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Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Photon in the Darkness: Another worthless autism-vaccine study

Here is my first catch up post.  As is so often the case with people who hold anti-reality views, lying is one of their most cherished recourses.  They get so good at it, and do it so often, that they don't even realize they are doing it!  And that statement is supported by a great deal of neurological research (I suggest Dr. Shermer's books on belief for an introduction).  So it is no surprise that a sketchy journal with an anti-vax pro-disease nutter at its helm publishes a poorly researched paper.

Another worthless autism-vaccine study

In May of this year (2011), the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A published an article by Dr. Gayle DeLong, professor of economics and finance at Baruch College, that claims to show a correlation between vaccines and autism:
DeLong G. A Positive Association found between Autism Prevalence and Childhood Vaccination uptake across the U.S. Population. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A. 2011 74(14):903-916
To readers who are curious why this article would appear in Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, recall that this is the same journal that has published (thoroughly debunked) articles on autism causation by Mark Geier (four, by my count), and James Adams (two). Clearly, someone on the editorial board of this journal has a “soft spot” for autism research that wouldn’t get published anywhere else.

Getting back to DeLong (2011) - the premise of Dr. DeLong’s study is that the increase in vaccination, specifically the hepatitis B vaccine, has been associated with a corresponding rise in autism diagnosis (from IDEA data). Curiously, Dr. DeLong doesn’t explicitly mention that her study is looking at the impact of the hepatitis B vaccine, although the rise in vaccination rate she follows is due to the addition of infant hepatitis B vaccination to the recommended schedule. Figure 1 clearly shows that, in the period 1995 - 2001 (the period Dr. DeLong covers), the US uptake of DPT, polio, measles and Haemophilus influenzae B (HiB) vaccine (the line marked 4:3:1:3) were relatively constant, while the hepatitis B vaccine coverage (included in the line marked 4:3:1:3:3)  showed an increase during that period. I have taken the liberty of showing the data on vaccine uptake after 2001 to show the later trend.
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