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When (and how) do we debate vaccine science?

Over the weekend, a vaccine brawl took place. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.—presidential candidate and longtime spreader of old, tired vaccine rumors— had a conversation with Joe Rogan on his podcast. The conversation bled onto social media in which Rogan ultimately challenged Dr. Peter Hotez—a Nobel Prize-nominated vaccine scientist—to debate RFK Jr. about vaccine rumors that have already been addressed dozens of times. Dr. Hotez declined. Here’s why that was the right call…

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A critical review of Florida’s new vaccine analysis

Florida just announced the results of an analysis that they performed, claiming the results show “an increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39” for the mRNA vaccines, and recommend this group not receive these vaccines.

Is this justified? Let’s look at the data…

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A case study in graphs that crush my soul

Graphs are central to scientific communication, and when used appropriately are amazing tools that help people understand complex data. But with a few small changes, graphs can also be used to mislead and distort what’s going on. Recently I came across a graph (trying to minimize the effectiveness of COVID vaccines in kids) that was so bad it deserves its own entire post. Check out a break down of the chart crimes here.

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BA.5: What do you need to know?

Recently, BA.5 has been all over the news, raising alarming questions about immune evasion, reinfections, and the future of the pandemic. What makes BA.5 different from previous COVID viruses? In our latest post, we address what makes BA.5 special, along with what these differences mean for vaccine efficacy and the chances of reinfection.

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Where do new variants come from?

Why do new variants keep emerging, and do they render vaccines useless? This post tackles the genetics of where variants come from and how changes to the spike protein impact vaccine effectiveness.

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How does COVID impact the brain?

COVID is not just a respiratory disease; it attacks multiple systems, including the brain. More and more COVID-induced strokes are being reported, as are cases of long COVID, which involve brain fog and other neurological symptoms that can persist for years after infection. So how can COVID affect the brain? This post explores the neurological symptoms of COVID and signs of brain damage after infection, as well as possible explanations for how COVID could cause these problems.

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Ninety five percent. NINETY FIVE PERCENT!

In November 2020, we got the news: the results from the first COVID vaccine phase 3 trial were released, and they were better than even the most optimistic expectations: 95% efficacy! This was far better than we had dared to dream. But, in the midst of all the celebrating and enthusiasm, groundwork was laid for a communication blunder that later left many feeling confused and betrayed. Check out part 2 of the series covering the story of the COVID vaccines (and the communication around them.)

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COVID vaccination during pregnancy

Rumors about COVID vaccination and alleged impacts on fertility have been circulating since before the vaccines were even available. Because the initial vaccine trials did not study pregnant women specifically, when the vaccines were first authorized, we didn’t have a complete picture about the risks and benefits of COVID vaccination for pregnant women. Now over a year later, we do. In this post, Dr. Sana Zekri dives into the latest data on COVID vaccination during pregnancy.

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How well do the COVID vaccines work? (and why has this been so confusing?)

How well do the COVID vaccines work? This question is not as simple to answer as it may seem. The communication during the pandemic has been in many ways very confusing, and vaccine efficacy is no exception. In this series of post, I’m going to tell you the story of the COVID vaccines and dissect where the communication broke down. And along the way, we’ll answer the question: just how well do the vaccines work?

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COVID vaccines and fertility: vaccination before pregnancy

Even before COVID vaccines became available to the public, rumors were circulating about hypothetical impacts on fertility. This is the first in a series of articles by my friend Dr. Sana Zekri, MD, a board-certified physician in Family Medicine with Obstetrics, tackling these rumors and discussing the risks and benefits of vaccination for those who are trying to become pregnant as well as those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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logical fallacy

10 logical fallacies used in vaccine arguments

Arguments about vaccines are often rife with logical fallacies. Many logical fallacies, at their root, are oversimplifications. They are appealing because they make something complex, like vaccine safety or the efficacy of vaccines, into something very simplistic that is easy to understand. However, that oversimplification often leaves out important details, which can lead to inaccurate conclusions. Here are 10 logical fallacies commonly used in vaccine arguments, with explanations of why they don’t hold up.

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What is luciferase and what does it have to do with vaccines?

One of the latest vaccine rumors centers around luciferase, a (perhaps) unfortunately named protein that is as harmless as a firefly. This post tackles where this rumor came from, tells how luciferase got its name, and explains how you can be sure that the vaccines aren’t using bioluminescence to track people.

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If you’re vaccinated, why does it matter if I am not?

The vaccine mandates have led some to question vaccine effectiveness. If the vaccines really work, they argue, then why do the vaccinated care if others choose not to get the vaccine? This post tackles what it means to say a vaccine “works,” and explains how my neighbor’s vaccination status impacts me.

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vaccine efficacy covid hospitalizations breakthrough cases

Some vaccinated people are getting COVID. What does this mean?

Delta is here and headlines are reporting the rise in new cases and hospitalizations, including some who have been fully vaccinated. What does this mean for vaccine efficacy? The answer is not as simple as it may seem: this post digs into the math and explains how to put breakthrough infections into context.

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covid vaccines deaths vaers

Are COVID vaccines killing thousands of people?

Are thousands of people dying from COVID vaccines? These rumors have been circulating for a while and are based on a misunderstanding of causation, correlation, and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Here’s a quick explanation of what VAERS is and isn’t, and why the rumors that the vaccines are killing thousands isn’t true.

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What do we do when experts disagree?

A friend of mine recently asked me how I respond to people who have opposing views about scientific issues like vaccines when their sources are from credentialed (MD, PhD) people. This is a great question, and something I encounter all the time. Here are my thoughts.

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Dealing with anxiety and OCD during the pandemic

Understatement of the year: the stress, conflict, and uncertainty of the last year has had a profound impact on mental health. In this post, I interview Dr. Eric Storch, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He talks about different ways the pandemic has influenced mental health, and he shares insight on how to deal with the stress and uncertainty of the past year. I found this conversation incredibly helpful; I hope you do too!

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Shallenberger COVID mRNA vaccine

Fact-checking Dr. Frank Shallenberger’s COVID Vaccine Letter

There has been a letter circulating written by Dr. Frank Shallenberger emphasizing the uncertainty and alleged danger of the COVID vaccine. However, much of the information is either blatantly false or taken out of context. Dr. Sana Zekri, MD provides a point-by-point response to the claims in the letter.

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Will the COVID vaccine sterilize women?

Some have argued that the antibodies generated by the COVID vaccine will attack the placenta. Is there any evidence behind this argument? This post tackles where this argument came from, and whether or not there is evidence to back it up.

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Why is COVID different than the flu?

Why did we shut down for COVID but not for the H1N1 pandemic? My friend Dr. Sana Zekri, MD explains why COVID-19 is different from H1N1 (Swine flu), and shares his experience treating COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

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The Pandemic and Brake Pads

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about flattening the curve as if it’s something we do to the virus and then it’s done and over… but this isn’t how it works.

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