"It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness"

An interesting study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated children

March 14th, 2011

Vaccinated children aren’t as sick as some people think.

The 18 February 2011 issue of Deutsches Aerzteblatt International had an interesting study [1] looking at the prevalence of allergic disease, asthma and non-specific infections (i.e. “colds”) in children ages 1 - 17. The interesting part was that they compared children who were completely unvaccinated to those who were vaccinated.

The study was carried out in Germany (some of you might have already guessed that) and looked at 13,359 children who had received at least one vaccination and 94 children who had received not a single vaccination. For those keeping score, the percentage of completely unvaccinated children was 0.7%. The subjects came from children covered in the Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurvey (Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents) carried out between 2003 and 2006.

What they found was that the unvaccinated kids led in one important metric: they had significantly more pertussis, measles and mumps than the vaccinated kids.

As for allergic disease (atopy), asthma and susceptibility to “colds”, there was no significant difference between the two groups.

So much for the “unvaccinated children have less allergic disease, less asthma and are sick less often than vaccinated kids” canard, eh?

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Idée fixe

January 11th, 2011

[Addendum added 13 Jan 2011 - addendum in blue]

Following up on its article on the 1998 Lancet paper by Wakefield et al, the British Medical Journal released (at midnight GMT) the next installment: “How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money “. Needless to say, this article does not paint a flattering picture of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

This article is reviewed by Sullivan at LBRB. Unfortunately, the article is only available on-line for BMA members or BMJ subscribers. One sentence (in the on-line excerpt) that caught my eye was the following:

“He wanted Walker-Smith, who would bring access to children’s gastrointestinal tracts, to help him prove a personal theory. This was that Crohn’s disease was caused by persisting measles virus infections—most notably, he came to suggest, from vaccines.”

That’s not a typo - Andy Wakefield’s first hypothesis about the measles vaccine was that it caused, not autism, but Crohn’s disease.

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The Final Curtain?

January 6th, 2011

Yesterday (5 January 2011) the British Medical Journal published what is, in my experience, the most scathing editorial rebuke of a researcher or physician I believe I’ve ever read:

Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent

This, of course, is referring to Dr. Wakefield’s article, “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children”, which was published in Lancet in 1998. To be fair, Dr. Wakefield stated very clearly in the article that “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described.” However, it would be hard to read the study and not draw the conclusion that the MMR vaccine is being investigated as the “prime suspect”. In fact, the authors as much as say so in the final paragraph:

“We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.” [emphasis added]

In the editorial, written by Fiona Godlee, Jane Smith and Harvey Marcovitch, the authors discuss the revelations from Dr. Wakefield’s GMC hearing (which went on from 2007 to 2010) and how they paint a picture of deliberate research fraud. Much of this information was collected and assembled into a coherent narrative by Brian Deer, who has an article in the same issue of BMJ. They pull no punches in accusing Dr. Wakefield of deliberate fraud.

Mr. Deer’s article, titled “How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed” , is a point-by-point description of how key data about the children in the study were altered to make them fit the hypothesis.

For those not familiar with how science works, that not how it it done.

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Not the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning.

November 24th, 2010

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Winston Churchill at The Lord Mayor’s Luncheon, Mansion House, 10 November 1942.

Recently, Matthew Maenner and Maureen Durkin published a paper in Pediatrics titled “Trends in the Prevalence of Autism on the Basis of Special Education Data” in which they examine the trend in administrative autism classification in Wisconsin public schools between 2002 and 2008. Their conclusions - which has received a great deal of attention among ”thimerosal-causes-autism” circles - was:

“The prevalence of use of the autism spectrum education category in Wisconsin seems to be leveling off in the school districts with the highest prevalence rates, at ~12 cases per 1000 students, whereas the gap in prevalence between districts overall has narrowed.”

Of course, this was reported by the more credulous sources as:

Autism prevalence has leveled off, proving that thimerosal was the cause of the “autism epidemic”.

As usual, the reality of the study was more complex - and less supportive of the “thimerosal-causes-autism” position - than the “summary” found in most “alternative autism reality” sources.

[Note: I will use the term "autism" in inverted commas to denote the administrative, educational category of autism, separate and distinct from the medical diagnosis of autism.]

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Science news articles demystified

November 12th, 2010

Although this is about seven weeks late, here is a masterful explanation of how news articles about scientific papers are written:

This is a news website article about a scientific paper

by Martin Robbins

Don’t miss the comments, many of which are almost as enlightening as the ‘blog post itself.

I take absolutely no credit for this; I didn’t even find it myself - some anonymous person placed a print-out of it on my desk (note to self: start locking office door).



Filed under: Critical Thinking, Help for the bewildered | 3 Comments »