When discussing vaccines with a friend, they brought up a study:

Analysis of health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children: Developmental delays, asthma, ear infections and gastrointestinal disorders by Brian S. Hooker and Neil Z Miller

This article claims the study is peer reviewed, but I'm not sure how to verify that.

Is this study peer reviewed?

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    The journal "Sage Open Medicine" states it is peer-reviewed and this is presumably correct. But you should not assume peer-review is a guarantee of of quality. A different Sage open access publication was one of those caught in the Who's Afraid of Peer Review? exercise, as were journals published by other prestigious publishing companies and institutions – Henry Dec 28 '20 at 0:54
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    Of course, being peer-reviewed doesn't mean the paper is correct: healthfeedback.org/claimreview/… – Mark Dec 28 '20 at 2:23
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    Separate from the question of peer review, anyone interested in the study might look at the affiliations of the authors. In the section on potential conflicts of interest they provide information that shows that both are directors of anti-vaccine organizations. The topic is testing for correlation of vaccination status with several conditions. – George White Dec 28 '20 at 2:49

It seems to be peer-reviewed, but that's not really conclusive of the study's quality. The article itself admits in its abstract that it's only looking at correlation, not causation:

In this study, which only allowed for the calculation of unadjusted observational associations

They also used a convenience sample, children that showed up at 3 clinics. And they also admit that:

There are undoubtedly demographic differences within the two groups studied (vaccinated versus unvaccinated), especially regarding socioeconomic status and maternal education.

One of the authors of the paper discloses (in it) that he's on the board of Children's Health Defense, an organization known for campaigning against vaccines, more or less openly; e.g. that wiki page says a WaPo investigation concluded they funded Facebook ads drumming up the risks of vaccines. The other author of the paper in question is affiliated with a more obscure organization, but its name probably speaks for itself: Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute. As such, this paper is the kind of information you'd expect such groups to focus on...

The journal itself, which has a wiki page shows that it's a relatively new journal, with papers that (insofar) aren't cited often. And it seems to be less selective in the kind of papers it accepted, in that it is a "mega journal", typically

accepting articles for publication based on whether they are technically sound rather than selecting for perceived importance

And from the journal's own suggestion for related papers, it's easy to find a similar (2019) one on the correlation between HPV vaccines and asthma; an author of this other paper, Mark Geier is better known because his older publication have been roundly criticized (for their wrong conclusions and questionable methodology) by some high-profile academic/medical association, e.g. by the Institute of Medicine or the American Academy of Pediatrics.

N.B., as it turns out David Gorski's blog has (much) longer critical piece on the 2020 study.

  • Thanks so much! – lucasvw Dec 28 '20 at 17:39
  • The wiki page refers to Sage Open, which is a different journal than Sage Open Medicine. – David Hammen Dec 28 '20 at 17:39
  • @DavidHammen: good point. The latter seems to be even more obscure scijournal.org/impact-factor-of-open-medicine.shtml However, the "mega journal" aspect seems to apply as well "SAGE Open Medicine does not limit content due to page budgets or thematic significance. Papers are subjected to rigorous peer review and are selected based on whether the research is sound and deserves publication" – Fizz Dec 28 '20 at 19:13

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