Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Natural News and the Misuse of Vaccine Statistics

The website Natural News continues their anti-vaccination campaign with several articles in the last few weeks encouraging readers not to have their children vaccinated.  Natural News contends that children risk death by being vaccinated.  The first of these most recent articles is about a new study that declares infants receiving the most vaccines are the most likely to be hospitalized and die. The author of the article, Neil Z. Miller, was also one of the two authors of the study.  The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Human and Experimental Toxicology and was co-authored by NZ. Miller who is associated with the anti-vaccination group the Think Twice Global Vaccine Institute.

Natural News notes that 38,000 reports of infant hospitalizations and deaths following vaccinations were analyzed.   Miller and Dr. Gary Goldman found that infants who received more vaccines simultaneously (i.e. 8 instead of 4 in one pediatric visit) were statistically more likely to be hospitalized or die. 

The 38,000 cases quoted in the article were collected from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is run by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the VAERS website, more than 10 million vaccines are given every year to children less than one year of age.

Natural News says:  “Several factors could contribute to whether an infant will have an adverse reaction to vaccines, including a genetic predisposition, illness (which may be a contraindication to vaccine administration), quality of vaccines (which can vary by manufacturing methods), and sensitivity to one or more vaccine components. Some infants might be more likely to experience an adverse reaction due to biochemical or synergistic toxicity associated with concurrent administration of multiple vaccines.”

But there are reasonable explanations for the study findings that Natural News conveniently omits. Even of the original research list, there are a number of limitations that may account for the results. The VAERS states:  “At this age, infants are at greatest risk for certain medical adverse events, including high fevers, seizures, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some infants will experience these medical events shortly after a vaccination by coincidence.  These coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a medical condition or from a vaccination. Therefore, vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccination was the cause.”  While 38,000 adverse reactions represents a lot of children and this number needs to be reduced, it is less than ½% of infants vaccinated.

In a second article published on Natural News, staff writer Ethan Huff writes that vaccines are responsible for causing far more injuries and deaths than gun accidents.  The only two sources listed for this article were the Natural News website and the website of Robert Scott Bell, a radio host and natural health advocate.  The statistics used in this article also came from VAERS, but Natural News contends that this only accounts for a small fraction of the injuries and deaths caused by vaccinations.  The article provides no evidence for this statement, but continues, “…it is clear that vaccines are a much more serious threat to public health than guns.”

Natural News states that 13% of the 30,000 vaccine cases reported annually lead to injury or death and writes that vaccines kill four times as many children every year than firearm accidents.  Natural News concludes by encouraging readers to teach children to build their immunity through regular sunlight exposure, clean water, superfood supplements and various other natural interventions.

Twisting statistics to draw false conclusions is a common tactic of anti-vaccine groups. The National Network for Immunization Information (NNii) points out that without vaccines, the diseases we’re currently protected from will return, because many are just a plane ride away in a developing nation.  NNii also points out that children who aren’t vaccinated for measles are 35 times more likely than immunized children to catch the disease. Parents should be weary of secondhand statistics and speak with their child’s pediatrician to make informed vaccine decisions. 

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