Antivaccine nonsense

The antivax bizarro world view of vaccine safety studies

Antivaxxers have weaponized a huge multinational vaccine safety study of 99 million patient records that found rare adverse events and concluded that the risks of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the benefits. How? A combination of the Nirvana fallacy and spin.

Last month month, a large multinational research group published a study in the journal Vaccine using the Global Vaccine Data Network (GVDN) to examine thirteen medical conditions that the group considered “adverse events of special interest” potentially associated with COVID-19 vaccination. In the study, they examined the records of more than 99 million vaccinated individuals in eight countries, with the intention of identifying higher-than-expected cases of one or more of these conditions after a COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccines investigated included the most commonly used vaccines, the mRNA-based vaccines distributed by Pfizer and Moderna, as well as nonreplicating adenovirus vector-based vaccines. and protein-based vaccines. The GVDN network includes Argentina, Australia – New South Wales, Australia – Victoria, Canada – British Columbia, Canada – Ontario, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand, and Scotland, and the healthcare data studied was comprised of either individual- or population-level data, depending on the availability in the study sites. Overall, it was a massive undertaking that also belies the frequent antivax lie that vaccines aren’t studied for safety and efficacy.

It’s also a good case study to show how antivaxxers spin even a study that shows—as this study did—specific vaccines to be quite safe, with only rare serious adverse events associated with them, into antivax propaganda used to fear monger about vaccines. The way they do this is through two tactics. One is to falsely portray the risk-benefit ratio of vaccines as unacceptable by falsely decreasing the denominator (the benefit) by claiming that the vaccines have little or no benefit. The other is through the Nirvana fallacy, in which any deviation from a perfectly safe vaccine with zero adverse events is used to portray the vaccine as hopelessly dangerous. In the two weeks since this study was published, I’ve seen antivaxxers doing both and therefore thought that a discussion of this study and the antivax reaction to it would be useful to our readers. The reality-based interpretation of the study is that it is yet more evidence that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh the tiny risks of serious adverse events. The antivax interpretation is, of course, that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous, toxic sludge.

Let’s dig in.

99 million patient records, and this is all GVDN found

Given the size and the scope of the study, first let’s reproduce the chart showing which vaccines were studied:

Table 2. Total number of vaccinations by brand.

Vaccine platformVaccine brandTotal doses
InactivatedCovilo or SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell) [Sinopharm (Beijing)]134,550
Covaxin [Bharat Biotech]1,660
CoronaVac or Sinovac [Sinovac Biotech]31,598
Inactivated (Vero cell) [Sinopharm (Wuhan)]623
Nucleic acid-basedComirnaty or Riltozinameran or Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Bivalent [Pfizer/BioNTech]3,516,963
Comirnaty or Tozinameran [Pfizer/BioNTech or Fosun-BioNTech]183,677,660
Comirnaty or Tozinameran Paediatric [Pfizer/BioNTech or Fosun-BioNTech]2,439,086
Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron [Moderna]2,750,476
Elasomeran or Spikevax or TAK-919 Half Dose [Moderna or Takeda]400,395
Elasomeran or Spikevax or TAK-919 [Moderna or Takeda]36,222,514
Protein-basedMVC-COV1901 [Medigen]16
Covovax or Nuvaxoid [Novavax or Serum Institute of India]66,856
Non-replicating viral vectorConvidecia or Convidence [CanSino]3,938
Covishield or Vaxzevria [AstraZeneca or Serum Institute of India]23,094,620
Sputnik Light or Gam-COVID-Vac [Gamaleya Research Institute]26
Sputnik V [Gamaleya Research Institute]84,460
Janssen [Janssen/Johnson & Johnson]1,137,505

In brief, a total of 183,559,462 doses of BNT162b2, 36,178,442 doses of mRNA-1273, and 23,093,399 doses of ChAdOx1 were administered across participating sites during the study period to a grand total of 99,068,901 vaccinated individuals. As for the study period, I’ll just quote the methods:

The study periods varied across countries, commencing on the date of the site-specific COVID-19 vaccination program rollout, and concluding at the end of data availability (Table 1). In general, the study periods spanned from December 2020 until August 2023. The shortest study period observed occurred in Australia – New South Wales, including 11 months from February 2021 to December 2021. Argentina had the longest study period, from December 2020 to August 2023, encompassing a total of 32 months.

The risk intervals used after each dose were 0–7 days, 8–21 days, 22–42 days, and 0–42 days. For each vaccination dose, day 0 was denoted the day of vaccine receipt. For this manuscript, we present results for the risk interval of 0–42 days only.

I can tell what antivaxxers will say right here, namely that the followup period was way too short. To that, I like to point out yet again that adverse events attributable to vaccination almost always occur shortly after vaccination, as in days to a couple of weeks. But what were these “adverse events of special interest” (AESI)? I’ve discussed the concept before in the context of a “reanalysis” of the original Pfizer randomized controlled clinical trial (RCT) data used to approve its vaccine and how this “reanalysis” was basically an exercise in extended data mining and p-hacking, or, as I like to call it, statistically torturing the data until they confess.  In any event SAESIs were defined by the Brighton Collaborative, a group dedicated to vaccine safety and improving the scientific rigor of vaccine science. For purposes of the current study, the SAESIs chosen to be studied included these 13 conditions:

  • Myocarditis. This is inflammation of the heart muscle, regardless of cause.
  • Pericarditis. This is inflammation of the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome. GBS is a rare rapid-onset autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks peripheral nerves, resulting in demyelination that causes muscle weakness and paralysis.
  • Transverse myelitis. This is inflammation of the spinal cord that can result in paralysis. Before the pandemic, antivaxxers tried to blame Gardasil for a case of transverse myelitis.
  • Bell’s palsy. This is idiopathic and almost always temporary paralysis of one side of the face due to loss of function of the facial nerve. This was one condition that was suspected very early on during the vaccination program.
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. This condition that involves inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, usually due to autoimmune disease.
  • Convulsions or seizures.
  • Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. These are blood clots that form in the brain’s venous sinuses (that I and others have written about before).
  • Splanchnic vein thrombosis, blood clots that form in the splanchnic veins; i.e. the veins that supply the internal organs in the abdomen, such as intestines and liver.
  • Pulmonary embolism. These are blood clots that usually originate in the legs and travel to the lungs. Depending on how large they are, they can be life-threatening.
  • Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome. This is a condition in which blood clots form in large blood vessels and use up platelets, resulting in a low platelet count.
  • Thrombocytopenia, or low blood platelets.
  • Immune thrombocytopenia. This is an autoimmune disorder that leads to low blood platelets because the immune system attacks them.

Again, this subset of conditions was selected on the basis of safety signals in the safety data for COVID-19 from the much larger list published by the Brighton Collaborative. The followup came to 23,168,335 person-years of followup, with comparison made to the expected (background) rates for these conditions, which were obtained by participating sites using pre-COVID-19 vaccination healthcare data stratified by age and sex using data from 2015 to 2019 (2019–2020 for Denmark). A ratio of observed/expected (OE) was then calculated for each AESI.

So, what did the investigators find? I’ll summarize. An elevated observed/expected ratio was observed for the following key AESIs:

  • Gillain-Barré syndrome (2.49x elevated OE) following the first dose of the ChAdOx1 vaccine (replication-deficient adenovirus-based vaccine, AstraZeneca). This signal was not observed for the other vaccines.
  • Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (3.23x elevated OE) following the first dose of the ChAdOx1 vaccine (replication-deficient adenovirus-based vaccine, AstraZeneca).
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (3.78x elevated OE) following the first dose of mRNA-1273 vaccine (Moderna).
  • Pericarditis (6.9x elevated OE after a third dose of ChAdOx1-based vaccine); 1.7x and 2.6x elevated OE after the first and fourth doses of mRNA-1273 (Moderna). I note that the patter with the Moderna vaccine is rather odd (first and fourth dose, but no elevated risk otherwise), which suggests to me a possible spurious result. See table following this list.
  • Myocarditis was associated with the mRNA vaccines at all doses, confirming a lot of earlier findings, but less so with the adenovirus-based vaccines. See table below.
Safety study chart 1

This might sound very scary, and indeed antivaxxers have even made a chart to make it look that way:

Notice how they make the list as long as possible by breaking out risks after different doses and then include a scary graphic of a syringe and needle plus illustrations of SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Remember, though, that these are relative ratios and say nothing about the actual number of AESIs being examined. If you look at the absolute numbers, the results become a lot less scary. For example, After the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, there was a 3.2x greater-than-expected risk of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis observed in 69 events, compared to an expected 21.That’s out of over 23 million doses of this vaccine. Similarly for Guillain-Barré syndrome, 76 events were expected, but 190 events were observed. That’s out of over 23 million doses of this vaccine. As for acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, seven cases were observed after vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine compared to the two cases that would be expected. That’s out of 183 million doses.

For example, the authors also found a possible safety signal for transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, but, again, look at the raw numbers. There were seven cases of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis after vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine (out of nearly 184 million doses), versus the expected number of two. In other words, these adverse events are quite rare. They might be elevated after vaccination but remain rare. I also like to point out that being able to detect single digit numbers of adverse events after 180+ million doses of vaccines rather puts the lie to claims by antivaxxers that we can’t detect rare adverse events.

There is another issue, as well. Remember the comparator: The populations in these countries from 2015 to 2019; i.e., the years immediately prepandemic. The question is whether the denominator (expected/background rate) was affected by the pandemic, and likely it was given this:

Meanwhile, the chances of having a neurological event after a Covid infection were up to 617-fold higher than following COVID vaccination, which suggests “the benefits of vaccination substantially outweigh the risks,” according to the Vaccine study researchers. The risk of developing myocarditis is higher post-Covid infection than after getting a Covid vaccine, according to Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, professor of Immunobiology at Yale University. Myocarditis risk after the second dose of a Covid vaccine is 35.9 per 100,000 people, compared to a 64.9 per 100,000 risk after Covid infection. The risk of developing Guillain-Barre syndrome after Covid infection was six times greater, and the risk of developing it after vaccination was 0.41 times greater than the control group, according to a 2023 study published in Neurology.

Consequently, although the elevated risk of various SAESIs associated with these vaccines appears to be significantly elevated (although still rare) after vaccination with certain COVID-19 vaccines, the elevated risk might be less than the investigators estimated if COVID-19 itself led to elevations in the rates of these conditions above baseline.

Of course, none of these considerations trouble antivaxxers, who immediately seized on the study to portray vaccines as deadly.

Steve Kirsch’s gonna Steve Kirsch: Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love any study that I can spin

You already saw how one antivaxxer on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, spun the results by leaving out absolute numbers and context. Leave it to everyone’s favorite tech bro turned rabid (and particularly stupid) antivaxxer, Steve Kirsch, to crank the fear mongering up to 11:

new study of over 99 million vaccinated people has been highly promoted in the press with headlines like “Covid Vaccines Linked To Small Increase In Heart And Brain Disorders, Study Finds—But Risk From Infection Is Far Higher.”

I’m going to convince you that this is bullshit.

Oh, goody. Whenever Mr. Kirsch says something like this, I know that I’m about to be buried in a veritable pile of stinking, drippy diarrheal bullshit. He starts by referring to the chart made by the antivaxxer above and asking:

A safe vaccine would be indistinguishable from a placebo. Does this look safe to you?

See what I said about the Nirvana fallacy? No, Mr. Kirsch. No one in the public health community of scientists and physicians has ever said that a safe vaccine must have an adverse events profile indistinguishable from that due to placebo. That’s your invention, a massive straw man based on the Nirvana fallacy, in which anything less than perfect safety (zero adverse events) and perfect efficacy (100% effective in preventing not just disease but transmission) is viewed as a reason to reject the vaccine. Rather, a safe vaccine is one that is effective and has an acceptable adverse reaction profile in the context of the risk of harm to the population from the disease being vaccinated against.

As predicted, Mr. Kirsch also pulled out the ever-popular antivax appeal to “long term” safety:

They only looked for 42 days after the shots since everyone knows you can’t get adverse events after 42 days (I’m being sarcastic).

Actually, it’s pretty accurate to say that adverse events six or more weeks after vaccination are very, very rare indeed. I’ll just cite this article summarizing the question, as I like to do whenever antivaxxers drop this trope on me. If one wants to quibble, the article does acknowledge some adverse events up to eight weeks after vaccination, but Mr. Kirsch isn’t being that pedantic. For him, any time frame after vaccination chosen for examining adverse events would be too short because he is an antivaxxer and for antivaxxers no time frame is “long term enough” for any vaccine safety study.

Next up:

They didn’t evaluate mortality due to the shot since everyone knows the vaccines are safe and didn’t kill anyone (I’m being sarcastic).

Because, of course, Mr. Kirsch falsely believes that the vaccines have killed millions of people. Here’s the thing, though. First, this study was designed to look at AESIs based on the literature thus far about COVID-19 vaccine safety. If the vaccine were as deadly as Mr. Kirsch deludedly believes it to be, it would have shown up long ago, picked up by the vaccine safety monitoring systems in the US, Europe, Australia, Canada, etc. (Seriously, the level of utter fantasy-based thinking that it takes to believe that tens of millions of deaths would either not be noticed by these systems or would be covered up is truly difficult for science-based people to comprehend.) Here, he’s covering up the flimsiness of his critique with sarcasm.

Next up:

They found clearly increased risk of the various AESI, but the end conclusion is that the risks after COVID infection are far higher, so people should take the shots. This is unbelievable. I don’t know a single cardiologist whose business dropped after the COVID vaccines rolled out. Do you?

Actually, the study itself says almost nothing about the risks of the shots relative to the risks from COVID-19. Seriously. Go read it. I’ll wait. Mr. Kirsch is conflating an interview with Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, professor of Immunobiology at Yale University (which I quoted above) with the actual conclusions of the paper.

Here’s basically all the paper says about the risk-benefit ratio:

The safety signals identified in this study should be evaluated in the context of their rarity, severity, and clinical relevance. Moreover, overall risk–benefit evaluations of vaccination should take the risk associated with infection into account, as multiple studies demonstrated higher risk of developing the events under study, such as GBS, myocarditis, or ADEM, following SARS-CoV-2 infection than vaccination.

In other words, it’s saying that these safety signals should be contextualized in terms of their clinical relevance and the risk of these AESIs relative to the risk from the disease, not the definitive statement straw-manned by Mr. Kirsch. He also throws in an appeal to personal incredulity for good measure. Here’s a hint: Just because you can’t believe something doesn’t mean it’s not true. As for the bit about the cardiologist. That’s an appeal to personal anecdote and utterly meaningless. After all, no one is saying that myocarditis isn’t a risk after certain COVID-19 vaccines, and certainly no one is claiming that cardiologists have lost business since the vaccines rolled out. Yet that doesn’t stop Mr. Kirsch from repeating that same brain-dead line again later in his post.

And, of course, there’s the conspiracy theory in which “They” are “hiding” the “truth” from you:

As usual, they aren’t allowed to share the data so you have to take their word for it.

The reason they aren’t allowed to share the data is that the databases used contain individual-level health records with protected health information (PHI). Given how Mr. Kirsch has received a stolen database from New Zealand with PHI that he’s misused to claim that COVID-19 vaccines have killed 13 million people. He even threatened to release PHI from the stolen database that he has as a means of pressuring the New Zealand government. So, yes. I wouldn’t let Mr. Kirsch anywhere near PHI of any kind either. He’s proven himself to be utterly untrustworthy.

The rest of Mr. Kirsch’s diatribe consists mainly of him cherry picking a single study to claim that COVID-19 vaccines don’t work. (Remember, if there is no benefit to the vaccine, then any risk at all from it is unacceptable, which is why antivaxxers try their damnedest to deny any benefit at all from the vaccines or to argue that the benefit is so minimal as not to be worth even the rare adverse event.) He cites a dubious year-old analysis of the VAERS database from Josh Guetzkow, who has long been trying to portray antivax crankery as “suppressed.”

He then argues that, even if it is true that the risk of various adverse events is higher with COVID-19 than with the vaccine:

But even if that was true (which it isn’t), it doesn’t matter because, as I mentioned earlier, the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting COVID, so the vaccine is simply adding to the risk.

Again, Mr. Kirsch bases this assertion on one cherry picked study and then cites his own ridiculous Internet/Substack survey as though it were evidence of anything other than that his audience believes that COVID-19 vaccines cause horrific complications and an antivax propaganda film disguised as a documentary (and promoted by The Epoch Times), The Unseen Crisis. As is typical of such “documentaries,” it largely consists of anecdotes by people who blame COVID-19 vaccines for their various and sundry health problems and complaining that doctors wont’ believe them, interspersed with interviews with antivax quacks like Robert Malone, Peter McCullough, and others attributing all sorts of harms to the vaccines, whether there’s good evidence that those harms were caused by the vaccines or not. Mr. Kirsch notes that he’s in it, too, because of course he is.

He concludes by lying about the New Zealand data:

All my attempts at data transparency have been rejected. The health authorities have determined that you get better public health outcomes if you keep the public in the dark. So all my calls for data transparency fall on deaf ears. The best “ground truth” data we have is from the New Zealand data leak…and it clearly shows that the vaccine increases mortality. The critics acknowledge I’m right, but say that “it must be due to a confounder.” More on that coming up tomorrow.

No, as I’ve discussed, people keep telling Mr. Kirsch he’s wrong because his analysis was risibly incompetent and he could well have a biased sample from the overall database, among other problems. Kirsch is gonna Kirsch though; that is, he’ll never admit error but will instead repeatedly double down when his errors are pointed out.

Heads I win, tails you lose

In the end, this study and how antivaxxers have spun it is an excellent example of “Heads I win, tails you lose.” While the study puts the lie to the ideas that vaccines aren’t studied for safety, that we don’t carefully study potential adverse events from vaccination, and that we can’t detect rare events in vaccine safety studies, like all vaccine safety studies that acknowledge rare adverse events due to vaccination, it provides grist for the antivax propaganda mill. Again, if you assume, as antivaxxers do, that vaccines don’t work, then of course you’re going to conclude that the adverse event profile of any vaccine should be indistinguishable from placebo because if an intervention has no benefit then even one adverse event makes the risk-benefit ratio one divided by zero, or infinity. Similarly, if you don’t believe that the disease is dangerous (as antivaxxers try to portray COVID-19, then no adverse events are acceptable because you don’t need the vaccine. In any event, it is a fantasyland antivaxxers are living in, because no pharmaceutical product that is effective is 100% safe. In the real world we have to weigh risks versus benefits. In antivaccine world, only the risks matter, and no risk, no matter how small, is acceptable.

As I said before, it’s the Nirvana fallacy combined with trying to convince you that vaccines don’t work. No matter how safe a study demonstrates a given vaccine to be, as this study demonstrates the COVID-19 vaccine to be very safe but not perfectly safe, antivaxxers will spin it by emphasizing only the risk side of the equation. They used to do it long before the pandemic, and they do it with a vengeance now.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

29 replies on “The antivax bizarro world view of vaccine safety studies”

I’ve always suspected that anti-vaxxers have real problems understanding numbers as Orac shows:
… adverse events are extremely rare
observed vs expected is an entirely new to them
… about comparators in this case
… huge numbers of subjects/ doses
None of this impresses true believers.

Instead, their ‘instructors’ stress horrifying “injuries” and amplify histrionic anecdotes. Similarly, vaccines-cause-autism believers dismiss studies like KiGGS and Jain et al which both had huge numbers of subjects and no hint of an effect.

Earlier in the pandemic, I looked up actual numbers of myocarditis etc and blood clots for the relevant vaccines which were reported publicly and later affected whether vaccines were available ( J&J) and to whom they were prescribed ( all brands).

Why didn’t the entrenched forces of pharma and deep state/ globalism just cover-up results?


blockquote>I’ve always suspected that anti-vaxxers have real problems understanding numbers as Orac shows:



I made a comment related to this just a minute ago (it hasn’t populated yet). I said I think the choice made is simple: it’s easy for them to present a single number and “explain” why it doesn’t tell the true story than it is for them to attack all of the conclusions at once.

Why didn’t the entrenched forces of pharma and deep state/ globalism just cover-up results?

How often do the anti-vacc folks claim the data from studies like this and vaccine safety has been covered up? That’s a big line from the climate change deniers despite the fact that climate data is widely available: the deniers know their followers are too lazy to question the unavailability claim so they get away with it.

Antivaxers don’t “have real problems understanding numbers”. They quite readily create their own propagandistic understandings. What is true is the public at large has real problems understanding numbers the way research professionals present them. It’s not the public’s fault the researchers don’t help them understand, but instead talk to one another in arcane professional terms that are easily exploited by propagandists.

Under the circumstances — a demonization of COVID vaccines that has resulted in massive numbers of preventable death — it’s simply grossly irresponsible to foreground — as these authors do — the increase in incidence as a multiplier without context regarding 1. the overall still miniscule raw numbers involved, 2. possible confounders (the assumptions behind the ‘predicted’ comparators, and 3. the potential cost of NOT vaccinating.

If. as Orac says, “the reality-based interpretation is that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh the tiny risks” then the authors need to say that in clear language, not rely on commenters in the fractured blogosphere to explain it. Especially since — unless they live under a rock — they should understand how much media-play distortions of their work are going to get.

If. as Orac says, “the reality-based interpretation is that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh the tiny risks” then the authors need to say that in clear language, not rely on commenters in the fractured blogosphere to explain it.

True, but I can almost understand why they didn’t and give them a break: they aren’t accustomed to writing for the person on the street, they’re accustomed to writing for people who will take the time to read and understand the material in total.

Did you look at the study? The results summary at the beginning highlights ONLY the multipliers vs. “predicted”. My assumption, fwiw, is that this is not a tell of some antivax bias on their part, but just some convention within their research community. This would be what we call structural bias, the unintended consequences of embedded routines….
Which is exactly one of the kinds of bias a proper skeptical stance requires any scientific rhetor to screen their work for.
Just apply a little critical here: Try to take the ‘I’m just accustomed to communicating to people who understand the material in toto.’ excuse into other situations. If you’re fair about it, I can’t imagine that won’t reveal how pathetic it is.

“Did you look at the study? ” I did. I don’t think my comment is pathetic. I’m saying the same thing you are, but not in as language equally harsh.
We’re both saying they wrote as they did due to their training/background. My point is they are accustomed to doing that since they automatically assume the audience is people with their background. Your point is that they need to take a broader view and expand the explanation for a more general readership. I agree they should be able to do that: I’m not sure they could do a good job at that in a formal publication or that it would be accepted. I have experience writing statistical work (my field): it seems to me summarizing medical research is much more complicated.

I really don’t expect much from anti-vaxxers/ alties/ their followers- who probably don’t actually read research or understand it- BUT
I am more concerned about how MSM** often doesn’t explain pertinent details about how vaccines work/ how they reduce illness/ death.
Standard news sources have enough money to pay people who do have the skills to translate journal speech into everyday English for a general audience.

HCW/ counsellors have to translate situations/ conditions/ treatments to non-experts every day.

** of course, many alties/ anti-vaxxers avoid MSM like the plague (which they might contract someday).

To be fair, most people are bad at math and probabilities (see Tversky and Kahneman’s work on heuristics and biases, and the simulations they ran – and the subsequent elaborate literature).

It’s just that not everybody takes that lack of knowledge and tries to use it to challenge experts. It’s the combination of lack of knowledge and arrogance that makes an anti-vaccine leader. With a dash, for many, of willing to be dishonest.

To be fair, most people would understand that an increase from 2 to 7 of an adverse event across 180,000,000 doses is no big deal if you express it that way, rather than 350% increase.

You can’t put this all on the willful ignorance or duplicity of antivaxers. If the presentation of science plays into their propaganda in ways that could be easily adjusted, that’s unconscionable. Of course, they’ll misrepresent it one way or another, but expressed differently it will make them work harder and make the bs easier to rebut. (Iow, don’t fall into a nirvana fallacy to defend researchers failing to consider the consequences of how they express their findings.)

Not to mention that antivaxxers think that 0.001 is an insignificant number when speaking about COVID deaths and 0.000001 is a horrible big when speaking about vaccine side effects.

This is unbelievable. I don’t know a single cardiologist whose business dropped after the COVID vaccines rolled out. Do you?

Well no, I don’t know a cardiologist whose business dropped after the vaccines rolled out. But then, I don’t know any cardiologists. I doubt many of his followers do either, but it’s a fair bet they aren’t sharp enough to make that point to themselves.

The whole bit of Kirsch giving a single statistic as representative of the study is, IMO, a choice made for a very specific reason: it’s much easier to attack a single summary value than it is to present the entire set and get into a detailed discussion of why they are, in total, wrong. It’s the same game as simply reporting a p-value without any estimate of error.

As we stress to our students: data analysis is very difficult to do correctly but very easy for people to lie about. Kirsch is the poster child for that lesson.

I used to not know any cardiologists, until the vaccines rolled out. Some time after a young adult I know was vaxed, he also had Covid, after which we had to visit a cardiologist twice.

The heart was fine, but that individual had weird heart rhythm problems. Think about a car with a good engine but faulty gas pedal, that causes it to rev up and down without a good reason.

It mostly went away after about 5 months

So, the “weird heart rhythm problems” had nothing to do with the heart? If the heart was normal, then why were the heart rhythms “weird” instead of normal?

Speaking as a physician who deals with cardiology, normal sinus rhythm is, well, normal. Any other “weird” rhythm suggests that there is significant cardiac pathology.

More evidence that it’s dangerous to know Igor.

Why don’t the major news media investigate AVPS?

“I used to not know any cardiologists”

Now you know one. Have they shared their business case load profile with you?

I imagine they put their gadgets away when you told them what the diagnosis and prognosis was.

I know many cardiologists starting twenty years ago when my fourteen year old child was diagnosed with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy ( ). There were three different cardiologists involved in his open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic a dozen years ago. Where we also met several other people getting heart surgery (included some kids).

Trust me, visiting a cardiologist twice does not make you any kind of expert. Especially since there are many formally healthy people who had the hearts damaged by actual Covid infection, or some other infection.

You know, something is making my mind twitch about Igor’s relationship with a cardiologist. I seriously doubt said (alledged) cardiologist will discuss a patients medical history to anyone else but the patient (patient confidentiality is taken seriously), can’t seem to put my finger on it. But now the pennies dropped . LIAR.

Related to the above:
“Three non-profit companies have failed in their court bid to stop the government from making available Covid-19 vaccinations. They claimed “strange and unusual medical conditions” were experienced by some people who received the vaccine.
Covid Core Alliance, Transformative Health Justice, and Free the Children – Save the Nation, supported by some doctors, wanted a final order compelling the Minister of Health, the acting director general of health, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), and Treasury, to “cease and desist” vaccinations and to properly investigate their effects…
But Pretoria high court Judge Norman Davis dismissed the application, with costs…
“It has not been established that the harm which the applicants aspire to prevent, actually exists, and even if it may exist in rare or exceptional cases, the benefit of vaccination far outweighs that harm,” he said.”
Ruling here. Warning: PDF and 9.4MB in size.

I heard it in the news. He has had at least 134 vaccinations. If we have to believe the anti-vaxxers, he should be as dead as a dodo., but he is still alive and well and hasn’t had covid.

He must be some sort of superhuman, unlike all those weak, wimpy snowflake anti-vaxxers….

It’s kind of fun to hear antivaxers dismissing this story as “just an anecdote”, when they’re not outright denying it could have happened.

It’s supposed to be incredible that someone could survive so many vaccinations, but we’re asked to believe that most or all of them have a slew of acquaintances and relatives who’ve been severely sickened or died of Covid vaccines* (while nobody they know has ever suffered serious consequences of Covid-19 itself).

*the dreaded AntiVaxer Proximity Syndrome

In other news….

Mike Adams continues his expose of plots to destroy Humanity, America and People in general,
this one is by the Zioncons
sometimes people tell you who they are, listen to them. Today, NN.

Gary Null ( yesterday, PRN) reveals how the US economy is a disaster with no hope for recovery.

Igor Chudov ( Substack) uses the illustration Orac included here but credits @gorskon. Now I wonder why he just didn’t direct his readers to this site?

I was about to write that my three examples succinctly illustrate how alt med writers operate BUT when I checked NN’s article about ZIONcons ** it wasn’t there 2 hours later!

They display racist, sexist, nativist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-semitic sentiments although often disguised as a return to traditional values and natural lifestyles. Families lived on one income and one spouse stayed home to do a ‘very important job’. Small communities/ churches took care of people so there was no need for governmental intervention. People lived righteously in small towns and on farms close to nature. Schools taught values, citizenship, character and morality without need for “woke-ism” or universities.

Alt med/ anti-vax/ contrarians often broadcast the exact opposite of generally accepted news. The economy is always terrible and getting worse, on the brink of collapse. This is easy to cross check with business channels reporting daily, 24 hours globally.

Although Igor uses Orac’s imagery/ X account, he doesn’t overtly recommend his sites to readers. Why not just say, “Orac is a great educator and entertaining writer, read his articles?”
I venture that this is a weak version of what alties do with general information: they steer readers away from standard news, educational websites and above all, Wikipedia. If Igor’s regulars read RI or SBM, they would learn more than what the article says:
they would also see why Igor is corrected or ridiculed and how standard tropes are obliterated by Orac and company.

** not the first time he used the word

Remember, the reason Igor posts here (in addition to trolling) is his hope of spinning off a Substack subscription or two, although this is infertile ground. His linking to articles here not only would risk enlightening his credulous followers, but those adoring Costco women might abandon him for Orac.

Can’t take that chance.

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