Another open thread on vaccines

IFLS has reposted my “Dear Parents” article this morning, with a very kind note (thank you!). This means that we have a lot more traffic on the site than is usual, and I want to extend my welcome to all the new followers, commenters, and curious onlookers.

A couple of things:

  1. I know that there are several broken links in the article. Since I wrote it about two years ago, I’ve occasionally gone back and tried to update them. But I haven’t done it recently, and today I’m pretty swamped with work and meetings. I will try to get to it throughout the day, but it may take a little while. I’m very sorry about that!
    Edit: Broken links should now all be updated, thanks for your patience.
  2. The comments section of the Dear Parents article and the Open thread (both linked to in the IFLS repost) are getting extremely full, and it can be difficult to read very threaded comments. If you would like to start new comment threads here, please feel free. I only ask that you abide by the commenting policies of my site, and have patience if your comment doesn’t show up immediately–it is being held in moderation until I can get to it. I try to approve comments as fast as they come in, but there will be occasional delays.
  3. If you write to me asking for a copy of my guide to reading scientific papers, I apologize if it takes me a few days to get it to you. Moderating comments is taking a lot of my free time today, but I will try to respond as quickly as possible.

I’ve been working on a response to some of the recent events about the Vaxxed documentary, and I believe that Colin has a piece he’s working on as well, so please check back for more throughout the week. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the blog to get email updates, like our Facebook page (see the right hand side of this post for links), or follow me or Colin on Twitter if you want notifications of new posts. As always, thank you so much for reading!

40 thoughts on “Another open thread on vaccines

  1. kfunk937 April 19, 2016 / 2:25 pm

    I was very pleased to see the reposted Dear Parents this morning. Not surprised at all at the high traffic at both sites, either. Much of the traffic seemed to be of the reasonable, pro-health variety. The piece is always worth rereading, and the current timing could not be better.

    With thanks for Dear Parents and a nod to National Infant Immunization Week this week, I thought I’d leave this link*>, for those who might be interested in an upcoming webinar: Immunological Mechanisms of Vaccine-elicited Protection: Licensed Vaccines.

    *Mods: Please delete the webinar link if you think it inappropriate. I’m not associated with it, but registered to see it myself and thought it might be of interest to others here.

    • Jennifer Raff April 19, 2016 / 2:28 pm

      Thank you! I never know beforehand when they repost things, so I was surprised and happy. Thanks for the webinar link. I unfortunately don’t have time to attend, but hopefully others will find it useful.

  2. SteveRhode April 19, 2016 / 8:44 pm

    Congrats on the well deserved, high profile repost. Unfortunately it seems like the comment thread there is as polarized as ever.

    • Jennifer Raff April 20, 2016 / 11:40 am

      Thank you. Yes, I don’t know that people’s minds will be changed in a comment thread. But I think it’s a discussion worth having, and I don’t mind having it here.

  3. Matt Brewer, DO, FACEP April 20, 2016 / 12:57 pm

    Well done. I am actually going to give the link to your article to parents that I encounter in the Emergency Department. I tell them the exact same thing , but cannot elaborate since I never have enough time. I love that you mention having people talk to the elderly about this since some of them have witnessed the devastation. I wish someone would make a good documentary on this subject with the different prior outbreaks, history of vaccines, new research, developing countries that are still battling diseases the developed countries take for granted, etc. Keep up the good work

    • Renee February 1, 2017 / 3:57 pm

      Yes, I might have been taken in by some of the scaremongering. I did a little research after hearing some of the more credible anti vaccination arguments. Unfortunately some of the breastfeeding community are anti-vaxx so that’s how I heard about it all. I had a great aunt who had to wear one big shoe and use a walking stick from having polio though so it was always in my mind that the diseases we vaccinate against are a real threat. Unfortunately most of the parents these days have grown up never seeing disease so to them the vaccinations are a more immediate threat and then their poor kids get measles or whooping cough and they realise their mistake.

  4. Crissy June 1, 2016 / 10:48 am

    IFLS is how I found your blog. I’ve been too busy with my MS to keep up to date on it but congrats on the book! (or is it just Colin writing it, it has been a while since I have been on here) The guide they reposted is so needed, research can be hard to decipher and biases even more so.

    • Jennifer Raff June 1, 2016 / 11:05 am

      Thanks! Colin is writing a book on why people believe irrational things, and I’m writing a textbook on science literacy (which will include the guide to reading papers). We’ll both post more about them here as they get finished, so please check back 🙂

  5. thefreestove August 20, 2016 / 3:57 pm

    I’m neither pro or anti vaccination- I just want reliable balanced information. I thank you for the links, I look forward to reading them. In my circle I know more kids that have had adverse reactions to vaccines than to the diseased their vaccinated against – but that’s probably because I know more pro-vaxers than anti-vaxers, so it’s a numbers game. I just wish that you could give people a pre-vax test to see if they’re likely to have a reaction to the vaccination rather than taking the full risk by getting it straight up. Do you think this is ever likely to happen?

    • Badmash October 29, 2016 / 6:47 am


      I Recently wrote an article about this subject (tangentially), using peer reviewed, clinical/journal articles and data. I illuminate some aspects about modern medicine, autism, and iatrogenic realities. I think this can give you (anyone) insight into biochemical/physiological processes. Peep my blog below. Thanks 🙂


      • Chris November 1, 2016 / 1:35 am

        Looking quickly on you webpage I have one question:

        Which vaccine on the present American pediatric vaccine is only available with thimerosal? Please do not mention influenza, because there are at least three available without thimerosal.

      • Chris November 1, 2016 / 1:46 am

        Another question… on your SIDS article you have an interesting pie chart. I found that pie chart, but I found it on a page that showed that incidence of SIDS was going down:

        Why did you gloss over the fact that the rate of SIDS is going down?

        Here is an idea: just post the PubMed indexed studies that show any vaccine on the present American pediatric schedule causes more harm than the vaccine. Make sure you do not cherry pick the data. Do not ignore this.

        • Badmash November 3, 2016 / 6:56 pm

          Hi Chris,

          Thank you for your responses. If you carefully read my article many of the issues you raise were in fact brought up, for example the decrease in SIDS rates, however, what I suggest in this paper is that SIDS is a specific disease/etiological process, and not the “waste basket” diagnosis as commonly viewed in the medical community. Further, because of the complexity of ICD codes (and the recent change to ICD-10) I conjecture that many cases of SIDS are misdiagnosed as something else, pneumonia for example due to lung congestion/edema/infiltrate.

          Finally I “cherry pick” certain topics and data to highlight the ambivalence in the scientific community, furthermore, I suggest that thimerosal and compounds alike, such as aluminum adjuvants, may have harmful effects to those young and old with varying vulnerabilities. Check out this data about alum and granuloma formation (known since the 90s) and other toxicities, myalgic encepahlomyeleit

            • Chris November 3, 2016 / 9:19 pm

              First link: the author is a known associate of the Dwoskins (who sponsored this conference), so not reputable:

              The second link has nothing to do with vaccines. Please understand there is a vast difference in fluid volume between vaccines that are administered only a few times in a child’s life and dialysis or IV feeding solutions.

              Please provide the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers than any vaccine on the present American pediatric vaccine schedule causes more harm than the disease. By the way, no researcher associated with the Dwoskins will be reputable:

              So make sure in the future to check that none of the persons who were guests of the Dwoskins in Jamaica are authors of any papers you list.

              As far as your previous comment: “Further, because of the complexity of ICD codes (and the recent change to ICD-10) I conjecture that many cases of SIDS are misdiagnosed as something else, pneumonia for example due to lung congestion/edema/infiltrate.”

              Citation needed. See qualifiers listed above.

              By the way, when you are researching vaccines be sure to point out that this paper was sponsored by SafeMinds:

              Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Jun;123(6):579-89. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408257.
              Examination of the safety of pediatric vaccine schedules in a non-human primate model: assessments of neurodevelopment, learning, and social behavior.

              Apparently they are not too keen on the results of that study. Can you figure out why?

              • Badmash November 4, 2016 / 4:23 pm

                Hi Chris,

                You bring up some very valid points and I’m intrigued. I’ve never given much thought to anti vaxx as a unified front, but the, albeit secondary source, brings up an interesting aspect of the debate. That data can and is manipulated on and for both sides of the debate!

                Personally, I wholly agree with your statement that the vaccine is much safer and better (i.e. Causing less harm) than the disease (expect maybe in the case of flu shot for a young person that develops Gilliam barre- but that’s another topic.

                I intend to write another article addressing my overall opinion of vax – including addressing claims from both sides (anti vax groups claim no studies comparing vax vs anti vax has been conducted, this is untrue of course –

                • Badmash November 4, 2016 / 4:26 pm


                  As for SIDS being classified wrong because of Icd codes is merely an anecdotal insight based on clinical experience and use with various EMRs and codes (icd 9 vs icd 10) this no qualifiers are necessary (as I stated it’s my conjecture)

                  Anyways, I receive flak from both sides of the aisle and merely find it interesting to look into topics like this (obviously you learn more by immersing yourself)

                  Anyways, cheers

              • Badmash November 4, 2016 / 4:44 pm

                Thank you for posting the known associations of anti vax groups, sometimes these types of conflicts aren’t readily apparent (or disclosed). However,I still find scientist not associated with either camp officially asking serious questions about saftey.


                The point that you offered, the anti vax has deep pockets also is a valid point. However, I question the incentives of either camp (of course vaccine manufactures want to PROVE there vaccines are safe and effective, just like tobacco companies did decades ago) now I contend those aren’t completely fair arguments, but the question remains, are we all as society convinced vaccines are safe and effective. Apparently doubt still remains, so I’m looking into this and am intrigued by both sides. It my personal curiosity to say the least

                • Chris November 5, 2016 / 5:35 pm

                  Le sigh.

                  First off, the request was for you to: “Please provide the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers than any vaccine on the present American pediatric vaccine schedule causes more harm than the disease.”

                  So you present a severely cherry picked bits and pieces.

                  The first one to show a “vaccinated vs unvaccinated” was:

                  Trop Geogr Med. 1990 Apr;42(2):182-4.
                  Vaccinated versus unvaccinated children: how they fare in first five years of life.

                  Which is a 26 year old study of just 25 children in Nigeria! Total statistics fail when you use such a small study in country with a completely different standard of living. Especially when this paper, Vaccination Status and Health in Children and Adolescents, exists.

                  Then you have “There are no real studies on the efficacy of vaccines/vaccination.”

                  Which really does not make any sense, since you do not give a reference to the “evidence” other than it is six years old. The cancers take years to form, the rate of HPV infection has been measured, and there are several more recent papers.

                  Followed by: “Claim: Vaccines cause the disease they claim to be protecting against.”

                  Where the evidence is one VAERS report. Hint: if an N=25 is too small a sample size, trust me… N=1 is also. Please go to the official VAERS portal and explain what you need to read and understand before using the database.

                  Then some notes on vaccines that included the BCG vaccine, which is not used in the USA. Good points in noticing vaccines have been improved.

                  Finally for some reason this article is in another comment from you to me cited:

                  Curr Med Chem. 2014 Mar;21(7):941-6.
                  Sudden infant death following hexavalent vaccination: a neuropathologic study.

                  Again, a very small study and it does say: “This study does not prove a causal relationship between the hexavalent vaccination and SIDS.”

                  But apparently that was not good enough for your blog post, so you quoted from:
                  Pediatrics. 2002 Mar;109(3):E43.
                  Hypoplasia of medullary arcuate nucleus in unexpected late fetal death (stillborn infants): a pathologic study.

                  But then you cut and pasted from a third Italian study:
                  Virchows Arch. 2006 Jan;448(1):100-4. Epub 2005 Oct 18.
                  Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) shortly after hexavalent vaccination: another pathology in suspected SIDS?

                  Which was just one case study.

                  Suggestions: learn to cite, work on your rhetoric, take a statistics class so you can learn the importance of sampling and sample size and find on this website the articles Dr. Raff has written about reading and understanding science. This is a good one to start with:

                  • Badmash November 5, 2016 / 7:06 pm

                    1) If you actually read the entire thing you would’ve noticed I did include the very study that you site to me. However, the primary endpoints of the studies are very different, the german study concludes “The prevalence of allergic diseases and non-specific infections in children and adolescents was not found to depend on vaccination status.”
                    Thus, i chose to highlight this study only in my commentary and not the “evidence” piece (also i am very aware of statistics, sample size, power, p-values, etc. etc.) however, I’m trying to make a very clear point with the data i “cherry pick” – most of what I’m cherry picking here is consistent with the scientific consensus)

                    2) huh? i state that the efficacy of the HPV vaccine is put to test. Some studies use seroconversion as a primary endpoint, while others use incidence rates, risk reductions etc. This study CLEARLY states “reduced the risk of genital warts” (62% reduction, 95%, CI =0.58-o.87) for those in the medical field and NOT statistic world , you’d understand the genital warts are caused by HPV, thus it is inferred that the risk reduction is attributable to the vaccine, and hence EFFICACY!!! wow look at that, using your brain to come to conclusions instead of having it spoon feed…..

                    3) uhmm its not just one VAERS report. If you read the commentary you’ll see that VAPP is a known and accepted, albeit rare, risk of OPV. I’m not using the VAERS report as hard evidence, merely to highlight something interesting (if you didn’t catch it)
                    —An unvax child had confirmed OPV type II via contact with a cousin who received OPV. The OPV strain was virulent enough to not only jump ship but also to mutate and infect the CNS.

                    Most of these articles are being written for dramatic effect. Even if the data i present is “cherry picked” it still represents legitimate data points on our quest to a better understanding….

                    As for the SIDS jargon, I’m merely trying to pin down an etiology and finally as recent theories suggest….what triggering events can cause SIDS. The fact the HHE is a known side effect of vaccinations (and its somewhat similar clinical presentation to SIDS) makes me wonder what exactly the pathophysiology of both are. Unfortunately, when you look at meta-analysis or other larger studies you miss out on a lot of detail that can help point you to a certain direction. Im my quest so far I’ve done as much as help define some characteristics of SIDS, such as thymic petechiae.

                    Ultimately, i appreciate your suggestions. Im not here writing a term paper, or a phd. As a personal blog – this is merely “Badmash” opining about various topics, trying to highlight some things not always known and appreciated by others (did you read my conclusion and the mention of MKULTRA) you’ll understand why i put this piece together and why i chose to “cherry pick things”. Finally, as stated above, as a blog, this is merely a place to bullshit, to pivot, to switch sides, to antagonize, to vilify, to glorify, to condemn and to condone.

                    • Chris November 5, 2016 / 8:23 pm

                      Work on your formatting, it was very difficult when you do not clearly use citations and have lots of pretty colors. You used screen shots instead of posting the actual abstracts! I read as closely as your writings deserve. You have started with a premise and are shoehorning in the data that fits your agenda.

                      Until then, I will not respond until you produce the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that any vaccine on the present American pediatric schedule causes more harm than the disease. Post the citation clearly or just list the PMID.

                      At least you now know why the OPV is not on the present American pediatric schedule. Oh, and neither is the DTP, and a few other vaccines that those papers included.

                      “i am very aware of statistics, sample size, power, p-values, etc. etc.) …..”

                      You actually are not using anything that resembles understanding of those concepts. If you had you would not have posted the 26 year old study done in Nigeria, nor the case report… and not even used VAERS.

                      But here is an oldy but goody, it is an actual vaxed vs. unvaxed early test phase study of the effectiveness of the earliest measles vaccine done in Africa. Check out the numbers in the third column of the first table: Efficacy of measles vaccine

                      And here is a paper on a much larger earlier Vaccine vs. Placebo study. What does the last column have to say?

                      What are in those columns is just one reason there is the Belmont Report.

                    • Badmash November 5, 2016 / 8:44 pm


                      I sincerely appreciate your input (honestly no sarcasm here) You are correct that i need to work on my formatting. Im essentially trying to combine layman ideas with scientific data without getting too much into the nitty gritty. Again you are correct that many of the studies i do highlight quickly shake under close scrutiny (when you pay attention to statistics) Yet they illustrate my point. I will continue to work on my writing style, formatting, syntax, and overall themes. You have called me out, highlighting that I’m an neither writing for the layman or for the scientist here, and i should pick one or the other LOL!!!!

                      Honestly, i agree with you. I have never found any literature (lets use statistics in this part of our conversation – thank you for keeping it civil btw). Almost all meta-analysis of these issues (autism & vax) SHOW NO ASSOCIATION (in regards to the present day schedule)

                      I wholly agree with you that the benefit of vaccination far outstrips any harms. I just want to highlight important facts for both sides to understand why there is debate and why debate should continue (like i highlighted with OPV but obvi we came to recognize it and made a change) As knew formulations, new vaccines, new antigens, new adjuvants, etc etc come into existence its imperative we study these things so we don’t repeat history

                      I guess ultimately chris, why i have composed these articles is because i see both sides taking a blind eye to the issue. Pro-Vaxxers not admitting/remembering potential harm of vaccines such as VAPP or HHE. The reverse is true, that anti-vaxxers claim things like no studies exist showing differences between vax vs unvax (thus despite sample size/statistical significance) i chose to highlight a study that showed Death in Unvax children vs Mild disease in Vax children in and actual study (even if it wasn’t a good one it still shows a microcosm)

                      Thank you for the old but goody! It’s essentially what i was looking for (i must admit once i found the 50 children study i stopped looking for other studies on the topic)

                      Overall chris, i simply raise these questions to
                      1) learn things for myself (i.e. i never would’ve known the most recent theory of SIDS – developmentally critical period, vulnerable infant, and extrinsic factors – with things such as low SES, low birthweight, co-sleeping, smoking being highly significant risk factors) — I’m well aware of these things but i don’t like to immediately dismiss claims without digging deep. thank you.


  6. Karen Zoppa April 9, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    It is important to acknowledge that while data is data -data is interpreted by humans and that means automatically – bias – as in leaning toward – and context. The problem with this message is that it will not address the concerns of very diligent skeptics – those who see that “science’ is not really as objective as the institutuions make it out to be – largely because many scientists and advocates of “science” are un- critical about the practice and its inevitably fraught discourse of interpretation. When it comes to recent developments and the impact on our species, never mind individuals – a little honey could go a long way. Why not civilly address the concerns of anti-vaxers – even if it causes you more headaches then them? Just – sayin’. – A Teacher.

    • Chris April 10, 2017 / 9:13 am

      Which is why we use statistics with large enough numbers. This is why your N=1 anecdote is not data.

      • Karen Zoppa April 10, 2017 / 12:36 pm

        You are still not addressing the issue of the uncritically held assumptions that drive scientific interpretation of data. It is not a value free exercise.

        • Chris April 10, 2017 / 4:19 pm

          Because it did not make any sense. It is obvious you do no understand how science works, which is probably why you put the word inside quotation marks. Plus the way science is done is by being critical of it all the time… that is how it advances. Why do you think papers go through peer review, and those who are trying to get advanced degrees must defend their thesis.

          Anyone who does science should be prepared to be challenged. When a good scientist sees a result they were not expecting, the say “Well, that is interesting” not “but that is wrong!”. This is why we no longer think of the universe being made of ether is due to the failure of a big experiment:

          And why we no longer believe in spontaneous generation, and learned about microbes:

          So I see no reason to be concerned by your “concern” until you actually understand how science is done.

          Also, I try to be civil as much as I can, but since I had to take care of three kids with chicken pox (before vaccine), including a six month old baby I draw the line at those who think children should suffer from high fevers, complications and permanent disability instead of getting a safe vaccine. You blithely remarked how you serviced diseases, therefor they are okay. That is not evidence, and shows no regard to the suffering of children.

          • Karen Zoppa April 10, 2017 / 5:28 pm

            You still do not get the point. I do know how science works – I am talking about how to dialogue with sceptics – and you keep hammering at any reasonable scepticism about vaccines. I have not even given my position on vaccines – and I won’t. I am asking science advocates to take seriously the concerns of those who are fearful of the possibly unforeseen risks of vaccines. The ad hominem attacks are not helpful. So – what do you say to people who are willing to risk chicken pox and mumps in their children?

            • Chris April 10, 2017 / 5:58 pm

              So why did you say you had three diseases and were fine? Why the rambling bit on how science works? You really were not clear what recent developments or impacts are an issue. It was obscure vagueness without any substance.

              And, yes, we do think of their concerns. Which is why we post study, after study and yet another study. Only to be told we are bullies for asking what their evidence is, or are accused of being pharma shills.

              Also, one of the most child hating comments is saying they survived the disease and are fine, while totally ignoring the millions of kids who suffered, and the thousands that died from vaccine preventable diseases. Some even make lame excuses as to why Olivia Dahl died, claiming she died because she was malnourished, without any evidence (plus her father, Roald Dahl, had an extensive vegetable garden, he created a special flower garden after she died). Why, oh why! Why do you ignore the pain and suffering that is caused by measles, mumps, Hib, polio, etc?

              Just a wee bit of advice in the future: don’t do that again.

        • Chris April 10, 2017 / 4:26 pm

          Oops typo: “servived diseases,”

        • Chris April 10, 2017 / 4:27 pm

          I still can’t spell: “survived diseases”

  7. Karen Zoppa April 10, 2017 / 10:11 pm

    Well – I think as there is no reciprocal and respectful conversation here, I am done. @BADMASH – I appreciate your even handed presentation of the contemporary data. Chris seems very grumpy and is attacking me for things other people say. good luck to all in your endeavours.

    • Chris April 11, 2017 / 9:33 am

      Not grumpy, but tired of nonsense. Badmash had problems by not following simple instructions and cherry picking.

      Also since my oldest had seizures from an actual disease and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and the misery of taking care of three very sick kids with chicken pox. This included a six month old baby. This was before a vaccine was available for those diseases. That baby is going into graduate school with a higher chance than most for getting shingles during their twenties.

      Do you know what it is like to have a baby covered in pox who cannot sleep due to the pain of constant itching? This is why I very very very much dislike the claim “I had X disease and I am fine.” I think anyone who dismisses the pain and injury caused by vaccine preventable disease is just a cruel child hater. Which is why I mentioned you should not do that.

      • Karen Zoppa April 11, 2017 / 12:00 pm

        WHOA! You are out of line. I am a mother and a grandmother and have nursed children through chicken pox and mumps, as well as febrile seizures. Life is full of minor pain and suffering. Get over it and your self. “Child hater?”

        • Chris April 11, 2017 / 3:17 pm

          It is not always minor pain. That is something you have failed to grasp. And yes, the only other reason one would think letting a child suffer over two weeks with a high fever, a high possibility of complications including pneumonia, meningitis and encephalitis must be sheer ignorance.

          But you claim to know all about it… but anecdotes are not enough. Perhaps you can educate me on how “minor” the suffering is by providing some PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that any vaccine presently used in North America causes more harm than the diseases.

        • Chris April 11, 2017 / 10:21 pm

          Just out of curiosity: Did you get antibiotics for the strep infection that ended up as Scarlet Fever?

          If not, then I suggest you check out this site:

          It is a site created by someone who lost a child because she belonged to a group that regularly denied children medical care. She simply did not know that she could have prevented her son’s death from Hib meningitis.

          • Karen Zoppa April 11, 2017 / 11:24 pm

            Do the math: I am too old for “anti-biotics”. leading to a strep infection. I had Scarlet Fever – not because of anti-biotics.

            • Chris April 12, 2017 / 9:39 am

              How am I supposed to know you were born before the end World War II, especially since I know many under the age of seventy who are grandparents? Though the earliest antibiotics were actually available about 1910 to 1935.

              Still no excuse for not knowing about the severity of many diseases.

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