Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.


Note: Most of this week’s posts are related to vaccines. This week was proclaimed “Vaccine Awareness Week” by groups that discourage vaccination. SBM responded with its own “Vaccine Awareness Week,” attempting to counter anti-vaccine propaganda with science and reason.

What does “anti-vaccine” really mean? (David Gorski)  Many anti-vaccine activists deny that they are anti-vaccine, claiming instead that they are pro safe vaccines and are only against the toxins in vaccines. They spread false information, value anecdotes over careful science, argue with logical fallacies, and respond to criticism with vitriol and conspiracy theories. “Anti-vaccine” is a denialist movement similar to the anti-evolution movement: it’s not about science, it’s about ideology.

Journal Club Debunks Anti-Vaccine Myths (Harriet Hall) In the premier family practice journal, physicians discuss an article that carefully reviews the medical literature on vaccines and autism. The evidence clearly refutes 3 myths: that the MMR vaccine causes autism, that mercury causes autism, and that simultaneous administration of too many vaccines weakens the immune system and causes autism. The evidence is overwhelming, yet anti-vaccine activists have chosen to ignore it.

A Shot in the Dark Revisited (Steven Novella)  A 1985 book, A Shot in the Dark, is still being promoted to claim that DPT vaccine causes neurologic damage. A change in vaccine formulation and 25 years further research have removed any such concerns, but the opinions of the anti-vaccine folks were frozen back in the early stages of anecdotal reports. Science has spoken, but the myth persists.

Skeptically Speaking with Dr. Gorski (David Gorski)  Dr. Gorski was interviewed on Skeptically Speaking about vaccines. Link provided.

Why science reporters should do their homework (Peter Lipson)  A Scientific American article used sketchy anecdotes to cobble together the hypothesis that statin drugs reduce cholesterol levels so much that they impair nerve conduction and cause memory loss and dementia. The data suggest otherwise. The article highlighted “experts” who presented fear-mongering opinions rather than evidence.

Vaccine Wars: the NCCAM Drops the Ball (Kimball Atwood) When SBM representatives recently met with Dr. Josephine Briggs, director of the NCCAM, she agreed that the NCCAM website should do more to counter anti-vaccine propaganda. It hasn’t happened. Notably, the discussions of homeopathy and naturopathy fail to mention that they discourage vaccination.

Homeopathic Vaccines (Mark Crislip) Real vaccines provide antigens that the immune system can respond to; homeopathic vaccines provide only water. People have died of vaccine-preventable diseases because they thought they were protected by homeopathic vaccines.

Improving Our Response to Anti-Vaccine Sentiment (Scott Gavura) Recent surveys have studied public perception of vaccine safety and the impact of anti-vaccine propaganda. A better understanding of factors influencing popular opinion would help us respond more effectively.