Last month, I posted an article debunking the claim made by a recent study that the Hib vaccine offers protection against leukemia. Two days later, Tara Haelle had a good piece at NPR titled “How A Claim That A Childhood Vaccine Prevents Leukemia Went Too Far”, in which she points out that the study’s claim and statements made by its lead author, Dr. Markus Müschen, are simply unsupported.
Yet here are some of the headlines that appeared about the study:
- “UCSF-Led Study Explains How Early Childhood Vaccination Reduces Leukemia Risk” – University of California San Franciso, May 18, 2015
- “How early childhood vaccination reduces leukemia risk” – Science Daily, May 18, 2015
- “How a Childhood Vaccine Reduces Risk of a Cancer” – New York Times, May 20, 2015
- “How a Common Childhood Vaccine Helps Ward Off Cancer” – Time, May 21, 2015
- “Early childhood vaccine reduces leukemia risk” – UPI, May 21, 2015
- “More great news about vaccines: one seems to prevent childhood leukemia” – American Council on Science and Health, May 25, 2015
All simply parrot uncritically the claim made by the study and Dr. Müschen.
It’s worth noting that the University that conducted the study is heavily dependent on grants from the National Institutes of Health, which is essentially to say that it is dependent on financing from the vaccine industry (e.g., the NIH patents vaccine technology and sells it to Big Pharma). Which perhaps sheds some light on why the authors of the study would flat-out lie about a supposed benefit of vaccination.
It’s worth also pointing out that Haelle is very much pro-vaccine. She writes from the perspective that making exaggerated claims undermines efforts to convince parents to vaccinate their kids.
Haelle was puzzled by certain aspects of the claim that the Hib vaccine protects against leukemia: namely, that she had never heard this claim before. So she interviewed Dr. Müschen and a number of “outside experts”, who all “conveyed the same message: Nothing in this paper proves that the Hib vaccine reduces leukemia risk, much less helps prevent ALL [acute lymphoblastic lymphoma].”
She was also curious about Dr. Müschen’s claim that “the incidence of leukemia has been dramatically reduced since the advent of regular vaccinations during infancy”. So she looked up the data and “couldn’t find evidence of this dramatic reduction in government health statistics.”
But Haelle misses a crucial point about the study that I made in my own post on the subject. Like Haelle, I was curious about certain aspects of the claim, including seemingly self-contradictory and counter-intuitive statements from the New York Times post where I originally read about the study. But I took a different approach than Haelle. I turned to the study, found where it makes the claim that the vaccine protects against leukemia, and then looked up the sources it cited to support this statement. The study cites three previous studies to support its claim that the Hib vaccine prevents leukemia. I showed that none of these previous studies actually demonstrate this.
But here’s the key thing: one of them showed that early natural infection did confer protection against leukemia.
For the details, read my original post, “Does the Hib Vaccine Really Protect Against Leukemia?”