Vaccine Injury Anecdotes Are No Joke

by Sandy Gottstein

 2013 April


Who’s there? 

Vaccine-Injury Anecdotes!

Guess there’s nobody at the door!


Q. How many anecdotes does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. You can never have enough.


Anecdotes are the neutrinos of the vaccine-injury world.  No matter how many of them there are, they will always go unnoticed.


These jokes might be funny if they weren’t true.   But anecdotes are no joke even though they seem to be the Rodney Dangerfield of “science” and getting no respect.  

But is that fair?  Is the bad rap anecdotes are given deserved?  Even more important, is it scientifically sound to totally ignore them?

So what is “scientific anecdotal evidence”?

According to Wikipedia:

“In science, anecdotal evidence has been defined as:

·       "information that is not based on facts or careful study"[9]

·       "reports or observations of usually unscientific observers"[10]

·       "casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis"[11]

·       "information passed along by word-of-mouth but not documented scientifically"

Anecdotal evidence can have varying degrees of formality. For instance, in medicine, published anecdotal evidence by a trained observer (a doctor) is called a case report, and is subjected to formal peer review.[12] Although such evidence is not seen as conclusive, it is sometimes regarded as an invitation to more rigorous scientific study of the phenomenon in question.[13] For instance, one study found that 35 of 47 anecdotal reports of drug side effects were later sustained as "clearly correct."[14]

Anecdotal evidence is considered the least certain type of scientific information.[15] It is the opposite of scientific evidence.[16] Researchers may use anecdotal evidence for suggesting new hypotheses, but never as validating evidence.”


(You read that right: “35 of 47 anecdotal reports of drug side effects were later sustained as ‘clearly correct’. “)

Therein lies the rub.  The status of the person reporting an anecdote and/or how well designed the follow-up is matters, and it matters a lot.  Since many doctors do not report adverse reactions to VAERS (even though they are required to do so), parents and other “less credible” observers are forced to file the reports.   And given that the vaccine manufacturers either directly finance most research and/or otherwise influence what gets studied and published, the fact is that there is usually no satisfactory follow-up.

Thus, while anecdotes should be a starting point, they rarely are.  The absurdity of the failure to take seriously the most obvious connections was noted by Lisa Blakemore-Brown wrote in the BMJ, “If a group of people collapse after eating, say, Lemon Sole, in a particular restaurant, it would be ludicrous for those responsible to wave a hand over the problem saying that millions of people eat Lemon Sole every day and there are no problems.  Health and Safety officials will get straight to the point of the issue and look at the fish in the restaurant, look at the individuals, test findings in the lab.”

Failure to properly follow up on observations in no way discredits the observation.   It does, however, discredit the process as well as those who claim that reports of vaccine injury have been proven to be false. 

Among the many “coincidental” accounts are these stories of vaccine injury and death, none more illustrative of the lunacy of presuming such accounts to be coincidental than Death by Lethal Injection.

Then, of course, there is VAERS, the Vaccine Adverse Reaction Reporting System.  (Or as I like to call it, the place where adverse reaction reports go to die.)  As of 4-10-2013, there were 382,540 adverse events reported to VAERS.  But what might this mean? 

Under-reporting is understood to be a limitation of a passive reporting system like VAERS. In light of the fact that a vaccine manufacturer reported a 2% rate and that David Kessler, former FDA head, reported that one study found that only 1% of even serious adverse events were reported to the agency,  proposing a reporting rate of 10% might be considered “conservative”, i.e., a low-ball estimate.  Under such a “conservative” scenario, 3,825,400 possible adverse vaccine-associated reactions could be projected.  That’s a lot of nothing.

Moreover, 212,528 (x10? x100? times what?) occurred within one day of receiving a vaccine.  Of those over 200,000 adverse vaccine-associated reactions reported to VAERS, 80,805 (times what?) were considered serious, i.e., caused death, permanent disability, hospitalization, prolonged hospitalization or a visit to the emergency room.  (Note:  If an adverse event [AE ] is allowed to be classified in more than one of these categories, this number is inflated.)  Even if you don’t multiply that number by anything, it’s a lot of possible serious adverse vaccine reactions.  Unfortunately, however, what these numbers represent, both in terms of actual numbers of adverse reactions (i.e., how under-represented are the AEs?) and whether or not they are causally related is unknown.

Furthermore, even though one would expect events that occur in close temporal proximity to vaccination to be noticed more often than those that occur later, that does not mean such temporally related events are necessarily coincidental.  Questions concerning causality need to be studied and not assumed.

Thus while it can be granted that a certain, undetermined, percentage would be found to be unrelated, i.e., coincidental to vaccination, we can no more assume they are mostly unrelated than we can assume that they mostly are not.  Regardless, there are simply far too many to dismiss without proper attention and study.

The point of all this is that we don’t know the numbers or their significance but we should. 

The “experts” would have us believe that reports of vaccine injury are representative of some putative background incidence.  Never mind that the relevant background where vaccine injury reports are concerned is the vaccinated.  The fact is, we know little to nothing about what might be expected in a completely unvaccinated group, which is THE background rate if you are interested in understanding what adding vaccinations does to a population.  And until we study the never-vaccinated, all assurances will be based on nothing.

The only legitimate way to follow up on a vaccine injury observation, i.e., anecdote, is to conduct properly designed studies which compare the vaccinated to the never-vaccinated.  Only in that way can it be ascertained whether or not an observed event occurs more, less or about the same in a vaccinated population as in a never vaccinated one.  If it were discovered that there are differences in the health outcomes of the two groups, we could/should then set about trying to ascertain what it is about these two groups that causes the difference.  It might be vaccines or it might not be.  But we would at least know to look for differences between the groups that could be responsible.  Regardless, there is only one way to study the effects of vaccines, and that is to include a control group of unvaccinated individuals.  Anything less is unscientific.  Anything less is a joke.

On us.

Date: 4-16-2013

Some additional links: 

12/2007 -  Seeking the Truth About the Never-Vaccinated (Age of Autism

02/14/03-  Avoidance Of Vaccine Truth But Not Consequences -  Are We "Knee Deep in the Big Muddy"?

10/18/02- Vaccine-related infant deaths - When is enough, enough?

04/12/02- How much anecdotal evidence does it take to change a.......make a light bulb go on? "Why are my five children autistic?" - Mary Robinson's story 

02/22/02 - Infant Vaccine Deaths - But Who's Counting? (No news is NOT good news.)