The Fallacy of using Snopes to validate the truth, Part I

Introduction

In this article, we will examine an article published on Snopes, regarding deaths associated with the Gardasil HPV Vaccine. The Snopes’ article contains several distortions and omissions. What is presented here will be verified as fact by citing reliable sources at the end of the article.

The Snopes Article we are examining can be found here: http://www.snopes.com/medical/drugs/gardasil.asp

Blowing smoke about the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)

Snopes takes issue with the use of the VAERS Database to establish a count of deaths occurring after the administration of Gardasil. Of note in this article, Snopes attempts to imply that Vaccine Refusers are falsifying entries to VAERS in this quote:

(To illustrate this concept, we offer the following [admittedly far-fetched] scenario: A man who received a flu vaccination and then accidentally hit his hand with a hammer a few hours later might legitimately report that soon after he received the flu vaccine, his hand began to throb painfully. Although such a report would be literally true, it would not establish any causal connection between the flu vaccine and the adverse medical symptom of a throbbing, painful hand.)

This is to manipulate the mind of the viewer with the idea that there are excessive numbers of reports in VAERS. Of important note, VAERS itself claims that one of its flaws is underreporting. Snopes also skips over the fact that anyone filing a false report with VAERS is subject to a $250K fine plus prison. These and other typical Provax arguments against VAERS are fully debunked in another post (VAERS – A database full of lies?), so we’ll dispense with further examination of this straw man argument, and cut to the chase – shining light on the claims Snopes makes in support of Gardasil’s safety, what is wrong with their reasoning, and what key information is missing from their research.

Establishing a [flimsy] foundation of safety

Snopes cites 5 Gardasil Clinical trials as confirming the safety of the vaccine:

As the CDC stated in its 2009 article on “Reports of Health Concerns Following HPV Vaccination,” before the Gardasil HPV vaccine was licensed it was studied in five clinical trials involving over 21,000 girls and women of ages 9 through 26. Since that licensing the “CDC and FDA have been closely monitoring the safety of the HPV vaccine” and found that:

All serious reports for Gardasil have been carefully analyzed by medical experts. Experts have not found a common medical pattern to the reports of serious adverse events reported for Gardasil that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine.

As of December 31, 2008, there have been 32 U.S. reports of death among females who have received the vaccine. There was no common pattern to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine.

 

The foundation is based on omission

According to Merck’s Gardasil Insert, the fact of the matter is, there were 7 clinical trials of Gardasil[1] (not 5) for studying safety, conducted by Merck (not the FDA) during the vaccine approval process. None of the safety trials were double-blind, the gold standard for scientific research. Additionally, 5 of those trials used a vaccine adjuvant as the control. Two other trials, one saline-controlled, and the other uncontrolled were also performed.

To truly isolate the safety of the vaccine adjuvant, the key point of controversy when it comes to vaccine safety, all tests should have been saline-controlled.

The 5 trials using Amorphous Aluminum Hydroxyphosphate Sulfate (a vaccine adjuvant) as the control essentially amount to comparing poison to poison, and concluding that since both the experiment and control groups achieved similar results, the product is therefore safe.

The published results of all 7 trials were lumped together in one report. The results of the saline-controlled trial, the one that is most likely to speak to the safety of the product, are obfuscated. Establishing why “scientists” might choose to combine their data this way is left as an exercise for the reader.

Further Omissions

It is a common practice for scientists to take shortcuts by relying on previous studies. In other words, they assume the results of a prior study are correct, and they can short-circuit their study process by not re-examining past experiments. This is the rationale behind the 5 adjuvant-controlled studies, the adjuvants are proven “safe” by prior studies.

One such study from 2007 is HUMAN HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT FOR ALUMINIUM, ALUMINIUM OXIDE, AND ALUMINIUM HYDROXIDE[2] which concludes that these aluminum-based salts commonly used as vaccine adjuvants, are safe for human use.

The scientists involved in this study reach this conclusion despite their own acknowledgement of Scientific Data Gaps in their study, including one they cite as a “Major” Scientifice Data Gap:

At present, there is no long-term animal bioassay focusing on the neurotoxic effects of aluminium.

What this means, there have been no animal-based experiments to study the neurotoxic effects of aluminum. Human studies are considered to be unethical according to the Nuremberg Code, established shortly after the discovery of atrocities during World War II.

The scientists go on to rationalize their choice to ignore this Major Scientific Data Gap:

Although this represents a major scientific data gap, the Panel questioned whether the availability of such a study would greatly improve our ability to establish human exposure guidelines for aluminium, given the availability of direct epidemiological evidence in this regard.

-and-

The Panel also noted the lack of data on neurodevelopmental effects in animals, but was unclear on the need for additional data in this regard for risk assessment purposes.

In other words, they voted as a group to ignore this gap. Last time I checked, Science was not a democratic process.

Of course, while making that decision, they chose to make recommendations for others who might come after them, who would do such an animal study into the long term neurotoxic effects of aluminum salts:

If such a study were to be conducted for the purpose of informing human health risk assessment, careful consideration should be given to the neurological endpoints that would be of most relevance to humans, the most appropriate animal species and route of exposure, and the detailed experimental design, including the number of animals tested, and number and selection of doses.

Feel your mind looping around like a pretzel? Me too. We don’t need this data, but we thought long and hard about what we would do IF we were to seek that data.

In conclusion

Snopes employs logical fallacies and omission of fact to arrive at their conclusions of whether an idea is true or false.

Citations

  1. Merck Gardasil Product Insert (6.1 / Page 4)
    http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/g/gardasil/gardasil_pi.pdf
  2. HUMAN HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT FOR ALUMINIUM, ALUMINIUM OXIDE, AND ALUMINIUM HYDROXIDE  (Scroll to Scientific Data Gaps)
    National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782734/
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