The Institute of Medicine Report: What Does It Really Conclude? Part I

Last week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report examining the adverse effects of vaccines. This report has been hailed as the final argument for vaccine safety. Unfortunately, a number of issues exist with the report that keep it far from the last word on the subject.

Methodological Flaws

To begin with, the research committee did not examine the long-term effect of the current vaccination schedule. They focused on the action of various vaccines as single agents, instead of looking at what happens when, as is currently recommended, multiple vaccines are given at the same time to infants. As Dr. Russell Blaylock pointed out in his response to the study, “The most complex development of the human brain takes place between the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years after birth.” This is one of the biggest concerns for parents regarding vaccines today, and it was completely ignored by the study.

Meanwhile, not only did the committee address a relatively small spectrum of the questions people have about the vaccine, they also referenced only a small sample of studies when looking at the individual vaccines. As a press release by Safe Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to drug safety, says:

 Due to a narrow set of objectives defined for the IOM by the government, the report only looked at a small set of published research studies linking just two vaccines to developmental disorders such as autism. Only four epidemiological studies were considered of sufficient quality to evaluate the MMR vaccine in relation to autism and no studies were deemed of sufficient quality for the DtaP vaccine and autism analysis. The committee did not attempt to evaluate six other vaccines for autism causation, the safety of the cumulative vaccine schedule and health outcomes like autism, or the safety of vaccine ingredients like mercury and aluminum in the context of chemical exposures from other sources like air pollution or consumer products.

In fact, the IOM report itself admits that “a specific study could be well-designed and well-conducted but also have very serious limitations for the purposes of this committee’s analysis” and that a study that would be accepted by them as truly conclusive would be “prohibitively expensive” (37). With such a small sample size, it is difficult to give much weight to the IOM committee’s findings.

The report’s conclusions are otherwise undermined by the fact that medical studies are notoriously unreliable. The committee admits that despite attempts to ensure the validity of all studies surveyed, some of them “have some residual limitation due to the challenges that often attend such research” (3). In addition, the committee “relied on standard textbooks of infectious disease or internal medicine for this evaluation; the committee did not review original research to come to this determination … Evidence consisting only of parallels with the natural infection is never sufficient to merit a conclusion other than the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship” (4). In other words, reactions to vaccines were only considered valid if they fit textbook descriptions of reasonable reactions to that vaccine.

In addition, the committee specifically did not look at the decisions of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program or at the reports from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (unless cited in a peer-reviewed article), which are two major sources of information in the vaccine safety debate.

Tune in on Thursday to read the rest of this in-depth look at the IOM report and what it really says!

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