Skeptics admit to “scaring” science journals from publishing anything that questions vaccine orthodoxy. Now an important health study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children has ‘disappeared.’
By Celeste McGovern
Two weeks ago, the open-access Journal of Translational Science published two unprecedented peer-reviewed studies that are long overdue and what followed is absurd, but not entirely unpredictable.
To sum up the background, the first pilot study compared 261 homeschooled American children who had never received a vaccine to 405 vaccinated homeschooled American children and reported some startling differences in the incidences of disorders between the two groups. The odds risk ratios of neurodevelopmental disorders, allergies, hay fever and other immune system-mediated conditions which are currently soaring among American children without explanation were much higher among vaccinated children. For an in-depth analysis of the study, go here.
A second study, based on a subset of the first, and by the same authors, examined neurodevelopmental outcomes in premature babies who were vaccinated compared to those who were not. Both studies were epidemiological surveys of mothers’ recall of “doctor diagnosed” conditions, prescriptions and surgeries, not of their opinions. Many studies are conducted this way, including many conducted and cited by public health agencies.
The media were silent. No surprise there. There was a complete mainstream blackout of the story as they pretended there wasn’t any unusual research about the health of American children and an article about it going viral in the space of a few days. Public health appeared to be employing the same political tactic: better to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass rather than feed interest.
The scientific community was quiet, except for a small faction of self-appointed science warriors known as Skeptics, with a capital ‘S,’ who were beside themselves with rage.
What was this study that had been “retracted” before doing here again? “Infuriating…spread of vaccine bunk” tweeted one. How DARE this offense be allowed in their blessed published scientific literature? “Didn’t we deal with this outrage already?” Retract! Retract! Retract!
It didn’t matter that the study led by Anthony Mawson a professor in the School of Public Health at Jackson State University had never been published or retracted before. A study that has not been published cannot be retracted. What had happened previously was only the same thing that is happening now, only prior to publication. A band of Skeptic bullies had seen an abstract of the study pop up on the website of another journal Frontiers, while it was still under review there in 2016. The study hadn’t seen the light of day. But the all-seeing eye of the Skeptics which searches and searches tirelessly for anything that offends had seen it.
There was no thought or delay in the Skeptic response. They did not waste time with letters of enquiry or professional concern. They did not wait to consider the methodology or the data or its interpretation or to read the full discussion.
They jeered and screamed “anti-vaxx” – which is the equivalent of ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ and thrown like a bludgeon at anyone, even a credible professor and researcher with a 30-year career, who questions the safety of the expanding use of this particular type of pharmaceutical product for children. “Anti-vaxx” is a silencer.
A fumbling editor at Frontiers tweeted in haste that the study had only been provisionally accepted and the review would be re-opened “in response to concerns raised.”
One Skeptic is gloating that he is solely responsible for blighting the entire study consideration process:
“I pride myself to have caused the Frontiers anti-vaxx retraction with one tweet!” Leonid Schneider tweeted this week. “The anti-vaxx paper was published as abstract, a reader alerted me, I tweeted, Frontiers got scared, pulled the paper.”
Even Retraction Watch reported the story that way. After receiving criticism on Twitter, Frontiers released a public statement, noting that the study was only “provisionally accepted but not published,” and is being re-reviewed.”
Their links are to two tweets, including the achievement of Leonid Schneider. And that was that.
“Which raises questions in itself: that’s not a proper retraction process,” somebody called Neuroskeptic commented on Retraction Watch, as though that too was the fault of the beleaguered researchers. No accusations. No responses. No professional ethics or inquiry. No protocol. Not even a fake kangaroo court to justify this one. Just a mob “scaring” a scientific journal out of publishing.
The mainstream media misreported the basic facts of the story at the time and claimed without basis that a study that had never been published had been “retracted,” repeating the bizarre claim of the Skeptics and catering to its own overlords at the pharmaceutical industry.
Now, an editor at the Journal of Translational Science has bowed to these forces again. Retraction Watch reports that the study has been “retracted – again.” But there has been no formal statement issued by the journal. I emailed the Editor in Chief, Terry Lichtor, a professor at Arkansas State University, twice. When I didn’t hear from him I called the London office and was told they would telephone him to make sure he got my questions. The person on the phone seemed to know about my emails. I’ve had no reply.
I contacted two editors at Retraction Watch and asked if they weren’t using the term “retracted” rather loosely for the study, considering the professional ethics and implications. No reply.
“With millions of views, the concerns that this study raises will not be easily wiped away from the public consciousness,” says Claire Dwoskin, founder of the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, which contributed to funding for the study.
“It would more greatly serve the interests of public health and science to replicate the study on a larger scale and determine the accuracy of the results, rather than harkening back to a time where book burning and persecution of scientists reigned the day. If the study is not restored on the journal’s website, it may be fair to conclude that some of the lessons of the past have not been learned after all.”
No scientific misconduct, no protocol
For the record, there have never been allegations of scientific misconduct against Mawson’s study. Retraction of a study is serious business which sometimes has grave consequences for the publishing researchers’ careers, depending on whether there is deliberate fraud involved or simple human error. There are generally accepted retraction guidelines within the publishing industry which state that retraction may be considered only in the case of serious scientific misconduct such as fraud, plagiarism, duplicate publication or errors.
Though publishers are independent, there are also generally recognized retraction protocols which suggest that if there were an investigation for misconduct, it should begin with the editors of both journals in this saga. The Committee on Publication Ethics laid out a code of conduct for editors of biomedical journals in 1994 which states that “Editors should not reverse decisions when authors have been told that their papers will be published unless serious problems are identified with the papers.”
Regarding legitimate complaints, it states: Editors should first seek a response from those accused. If the editors are not satisfied with the response, they should ask the employers of the authors, reviewers, or editors, or some other appropriate body (perhaps a regulatory body) to investigate. (In the case of their own editorial staff, they must conduct the investigation themselves.) Editors should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that a proper investigation is conducted; if this is not possible, or does not happen for whatever reason, editors should make all reasonable attempts to persist in obtaining a resolution to the problem and a correction of the record if it is needed. This is an onerous but important duty.
There are plenty of criticisms of the study methodology in the Twitter world of Skeptics. Some may be legitimate. The discussion section of studies is where researchers note the weaknesses of their methodology and qualify the data as Mawson et al did. Criticisms and corrections take place in published letters and subsequent, better research. It is the faults of an early study design that make possible improvement in the next.
The first word of the study titled, “Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year-old U.S. children” is “pilot.” A pilot study is defined as a “small scale preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate feasibility, time, cost, adverse events, and effect size (statistical variability) in an attempt to predict an appropriate sample size and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale research project.”
A pilot study asks a question. What sets this pilot study apart from all of the thousands of preliminary pilot studies on PubMed is not its methodology. It is the question it asks. Mawson and his colleagues dare to consider if the current CDC-approved vaccine schedule of 50 doses of 15 vaccines before age six might have unintended effects on the overall health of children. We know they have serious adverse events and that some children are particularly susceptible to damage. A whole field of vaccinomics and adversomics is emerging to determine which children are particularly at risk from these adverse events and how to “improve” vaccines eventually so they do not kill and maim so frequently. But scientific inquiry outside of the realm of unequivocal acceptance of the status quo is not permitted.
What Mawson and his colleagues concluded, which is probably the most common conclusion in all of PubMed’s millions of studies, is that there is a need for more research. Hardly revolutionary anti-scientific rhetoric from radical anti-vaxxers. Just a conservative discussion that this particular environmental exposure which has increased exponentially (from three vaccines to 15) in a generation has never been looked at for its impact on general health, rather than specific infectious disease
Skeptics bang their fists and claim there is nothing left to learn. They tell those who wonder if maybe the idea of scientific controls in a study of drugs for children is a good idea that the research has been done already. But they are lying. The studies they cite look at girls who got the HPV vaccine compared to girls who got the Hepatitis B vaccine. They cite studies that compare girls who got all their previous vaccines plus an HPV vaccine to girls who got all their previous vaccines plus a “placebo” that contains an aluminum adjuvant – an ingredient implicated in disease in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and an entire 2015 medical textbook. They cite studies that conclude that a new vaccine “may reduce the burden of the disease” caused by the particular strain of virus it was designed for.
Skeptics say children can’t be deprived of vaccines so there is no way to ethically do the tests that ought to be required of them. Bring them all on, they say. Untested against controls. To your children.
Skeptics operate groups like The Good Thinking Society whose hero and financial patron is the Skeptic supreme, Richard Dawkins. They claim, as their title suggests, to have been ordained (by something that is not God because they are also Atheists with a capital ‘A’ and Rationalists with a capital ‘R’) to be able to discern good thoughts from bad thoughts. And these self-appointed Thought Police busy themselves harassing practitioners — naturopaths, homeopaths and chiropractors –and belittling the growing numbers of patients who seek ‘alternative treatments.’ The skeptics see it as their duty to uphold the orthodoxy of mainstream medicine and to ensure that bad thinkers are punished and that good thoughts promulgated to us by the great and wondrous pharmaceutical industry are upheld.
But people who say “vaccine science is settled” are being dishonest. Science is never settled. By its very nature, science questions orthodoxies and constantly seeks and discovers new things. Just last year, scientists discovered a microscopic system of lymphatic vessels linking the brain to the immune system and said they’d have to rewrite the textbooks. It astonished some researchers and embarrassed others – how could they have missed anatomical structures in the human body until now?
How could medicine have overlooked the importance of the microbiome for so long – basically an organ weighing a kilogram, as important as the immune system and influencing every single aspect of human physiology? But “that is the current situation in which we find ourselves,” Julian Marchesi humbly wrote in the British Medical Journal in 2015.
Scientific discovery requires an open mind. And humility. Skeptics have neither. They do what the “scientific men” did to Ignaz Semelweiss in his day. Semelweiss did research and posited that doctors who were delivering women’s babies were carrying some unseen agents of disease on their unwashed hands after they had been examining corpses. Death from sepsis after childbirth was common. Women whose babies were delivered by midwives who washed their hands rarely died from infections. Semelweiss paid a price for pointing the finger at his own profession for inducing disease. He was ridiculed and demoted and eventually some of his opponents conspired to trick him into an asylum where he was beaten and died of infection. Today he is among the giants in medical history, but the delay in following his line of inquiry cost tens of thousands of women the hell of sepsis and death.
We don’t know what is causing the current health crisis among children or the rising tide of neurodevelopmental and immune system disorders. But everything has to go on the table until we find out. Injected immune-modulating medicines given to healthy children, whatever their sacrosanct reputation and our beliefs about them, should not be shielded from scientific scrutiny. Vaccines are a human invention begun when doctors described the immune system in terms of “miasmas” and “humors” and they are not infallible. There are huge gaps in our understanding of how they work and in the evidence base on their effects. There has never been a study like Mawson’s of the entire current vaccine schedule and its long-term impact on children’s overall health.
Skeptics have closed ranks against this one line of inquiry. We don’t know how important that line is. But we can be pretty sure that history repeats itself and when medical history textbooks are rewritten a long time from now, there will be names of medical heroes like Semelweiss in there, people who challenged orthodoxy and went where no one wanted to go. And there will be brief allusions to the hordes of nameless “scientific” fools who impeded medical progress while countless children suffered.