Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vaccines...vaccinate you. No kidding. True story.

Did you know that
  1. If a child walks before he crawls, he'll have reading problems when he gets older?
  2. The Color Code test is one of the most accurate ways of discovering someone's personality?
  3. Listening to Mozart will make your child smarter?
  4. If a child crawls before she sits up on her own, she'll have balance problems as an adult?
  5. Men are smarter than women because their brains are bigger?
  6. Your handwriting reveals a lot about who you are?
  7. If a women tries to move a large piece of furniture, she could do serious damage to her uterus?
Did you know that everything on that list is not true?

You know what else isn't true?

     8. Vaccinations cause mental health disorders, specifically autism.
There's this thing called belief perseverance. It's when someone continues to believe something even though it has either already been completely discredited (proven to be false) or never had any evidence to prove it in the first place. There are examples of belief perseverance all over the place (superstitions, anyone?), but the vaccination one is, in my opinion, the best example there is to date.

One can't get upset at those who believed it when the study came out: It was presented by a doctoral expert. It was published in a top scientific journal. It was groundbreaking.

It was also 100% falsified. Here's what went down.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield was a scientist who, in 1998, presented a study proving that the MMR (Measels, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccination causes Autism.

For those who are unfamiliar with what happens when a groundbreaking study is published in the scientific community, here's a crash-course:
  1. Groundbreaking study is published
    1. If a study was (1) done correctly and (2) can be generalized to the entire population, then anyone should be able to replicate it and get the same results.
      1. This is because the more boring parts of the research article contain all the details necessary to replicate the study wherever and whenever you may be.
    2. The study is replicated, results are collected, a conclusion is made, and the study is submitted for publication as one that either supports or opposes the original.
Well, the groundbreaking study was published, and scientists all over the place started to replicate it. I mean, if this wasn't an isolated thing and the MMR vaccination really causes Autism, we need to know. The Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) was reported to cause the virus in many people. Because the studies everywhere found it to be true, the OPV is no longer used in the USA as of the year 2000.

But with the MMR vaccine, no one was able to replicate Wakefield's results. At all. 

In fact, not even Wakefield himself could replicate his results when other scientists began questioning him about it. 

Fiona Godlee, the British Medical Journal's (a top scientific journal) editor-in-chief, states the following regarding the study:
It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors. But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data. Source
Here's why no one could replicate Wakefield's study:
  • The 12 children who participated in the study were hand-picked.
    • In a correctly conducted study, the test subjects are (1) as randomly selected as possible and (2) you always have at least two groups: in this case, both groups would have received the MMR vaccine, but the groups would have been separated by those who had autism and those who did not.
  • He falsified the medical history of all 12 of his test subjects, claiming they all had developed autism after receiving the MMR vaccine.
    • Five of the children had confirmed developmental problems before receiving the vaccine
    • Three of the children didn't even have autism...and still don't.
    • A thorough investigation showed no doubt that Dr. Wakefield was responsible for the falsification.
    • Falsified medical histories in a study focusing on a medical problem lead to falsified data, statistics, and almost everything else.
  • He was being paid $674,000 to conduct his study by a law firm whose intent was to sue vaccine manufacturers--a serious ethical issue in the scientific community.
    • Most of the co-authors on the study (other experts who worked with Dr. Wakefield) officially withdrew their names from the study after this claim was confirmed.
  • The children were "subjected to unnecessary procedures like a colonoscopy and lumbar puncture" (Source)
In the end, and after what was called the "British General Medical Council's most exhaustive fit-to-practice hearing in its history (Source)," Wakefield was charged with a multitude of things, including child abuse, and his professional license was revoked; he is no longer allowed to practice medicine in Britain.
But people don't care. They still believe that a vaccine can cause autism in their children. Why? It is, in part, due to a lack of knowledge; many people never knew that Wakefield's study was discredited. But what about those who do know, yet continue in belief perseverance? Emotion. Fear. If you can convince people to be afraid of something, very little will change their minds. Wakefield's results caused mass panic across the world. Even though it has been completely discredited, the belief perseverance is so strong that fear has spread to every other vaccine as well. Not only that, but now people are claiming that vaccination causes other mental problems, like ADHD. Celebrities and other loud people with no scientific background whatsoever have also spoken out against vaccines...and people believe them. 

Parents discuss whether or not they should vaccinate their children. Those who decide not to depend on the herd immunity of those who have been vaccinated.  

Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Interactive map here
"In California, pertussis (whooping cough) has reappeared at its highest levels since 1958. Outbreaks of measles are reoccurring. Most parents have never seen the disease or realize that 242,000 children a year worldwide die from it, so they underestimate the risk of not vaccinating. . . . Across America, vaccinations have fallen below the acceptable "herd immunity" rate of 90 percent. In Minnesota, an outbreak of the Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B) meningitis virus killed an infant whose parents were against vaccinations. In the UK, vaccination rates fell from 92 to 73 percent. In 2008, measles was declared endemic in England and Wales. In northern Germany, an outbreak of mumps in a school where the parents opposed vaccinations revealed that of the 71 children infected, 68 hadn't been immunized." (Source)

Why aren't people acting on the correct information about the Wakefield study and getting their kids vaccinated? What are they waiting for? 

They are waiting for convincing evidence that vaccination doesn't cause mental health problems. Even in 2011, there had been replications of Wakefield's study (that confirmed nothing), but no one had conducted a study that showed the exact opposite of what Wakefield did. 

That all changed in March of 2013. 

A study was made that included 1,000 children, all of which had been given the MMR vaccine. Of that 1,000, 250 children in the group had been diagnosed with autism. The researchers checked the antigens--the stuff in vaccine shots that helps the body create immunity--that each child had (as in, all 1,000 of them individually). They compared the antigens of the children with autism to the ones of the children without autism, looking for something different in the antigens of the 250 children that would explain a link between MMR and autism.

Guess what? They found nothing.

If a controlled, replicate-able study of 1,000 children is not more convincing than a fraudulent study of 12 children, I don't know what is. 

Even Geraldine Dawson, the top scientist of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, has this to say regarding the 2013 study:
As we home in on what is causing autism, I think we are going to have fewer and fewer questions about some of the things that don't appear to be causing [it.] (Source)
Those things include proper prenatal nutrition and exercise, infant exposure to toxins in the air, the effects of medications and injections used prenatally, pesticides in baby food, less time spent outside, and, of course, genetics.

Research hasn't been done very much (or at all) in these areas because the people who are financially supporting the research are having a hard time getting off of the vaccination train. They are insisting on continued research into vaccinations, thus leaving no money available to search for what Ellen Wright Clayton, a professor at Vanderbilt University, calls "the real causes." She says: "I hope that [the study of the 1,000 children] will get a lot of play. . . . by focusing on the question of whether vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders, [science is] missing the opportunity to look at what the real causes are. It's not vaccines."

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