Experience with Dr. Sherri Tenpenny on Facebook

Recently, I was perusing some anti-vaccination pages on Facebook. I came across the page of Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, quite popular in the anti-vaccine movement. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a specialization in osteopathic medicine.

Tenpenny posted a link to an article by Sayer Ji of greenmedinfo. The headline proclaims “Study Calls Into Question Primary Justification for Vaccines.” Tenpenny shared the article, saying “Did you know that the basic premise of vaccine effectiveness has been called into question?” The article states:

newly published research has revealed that in some cases no antibodies are required for immunity against some viruses.

[…]

This view, however, has been called into question by the new study:  “Although this concept may apply to other viral infections, our findings with VSV turn this view upside down, indicating that during a primary infection with this cytopathic virus, innate immunity can be sterilizing without adaptive immune contributions.”

Does this strike a mortal blow to the antibody theory which underlies vaccinology, and constitutes the primary justification for the CDC’s focus on using vaccines to “boost” immunity?

The remainder of the article goes on to make a case that scientists have gotten it wrong, that vaccines are largely ineffective at providing immunity to diseases and that the entire basis for how vaccines are supposed to work is utterly wrong.

I must confess, I don’t have a background in biology and therefore I was not sure whether the arguments made by Sayer Ji had any validity. Being a good skeptic, I decided to dig up the original study and read it myself to see whether the representations made by Ji’s article were accurate. Again, my lack of expertise in this area made it difficult to understand the contents of the study itself.

Having no other recourse, I decided to contact the corresponding author of the study. This felt like a long shot; based on my own past experience, authors are sometimes difficult to get in touch with. In some cases, the author has moved on to another institution and ceased using their email address in the process.

The corresponding author for this study is Ulrich H. von Andrian, M.D. and Professor of Immunopathology at Harvard Medical School. The message I sent was the following:

Hello,

I am a blogger and I stumbled upon a recent anti-vaccine article on greenmedinfo here:

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/study-disproves-cdcs-primary-justification-vaccination

The article is saying that your study “B Cell Maintenance of Subcapsular Sinus Macrophages Protects against a Fatal Viral Infection Independent of Adaptive Immunity” calls into question the entire premise upon which vaccines are founded. I am highly skeptical of course, but I confess that I am a physicist and the content of the paper is outside of my knowledge.

I was wondering if you could offer a general comment regarding the article on greenmedinfo.

Cheers

I was pleasantly surprised when I received a response within two hours of this correspondence:

Hi Adam — The online article you referenced below misrepresents our paper.  Our work in no way calls into question the utility of vaccines, which in my personal view are among the most impactful and cost-effective accomplishments of modern medicine.  Our study had examined the immune response to a viral infection of mice that were immunologically naive, i.e. they had never ‘seen’ the virus before.  The animals were able to survive the infection and clear the virus without requiring T or B cells. This per se is not a huge surprise; there are countless invertebrate species that don’t have T or B cells and survive infections every day.  Our observation merely suggests that at least in some settings mammals can do the same.
A key point is that although the mice in our study were able to deal with the infection, they did get infected (i.e. they got ‘sick’ so to speak).  The purpose of vaccines is to prevent infections from occurring in the first place.  Had we vaccinated our mice prior to using the virus, the infection would never have occurrred even if we exposed the animals to a lethal dose of the pathogen.
I hope this is helpful.

Best, Uli

Basically, Sayer Ji’s article misrepresented the original paper and was being used to scare well-meaning parents that happened to stumble upon the article.

Given this information, I decided that it was my duty to share this response with the followers of Tenpenny’s Facebook page. Surely, if an article is said by the authors to misrepresent their study, this must be reliable.

What followed was a very revealing indication regarding the unreliability of Sherri Tenpenny’s page. I posted the authors’ response to the article.

tenpenny

Within 24 hours, my reply was deleted and I was banned from commenting on Tenpenny’s Facebook page. This begs the question: how reliable is this page as a source of information when all opposing viewpoints, no matter how valid, are deleted?

More comical was that some people still defended the article as if they somehow knew better than the study’s authors. Others accused me of making up the story and showed their inconsistent logic in the process. How do they know that Sayer Ji’s article was truthful? This is an example of confirmation bias, in which an individual favors a source of information that agrees with their own belief and they discredit other sources that go against their belief. In this case, Sayer Ji’s article is being favored as an accurate depiction of the research study and my contacting the authors is being discredited. If a third party wanted to know the truth, both Ji’s and my accounts should be taken with a grain of salt, since it is possible to get the truth directly from the study’s authors.

This exercise serves to highlight the unreliability of the information peddled by Sherri Tenpenny. This is a prime example of why skepticism is so important. Without it, claims are taken at face value and beliefs are formed based on inaccurate information.

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66 thoughts on “Experience with Dr. Sherri Tenpenny on Facebook

    • If you think Sherri Tenpenny isn’t the issue, you don’t know Sherri Tenpenny. This is how their echo chamber works. One of them, knowing it’s bs, posts, and all the others–Adams, Mercola, Tenpenny, etc.–repost it, also knowing that it’s bs. Maybe this specific one didn’t originate with Tenpenny, but she’s just as much a part of the problem as the rest.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “I suppose she must have had to do some sort of Pre-Med program to get in to medical school?”

    I don’t know about DO school, but to get an MD degree here in the US, one has to take some required courses (varying a bit by school) but there is no specific “pre-med” curriculum. Students planning to go to med school often major in biology or chemistry, but can in fact major in anything as long as they take the pre-reqs.

    Like

  2. This is a great article and a hilarious read. I do request that you change the beginning, however, because it’s a bit ignorant in regards to the medical field. If you’re a medical doctor in the United States, you’re either an allopathic (MD) or an osteopathic (DO) one. They both hold the same amount of schooling (4 years of undergrad, 4 years of medical school, 3+ years of residency depending on your chosen specialty). The problem with Dr. Tenpenny is not that she is an osteopathic physician. It’s that she has decided to completely go against everything that she was taught while in medical school. In the US, one in four medical students is enrolled in an osteopathic program (myself included). The manipulations are basically physical therapy used as an adjunct in combination with all aspects of traditional medicine, including vaccinations, medications, imaging, surgery, etc. Many of the professors at my school are MDs. The bottom line is that only science- and evidence-based medicine is taught at any osteopathic medical school, as with an allopathic one. There are no holistic, acupuncture, or homeopathic courses. Dr. Tenpenny was taught several classes on immunology, microbiology, and vaccinations, yet she decided to ignore them and pursue the garbage that she does. The classes and curriculum that MDs and DOs take are identical. The prerequisites to acceptance are identical. The board exams are identical. The rotation and residency spots are identical. MDs and DOs apply for the same exact positions at the hospital after residency. In all aspects of medicine, MDs and DOs are 100% interchangeable. In fact, if you live in the US, you have almost undoubtedly been seen by a DO and didn’t know it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I pointed out to Adam that an osteopath in the UK (or perhaps in Canada where he is) isn’t the same as a DO in the USA. The DO training in the USA was reformed and became a lot more rigorous and science-based.
      I have a couple questions about osteopathic medical training though:
      – Some specialties wouldn’t seem likely to use osteopathic manipulations. I doubt if you became an osteopathic cardiologist or an osteopathic gastroenterologist, you would be using osteopathic manipulative medicine at all? Do those DO’s just not use that aspect of their training? i.e. they wouldn’t use the part of their training that is definitely different from medical school?
      – Is osteopathic manipulative medicine similar to chiropractic? I have read things by skeptics saying that OMM is not science-based, or is it? Does that depend on the particular osteopathic medical school, perhaps?

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      • Those are great questions. So, every osteopathic medical student completes 400 hours of manipulative training as part of the curriculum. They’re all taught the same techniques. After that, each it’s up to the individual to decide how much they want to use in practice. They don’t have to use any if they don’t want to. I find some of it is very useful and some of it not. I like to use the stretching techniques and spinal manipulations on family and friends and they enjoy it. The research that I’ve read shows a statistically significant difference in the patient’s perception after treatment. The problem in measuring it is that you have to add in the possibility of a placebo effect, so it can be tough to measure. Patients tend to respond favorable to techniques and feel better, but some of it may just come from the fact that the doctor is taking time to put his/her hands on the patient and treat them. I don’t think that would be a bad thing though. But yeah, you can find research and evidence for the techniques. The most questionable aspect, in my opinion, are the cranial techniques. They have the least amount of evidence available and I’ve never really seen a doctor use them. I have seen doctors use techniques in an emergency medicine setting, OB-GYN, gastroenterology, etc. As an example, one technique that I used on my pediatric rotation seemed to work well on the constipated kiddos. It’s called colonic milking and you quite literally press on the abdomen at the sigmoid colon, then move up to the right colic flexure and work your way down. It’s supposed to stimulate the colon and acts to manually break up the fecal matter. It takes about 30 seconds to perform and the kids usually use the bathroom soon after. The key is that the techniques are always taught as an adjunct to make the patient feel better at that moment, never as a treatment for disease (minus a diagnosis like mild scoliosis). Some of the spinal techniques are similar to what a chiropractor would do. Those would more likely be used in a family medicine, pediatric, or sports/orthopedic setting. It’s sort of a mix of physical therapy and chiropractic work.

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      • I doubt if you became an osteopathic cardiologist … you would be using osteopathic manipulative medicine at all? Do those DO’s just not use that aspect of their training?

        Speaking as someone who has had a cardiologist (a section chief at the local university) who was a D.O., no, there was no trace of A.T. Still. He was also the most thorough and personable specialist I’ve ever had.

        Belittling D.O.’s and then trying to preserve the position by trying to nitpick the curriculum is pointless. Russell Blaylock has an M.D., OK?

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      • “Belittling D.O.’s and then trying to preserve the position by trying to nitpick the curriculum is pointless.”
        If you are addressing this to me, I don’t know what I said that can be characterized in this way.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Quote, for example, from a skeptical blog:
      “As best I can determine from my colleagues, learning osteopathic manipulation (OM) is the price they (DO’s) pay to obtain an otherwise standard medical education. I have yet to see OM offered by any of my DO colleagues. …OM, the small pseudoscientific aspect of DO medical school education, is a form of massage and manipulation invented in the 19th century with no basis in reality.”
      https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/pump-it-up-osteopathic-manipulation-and-influenza/

      Like

  3. Reblogged this on Honest Abe's Blog and commented:
    As I have mentioned earlier one in one of my previous posts, pseudosciences websites do not mind to take a legitimate scientific study, cherry pick the story to use as source for their selling point. But what is worse is when the author of these studies did not even realized their studies were used.
    Thats why scientists have to keep an eye on their publications and be sure no one use their studies to fuel misinformation or pseudosciences.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks to Laura for pointing the role of DOs in the US. I just want to add that Tenpenny attended Kirksville DO School—the flagship DO school—although she doesn’t say if she actually graduated. I hope she didn’t, because there are tens of thousands of respected DOs, considered physicians, who consider her to be dangerous and delusional. Before being able to practice medicine, after graduating DO school, DOs must go through internship and residency just like MDs. While Osteopathy may have started out with a “quackish” reputation, some of which lingers on, most are now fully integrated into the medical profession. My daughter studied Microbiology as a pre-med, followed by 4 years of DO school and 5 years as a resident OB/GYN in a top hospital in New York, her final year as chief resident. She is now a highly respected and licensed OB/GYN. Sorry if I sound a little touchy, but I am incredibly proud of her. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In response to Laura’s questions: My daughter hasn’t used “manipulation” since her first year of DO school. I doubt she ever will again. Regarding specialties: there are no specialties off limits for a DO; they can do anything an MD can do, given they have the licensing. My daughter, for example, has performed, C-sections, as well as traditional and “da-Vinci” surgery, She also did a stint in Sloan Kettering’s Oncology department where she learned the basics of gynecological-related cancers; enough to recognize, diagnose and refer. I’ll shut up now.

    Like

    • Did she regard the manipulation she was taught in DO school as pseudoscience, “the price they pay to obtain an otherwise standard medical education” as that skeptical blogger said? Or, as a kind of physical therapy? Or bemused by it?
      Not intending any criticism of your daughter …

      Liked by 1 person

      • What the blogger said. She may also have been bemused. My very uninformed opinion is that the DO schools probably wish they could just drop it, but it is so ingrained they would lose face. I never read any of your remarks as criticism, let’s save that for Tenpenny and her ilk. In fact if you ever met her, the last thing on your mind would be criticism.

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      • You seem worried that you might encounter skeptical bias.
        But I have had both positive and negative experiences with “integrative” medicine (never got osteopathic manipulation thought). Overall the positive aspects have outweighed the negative aspects, by a lot.

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      • I thought I would chime in to answer your question if you don’t mind. I am a DO, recently graduated, in my first year of an allopathic (MD) residency program (anesthesiology). From my experience with the manipulations, there were a few modalities that have some evidence of efficacy for musculoskeletal issues. However, there are several modalities that are flagrant psuedoscience, and the majority of the students (along with many faculty) understand this. The issue is that we (DOs) are licensed through the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and until that governing body can be convinced that these need to be removed from our curriculum, we have to learn them and be tested on that knowledge repeatedly for our board exams.

        tl:dr some OMM works, some is pseudoscience, we have to learn it all until the AOA leadership is forced to change

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      • Matt,
        So are there parts of the osteopathic training that make up for the pseudoscience? There must be, or otherwise why would people put up with it?

        Like

      • I am a DO, recently graduated, in my first year of an allopathic (MD) residency program

        Oh, come on, already. “Allopathic” is the opposite of homeopathic. That’s it.

        The term was coined by Hahnemann. Even crank osteopaths are “allopathic,” in that they use techniques intended to directly oppose a condition, even if it’s a fanciful one.

        Like

      • Narad,
        I apologize for using that term (allopathic). I despise it as much as any skeptic, and I am fully aware of its origins. I am also aware of how it has, unfortunately, become a part of common vernacular when discussing this topic. I suppose I should make more of an effort to curtail its use (as much as any one man can)

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      • There’s nothing wrong with being “allopathic”.
        Allopathic is a
        “system of medicine that aims to combat disease by using remedies (as drugs or surgery) which produce effects that are different from or incompatible with those of the disease being treated”
        It’s often used in a derogatory way by alt-med proponents.
        But we can proudly reclaim the term, similarly to the way “gay” was reclaimed.
        Allopathic and proud of it!
        It was allopathic medicine that wiped out smallpox!
        You bet we aim to be incompatible with deadly diseases!
        and in the process by the way, illustrate how silly homeopathy is.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t seen any people with smallpox recently. It’s been eradicated.
        Thus, smallpox symptoms have been effectively suppressed by “allopathic” medicine.
        So what if someone originally intended “allopathic” as an insult?
        They told the truth without meaning to; it does indeed suppress symptoms of ill health.
        And the symptoms of ill health are what matter, because they are people’s experience of ill health and they prevent people from enjoying life.
        Just look a bit more deeply at what it means to oppose symptoms, and it becomes high praise, not an insult.

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      • Smallpox has been eradicated by vaccination; not by treating the symptoms of smallpox.
        Hahnemann ‘told the truth’ when he neologised ‘allopathy’? You are being too fair. It is inaccurate and unnecessary, intended to delineate medicine into separate philosophies of equivalent validity. But homeopathy is invalid. Medicine is medicine.

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      • “Smallpox has been eradicated by vaccination; not by treating the symptoms of smallpox.”
        Do you think that vaccination against smallpox was ineffective in eradicating the symptoms of smallpox?

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      • Do you think that vaccination against smallpox was ineffective in eradicating the symptoms of smallpox?

        One of those ‘symptoms’ being death. I’m not aware that the smallpox vaccine was intended as a remedy for symptoms. It effectively provided protection against the cause. (Funny, isn’t it homeopathy that claims to address the cause of disease; not its symptoms?)

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      • One of those ‘symptoms’ being death. I’m not aware that the smallpox vaccine was intended as a remedy for symptoms.

        If the smallpox vaccine had not been able to reduce the rate of smallpox symptoms (including death), would it have been used?

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      • ‘Do you think that vaccination against smallpox was ineffective in eradicating the symptoms of smallpox?’

        Forgive me, but I am struggling to follow your thought process here. If the smallpox vaccine eradicated smallpox, then of course it eradicated the symptoms of smallpox!!! So what are you saying – that that constitutes argument for applying the label ‘allopathic’? You’re reaching.

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      • “If the smallpox vaccine eradicated smallpox, then of course it eradicated the symptoms of smallpox!!! So what are you saying – that that constitutes argument for applying the label ‘allopathic’? You’re reaching.”
        Sure. But, words change their meaning over time.
        I’m sure when people like Matt (who is training to become a DO) apply the label “allopathic”, they don’t use it with the derogatory connotation that you’re applying to it.
        The word is already changing in meaning, just from being used by people who don’t have that same derogatory attitude towards mainstream medicine.
        Also, mainstream medical treatments like vaccination and allergy shots would probably be called “allopathic medicine” by homeopaths. And those treatments don’t seem to fit the derogatory definition that you are using for that word.
        So the homeopaths aren’t consistent in their definition of “allopathic”, either.
        I was being playful. But at the same time, making a point: that opposing the symptoms of disease is of course what medical treatment aims for! For it would be very difficult to effectively treat the symptoms of many diseases without treating the underlying disease process! Smallpox being one of those diseases that aren’t susceptible to purely symptomatic treatments.
        To me, that homeopaths think there is something wrong about opposing the symptoms of disease, is more a negative reflection on homeopathy than on mainstream medicine.

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      • But I’m not applying derogatory connotation to it; my point is that it a Hahnemann-coined term applied derogatorily by homeopaths/homeopathy apologists in order to perpetuate the canard that distinguishes homeopathy as a valid alternative system of medicine – and that many outside homeopathy have erroneously bought into its use. But there is no need for it. Moreover, you confuse by seemingly buying into the (homeopathy) line that medicine (only) treats symptoms and not causes – which is nonsense. (And by the way, many homeopaths try and claim that vaccination accords to homeopathic ‘principles’ – which is all part of their promotional PR.)

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  6. I am currently a second year DO student and this past summer I worked in a military clinic and used OMM daily to help patients with musculoskeletal pain, and if done right it works. The problem with OMM is that all DO’s are not trained equally or even practice OMM after medical school. When it is used in conjunction with modern treatments to confirm or deny a diagnosis. It is just another tool in our toolbag should we choose to use it.

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  7. I think the real point missed here is the claim that if the animals were vaccinated first they would never have gotten sick. Oh yeah? Do the study and then let’s see the true results.

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    • If you don’t believe that vaccines work, how do you explain the sudden decrease in diseases such as small pox or measles after vaccines came into use? There are also many studies which have been done on vaccine efficacy. Of the ones I have read, some of the least effective vaccines still give a 50% less chance of contracting the disease. Just wondering if you have found an abundance of studies showing otherwise, because I have not.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dave — you could start with “An economic analysis of the current universal 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccination program in the United States.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • You honestly believe that that is the point of this article? Is that really the only thing that caught your eye? I’ll agree with you to the point that vaccines are not 100% effective, and depending on the sample size, there could certainly be those test subjects who did not respond to vaccination. To suggest, however, that an extremely small percentage of subjects for whom vaccination fails is reason not to vaccinate at all is a logical fallacy – the nirvana fallacy, to be precise. No one with any knowledge or experience in medicine or research is going to pay your assertion any mind at all, as it is “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” to use a fun colloquialism.

        To Dave444:

        Here are “several” studies on vaccine efficacy.
        https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=vaccine+efficacy&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C10&as_sdtp=

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    • You honestly believe that that is the point of this article? Is that really the only thing that caught your eye? I’ll agree with you to the point that vaccines are not 100% effective, and depending on the sample size, there could certainly be those test subjects who did not respond to vaccination. To suggest, however, that an extremely small percentage of subjects for whom vaccination fails is reason not to vaccinate at all is a logical fallacy – the nirvana fallacy, to be precise. No one with any knowledge or experience in medicine or research is going to pay your assertion any mind at all, as it is “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” to use a fun colloquialism.

      Like

  8. I pretty much had the same thing happen to me a few years ago when I stumbled upon a creationist page on Facebook full of easily-disproven misinformation, and decided to counter many of the points. Not only would they delete my comments, but they’d also quote mine very small parts of it, and attempt to refute that – without giving me a chance to then defend the point or refute their new claim.

    It makes one wonder – are these people aware of how weak their position is if they need to censor their opposition in order to maintain it, or have they developed some sort of mind-bubble that protects them from seeing how intellectually dishonest they’re being?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They probably use “source derogation” – that is, calling anything and anyone that contradicts their views, names.
      Thus it’s very important not to give into the temptation to insult these people – insulting them will only play into that demonizing mentality.
      I follow the RtAVM Facebook page a lot (Refutations to anti-vaccine memes). Lots of parents of “vaccine-injured” children come along. I interact with them using Socratic questioning – “how do you know such and such”. They normally react by telling me how awful I am, in one way or another. But, if I get right down to the details of their claims and point out what is dubious about them, I hope I’ve communicated doubt to them. One parent claimed to have a child who was crippled by the polio vaccine (after much diversion with anti-vax propaganda). So I asked her when the polio vaccination happened; she disappeared after that, from which I’m guessing it probably wasn’t the oral polio vaccine, which has a tiny chance of actually causing polio; but rather her child probably got the injected polio vaccine, which has no chance of causing polio. When these people come charging into RtAVM, it’s a golden opportunity to get some facts across to them.

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  9. Have you read the rules for Sherri Tenpenny’s facebook page? They completely forbid any dissenting opinions because it’s a “safe space” or somesuch for people who don’t believe in vaccinations. I find that the most troubling part, that she’s happy to post any kind of disinformation but not to engage in any scientific debate on its validity.

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  10. Well done for calling out Sayer Ji and the GreenMedInfo site on how they misrepresent studies. I’m particularly impressed with the fact you contacted the corresponding author. Getting it straight from the horses mouth makes GreenMedInfo’s material utterly and undeniably dishonest. The non-scientifically literate public are easily duped by shenanigans such as this. Thank you for writing about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Experience with Dr. Sherri Tenpenny on Facebook | vaxplanations

  12. I’m glad to see that someone has already used this page as a rebuttal for the GreenMedInfo article in question on http://rbutr.com/ !

    Hands up who here doesn’t yet know about RBUTR, and preferably have the plug-in running on their browser? OK: off you go and stand in the corner for the rest of the lesson 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve had exactly the same experience on several cycle helmet promoting websites, which make unsupported or disproved claims. My posts, which gave the alternative view that all reliable evidence shows that cycle helmets are not effective were deleted and I was banned from posting. On one site, my original post was deleted, but hilariously, the responses weren’t, including the one which called me a nazi!

    Like

  14. “Had we vaccinated our mice prior to using the virus, the infection would never have occurrred even if we exposed the animals to a lethal dose of the pathogen.”

    The study author cannot make this extrapolation based on his study. He is over-reaching. He can hypothesize this if he wishes, but he hasn’t done the requisite scientific investigation himself.

    The Vesicular Stomatitis Virus he refers to has a vaccine in an experimental stage, VSV-EBOV, a combination with Ebola vaccine. So how can he declare that this experimental vaccine is 100% efficacious? He is showing confirmation bias himself!

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    • He is not making an extrapolation based on his study. He is making a statement based on the vast amount of evidence showing that vaccines, in the vast majority of cases, prevent disease. I doubt it was the author’s intention to declare the VSV-EBOV vaccine as 100% efficacious, especially given that no vaccine is 100% effective. (See The Nirvana Fallacy) The point was to show that Sayer Ji’s interpretation of the study was completely and utterly wrong.

      Like

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