Here we are on Christmas Eve. Imagine of Mary had been given "modern" medicine. Would the tidings have been of great joy?
From EcoWatch, by Robert Kennedy Jr and Lyn Redwood:
A Nov. 19 study, of 45,231 women, published in JAMA Pediatrics, identified a heightened risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis in the children of mothers who received a flu shot during their first trimester of pregnancy. The study, Association Between Influenza Infection and Vaccination During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder, was authored by Ousseny Zerbo and his colleagues affiliated with the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente.
While the researchers found no increased risk when the mother received flu shots in the second or third trimester, the data demonstrated a 20 percent higher risk of an autism spectrum disorder among children of mothers receiving the flu vaccine during the first trimester. That risk was statistically significant. (The P value, .01, indicates a 99 percent likelihood that the result isn't due to chance.)
However, after completing this analysis, the authors made a series of adjustments that have drawn criticism from other scientists. Most controversial was their questionable decision to apply a statistical device called the "Bonferroni Correction" to their data. Statisticians use the Bonferroni Correction in very specific circumstances—where they seek to reduce the chance for false positives in calculations involving multiple comparisons. The impact of the Bonferroni Correction is nearly always conservative; it dampens signals in data sets. In doing so it creates the risk of missing true associations. When applied to the first trimester flu vaccine dataset, the Bonferroni Correction reduced the significance of the association from 99 percent to 90 percent. Despite the fact that the adjusted result was still considered marginally statistically significant, the authors then made a second dodgy judgment, by declaring that, "this association could be due to chance."
These sweeping decisions allowed the authors to arrive at the questionable conclusion that, "There was a suggestion of increased ASD risk among children whose mothers received influenza vaccinations early in pregnancy (first trimester), although the association was insignificant after statistical correction for multiple comparisons." The researchers summed up with an acknowledgement of the uncertainty of their conclusion: "We believe that additional studies are warranted to further evaluate any potential associations between first-trimester maternal influenza vaccination and autism."
National media outlets universally missed that nuance. Journalists widely reported the study as a decisive exoneration of flu shots. NPR declared: Flu Shots Don't Increase Autism Risk In Pregnancy. Fox News celebrated: Flu—or flu vaccine—in pregnancy not tied to autism in kids. The Scientist headlined: Autism Not Linked to Flu or Flu Shot During Pregnancy, while the New York Daily News assured: No link between flu or flu vaccine in pregnancy and autism: study.
As the mainstream media celebrated, public health advocates and scholars cried "foul." Dr. James Lyons-Weiler, PhD, the CEO and director of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge, and data manager of more than 100 biomedical research studies, told me that the author's "incorrect" and "unorthodox" application of the Bonferroni Correction in this circumstance risked the appearance that they were using improper methodologies to, "make an unwanted but statistically significant finding vanish in a sea of statistical wizardry."
Read more at EcoWatch here.