There is fiction and fiction, but I have found a piece of research that scores particularly high in the category “wishful thinking in fairy land”. The chickenpox vaccine works. You know why? The number of Google searches for chickenpox has gone down! Who needs science when you have a computer, right?
“see a sharp drop in the number of Google searches for the common childhood disease afterward” That at best shows that people have a very strong belief in vaccinations. It probably shows better than doctors won’t diagnose chickenpox anymore, so parents don’t search for it. And that only proves that doctors have a sacred belief in vaccinations, but that’s nothing new. “demonstrating that immunization significantly reduces seasonal outbreaks.” Exacly how did the researchers come to this conclusion? And the flu comes as “seasonal outbreaks”, but the chickenpox was never related to a season. So obviously the researchers don’t even know the basics about chickenpox.
“The technique is sometimes called digital epidemiology” And how exactly is that related to science? Maybe this kind of study would be of some use if you want to study human behaviour, but that’s about it. “it shows that the vaccine is having a strong effect” I’m sure the chickenpox vaccine has a strong effect. The question is what the effect is. Mr. Bakker, can you please explain how the number of Google searches is exactly related to disease incidence? The only thing I see is that Google searches are related to the number of people searching for information about chickenpox. Everything else is a wild interpretation.
“especially for diseases, like chickenpox, where clinical case data are scarce” Wait a moment. There are not enough real data available about how often chickenpox is diagnosed. That means that you have no data available about how often chickenpox happens. But that’s old news, for nobody knows this or has ever known this. But you state that the number of times people think their child might have chickenpox is strongly related to the actual number of cases. Please, tell me how you come to this conclusion. And why you think that there are no important other factors that can influence the number of Google searches.
“The study is one of the most comprehensive digital epidemiology efforts to date” The number of countries and the amount of data are completely irrelevant when the topic you study is based on wishful thinking. Mr. Bakker should first have proven that the number of Google seaches is related to the amount of disease incidence. And then he should find ways to take away all other factors that influence the number of Google searches. Everyone who has finished primary school understands that this is impossible. Nobody knows why random people do certain Google searches. You would have to ask all the people behind the searches, but that would mean a gigantic violation of privacy. And a bit too much work. And many people wouldn’t give an honest answer. Oops.
“The main idea behind digital epidemiology studies” Again: nice idea, but it is correct? And what does it mean that people do or not do a Google search? You will have to come up with answers to these questions. Else your whole study is useless. “to predict the timing and magnitude of chickenpox outbreaks” But you just said that chickenpox is seasonal. Can you make up your mind? There’s also a minor problem here. You rarely hear about chickenpox outbreaks, just like rubella outbreaks never make it to the news. Measles is so extremely dangerous that every case gets a headline (but outbreaks never seem to follow). Mumps occasionally get some media attention. But chickenpox? Who cares about chickenpox? Most kids don’t even feel very sick when they have the disease and parents will send them to school. When the spots are covered by clothing nobody will even know they are there. So what exactly do you mean with a chickenpox outbreak? You will have to be more specific.
“which is a way to infer a strong reduction in total disease incidence” You can infer all you want, but the only thing this shows is that people do fewer searches for chickenpox. What that means is big guess. By the way, Germany has vaccine freedom, so what exactly is meant with “requirements” is a bit unclear to me. It looks like the researchers have tried to find a question to an answer. And with a bit of creativity you can prove everything and anything, and also the exact opposite. This has nothing to do with science or with research.
“It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever.” Wrong. It can cause these symptoms, but in most cases children are mildly unwell, but often not even that. In my time children with chickenpox went to school. No reason to keep them at home. I suppose some children stayed home for a few days, but that wasn’t the standard. Again, if you want to do research then you should at least know the basics. Chickenpox symptoms are not very distinct. Between 250-500 blisters? I know from parents with little kids that they usually get a few dozen pox at the most. 500 blisters on a toddler is indeed something you would notice, but that’s far from the standard.
“the annual number of chickenpox cases in the country has declined by 92 percent” Wrong again. The number of chickenpox diagnoses has gone down, but that’s something completely different. That only shows that doctors don’t diagnose chickenpox anymore, but doctors are educated not to diagnose these diseases in vaccinated children. So this only proves that doctors have a sacred belief in vaccines, but we knew that already.
“annual number of deaths has decreased by 90 percent,” And the article ends with a good joke. The number of deaths from chickenpox in the western world is exactly zero. How do you decrease zero by 90%? It’s funny how the different interest groups try to convince everyone that chickenpox is a dangerous disease, but the truth is that few countries have bothered adding the vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule. Most countries (including Great Britain) know that chickenpox is so mild and harmless that a vaccine is absurd. Scare campaigns still haven’t had the desired results in all those countries. And no children die there from the disease either. Sorry people, no matter how you twist it chickenpox is simply a mild childhood disease that most parents don’t care about. But you are free to believe the information from the CDC. And you are free to believe in your own wild stories. But don’t try to pass it as science.
This study gets 99 points out of 100 for “completely absurd”. Not 100, for at least they bothered to do a Google search.