t consciously realize that they are doing so). Thus, they are far more likely to notice an early sign of autism that they might have missed if they hadn’t been watching their children so closely. To give an analogy, after people buy a new car, they often start seeing that model and paint job everywhere, but that model isn’t actually any more abundant than it was before, it’s just that their brains notice it because they are thinking about it (consciously or subconsciously). Even so, you are far more likely to notice an early sign of autism if you are worried about it. So in actuality, my numbers are likely underestimates rather than overestimates.

Finally, you may be thinking, “but those numbers are lower than actual number of cases of autism that follow vaccination each year,” to which I have several replies. First, again realize that these numbers are not precise and the true values are likely much higher. Second, where are your sources that the rates are much higher? I’m betting that your sources are simply collections of anecdotes, in which case, you don’t actually have any idea how often autism is detected within a few days of being vaccinated. It may seem much higher than it really is simply because you’re getting your information from internet echo chambers. This brings me to my final and most important point. I completely agree that this argument does not prove that vaccines don’t cause autism. Rather, it simply shows that we expect there to be lots of cases where the detection of autism follows vaccination just be chance. The only way to actually know whether the true rates are higher than the rates expected just by chance is (you guessed it) to do a large study, which, once again, is exactly what scientists have done multiple times.

Note: please read this post before arguing that we need a fully vaccinated vs. full unvaccinated study.

But aren’t autism rates increasing?
As I wrote this post, I could already hear peoples’ keyboards furiously clicking away and arguing that I must be wrong because autism rates have increased over time. So let’s talk about that for a minute. First, as I explained here, at least a large portion of the increase has been due to diagnostic changes, rather than an actual increase (i.e., people who would not have been considered autistic 20 years ago are considered autistic today;  Rutter 2005; Taylor 2006; Bishop et al. 2008; Baxter et al. 2015; Hansen et al. 2015). Second, that doesn’t change the math nor does it refute the numerous large studies that failed to find any evidence of vaccines causing autism. Remember, correlation is not the same as causation. Even if actual autism rates truly are going up, that wouldn’t mean that vaccines are the cause, and in fact, we know that vaccines aren’t the cause because we have so thoroughly studied this.

Summary
In conclusion, anecdotes cannot demonstrate causation, but they can be useful as starting points for further research. In the case of vaccines and autism, that research has been thoroughly conducted, and it has overwhelmingly shown that vaccines do not cause autism. Therefore, the reports of autism being detected shortly after vaccination must be arising by chance. Although many people protest that notion, it is not at all surprising given the number of children who receive vaccines and the number who develop autism. Further, I have mathematically demonstrated that even if vaccines do not cause autism, we expect there to be a large number of cases where, just by chance, autism is detected shortly after the administration of a vaccine.

Related Posts

Literature Cited

• Baxter et al. 2015. The epidemiology and global burden of autism spectrum disorders. Psychological Medicine 45:601–613.
• Bishop et al. 2008. Autism and diagnostic substitution: evidence from a study of adults with a history of developmental language disorder. Dev Med Child Neurol 50: 341–345.
• Christensen et al. 2016. Prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years — autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2012. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 65:1–23.
• Elam-Evans et al. 2014. National, state, and selected local area vaccination coverage among children aged 19–35 months — United States, 2013. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 63:741–478.
• Giacomo and Fombonne 1998. Parental recognition of developmental abnormalities in autism. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 7:131–136.
• Hamilton et al. 2015. Births: Final Data for 2014. National Vital Statistics Reports. CDC.
• Hansen et al. 2015. Explaining the increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders: the proportion attributable to changes in reporting practices. JAMA Pediatrics 169:56–62.
• Rutter. 2005. Incidence of autism spectrum disorders: changes over time and their meaning. Acta Paediatr 94:2–15
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### 72 Responses to Why are there so many reports of autism following vaccination? A mathematical assessment

1. sueclancy999@gmail.com says:

Would it be safe to say that vaccination rates are declining (due to fear mongering and false information on the Internet) but autism rates are still climbing? Doesn’t that in itself demonstrate the fact that vaccines don’t cause autism. Ironic that by decreasing the vaccine rate the anti vaxxers have proven themselves wrong.

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• Craig Payne says:

Oh come on, that is too logical for them to get it!

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• lizditz says:

I do not think that overall, vaccination rates are declining. There are pockets of vaccine refusal but overall, no.

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• Aggregate vaccine refusal (which is rising) isn’t the problem; local pockets of vaccine refusal is.

And to your hypothesis, no, it wouldn’t for the exact same reasons people dismiss vaccination rate increases and autism rate increases.

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2. Lorie says:

Not sure what I am missing here (sorry, I’m in no way an expert on any of this), but seems to me that you can’t start with a population of *vaccinated* children to find the number of children who would be identified (by their parents) as autistic on any particular day “just by chance.”

Liked by 1 person

• Jason says:

nope… he applied a percentage that was determined for ALL children, vaccinated and unvaccinated… they then compared the two populations and did not find a difference in the autism rates. The scientists did NOT use that number to determine how many should have autism… the op used that number to demonstrate that we should expect a certain number of kids to show signs of autism independently of whether they were vaccinated or not. If Vaccines caused autism you would expect the rates for autistic children to be higher than both the rates for unvaccinated children, and higher than the rates for the whole population, vaccinated and unvaccinated together.

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• Heather Vee says:

What this estimate shows is that, at a given rate of 1:68 children (and with other factors discussed), it can be estimated that approximately 80 children will have parents who noticed signs of autism on any given day, regardless of when the children last received vaccines. So it isn’t surprising that hundreds of parents would notice signs of autism within a few weeks of their most recent set of vaccines, purely due to chance.

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• Lorie says:

Thanks for the explanation! That worked for me; now I get it. 🙂
I am really going to enjoy this blog; it’s right up my alley.

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• “1:68” isn’t a rate; as typed it’s an odd, and not what is referenced (true or not) in the article. The odds of a kid having autism are 1:67 (assuming risk is independent of demographic factors).

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• Heather Vee says:

Yes, it’s more complicated than just applying a simple rate, but I think you are being a bit nit-picky about terminology. The original article used 1 in 68 as a rate; in the comments below, you’ll see I used 1:68 as a probability (“odds”).

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• Heather Vee says:

And, rereading your comment, if it is the colon that concerns you, rates and ratios can also be written with a colon. 1/68 is equal to 1:68.

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• Kejal says:

Shawnee is correct actually. The colon and / are not interchangeable. 1/68 is 1 part in a total of 68 parts and 1:68 is 1 part to 68 parts (results in a total of 69 parts).

At least that’s how we use it for calculating dilutions 🙂

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• blu28 says:

No, Heather is correct. Odd, probabilities, rates, etc. are all pure unitless numbers and like all rational numbers represent a ratio. Using a : or a / or nothing at all are mathematically equivalent, but only using nothing is ambiguous.

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• Robin says:

Uh now that’s confusing. At least here in German schools the colon is often used for division when writing terms by hand (I guess as an easier substitute for the “colon-and-dash”-division operator? Dunno). So a student here writing 1/68 and another one writing 1:68 both mean “one divided by sixty-eight”. Not exactly the same thing as talking about ratios and rates, but I think you can see why this would cause confusion…

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• Heather Vee says:

Context is important. 1:68 can be a rate or probability read as “1 in 68” or it can be an odds read as “1 to 68” – though I agree with Shawnee that, if we were converting a probability to an odds, it would be 1:67.

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3. EJ says:

What a silly article, true smoke and mirrors stuff. Firstly, did you check into whether all the large studies showing there is no causation, used actual completely non-vaccinated compared to vaccinated? Or perchance were some given a placebo vaccine as the control group, which means they got the same stuff minus the virus? As for better diagnosis being responsible for the rise, that has been debunked:

“New Study Dispels Myth that Better Diagnosis is Responsible for Increase in Autism”

http://vaccineimpact.com/2015/new-study-dispels-myth-that-better-diagnosis-is-responsible-for-increase-in-autism/

Next, autism is something people are born with (except in the case of adult late onset autism) and these children were perfectly normal before the autism arrived, as parents have videos to show. Something causes the regression, something environmental. In so many cases the baby had a terrible fever and was unwell following vaccine and the autism came straight after as loss of skills and development. Pharmaceuticals admittedly affect the genome by the producer’s own admissions, so what vaccines are supposedly the only pharmaceutical that don’t? Scientists know that autism is epigenetic, no-one (even the so-called anti-vaxxers) is saying vaccines cause all cases of autism (and they are not restricting it to the MMR either). There is documented evidence and research about the vaccine link.

As for using the rate of 1 in 68, that is surely a joke (it’s actually 1 in 45 in the US now) to use to illustrate that the rates are no higher in vaccinated children, that rate is astronomically higher than it used to be years ago and no amount of claims of better recognition can touch the size of the increase.

And you just conveniently omit to mention that there has been vaccine fraud at the CDC too.

Anyone who thinks vaccines are so great should read this – and read all the way to the end. http://media.wix.com/ugd/58c8f1_f9062d900f8248118bcf459696ae89f4.pdf

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• Fallacy Man says:

First, I apologize that your comment did not appear right away. For some reason it got caught in my spam filter.

Second, in my post on the autism/vaccine studies, you can find explanations of what the studies were testing (also see the comments). Also, please read the posts below which explain why fully vaxxed vs fully unvaxxed studies and placebo controlled studies are impossible and unnecessary for this particular question.
https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/05/18/when-is-it-reasonable-to-demand-more-studies/
https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/04/28/vaccines-and-autism-a-thorough-review-of-the-evidence/#Randomized-controlled%20trials

Third, the study that you cited regarding autism diagnoses is classic cherry-picking. Just because you found a study that says you’re right doesn’t mean that the study is actually any good, nor does it mean that you can blindly reject all of the studies that disagree with it. So let’s actually look at the study in question, shall we?

When reading scientific papers, two of the first things that you should look at are who authored it and where it was published. In this case, it was authored by a collection of people who are notorious for publishing crappy research. Similarly, it was published in an exceedingly small journal (so small that it doesn’t even seem to have an impact factor). Those are both huge red flags. To be clear, they don’t automatically mean that we can reject the paper, but they do mean that we should be very skeptical and should take a good look at it before accepting it.

When we do that, we find that it is nonsense. First, their sample size was tiny. 84 autistic children is nowhere near a large enough sample size to confidently state that all of the other studies are wrong and actual autism rates are going up. Second, they don’t look at rates over time. All that they did was compare ages and sex ratios among children with autism born between 1995-1999, children with cerebral palsy born between 1995-2000, and children with mental retardation born between 1995-2000. They found that the sex ratios were different among those disorders, but so what? They argued that this indicates that there are differences between those groups, therefore diagnostic changes won’t take children from one group and assign them to another, but that argument doesn’t make a bit of sense, especially since they only had one time point. Maybe, they could make that argument if they had these ratios from several different time periods, and showed that the sex ratios were exactly the same over time, but even that argument would be questionable. Further, they didn’t show data over time because when you look at those data, you see that the rates of palsy and mental retardation go down as autism goes up (which is exactly what you expect from a changing diagnosis). Finally, I have to wonder why their autism data only goes to 1999 while the other diseases go to 2000. They never explain why they didn’t use the same years, which makes me very suspicious that they cherry-picked years in order to get a significant result.

Nevertheless, let’s assume for a minute that this one tiny, crappy, nonsensical paper, that was published in a minor journal by people who have a reputation for not understanding statistics is right, and all of the larger, properly conducted studies that were published in respected journals are wrong. Even if that was true, so what? That would not in any way shape or form prove or even suggest that vaccines are responsible. Lots of things have changed over the last several decades, and you can find correlations between autism and countless factors. Correlation does not equal causation. So even if autism rates have gone up dramatically, that would not support the conclusion that vaccines are responsible.

Fourth, you seem to have missed the entire point of this post because you again resort to anecdotes. I’m not denying that there are lots of cases where parents notice autism shortly after a vaccine, but that does not mean that the vaccine caused it. Again, you are committing a logical fallacy, and I have mathematically demonstrated that we expect there to be lots of cases where autism shortly follows a vaccine just by chance. You can call this “smoke and mirrors” but that doesn’t change the math.

You are also making the bizarre and logically invalid jump from “some pharmaceuticals have epigenetic effects” to “all pharmaceuticals have epigenetic effects.” Certain kinds of pharmaceuticals affect the genome, but you can’t generalize that to all pharmaceuticals (different chemicals behave differently). Further, even if vaccines affect the genome, that once again would not indicate that they affect it in a specific way that causes autism.

You claim that there are studies showing that vaccines cause autism, let’s see them (also, please do me a favour and make sure that they aren’t among the ones that I debunked in my lengthy post on autism/vaccine studies). https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/04/28/vaccines-and-autism-a-thorough-review-of-the-evidence/

As far as 1 in 68, that is the currently accepted estimate for the US as a whole. If you want to claim that it is actually 1 in 45, please cite your sources. Realize, however, that even if it is 1 in 45, that just changes my numbers, but it doesn’t change the core result: i.e., there will be lots of cases where autism follows vaccination just by chance.

As far as CDC corruption, I didn’t mention it, because it didn’t happen. The CDC “whistle-blower” is a conspiracy theorist’s fantasy. The actual documents show absolutely no evidence of corruption, and the “whistle-blower” himself has even publically stated, “I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.” Snopes.com has a nice overview, and Science Blogs goes into more details
http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/cdcwhistleblower.asp

Finally, the pdf you posted is just normal anti-vaccine ranting. There are no actual facts or legitimate arguments there. Look at the “sources” in it. Notice how they all go to blogs, conspiracy theorist websites, etc.? That’s a problem. The actual scientific studies completely disagree with that. I addressed many of those arguments in this post (notice how I explain the problems with those arguments by citing actual scientific studies).

In conclusion, I could easily see this debate ballooning massively into something that I just don’t have time for, so let me ask you one simple question to determine whether or not this will be worth my time.

What would it take to make you change your mind? I can tell you exactly what would make me change my mind: multiple, large, properly controlled studies that showed that vaccines actually cause autism, and explained why all of the previous research has been wrong. If you can show me those, I will admit that I was wrong, but nothing else is going to make me do that (blogs, youtube videos, etc. are not good evidence). So, what piece of evidence would be sufficient to make you change your mind? Please answer this question.

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This is an amazing article. It’s so refreshing to read an article based on logic and probability. There’s no arguing with that.
Great Job!!

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• EJ says:

Apologies for the delay in replying – I anticipated the exact type of reply you gave, so it wasn’t worthwhile opting to set notifications for any replies.

Have another look: http://media.wix.com/ugd/58c8f1_3b2100082ead4bb191ae98cbd3b96dfa.pdf you will see 16 separate “actual scientific” research studies (not including the 180 others listed in 3 other links) plus 31 articles with links and references to further studies – not to mention various articles written by doctors who agree there is a link. As to whether any are already ones you have looked at and claim to have “debunked”, I don’t have the time for such lengthy cross-checking so I will leave that to you. I highly doubt you have “debunked” anything however. Why on earth do you think the claims of the vaccine-autism link persist! If there was no data or evidence it would have gone away by now.

So your false claim “Finally, the pdf you posted is just normal anti-vaccine ranting. There are no actual facts or legitimate arguments there. Look at the “sources” in it. Notice how they all go to blogs, conspiracy theorist websites, etc.?” is irrelevant, precisely because it is false.

“…posts below which explain why fully vaxxed vs fully unvaxxed studies and placebo controlled studies are impossible and unnecessary…” this is fully answered in the link I posted above, you don’t get out of it that easily.

You see in my first post I said at the end “Anyone who thinks vaccines are so great should read this – and read all the way to the end.” that was because you did exactly what is declared in that document – you tried to trash the sources as a first line of defence. The illogic of that is also explained. And as already stated, there are masses of “actual scientific” research studies contained within it, which you conveniently omit to mention. If anybody has the balls to read it all, instead of eagerly lapping up your false claims and remaining blindfolded to the truth, they will see this for themselves. The chapters are:

Vaccinated v Unvaccinated Health
Vaccine Safety and Efficacy
Herd Immunity – Myth or Fact?
So What’s In Vaccines?
The Research on Vaccinations and Autism
Conspiracy Theory? You Decide
Vaccine Fraud and Whistleblowing
Dr Andrew Wakefield – Fraud or Hero?
Compensation for Vaccine Injury
What Financial Interests Are There?
What Does Non-Mainstream Media Have to Say?
The Human Side of Vaccine Injury

You spent the bulk of your post attempting to pull apart one study, yet there are very many more which say the same (using the format predicted in that link).

You’ve missed the point regarding epigenetics and pharmaceuticals, so I will spell it out. How can people be so very fervent in denying what they claim is so ludicrous and impossible, that vaccines can and do cause autism, when other pharmaceuticals are already admitted to have epigenetic effects? What makes vaccines so different? And within that link I posted, is one explaining exactly how vaccines damage the immune system, what vaccine injuries are being compensated for etc. – along with all those “actual scientific” research studies of course.

Regarding the 1 in 45 – where have you been! https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/new-government-survey-pegs-autism-prevalence-1-45 For someone busy attempting to calculate the maths, you should have your research correct. Which of course brings me to the point that if you use the wrong information to start with, all your calculations will be incorrect. Oh, and this is addressed within that link too – if you’d only bother reading it through end to end and checking out all the links.

The CDC corruption, again, where have you been! It did happen and all the information you need to verify that is again, within that link.

You claim the document in the link I posted is “anti vaccine ranting”. So you clearly didn’t read it. Nobody in their right mind would be against safe and effective vaccines, but that document has the evidence to prove they are neither and are the biggest hoax going.

“What would it take to make you change your mind?” Changing the truth of the matter – which you can’t, the evidence you are wrong is overwhelming. So falsely claiming that document link contains only blogs and YouTube videos, won’t detract from the fact that you haven’t and likely don’t intend to read it all and therefore will continue being as blindfolded as the other people who lap up the lies, or spread misinformation on behalf of those who create them.

It is too time-consuming to debate this I agree. People with your mindset are the proverbial horse being drawn to water, or are vaccine shills with financial/career incentives. I challenge you to post my reply though, if you have the balls.

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• Fallacy Man says:

I asked what it would take to change your mind and you responded, “Changing the truth of the matter” In other words, “I already know that I am right and nothing will convince me otherwise.” So there is really no point in me wasting any time on a gish gallop.

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• Fallacy Man says:

BTW, as far as the “16 studies” in your link, I actually looked at them, and one of the links went to an anti-vaccine site, not a journal, and the journal that it claimed the article was published in doesn’t even exist. Another was self-published by an anti-vaccine group (that does not count as a peer-reviewed study). A third was published in a predatory journal, not a real journal, and it was a speculative argument rather than a data paper. A fourth was so flawed that it was retracted. Nine were either not about autism or not about vaccines (or both). Of the remaining 3, one was covered in my previous post (it was an in vitro study not a human trial), and the last two papers were both written by the Geiers who are ardent anti-vaccers and have conflicts of interest and a long history of writing terrible papers (not to mention that one of them is now barred from practicing medicine because of unethical behaviour). So we should read those papers very closely before accepting them. The first one was a purely speculative “review” that did not cite a single paper documenting that vaccines cause autism. The second tried to do completely inappropriate analyses on the VAERS database, and it concluded that thimerosal is causing the autism “increase” even though thimerosal was removed from almost all vaccines back in 2001 (odd that it would cause autism to increase while thimerosal is decreasing).

So do any of those 16 studies even remotely suggest that vaccines can cause autism? No, they absolutely do not. This is why it is so important to use good sources, and critically look at them rather than just believing anything that appears to support your position. People constantly claim to have research that backs up their claims, but more often than not, those papers either don’t support their claims, or the papers are fundamentally flawed. You keep saying, “look at the link, look at the link” but I have and the link is nonsense! It doesn’t use good sources, it contains countless scientifically false statements, it is riddled with logical fallacies, it is a steaming pile of crap. Vaccines have been carefully tested thousands of times, and they have been shown to be extremely safe and effective. You need a whole lot more than youtube videos and quack websites to discredit those studies. I don’t care that a bunch of bloggers think that vaccines are dangerous, because numerous carefully controlled studies have shown that they are wrong.

To put this another way, you are exhibiting a strong confirmation bias here. You are blindly trusting sources that agree with you while rejecting any that don’t. This is blatantly obvious in statements like, “I highly doubt you have ‘debunked’ anything however.” Maybe you should actually look at the evidence before you decide that.

In contrast, I can and have provided you with multiple extremely high quality studies which clearly showed that vaccines do not cause autism (https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/04/28/vaccines-and-autism-a-thorough-review-of-the-evidence/). This is the thing that you seem to be missing. We know that vaccines don’t cause autism because we have tested them over and over again. You can’t just blindly ignore all of that research just because it disagrees with you. You keep making statements like, “If there was no data or evidence it would have gone away by now” but that is totally false. In fact, it is ludicrous. Based on that line of reasoning, any persistent argument must have evidence to support it. Are you honestly saying that every single persistent conspiracy theory actually has evidence to support it? The fact that people believe something doesn’t make it true (especially when many of the people who believe it say that nothing will change their minds, as you have done).

Again, as I showed in the post, we expect there to be an association even if there is no causation. On that note, as far as the 1 in 45 vs 1 in 68, 1 in 68 is the currently accepted CDC estimate. The 1 in 45 number seems to come from a single survey in 2014. It’s hardly fair to accuse me of being inaccurate when I am using the accepted national statistic. Further, let’s say that your survey is right. So what? That changes the numbers slightly, but it doesn’t change the core result.

Here are my brief comments on each of the 16 papers
http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20649
Murti et al. 2013. Not about autism

http://www.swiftjournals.org/sjmms/abstract/2015/september/Bill.php
Welsh 2015. This is not a data paper. It is simply a speculative argument and it was published in a predatory journal, not a proper peer reviewed journal.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncel.2015.00519/full
Kern et al. 2016. A review (not a data paper) that is entirely speculative and does not cite any studies that actually showed that vaccines cause autism. Also, it was written by anti-vaccers who both have financial conflicts of interest, and are notorious for writing junk science papers.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3179978/
Frye and Rossignol 2011. This is a review that is not about vaccines

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3878266/#__abstractid520210title
Geier et al. 2013. This is another of the Geier studies, so it deserves close scrutiny before accepting it. Once again, they went dumpster diving in VAERS. VAERS is an entirely self-reported database, and you simply cannot use it for the types of analyses that they are trying to do. So this is junk science. Further, their argument is that thimerosal is causing the autism “increase,” but thimerosal was removed from nearly all vaccines in 2001, so surely if that was the cause, autism rates should be going down.

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/141210/ncomms6748/full/ncomms6748.html
Gupta et al. 2014. Not about vaccines

http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v9/n4/full/4001476a.html
Waly et al. 2004. In vitro trial, not a human study. This was covered in my post on vaccine/autism studies

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23337946
Brown et al. 2014. Not about vaccines.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4128611/
Hooker 2014. This study was so bad that it was retracted.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18445737
Schultz et al. 2008. Was on acetaminophen use after vaccination, not the vaccination itself and had negative results. “Ibuprofen use after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination was NOT associated with autistic disorder. This preliminary study found that acetaminophen use after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination was associated with autistic disorder.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3284047/
Patel et al. 2012. Case report, not an experimental study. Also not about autism.

http://www.vaccinationnews.org/DailyNews/July2001/AutismUniqueMercPoison.htm
Benard et al. 2000. Self-published by an anti-vaccine organization. Not an actual peer-reviewed study.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0153329
Wen et al. 2016. Not about autism

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700330/
Gupta 2013. Not about vaccines or autism.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/psb.405/pdf

Polish study in 2012? This one goes to an anti-vaccine website, not a journal, and it claims that “A 2012 Polish study, published in the journal Progressive Health Sciences, highlighted what we’ve all known — and what the mainstream media and vaccine fanatics keeps denying — all along: The risks of vaccines far outweigh any of their perceived benefits.” However, it doesn’t give me any more info about that study, and as far as I can tell, there is no journal called, “Progressive Health Sciences.” Also, note the obvious confirmation bias.

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4. Ichthyic says:

the other thing that plays into this is recall bias.

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5. Heather Vee says:

Interesting to look at from a probability angle. If I did the math right, there’s roughly a 1/85 chance that any child in the 6-24 month range will have parents who will first notice signs of autism:

1/(68/.8)

There’s roughly a 1/274 chance that any vaccinated child in the 6-24 month range will have received a vaccine within the previous 24 hours (assuming 2 appointments with vaccines):

2×1/548

So the chance of *both* happening is roughly 1/23,290 . . . which seems remarkably rare until you apply it against a large cohort of children (could you use a cohort of 5.4 million for a 6-24 month range rather than 3.5 million for an annual cohort?).

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• Fallacy Man says:

Your math seems correct to me (the only reason that I didn’t use the probabilities in the post is because I think they are harder for most people to grasp). I also think that you correctly identified the reason why that number seems unreasonable (i.e., it has to be applied to the large cohort). Indeed, when we apply your calculation to the cohort of 3,589,200 vaccinated children, we find that there should be 154 children that are identified as autistic within 24 hours of being vaccinated (which is the exact same number that I calculated). Thanks for running those numbers, btw.

The other things to keep in mind are again that this is likely an underestimate because many children receive vaccines over more than two days, and parents tend to pay more attention to their children after something like a vaccine. Also, the actual rates of autism following vaccination likely appear much higher than they really are, because parents are so vocal about it. It’s easy, for example, to find a chat room where a few dozen parents swear that vaccines gave their children autism, but those parents actually only represent a very tiny portion of the population. Additionally, as Ichthyic usefully pointed out, there is a strong recall bias, which once again makes the co-occurrence of vaccines and autism appear higher than it actually is.

As far as using a 5.4 million children cohort, I don’t think that you can do that, because then you have stolen children from another year’s cohort. In other words, the calculations that I set up follow a set of 4 million children from 6 months through 24 months. So that cohort actually experiences the vaccines/autism over a 1.5 year period, but during that same period, other children are being born and entering overlapping cohorts, so it balances out to my calculated rate over 1 year. To put this another way, on any given year, you will have a bunch of 6-12 month olds that were born that year, and a bunch of 13-24 month olds that were born the year before. Does that make sense? I feel like that was a terrible explanation.

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• Heather Vee says:

Yes, I can understand your explanation. I guess I was just thinking that, on any given day, there are about 5.4 million vaccinated children from the age of 6-24 months. But if you are following a specific annual cohort, it makes sense to use the smaller number. Either way, it’s a significant number of children, larger than I would have thought it would be . . . which is why I ran through the probabilities, ’cause I was like, “No way – it can’t really be that many!” 🙂

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6. Stellar explanation, Sy. Thank you for taking the time to inform those who will, unfortunately, choose to remain uninformed.

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7. Max says:

For some reason it is not posting my comment. 😦

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• Max says:

Is there an upper limit to word count?

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• Fallacy Man says:

No, there isn’t. I’m not sure why your comments aren’t posting. Do they include 4 or more links? My spam settings flag any posts with that many links, but I usually get an email asking me to approve them, and there’s nothing in my inbox.

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8. Max says:

Part 1 of 2:
Couple of months ago I listened to this episode of Freakonomics podcast where the two hosts were discussing whether generic products are as good as branded ones. They found that largely it was true at least when it comes to goods that you use in the kitchen, take for examples sugar or salt. Generic ones are as good as brands. But then something interesting happened – Steven Levitt, one of the hosts who is also an economist in University of Chicago (who studied in Harvard and MIT), said he still prefers buying branded products because if there is even a little chance that those brands put some “magic” in their products, he wants that! (I am paraphrasing). Economists tend to be rational beings and yet they too at times behave irrationally.

We are all irrational beings. But when you hear that, it’s natural to think to yourself, “yeah I know, people are irrational. But not me. I am rational.” Guess what? Everyone thinks that too! We make a lot of irrational decisions without us even realizing. But just because we make irrational decisions does not mean we are dumb. A lot of us, probably most of us are smart. Making irrational decisions here and there does not make you stupid, it just makes you human.

When such decisions are small ones, such as whether to buy branded sugar or generic, it has very little impact and you can do whatever you want, no one cares. But sometimes, these irrational decisions can impact others in tremendous ways, vaccination being a prime one. When it comes to raising your child, have always been rational? Do you always listen to what the scientists or doctors have to say? Maybe psychiatrists recommend that babies should sleep in a separate room and you might ignore it. But nobody else knows about it and life moves on. But if someone saw it and started lecturing you how stupid you are, you wouldn’t like it one bit, would you? You might not even listen to that person and continue in your ways. Does it make you stupid? No!

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• Max says:

Part 2 of 3
So when we say parents who do not vaccinate their children are stupid and irrational and judge them, they don’t like it either. I am not saying you do that, but I am talking about people in general. Lot of us love pointing fingers. But if so many parents are afraid of vaccination, then maybe, just maybe – it’s not because they are stupid but they are just being human and acting irrationally just like everyone else? When these parents decide not to vaccinate their children, they are not basing their decision on logic. No, they are basing it on emotions.

So if we keep trying to convince these people using logic, it’s not going to persuade them to vaccinate their children. Since they based their decision on emotions, we can convince them only if we appeal to their emotions and not logic: pathos as opposed to logos. I am not saying that the author of this post should not write such posts. These posts are quite informative and I get to learn a lot from them. I love reading them. The author is under no obligation to make those emotional appeals.

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• Max says:

It doesn’t let me post the last bit of my comment. I don’t know why.

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• Fallacy Man says:

Sorry, I’m not sure why it isn’t letting you post.

Also, I certainly agree with you that most anti-vaccers aren’t stupid, and attacking someone’s intelligence is a terrible way to debate, but I’m not really sure what the balance is between making emotional arguments and logical arguments. You are definitely correct that many parents are making emotional decisions, and, as such, logic will not be particularly persuasive to them, but I’m not sure of the best way to combat that. I’m open to suggestions though.

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• Max says:

Actually in my third part I clarify that. I saw some people in the comment section (and other forums) where people like to make fun of anti-vaxxers. So I was making an appeal to society as large and wasn’t talking about your post or blog in particular. I was just stating my opinion.

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• Max says:

What I tried to say in the last part was that I love your posts and I learn a lot from them. So please continue writing. We, not you in particular but society as a whole, have been trying to convince anti-vaxxers but it’s not working. I don’t know what the solution is either but maybe we need to re-think our approach.

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• ivetflexon says:

Since adverse reactions are on the rise parents are being cautious, there’s a vaccine movement because parents are seeing the damage vaccines cause either on line or right in their own back yard and of course emotion comes into play, the love for a child can not be measured to anything else, it’s primal by nature. The majority of antivaxx parents once vaccinated, you see in the real world when your child is seizing after a round of shots math problems are worthless. I understand the entire pharmaceutical industry is trying to prove vaccines are safe, but they’re not. I think the movie VAXXED has validated millions of vaccine injured parents (all with the same exact story). People are waking up in droves as we see more and more damaged children…maybe you should study and investigate the production of vaccines since most are made in China instead of manipulating numbers and squeezing out a large number of children that didn’t show signs of Autism in the first 24 hours after a shot. Most parents that vaccinate trust vaccines and are told these adverse reactions are normal. Honestly the second I read that I knew your trying to hide results!

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• Max says:

Such fear-mongering is making things worse. Vaxxed, a shameful and pathetic excuse for a documentary, has cowed parents into making irrational decisions putting so many lives in danger.

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• Jason says:

Vaccine injuries are NOT on the rise… and you are right, the decision to not vaccinate is one made out of concern for children’s safety, but that does not mean that it is a correct decision. When we look at millions of people we see that the best odds for your survival occur when you vaccinate. That is not to say that vaccinations are 100% safe… because nothing is, but the decision to avoid them carries risks too… and those risks are bigger. Not only that, but it increases the risk for everyone else.

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• Seems like you’re countering fear mongering with. . .fear mongering?

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• Max says:

Fearmongering is fearmongering only when it’s done needlessly. If there is no evidence that eating banana causes autism and you try to scare everyone that it does, it is fear mongering. On the other hand if you say jumping from a 10 story building on to the pavement can kill, so don’t jump, it’s not fearmongering.

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• Jason says:

By definition “fear mongering” requires a misrepresentation of the dangers involved… simply pointing out the statistically supported consequences of a given action is NOT fear mongering. Would you count it as fear mongering if I said “don’t pull the trigger on a loaded gun you have held against your temple… that will kill you!”? That is a statement of evidence supported fact. Giveing someone incorrect information, and exagerating dangers is the behavior that we would like to see discouraged… nothing wrong with having an honest conversation and discussing actual evidence and the interpretation thereof…

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• Fallacy Man says:

Where is your evidence that vaccine injuries are on the rise? Where is your evidence that these aren’t simply chance occurrences? Your comment can be paraphrased simply as, “nope, you’re wrong.” Back it up.

“Documentaries” like VAXXED don’t prove anything. All that they show is that anecdotes exist, but once again, we expect that to be true just by chance, and using the anecdotes as evidence of causation is a logical fallacy. I didn’t “manipulate” anything. I simply demonstrated the mathematical fact that there should be lots of cases where autism follows vaccination just by chance. If you disagree, then please explain exactly what part of the calculations you disagree with.

Finally, just to be 100% clear, I (and other scientists like me) support vaccines because the evidence says that they are safe and effective. They have been more well-studied than any other medical technology, and it’s simply not valid to say, “all of those studies are wrong because of my anecdotes.” That’s just not how science or logic works.

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• michael crosby says:

vaxxed hasn`t done anything directly. almost no one has seen it as reported here:

http://acsh.org/news/2016/06/30/vaxxed-the-film-that-no-one-saw/

19,750 people have seen it as of june 30th of 2016. it`s grossed 164,982 dollars.

it certainly a useful thing to refer to to try to persuade people you are right, because it`s current and has a lot of press with big names attached to it. but it`s only people in an echo chamber who would think it`s actually influenced many people, if anyone.

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• EJ says:

So you don’t think 20k people in a few weeks accounts for anything? Pfft. Look into how some recent Hollywood movies did in the box office for some comparison. Anyway, from little acorns grow big oaks.

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9. Arron says:

Hey Fallacy Man,

Stop trying to convince anti-vacccers to vaccinate, they don’t listen to logic.

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10. sewicked says:

Excellent post, thank you. I really appreciated the ‘car model you just bought is everywhere suddenly’ analogy.

I’m a layman, so I may have missed it; has there been a study about the usefulness of herd immunity and the effect of non-vaccinated children and teens on the general population? I know there have been some anecdotal incidents, but I don’t know if there has been enough impact for a good study population.

Your post did remind me of my favorite ‘coincidence not causality’ study. A study was done that indicated babies with nightlights had poor vision later in life; conclusion: night lights cause poor vision. Someone did a follow up study, which found that parents with poor vision put night lights in their baby’s room. Conclusion? Children with poor vision had parents with poor vision, night light use was coincidental.

Liked by 2 people

• Fallacy Man says:

Hi, I didn’t write about herd immunity in this post, but I have in some previous ones (for example here (https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/05/10/vaccines-dont-give-lifelong-immunity-but-they-are-still-better-than-natural-immunity/) and it has been document in multiple studies. Several examples are below.

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• Heather Vee says:

I recall that there have also been a few studies about rotavirus vaccination reducing rotavirus hospitalization in unvaccinated populations too, like this one:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/06/03/peds.2013-3849

Obviously the result isn’t as dramatic as the reduction in vaccinated children, but it’s still measurable.

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• EJ says:

Yes, there have been studies done on herd immunity, have a look here: http://media.wix.com/ugd/58c8f1_3b2100082ead4bb191ae98cbd3b96dfa.pdf on page 8, it tells you all you need to know about herd immunity. In fact I will assist you by copying it here:

“The Deadly Impossibility Of Herd Immunity Through Vaccination, by Dr. Russell Blaylock
In the original description of herd immunity, the protection to the population at large occurred only if people contracted the infections naturally. The reason for this is that naturally-acquired immunity lasts for a lifetime. The vaccine proponents quickly latched onto this concept and applied it to vaccine-induced immunity. But, there was one major problem – vaccine-induced immunity lasted for only a relatively short period, from 2 to 10 years at most, and then this applies only to humoral immunity. This is why they began, silently, to suggest boosters for most vaccines, even the common childhood infections such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella. Then they discovered an even greater problem, the boosters were lasting for only 2 years or less.

If we listen to present-day wisdom, we are all at risk of resurgent massive epidemics should the vaccination rate fall below 95%. Yet, we have all lived for at least 30 to 40 years with 50% or less of the population having vaccine protection. That is, herd immunity has not existed in this country for many decades and no resurgent epidemics have occurred. Vaccine-induced herd immunity is a lie used to frighten doctors, public-health officials, other medical personnel, and the public into accepting vaccinations. When we examine the scientific literature, we find that for many of the vaccines protective immunity was 30 to 40%, meaning that 70% to 60% of the public has been without vaccine protection. Again, this would mean that with a 30% to 40% vaccine-effectiveness rate combined with the fact that most people lost their immune protection within 2 to 10 year of being vaccinated, most of us were without the magical 95% number needed for herd immunity. This is why vaccine defenders insist the vaccines have 95% effectiveness rates.”

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• Google “humoral immunity” and get an idea just how complex it is.

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• DN says:

Reading the Disclaimer at the end of your link was enough for me to realize that the author of that website can’t even put together a coherent, well written paragraph. “It is not intended to advise you either way, just to help provided fuller information…” What? Provided fuller information?! If you can’t even write a couple of sentences correctly, what makes me think you’re capable of putting together a cogently written article about anything?

Also, why do you keep posting a Wix site as definitive proof of anything? I can go make my own Wix site and post all about whatever I want. That doesn’t mean it has any merit to what I’m saying. It’s just that…my own ramblings. Try to find some reputable sources please.

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• Fallacy Man says:

That’s total nonsense. For one thing, you are ignoring all the studies that confirmed that herd immunity works. Further, it is true that vaccine-induced immunity often isn’t life long, but that is also actually true of “natural” immunity, and you can easily extend vaccine-immunity with boosters, which are hardly a big deal.

Further, you don’t provide any actual studies to back up your claims. Where is your evidence that herd immunity hasn’t existed for the past 30-40 years? Where is your evidence that for many vaccines the success rate is only 60-70%? For most vaccines its actually well over 90. Also, it is not true that “most” vaccines only last 2-10 years, and for the ones for which that is true, there are magical things called boosters that solve that problem. Further, remember that for most of these diseases it is the children who are the important targets. You can, for example, have a very low measles vaccination rate among the adult population, but a very high vaccination among children, and still have effective herd immunity because children are the usual vector.

I’ve written multiple previous posts (with links to the relevant literature) about this topic and how we know that vaccines are responsible for the decline in diseases as well as why vaccine-induced immunity is better than natural immunity. For example, here and here.
https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/05/10/vaccines-dont-give-lifelong-immunity-but-they-are-still-better-than-natural-immunity/
https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/07/05/yes-vaccines-did-save-us-from-disease-a-graphic-analysis/

P.S. Blaylock is a neurosurgeon, not an immunologist, epidemiologist, etc., and he is known for peddling pseudo-scientific views (http://skepdic.com/blaylock.html). That doesn’t automatically make him wrong, but it does make him an unreliable source, which means that you should fact check carefully, and when we do that, we find that his claims don’t add up. Once again, you need to supply good sources to back up your position, and you have yet to do that.

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11. Daniel Johnson says:

There is one other personal example I sometimes use to illustrate that correlation is not the same as causation:

My employer paid for flu shots on an afternoon last October. About six hours later, I was no longer able to see daylight. (I could probably report this one to VAERS.)

It would be possible to arrange a large study on this (do a six-hour followup after afternoon vaccinations). It should not be difficult to match the level of most of those “vaccine injury” studies. But why bother?

Liked by 1 person

12. Peter White says:

Re the issue of the seemly growing number of children exhibiting Brain Issues. The Greater Biodome that we are born to in the modern age is so contaminated with the products of the Industrial Revolution, and the diets of people so problematic, and the social and emotional lives of parents so toxic with stress that there is bound to be fall-out in the Human Genome. People know in their hearts there is something seriously wrong. I guess believing in various fantasies is a coping mechanism.

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• EJ says:

So other environmental toxins can be blamed but vaccine toxins can’t? Have a look here on page 9 to understand just how toxic vaccinations are: http://media.wix.com/ugd/58c8f1_3b2100082ead4bb191ae98cbd3b96dfa.pdf

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• Would you have your baby get Whooping Cough are your fathe TB? Anecdotes are not evidence. Alarmist theories are not science. Bad behaviour and corruption are common human failings. Distraught parents make unreliable witnesses but immune systems compromised by poor diet and contamination or excessive cleaning habits are the danger here. As for the Amazing Iconoclast Ghandi he was of another age and place. We live in the 21st Century now 🙂

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• Fallacy Man says:

The dose makes the poison. Everything is safe at a low enough dose and toxic at a high enough dose. Making claims that a chemical is dangerous without taking dose into account is misleading at best.

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• DN says:

Very true. Drinking too much water can be toxic and can kill you. That doesn’t necessarily mean water is poison.

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13. Roland Eggers says:

No author sited…. Of course

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14. Lorie says:

Fallacy Man, thank you for having the patience of a saint!

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15. Louise Haig says:

I would like all anti vaxxers and their unvaccinated children to be banished to an island, and then we can start taking bets as to how long before whooping cough and measles starts to kill them off…. Sorry not a nice response I know, but these wilfully stupid woo selling hoofwanking bunglecunts annoy me a little.

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16. Jo says:

My son has it
My two nephews have it

Its genetic!

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• Lummox says:

My wife was recently diagnosed with autism at the request of our doctor because of some psychological issues she was having at the time. Up until that point, we had no idea she fell within the spectrum.
I used to have severe OCD when I was younger and was treated for it and now most of it is being managed. Because of my wife’s test, I was tested as well and fall within the spectrum as well (apparently there was a reason I was so good at math and had to be such a perfectionist when it came to certain aspects of my life).
Our son is autistic, but his is more severe than my or my wife’s cases. His has more to do with communication and reasoning. At no point, even before we were diagnosed did we blame vaccinations, even though it was, at the time, becoming a more widely spouted “cause” of autism. We just knew that our son was special and had special needs. Though it has taken a few years longer than many other children, he has come out of his shell and can’t seem to stop talking. Though he may never be a “normal” child, he is our wonderful boy and we love him all the more because of his differences.
Antivaxers we know have given us an earful that it was all because we did the wrong thing when he was young and it was all our fault. Well, you know what, it is our fault. We gave him our genes, and both of us are autistic to different levels. We passed it along to him and you know what, that’s great, because we also passed along some other things as well: my wife’s love of the written word, my strange sense of humor that has the two of us giggling at the oddest things while others just shake their heads in confusion, my love of cooking, her determination to do things right and my temperment when things go wrong, but most of all, we have passed on love and compassion for others. There is no more caring and compassionate child on this planet than our son, in my opinion (though that may be anecdotal).
Dose autism exist in the world? Yes. Do we know for an absolute fact what causes it? No. Can we use reason and logic to fight the fight to prove that it is important to vaccinate our children? Sometimes. Our child may not be as mentally developed in some ways as “normal” kids his age, but we know that he is healthier because we chose the path that saved him from suffering terrible diseases that are rearing their ugly heads again because we chose to have him vaccinated. Had we not, we may not have gotten to know the bright, happy, and above all caring that he was capable of.

That said, the little bugger sure can talk a person’s ear off these day.

Liked by 1 person

17. Simon says:

Anecdote warning; my child fell asleep suddenly a few seconds before he had one of his vaccines; even the nurse commented she was so glad that hadn’t happened a few seconds later.

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18. Dina says:

I don’t believe vaccines cause Autism, I have a friend who vaccinated hrr daughter who now is Autistic. She claimed it was the vaccines. She didn’t vaccinate her son and he ended up getting Autism as well. Actually a more severe form of it than her daughter. It doesn’t make sense, something else is causing it.

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19. Thank you for being a voice of reason at an unreasonable time!

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20. Xenia says:

Great stuff. A quite essential argument I’m missing though (there’s one hint to it but the point isn’t made plainly) is that of course all anecdotal “evidence” points to a causal link: a sign of autism appearing right after a vaccine is an anecdote. It will get told, repeated and amplified, over and over again. Meanwhile, in the next 67 cases, a vaccine will be administered and nothing will happen, so no anecdote will be told. For every one anecdote of a councindence being blown out of proportion, there are 67 non-anecdotes that simply don’t exist in the information space. Hence the obvious observer’s bias.

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21. MelJames says:

Thank you so much for your explanation. It’s great to read a logical, well explained argument that is also sensitive. Keep up the debate and don’t get worn out. Your work is so important and appreciated

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22. RichardR says:

About this increase in autism diagnoses: I recall some studies where old psychiatric case files were reassessed according to modern diagnostic criteria (DSM-5) and vice versa, suggesting quite convincingly that changed diagnostic criteria are responsible for quite a large chunk of the recent ‘autism epidemic’. However, I can’t seem to locate the research paper(s) any more. Does anyone here know which one(s) I’m referring to? I would very much like to find these back — if only to see whether I recall things correctly, also because I sometimes mention this in debates about autism.

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• Fallacy Man says:
• RichardR says:

Thank you for your links. Unfortunately, the first one is broken, but it would appear to refer to this study:

It is not quite the one I remember (IIRC, that one was based on files from the 50’s and 60’s), but it further supports the notion that the increase in autism prevalence is largely due to far more disorders being characterized as ASD nowadays.

Furthermore, my compliments for your blog and your no-nonsense approach. You’re one of the few out there who manages to present among other things statistical information in an easy-to-grasp manner.
In my opinion, one of the main problems with antivaccination fanatics is that they tend to avoid numbers and plain data, and mostly appeal to emotions. Just a few random examples:
– The fact that infant and child mortality figures keep dropping is systematically ignored. E.g. in 1990, SIDS killed twice the number of children compared to today. Considering that the number of vaccinations has doubled since 1990, it is madness to claim that vaccination is an important cause of SIDS — claiming that vaccination prevents SIDS would actually make more sense, given these numbers.
– Most ‘poisonous’ vaccine ingredients are only present in micrograms, far below what is considered a toxic dose, and often far below what’s naturally present in the body of even a newborn. (I’m not a toxicologist, but to my knowledge, there are actually very few substances which have any toxic effect in dosages below 100ug.) Of course, the fact is also ignored that these substances are explicitly meant to have no effect on the body at all; they’re just there to keep the vaccine itself safe.
– Another bit of logic that is always ignored is that vaccines are quite different from other medicines — basically, all vaccines are identical, apart from the antigen payload. They’re all based on perhaps a few dozen common ingredients, all of which have excellent safety records and are used extensively in both other pharmaceuticals and food. A ‘new’ vaccine is therefore quite different from a new pharmaceutical agent, which is meant to have a direct biochemical effect rather than simply trigger the immune system in the same tried-and-tested manner, but just with another pathogen. The two main reasons for extensive testing of vaccines are that a) vaccines are given to healthy people, so they must be as risk-free as possible (much more so than most other medicines), and b) the public’s trust in vaccines is paramount, lest we return to the days when almost every family lost one or more children to infectious diseases.
I’m almost inclined to draw up a complete list with all vaccine ingredients and their properties, including natural occurrence and of course toxicity profiles.

But OK, I’ll stop at this, it’s your blog after all 🙂 But feel free to integrate the above in your explanations when and if appropriate, insofar you haven’t already done so. Thanks again for your answers.

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