This latest is from Dr. Steven Novella, who writes for The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: Your Escape to Reality.
Wow. That sounds like a very official and trustworthy source! A neurologist. At Yale! Take a deep breath and check this out before going forward…
Before we go being all impressed and start taking Novella’s word for things, just because he wears a fancy white coat and works at a prestigious hospital (which gets a lot of money from the makers of vaccines) let’s take a little time to analyze Dr. Novella’s latest blog post.
But first, I’d like to look at the title of the blog… Specifically, let’s talk about “reality.”
“Reality.” What is reality? Relax, I’m not going off into philosophy or “woo.”
I’m asking, “How is the word ‘reality’ defined in the dictionary?”
Yeah. I know. I “Googled it.” Just to be sure… let’s get a second opinion from Merriam Webster:
I really do want to be fair. Let’s see just how firmly aligned with “reality” Dr. Novella’s most recent blog post is.
As you read Dr. Novella’s piece… you will notice that he says:
A recent study looks at the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Denmark over the last 20 years and finds that 60% of the increased [sic] in prevalence can be accounted for by changes in diagnostic practices.”
Hmmm… a “recent study” may be true, but it’s probably more accurate to say, “A recently published report of a study…” since the report of the study has just been published in JAMA Pediatrics. The study itself was conducted between 1995 and the end of 2011, according to the JAMA Pediatrics article.
Let’s examine Dr. Novella’s statement further… “in Denmark” is true. “… over the last 20 years…” Now, wait a minute… That’s not exactly true. It’s not “the true situation that exists” and it’s not “something that actually happened.”
When Dr. Novella refers to “the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder… over the last 20 years,” what he isn’t telling you is that NONE of the individuals in the study were born after 1991 – so the results of the study in Denmark have NOTHING to do with the explosion of autism in the United States, which really took off in 1990-1991, after the addition of the Hepatitis B vaccine and the HiB vaccine to the infant schedule. So his claim that the Danish Study has ANYTHING to do with the last 20 years is not based in reality. At all.
When we go to the ACTUAL STUDY, we see that the study participants were born between 1980 and 1991.
Design, Setting, and Participants We used a population-based birth cohort approach that includes information on all individuals with permanent residence in Denmark. We assessed all children born alive from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1991, in Denmark (n = 677 915).”
I know we just had a change in the year, since New Year’s Eve was just 10 days ago, but really? It’s now 2015. If I subtract 20 from 2015, I get 1995.
What’s going on here?
1. Maybe Dr. Novella made a math error?
2. Maybe, since he chose to leave out the information on the birth dates of the study cohort, he was actively trying to deceive you.
I choose answer number 2. Which is what Dr. Novella’s article is.
Let’s move on and see what else we find…
Much of the rest of Dr. Novella’s piece… contains bits and pieces of information cut and pasted from the actual JAMA Pediatrics report. If you compare his piece with the JAMA Pediatrics article, you will notice a few other important things Dr. Novella left out…
Like the fact that the results, conclusions, and relevance of the study are applicable ONLY to DANISH children who were born DURING the years 1980-1991.
Conclusions and Relevance Changes in reporting practices can account for most (60%) of the increase in the observed prevalence of ASDs in children born from 1980 through 1991 in Denmark. Hence, the study supports the argument that the apparent increase in ASDs in recent years is in large part attributable to changes in reporting practices.” (IN DENMARK!!!)
Let’s look at the last word from Dr. Novella:
This data contradicts claims that environmental factors have been increasing ASD over the last two decades.”
Really? How does it do that? Time for another
In addition to the omission of the actual ages of the individuals under study… and the “confusion” regarding how long “the last two decades” really were… (Does Dr. Novella have an issue with the reality of space and time?)
The Danish study cannot be used to draw any conclusions for children who live in the United States.
The vaccination schedule for Denmark is much less aggressive than the vaccination schedule in the United States. Comparatively speaking, children in Denmark NOW receive about 1/2 the number of vaccines as children in the U.S. during their first year of life. This is one factor contributing to the validity (“reality”) of the statement of the Danish researchers when they attempt to generalize findings based on children born between 1980-1991 and the increase in ASDs over “the last 20 years” (in Denmark). The Danish Childhood Vaccination Schedule has not changed the way the United States’ Vaccination Schedule has over the last 25 years. Because the U.S. schedule has ballooned, any comparison between children in the two countries is just… “number 2.”
Here is the current Danish Childhood Vaccination Schedule:
Here is the United States’ current Childhood Vaccination Schedule:
If you look at the Danish Vaccination Schedule and compare it with the U.S. Vaccination Schedule, you may notice some differences. While the current Danish Schedule does contain the pneumococcal vaccine, it was not added until 2007, so it wasn’t given to any infants who were included in the Danish Study. And the HiB vaccine wasn’t even invented until 1987, and wasn’t added to the Danish Schedule until 1997, so once again… none of the subjects in the Danish Study received it as infants or young children.
And what about the MMR vaccine? Oh, right! MMR vaccine was not added to the Danish Vaccination Schedule until 1987, so we can conclude with a reasonable amount of certainty that probably somewhere between 50-70% of those in the study either never received the MMR, or they received it at a much later date than do children living in the United States and vaccinated according to the CDC’s Childhood Vaccination Schedule.
As you compare the two current schedules, you will also note that in Denmark, there are no yearly flu vaccines, no meningococcal vaccine, no hepatitis B, no rotavirus, no hepatitis A vaccines and no varicella (chickenpox) vaccines… The Danish people also do not push flu vaccines or TDaP on pregnant women.
Oh, MY! you might think that Danish children are dropping dead like flies without all that protection from vaccines!
You would be wrong.
Denmark’s infant mortality rate (children who die before their first birthday) is about half the infant mortality rate of the United States.
Coincidentally? The number of vaccines given to Danish Children (currently) prior to their first birthday is TWELVE, which is less than half the number of vaccines given to children living in the United States, who receive 25-26 vaccines, depending on whether they are deemed “high risk” and receive the meningococcal vaccine.
As we ponder the differences between Dr. Novella’s version of “reality” and “what actually happened,” we may have some very pertinent questions… the first of which would be, “Why would Dr. Novella be… less than honest when he is reporting on something as important as the meteoric rise in the incidence of Autism?”
Oh. Right. I know why.
And so do you.
One last thing… In his current piece, Dr. Novella attempts to shore-up his own version of “reality” by citing two other studies: one he says is from 2014 and one from 2006. If you click the link for the “2014” study, it goes to his own write up from October 2014, and if you click the links in THAT piece, you will go to a link for the study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, with the publication date of February, 2015. (What? Maybe Dr. Novella really DOES control space and time? Just kidding.) At any rate, when you actually get to the study, it’s from 2010, and is just being PUBLISHED. I know, that’s nit-picking. Sorry. The important thing about that study is that it was an epidemiological study on the GLOBAL incidence of autism. You can probably guess by now that if we have so many problems just comparing the United States’ autism rate and contributing factors with Denmark, there are enormous issues with attempting to generalize any results from a global review to U.S. children. As for the 2006 study linked by Dr. Novella, it just goes to an abstract and there is no information AT ALL about where the study was done, who the participants were, what measures were used, or how the data was gathered and from where. We are able to go to another link that eventually gets us to a place where we are offered the chance to purchase the article for $35, but given the quality of research Dr. Novella tends to reference, I have more important things to do with my money. You do, too. I was able to get a sneak peak at the first page, and could see that the study was performed in the U.K., so I’m guessing it probably wasn’t about American children. I’m sure Dr. Novella has access to the full article, and that he didn’t just make assumptions based on reading the abstract. Perhaps he would be willing to provide it for us to review?
While we’re waiting, I suggest reading this article, which reports on the findings of a study performed at Stanford in 2011, using data on American children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The researchers analyzed data from 192 pairs of twins from California. Their findings indicate that genetics accounts for 38% of the risk for autism, and non-genetic (environmental) factors account for 62% of the risk.
And there you are! That’s your REALITY CHECK for today!
FYI: The use of Danish studies to try and convince you that the vaccine-autism connection has been “debunked” has a long history. For a good read on previous trickery of this sort, read this.
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