Investigating the truth behind @steemtruth’s “truth” - Part 2: Vaccines Increase Your Chances of Catching Infectious Disease?
During the last weeks, @steemtruth has made a small fortune with a series of anti-vaccination posts, seemingly providing evidence for the complete failure of vaccines to immunize against illnesses and for their harmful, poisonous behaviour towards humans, especially children.
First off: I appreciate the guy.
Unlike many other vaccination sceptics, he seems to base his views on scientific studies and statistics – which makes his theories tangible, and opens the possibility for scientific evaluation.
So let’s do exactly that: Let’s take his posts, evaluate his key points and recheck his statistics and cited studies. After all, @steemtruth’s credo is: “Truth Fears No Investigation”.
So let’s investigate, for real.
Here you can find part 1 about how "vaccines do not stop desease" (but they do).
Part 2 of my answer will focus on his second post:
In this post he brings up a lot of different stuff, so we will have to go step by step:
figure 12 statement
Inactivated influenza vaccines are 0% effective in young children (0-2 years old)
This assumption is based on a review on influenza vaccine studies from 2006, which really states:
“In children under two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to a placebo.”
The last sentence of this report draw criticism from the scientific community. Booy, 2006 wrote:
“primary researchers contend that the limited data from studies in children aged less than 2 years are consistent with a possible benefit and are not statistically significantly different from placebo due to an underpowered comparison and because key data were excluded”.
In their latest update from 2012, the Cochrane Review took into account this point and is stating:
„Influenza vaccines are efficacious in preventing cases of influenza in children older than two years of age, but little evidence is available for children younger than two years of age.”
Yes, this source really says that a vaccination with inactivated influenza is probably inefficient in children under 2 years old.
But @steemtruth left away the other half of the truth:
The same source provides evidence that it is efficient in older children, and that the live vaccine is efficient in both younger and older children.
Which is a thing you should have to add if you start quoting the Cochrane review. You can’t just pick out the one thing you like and leave away the other main points that you don’t want to hear.
figure 13 statement
Inactivated influenza vaccines have little or no effect in elderly people
This is again based on a Cochrane review from 2005. Sadly, I only had access to the updated version of 2010, where they write:
“We were unable to reach clear conclusions about the effects of the vaccines in the elderly.”
They write nothing about 0% effectiveness. The analyzed date were not conclusive. So we just don’t know if it’s effective in elderly people. And that is a difference.
But he is right in one point: scientific data does not support vaccinations of elderly people with an inactivated influenza virus. Good there's also the living stuff with proven effectiveness.
figure 14 and 15 statement
The BCG vaccination is a) inefficient against tuberculosis and b) actually leads to more cases of tuberculosis
But: This is nothing new. We scientists know that for some time, and we don’t deny it. Even Wikipedia knows that BCG is not very effective against pulmonary tuberculosis.
It is, however, highly effective against tuberculous meningitis and the so-called "military tuberculosis" (source), and this efficiency is the reason why it is still used as a vaccine in developing countries.
Also, the two studies do not state that people/children receiving BCG are more likely to catch tuberculosis in general.
The Malawian study specifically looked at people who had suffered from leprosy before giving them the vaccine, and they found a slightly higher incidence of pulmonary tuberculosis in those (so slight that it could easily be a false-positive result, which is why the authors of the study did not build a conclusion around this). And that does not implicate at all that the same is true for previously healthy people.
The Indian study does really state that BCG lead to a higher incidence of tuberculosis in the group below 2.5 years old (12 instead of 6 cases in a group of 70,000 children).
But again, @steemtruth is either not knowing his source or trying to hide its true nature:
Because the study also reveals that from the age of 5 or higher, it's the other way round and vaccinated people got half as often tuberculosis than those who received a placebo.
That and of course they took into account all types of tuberculosis, which is a serious flaw considering the vaccine's widely accepted inefficiency towards pulmonary tuberculosis.
As we all know BCG is not effective against pulmonary tuberculosis, but highly effective against tuberculous meningitis, the sickness against it is used. To state it is “0% effective” against any type of tuberculosis is either a blatant lie or a serious error resulting from a very limited medical knowledge. The sources do support the statement that BCG leads to more cases of tuberculosis in 0-2.5 years old children, but also found that it's protective for older children.
figure 16-19 statement
several disease outbreaks (mumps, chickenpox, pertussis, measles) affected more vaccinated than unvaccinated people
Well of course they do. There is a mathematical error in thinking here, as I will show you:
First off, the sources have been falsely cited and misinterpreted. Let’s take figure 16 and the mumps outbreak in Iowa, 2006, as an example. The original piece of literature states:
“Among 1,192 patients, 69 (6%) were unvaccinated, 141 (12%) had received 1 dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and 607 (51%) had received 2 doses of MMR vaccine; the vaccination status of 375 (31%) patients, the majority of whom were adults who did not have vaccination records, was unknown.”
Thus, it is invalid to state that 92% of the patients were vaccinated. Obviously, 6% were unvaccinated. But we don’t know about 31%. If you want to build an argument against vaccination, you may use the 63% of the patients that were vaccinated for sure – assuming the 1-dose patients were not overdue with their second shot, in which case they would have to be included in the “unvaccinated” group.
And now the error in thinking:
It’s important to know one thing: No vaccination is 100% effective.
Yes, you heard right, I said it!
There is no 100% effectiveness of any vaccine, drug or whatever in medicine.
According to the state of Iowa, the MMR vaccination rate in 2016 is 86% state-wide (Source), and dropping. In 2006, it was most likely around 90%. This means, if the MMR vaccination was totally ineffective, you would expect 90% of mumps patients to be vaccinated. In reality, it was 63%.
Still sounds a lot like ineffectiveness. Well, read on.
What does this mean for the individual level?
Iowa has about 3 Million Inhabitants. So 1192 people, which is 0.039% of the population cought mumps during that outbreak, while from 2.7M (90%) vaccinated people, 708 cought it, which is 0.026%. From unvaccinated or unreported people, 444 of 300,000 people got sick, which equals 0.148%. If you compare the two groups directly, you can now easily calculate that a vaccination reduced the risk to catch mumps during the Iowa outbreak from 0.148% to 0.026% - or, in other words, by about 83%.
83% efficiency is not as good as I would have expected (literature states ~90-95%), but much, much better than the 0% @steemtruth wants you to believe.
The provided examples show that vaccines are not 100% effective (as we already knew), but are presented in a manipulative way that is misleading from their true meaning:
Vaccines are obviously not 100% effective, but drastically decrease the likelihood of catching a disease.
figure 20-24 statement
Disease case rates increased after vaccination programs were started!
Here, @steemtruth uses several graphs from Nigeria and the Dominican Republic to demonstrate that the number of disease cases haven’t decreased – but even increased – after vaccination programs have been started in these 2 countries.
The first question you should ask yourself is: Why the heck did he take two developing countries?
The answer is: look at the same graphs of Western countries. I posted one for England and measles in my last blog.
In our countries, introduction of vaccinations correlate with a significant decrease in infectious disease cases for the following years. He doesn’t want you to see that, so he singles out Nigeria and DomRep, two countries infamous for their bad medical system back in the 1970s.
So if you only look at the 4 years (!) after the program officially started, I’d be surprised by a coverage of more than 5-10% in those years, considering even european countries have not reached above 20% uptake rate in the initial years of their programmes.
Of course, having 10% of people vaccinated will not lead to a significant decrease in case numbers, and will not prevent epidemics among the other 90%, which is exactly what you can see in those graphs.
The graphs are completely meaningless. They only look at a very small time window, where programs have just had started and no significant part of the population was immunized.
His concluding plea
my direct answer to a quote
Also note, they are comparing one vaccine (live) against another vaccine (inactivated) when they should be comparing both of them against a double-blind placebo group. Big Pharma knows this and so do you, it’s plain common sense! Big Pharma does not want to conduct double-blind placebo studies and Big Pharma gets what Big Pharma wants!
You quoted some double-blind studies yourself, showing the effectiveness of live vaccines against the placebo group!
The Cochran review on influenza vaccines from 2006, for example.
#1 rule in science: Read your sources!
I am the last one to defend Big Pharma. They often act unethical and corrupt, they overprice drugs, they try to sneak away when stuff goes wrong, and they spend more money on marketing than on drug development/improvement.
But this doesn’t make vaccines ineffective. They are immunizing against diseases, partly proven by the sources supplied by @steemtruth himself.
After a close investigation of @steemtruth’s sources and the accuracy of his conclusions, I found the usual pool of half-truths, misinterpretations and smoke grenades. His examples do not proof that vaccines do not work and when there are hints that they increase the incidence in very few cases, he (or his source) is hiding they were found to do quite the opposite in larger groups in one and the same study.
He clearly either hasn’t read his sources, or - even worse - states only a fragment of truth from them to underline his personal opinion.
In other words, he does exactly what he accuses us scientist for.
I think analyzing his next post will be most interesting, as there he finally talks about vaccine safety, which indeed is a scientifically controversial topic.
Disclaimer: In my blog, I'm stating my honest opinion as a researcher, not less and not more. Sometimes I make errors. Discuss and disagree with me - if you are bringing the better arguments, I might rethink.