Doctors who should know better dumpster dive in VAERS

This is a statement that, I hope, answers the question that I’m sure many of you have: Why on earth would the CDC and FDA maintain such a flawed database in the first place? I also like to note that, whatever the merits or lack thereof in maintaining a database like VAERS, contrary to the way it is portrayed by antivaxxers, VAERS is by no means the be-all and end-all of vaccine safety monitoring. Antivaxxers love VAERS because its flaws make it easy to use to produce seeming correlations between vaccines and autism (and all the other things they blame vaccines for), but there are other systems that are active surveillance systems, such as the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) and the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project. These are two of the systems used to test the hypotheses generated by VAERS.

That same year, I discussed how attorneys suing vaccine manufacturers for “vaccine-induced” autism (never mind that vaccines do not cause autism) had gamed the VAERS database for litigation purposes by encouraging their clients to submit reports of autism as an AE after vaccination, thus hugely distorting the database. At the time, I noted how this feature of VAERS makes it inherently unreliable for as a tool for longitudinal studies of the rates of vaccine-related AEs. Regular readers will remember how I keep harping on “baseline rates” of AEs (the rate that would occur in the absence of vaccination). The problems with all studies of VAERS are that there is no “control group” and there is no way of knowing whether the sample in VAERS is a representative one. (In fact, it certainly is not.)

That’s why those of us who’ve written about VAERS like to refer to studies like this as “dumpster-diving” or “garbage in, garbage out”.