So, vaccines, those evil mercury laden, autism giving, miracles of science that sure haven’t done anything to help population health. Of course, I am being facetious, the Forbes article that I have linked to uses data from the CDC (although even the CDC is discredited in some anti-vax circles). I have been in a Twitter conversation with an anti-vaxer group (follow me @skepticguide) and they have done the run around on what they believe to be the science in relation to their beliefs that vaccines cause harm. I have been sent, most recently, to the website of The Greater Good movie, which to me, is a tad bit bizarre. If vaccines were as unsafe as they say that they are, shouldn’t there be a better reference list of studies, rather than the reference list of a documentary, which was made by anti-vaxers to prove that vaccination is the root of all evil. This, in the field of science, is known as a confirmation bias, that is, that the examiners start out with what they believe to be the outcome, and then they seek out all the information that will fulfil this outcome. Meaning that, surprise, surprise, they come to the conclusion that they set out to make..
The scientific method (explained here at Wikipedia) is exceptionally important in any real scientific endeavour. It is a set of rules that should be met when examining any claim, and should be followed regardless of what we want the outcome to be. Methodology should include things such as blinding, that is, that the examiners and those being examined, should not know what any individual participant has been allocated to. The other condition that is so important is that of repeatability, that is the ability, given the same conditions, that the same results will be found. This removes concerns about any errors that occur during testing, such as problems with populations etc.
Peer review is an important part of the process as well. This is where, before a paper is published, it is sent to reviewers in the same field of expertise for their comment and feedback. However, in my opinion peer review standards can easily be manipulated, especially by specialty journals that have a small pool of reviewers who want the same outcomes.
What the anti-vax papers usually show are results in small, obscure populations and results that can’t be replicated, but rather than accept this for what it is, there is then the issue of the ad-hominem and red herring attacks. What this is, is the use of diversion tactics such as stating that vaccination bodies, governments and others in general are deluded, that they are conspiring to make more money and it goes on ad nauseum.
The arguments tend to follow emotional reasoning to not vaccinate. Ever been blackmailed by crying kid? They know how to do it, they will show you their trauma, right up close, it’s your responsibility to fix it. The same goes for the anti-vax lobby, they use individual case studies to show you how vaccination effects us negatively, when we are talking about a population health issue. The sad reality of population medicine (and indeed any type of medicine) is that sometimes individuals have unexpected reactions to medications and procedures. We could all tell a story of us, or someone that we know, who has been adversely effected by some type of medicine. It sucks, but in the benefits we often have to pay a price and sometimes this is at the expense of life. On the whole, vaccines make the world safer and healthier for everyone.
I am not going into specifics of articles, but more so into the fallacies in research and evidence collection that occurs in the anti-vax circles. Just because you have a scientific paper outlining what you think, doesn’t mean that it is correct, nor does it mean that we stop looking at further evidence.
So after all this, vaccinate your kids. Because kids not dying of preventable disease is a good thing.