WARNING #2: This may be my most ambitious undertaking yet. Hold onto your hats.
If you've never heard of a Gish Gallop, prepare to be inundated. Named after creationist Duane Gish, the Gish gallop is a fallacious debating strategy in which one buries his opponent in a torrent of information which may or may not actually support his platform yet makes it impossible for said opponent to rebut each one due to sheer volume. It is a frequent tactic of pseudoscientists, especially antivaxxers, as we saw here quite recently.
If you think that post was long and involved, you ain't seen the proverbial nothin' yet.
With that out of the way, I'm a fan of vaccines. Obviously. I like them a lot. I think I've made that clear here, and I make it abundantly clear on Twitter as well. Vaccines are wonderfully complex little concoctions that stimulate the immune system and prevent several relatively benign disease which can become horrific and potentially deadly diseases, scourges on mankind that tortured humans for centuries. Entire hospitals were devoted to treating smallpox victims: POOF, they're now obsolete. Millions of children were hospitalised and thousands were killed every year by diphtheria and measles; outbreaks of those are now mostly relegated to history books (though there are still a handful of mortalities annually).
But as with everything, vaccines have risks. Fortunately these risks are either fairly innocuous (malaise, injection site pain, fever, febrile seizure) or fleetingly rare (anaphylaxis 1:1,000,000, ADEM so rare that statistical analysis is difficult). Other purported side effects (such as autism, autoimmune diseases, etc) have either not been definitively linked to vaccines or have been definitively not linked.
Still, the antivaccine cohort presses on for reasons known only to them. Their claims seemingly are getting more outlandish by the day:
- vaccines don't work (of course they do)
- vaccines are injected directly into the bloodstream (no they aren't)
- vaccines cause autism (no they don't)
- vaccines cause autoimmune diseases (hasn't been proven)
- vaccines are filled with "toxic garbage" (seriously?)
- vaccines are being used for population control (SERIOUSLY?)
- vaccines are being delivered via chemtrails (no really, they actually claim this)
truthkings.com, whale.to, naturalnews.com, and the paradoxically named vaxtruth.org, I was holding out hope that I was wrong. And if I was wrong, it should be absolutely marvelous. As we just saw recently with Ginger Taylor's ridiculous list of 124 studies purporting to show a link between vaccines and autism (SPOILER ALERT: it doesn't), antivaccine "research" is usually poorly thought out and/or doesn't show remotely what they think it does. But Kelly seemed different . . . somehow.
I asked Kelly for a copy of her document (WITH SOURCES!) and she emailed me one forthwith (available for your downloading pleasure here). In her email, she not only attached the document, she also made some, ah, shall we say questionable recommendations. For example, she suggested I watch the movie "Trace Amounts", a rabidly antivaccine "documentary" not dissimilar to disgraced former-doctor Andy Wakefield's recent catastrophe "Vaxxed". She also suggested I read several antivaccine books including Raising a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor by Robert Mendelsohn, MD, and Saying No to Vaccines by . . . ugh, fucking seriously? Sherri Fucking Tenpenny (not her real middle name™)? When someone has their own page on the Encyclopedia of American Loons where she is called "an abysmally crazy promoter of woo", you know something bad is about to happen.
I felt like Kelly and I were getting off on the wrong foot, not that she knew that.
In her email Kelly also revealed that she belongs to a nonprofit group which includes the words "Vaccine Choice" in its name (she politely asked that I not name the group). While that may superficially sound fine, "vaccine choice" is a thinly veiled façade for "antivaccine". These ridiculously disingenuous people actually expect us to believe that they are actually pro-vaccine, but they are only pro-SAFE-vaccine. But wait . . . "Pro-safe-vaccine" sure sounds great, right? I mean, who in their right mind would be against safe vaccines! No no no, in their strangely addled minds, "safe" means "100% risk free". And nothing, not even this organic recycled non-GMO BPA-free gluten-free bottle of water, is 100% risk free. So based on all that preamble, I fully expected Kelly's list to be some combination of A) not terribly factual, B) cherry-picked, and C) utterly unreliable.
I would not be disappointed.
Still, Kelly was very gracious and polite, so I promised to return the favour. She asked me not to "blast" her on Twitter, so I assured her I would go over her list thoroughly, thoughtfully, carefully, and with an open mind. I offered her the opportunity to rebut any critiques, but she declined, saying, "It's quite presumptuous that you believe that you can not only educate me, but also an entire community of people that include doctors, nurses, and attorneys with a specialization in vaccine law."
Yes, we had definitely gotten off on the wrong foot.
I felt it was rather hypocritical of Kelly to expect me be educated by her "sources" and yet believe that she had nothing to learn from me. Shame on me, I suppose, for assuming an antivaxxer would be as open-minded and willing to learn as she expected me to be. As is usually (always) the case with antivax "literature" I expected it to get deep very quickly, and I was again not at all disappointed.
Believe it or not, that's my thoughtful and open-minded opinion.
Kelly's list starts off innocently enough with a website containing vaccine package inserts. There is no comment, just the link. I therefore can't comment on the purpose of that, but I have my suspicions. You know what . . . No, fuck that, I will comment. The package inserts are on her list because they contain the word "autism", and these people seem to think that is either the pharmaceutical company or the FDA (or both) admitting that the vaccine causes autism. Of course it means no such thing. It is simply a statement that someone was diagnosed with autism at some point after getting the vaccine. It doesn't suggest or imply that the vaccine caused it. Everyone who knows the purpose of pharmaceutical inserts and what they mean understands this. Antivaxxers still don't despite having been told it umpteen times.
Perhaps Kelly could have learned something after all. Oh well.
The next three items on her list are Gish Gallop blog posts which supposedly contain peer-reviewed research. While I hypocritically dislike blog posts being used as evidence, in the interest of fairness I decided to sift through it nonetheless. The first, which prominently displays links to the NVIC and Why Not Vaccinate, is comprised of 87 articles, so I knew cherry picking was dead ahead. And yet again, I was not disappointed. No, I will not be going over all of them because I have neither the time nor the patience to do THAT bullshit all over again, and anyway I suspect many of them were in Ginger's list that I thoroughly obliterated a few months ago. But I picked a few at random before I smashed my keyboard and had to go buy another one (ok, that may not be precisely true). The first article describes increases in cardiorespiratory events after immunising premature infants.
OH EM GEE! CARDIORESPIRATORY EVENTS IN BABIES! WE ARE KILLING BABIES! HOW CAN WE BE SO BARBARIC!
Now slow down there, chief. First, these "events" are just a transient decrease in oxygen levels or a transient decrease in heart rate, either of which comes back to normal after a bit of tactile stimulation. A Dutch study found the same thing, and both sets of researchers do not recommend not vaccinating, simply monitoring the babies for 1-2 days after vaccination. And this only pertains to premature infants.
Not impressed AT ALL. Next!
The next article describes supposed increases in neurodevelopmental problems after thimerosal-containing vaccines. There are several problems with this ridiculous "study": first, the "study" was based on VAERS reporting. Just like with the vaccine inserts, all the occurrences in VAERS mean is that something happened at some point in time after a vaccine was given - no causality, just afterwards (otherwise known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy). To illustrate just why this sort of VAERS-based study is such horseshit, there are deaths from car accidents on VAERS. No, seriously:
meta-analysis of over 1.2 million children. Oh, and in case you forgot, IT ISN'T IN CHILDHOOD VACCINES ANYWAY.
Since the title of the article includes "neurodevelopmental disorders" and thimerosal", I was surprised and disappointed that Ginger Taylor hadn't put it on her list of 124 studies. Maybe she'll put it in her next update.
Sigh. 0 for 2. Next.
Ooh here we go! Next is an article from the British Medical Journal! Excellent, finally some meat, right! It's the BMJ! Well . . . no. It's not a study at all, rather a letter stating that the flu vaccine caused side effects in Australia, including febrile seizures in 1/110 children who got it. Unfortunately for Kelly (and the letter's author), 1) this is a well-known fact, 2) febrile seizures are common after vaccines, 3) febrile seizures are benign, and 4) febrile seizures do not increase risk of seizure disorders or other developmental problems later in life.
Well this isn't going very well at all for Kelly, is it. 0 for 3. How about the next source?
HAHAHAHA no. The next is a link to "The Greater Good" movie, an antivax "documentary" like "Vaxxed". I skipped it with alacrity and decided to move on to the next source.
Next is another Gish Gallop, this one courtesy of The Refurbished Rogue (What a great pseudonym! Maybe I should change mine from DocBastard to something with a little more ZING). I wasn't terribly hopeful when the author started with "This list is just a thrown together list and pretty helter skelter", but I started dutifully at the top. First off is . . . wait wait wait, is that really an article from the "Medical Hypotheses" journal about how vaccines may cause autism? Goodness yes, yes it is. Where shall I begin? Well, A) It is merely a hypothesis and nothing more, and B) vaccines don't cause autism. Do they not understand what "hypothesis" means?
Next is the Singh article that appears as #26 on Ginger's list that I thoroughly razed previously. After that is an article about the effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine, which states that the vaccine was 53-64% effective and concludes, "Tdap vaccination was moderately effective at preventing PCR confirmed pertussis among adolescents and adults". Apparently Kelly believes "moderately effective" means either "ineffective", "dangerous", or both. It is common knowledge that the acellular pertussis vaccine is less effective and does not confer as long-lasting immunity compared to the whole cell vaccine, but guess what the effective rate of not vaccinating is? FUCKING ZERO. 50-60% is literally infinitely better than 0%! In their minds, anything less than 100% safe and 100% effective means it is 0% useful.
God damn it. Moving on.
The next one on the list appears to be an opinion piece on ethics with a broken link, so instead of chasing after it like I did with Ginger's broken links, I skipped it. Next is the other Singh paper (#13 on Ginger's list) which I discussed (read: trashed) previously. In case you couldn't slog through that one, the author has been criticised for using unsubstantiated and unvalidated lab tests, and his finding has not only not been replicated, it has been refuted by several other studies. In other words, everything that guy just said is bullshit.
For fuck's sake, enough with the goddamned Gish Gallops. Let's get off this train and find another ride, and we'll see where Kelly takes us. Well, next we have the CDC website for lists of vaccine ingredients. Again, no comments from Kelly here, but it's clear she's trying to point out the scary-sounding ingredients like aluminum hydroxide, formaldehyde, monosodium glutamate, polysorbate 80, thimerosal, and all the other not-so-actually-terrifying ingredients for those who either understand science or trust those of us who do. Fortunately they are all really only scary to those who don't understand not only the tiny doses but also that they have all been studied exhaustively for decades and have all been found to be safe.
We're not even halfway through the first page here, folks. Fifteen-and-a-half pages left to go. I'm not even kidding.
In the interest of time and my own sanity, I'm going to pause here. I literally cannot take another minute of your time (or mine) to continue this.
Part 2 will be coming next week. Depending on how thoroughly I dissect the remaining 15 1/2 pages, there may be Parts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 5682.