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Out of Control - 09/09/03

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An ongoing look at the poor quality of vaccine research

One of the biggest challenges facing those of us concerned about vaccine safety and effectiveness is the widespread disbelief that considerable vaccine damage could be occurring.  While this perception can probably be blamed on a variety of factors, overcoming it at least partly depends on exposing the generally poor quality of vaccine research.

One aspect that bears particular attention is the fact that vaccine studies lack a genuine control group.

Indeed, it is hard to believe that something so basic to good study design could be lacking.  Yet it is true.  Consequently, there is a great need for solid reporting on this basic issue. (For more on "never vaccinated" subjects not being included in vaccine safety studies, click here.)

To that end, OUT OF CONTROL  was born.  Periodically, as time permits, a poorly designed study will be examined, in an effort to illustrate the fundamental nature of the problem.

Also to that end, I issue an open challenge to anyone to come up with pro-vaccine safety studies which do use "never vaccinated" children as controls.  These studies will be acknowledged and posted here, if and when they can be verified.

                          "Childhood vaccinations and the risk of asthma"  - a CDC study.

The CDC reported on a study they conducted in which a large number of children (167,240) were followed from birth for between 18 months and 6 years, using HMO records.  The stated purpose was to see if vaccination increased the incidence of asthma. 

As is typically the case in vaccine safety studies, all children in the study appear to have been vaccinated with one or more vaccines.
While it is not absolutely clear whether or not any of the children included in the study had never been vaccinated, what is clear is the following: no comparison to a group of "never vaccinated" children is ever made in the tables or the text. 

As is common in studies of this kind, the term "unvaccinated" was used instead of "never vaccinated".  In practice, unvaccinated usually either means a subject was not vaccinated with the comparison vaccine, or had not been recently vaccinated with it. The former definition appears to apply in this study.

For instance, in this study, a comparison was made between those who had been given the DPT vaccine and those who had not, as to asthma incidence.  Those not given DPT, however, appear to have all received at least one vaccine other than DPT, and to have been included in at least one other vaccinated group.  Other such similar comparisons were made, but in all cases the children appear to have been vaccinated at least once.

If there actually was a group of never vaccinated children in the study, absolutely no reference to them is ever made.  The risk of getting asthma is computed for DPT, OPV, MMR, Hib and Hep B vaccines, but not for a group that was never vaccinated.
Not surprisingly, in most cases, little difference was found between those who had been vaccinated with the various vaccines in terms of the incidence of asthma.  Where there appeared to be a small, increased risk (in the case of Hib and Hep B vaccines), there was an attempt to explain away the results.

The authors of this study also shamelessly criticized a New Zealand study, which had found evidence for increased asthma and atopy, for its small sample of "unvaccinated kids".  I say "shamelessly" because the NZ study at least made an effort to include unvaccinated kids, i.e., "never" vaccinated children, whereas the CDC study did not.  Thus the New Zealand study results, although not very powerful due to the never vaccinated group's small sample size, genuinely provided some provocative evidence that at least one vaccine, DPT, might increase the incidence of asthma and atopy.

The authors also provided an excellent example of how one flawed study is used to bolster another.  A study from Sweden, touted as the "methodologically strongest" study providing evidence against there being a relationship between vaccines and asthma/atopy, also had no control ("never vaccinated") group.

Although the CDC "study" is likely to be used to support the notion that vaccines have nothing to do with the disturbing increase in the incidence of asthma, it does no such thing.

This "study" essentially shows that all of the vaccines included  more or less result in the same incidence of asthma.

There appears to be NO control group, i.e., those who had NO vaccinations at all, ever. This study, then, says nothing about what the incidence of asthma is in the absence of vaccination.

by Sandy Gottstein (aka Mintz)

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)