Daily Archives: February 9, 2020

Vaccines: How Misinformation Kills Hundreds of Thousands Per Year

Picture shows a child with skin rashes associated with the Rubella Virus

Above: A side-image of a child with developed skin rashes as a result of the German Measles virus, also commonly known as Rubella. (Source: Public Health Image Library (PHIL), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of thousands of people are killed or hospitalized each year by vaccine-preventable diseases. A startling amount of those people are children that are no more than five years of age. Despite the countless lives that vaccines have saved since their introduction in global society, a shocking amount of people still succumb to illnesses and complications that often result from not receiving vaccinations. Even more shocking, however, is that so many children fall victim to the often-fatal side effects of not receiving vaccines. It is puzzling that in a society where countless strides have been made, thousands of people are still dangerously misinformed about the true safety and effectiveness of most vaccines. For example, most college students often choose not to receive an Influenza vaccine each year according to Ramsey, Meagan A., and Cecile A. Marczinski. It is obvious that more work must be done to truly convince the public about the true nature of vaccines.

The task at hand is quite broad, and there are multiple factors that must be considered. For example, how do you reverse damage that was caused decades ago? It is clear that most people have been read or heard about an infamous “study” that noted a correlation between the development of autism and the MMR vaccine. Rao, T. S. Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade explain the controversial study and its problems especially well. The study was conducted by Alan Wakefield and colleagues, and ultimately, concluded that children who received the MMR vaccine were more likely to develop Autism.

Autism is a rare, developmental disorder which is often associated with a broad range of learning, communication, and behavioral issues. The MMR vaccine refers to Measles, Mumps, and Rubella; three diseases that are possibly fatal to individuals who are particularly susceptible. In reference to Wakefield’s study, multiple confounding variables were not accounted for. Consequently, the results were extremely skewed. Despite the issues that the article had, the Lancet still published it. Although other research quickly refuted Wakefield’s findings, it was not long before parents noticed his results. As a result, MMR vaccination rates dropped, and the study had made its mark on the public.

For the public to understand the true nature and effectiveness of vaccines, many vaccines must be considered and analyzed. Along with routine childhood vaccines, data was collected from studies with reference to DNA vaccines (Klinman, Dennis M., et al.), Rotavirus vaccines (Gray, J.), and the common H1N1 (Influenza) vaccine (Ramsey, Meagan A., and Cecile A. Marczinski.)

While each article mentioned flaws with its vaccine in question, conclusions were more or less of the same: vaccines are not only safe to children as well as most of the general population, they are also effective most of the time. These results are fairly credible as most of the studies acquired data from governmental or educational data sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. However, the articles do have an issue in that fact that there is very limited experimental data mentioned in the results. Experiments are often the best for establish causal relationships among variables as scientists can often isolate and compare a variable and its effects on another controlled variable. Although this is an issue, it is very difficult to conduct experiments in relation to this topic as ethical concerns begin to play a crucial role.

To illustrate how the public still has their doubts about vaccines, a particular article involving college students and their perception of the common Influenza vaccine was analyzed. Ramsey, Meagan A., and Cecile A. Marczinski found that of the 514 undergraduate students at Northern Kentucky University, only about 15% were planning on receiving the Influenza vaccine. Despite most universities’ clear warnings about the dangers of Influenza and how easily it is spread, a growing number of students still avoid the vaccine.

This result is shocking, as the vaccine which prevents this possibly-fatal infection goes largely ignored by the United States’ “best and brightest”. Even more startling, in a recent article published in the Chicago Tribune, Sun and Lena H. claim that the number of children in the U.S. who do not receive vaccinations is climbing exponentially. This clearly illustrates how misinformation is running rampant in the United States.

To combat this spread of faulty information, data was gathered from multiple sources involving certain vaccines’ true safety and efficacy. One article studied the nature of DNA vaccines; newer vaccines that still need more research done before they can be fully introduced into the global society. Another article studied the Rotavirus and its vaccine, and one studied the nature of a multitude of childhood vaccines. All of these studies mention how there are, of course, potential side effects that go along with receiving vaccines. (what did they do with the data/ what did they find)

However, these are usually only present in a case-by-case basis, and only arise due to pre-existing health issues. The article that studied the Rotavirus mentions the complication associated with the disease, including its dangerous gastrointestinal issues. The article mentions how over half a million children are killed each year as a result from vomiting, diarrhea, and fever; all symptoms of Rotavirus.

Using observational data, the Rotavirus was concluded to prevent the disease effectively and only noted adverse effects in few infants in a relatively large sample size. The article involving childhood vaccines drew large-scale statistics from multiple sources about myriad vaccines that are given to children every year. Unsurprisingly, the results were more or less the same; the vaccines protected most children without any unusual adverse effects.

Although the public has been exposed to inaccurate information about vaccines, it is clear that multiple studies have attempted to reveal the truth about them. Overall, most studies concluded that vaccines are not only safe for the general public, but they are also effective against the disease that they were designed for. However, cases of unvaccinated individuals are still on the rise.

This is not an isolated problem, but a nationwide (epidemic) pandemic of misinformation about something that prevents millions of deaths each year from preventable diseases. Although it is hard to reverse damage caused by Wakefield’s infamous study decades ago, scientists and researchers world-wide must develop new ways of offering proper science to the public. It is the duty of citizens and scientists alike to spread accurate information about vaccines and stop the killer that is misinformation.

By D. Crowder


“A side-image of a child with developed skin rashes as a result of the German Measles virus, also commonly known as Rubella.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=22147

Gray, J. “Rotavirus vaccines: safety, efficacy and public health impact.” Journal of internal medicine 270.3 (2011): pp 206-214, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2011.02409.x.

Klinman, Dennis M., et al. “DNA vaccines: safety and efficacy issues.” Springer seminars in immunopathology. 19.2. (1997). pp 245–256, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00870272.

Ramsey, Meagan A., and Cecile A. Marczinski. “College students’ perceptions of H1N1 flu risk and attitudes toward vaccination.” Vaccine 29.44 (2011): pp 7599-7601, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X11011807.

Rao, T S Sathyanarayana, and Chittaranjan Andrade. “The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud.” Indian journal of psychiatry 53.2 (2011): pp 95-96, http://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/article.asp?issn=0019-5545;year=2011;volume=53;issue=2;spage=95;epage=96;aulast=Sathyanarayana.

Sun, Lena H. “Percentage of Young U.S. Kids Who Don’t Get Vaccinated Has Quadrupled since 2001.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 19 Aug. 2019, www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-hlth-unvaccinated-kids-20181011-story.html.

Military Resilience: How Our Soldiers Are Taught To Keep Going


Smith Stew, Special Ops Prep for Log PT and Leg Stamina, Military.com

Imagine getting four hours of sleep in three days, jumping into freezing cold water with nothing but a speedo for hours on end, and lugging logs into the pacific surf at two in the morning. These actions are trademarks of the Navy Seal’s “Hell Week” training.

How do these individuals endure such mental agony and hardship? They are resilient.  

Mental resilience is the process of effective adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. For years, governments and corporations have been trying to increase the resilience of their workforce. One company, Halo Neuroscience, has even created a brain zapping headset that is supposed to stimulate a person to the point of continued peak performance. The success of this and other similar devices are dubious as they do not demonstrate statistically significant increases in resilience. 

So far, only one program has reported progressive milestones in increasing an individual’s resilience: the US Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program (CSFP). The CSFP is a four pronged program aimed to increase soldiers’ mental resilience while decreasing their risk of  suicide or PTSD

  • First prong: A mental resilience self-survey, known as the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), is used to asses soldiers’ current mental toughness 
  • Second prong: An individualized online program is made to help soldiers improve their mentally weak areas
  • Third prong: Specific battalion leaders are taught an advanced form of resilience training through the Mental Resilience Training (MRT) program, and these resilience trainers are stationed in every battalion
  • Fourth prong: Mandatory resilience training is implemented at every Army development school in the nation to test its effectiveness 

The purpose of the CSFP is to equip soldiers with a durable mindset prior to conflict. The program is focused on preventing mental illness rather than treating soldiers after they have developed symptoms.  

And so far it is working… we think. 

The first part of the program, the GAT, has proven successful in analyzing soldiers’ emotional fitness (personal satisfaction and resilience), family fitness (how one functions in relationships), social fitness (how one interacts with their army community), and spiritual fitness (if one has a sense of purpose that extends beyond the self). Psychologists who are not funded by the military, such as University of Michigan’s Christopher Peterson,  also suggest that the GAT increases behavioral health through quick assessment feedback. This perk allows soldiers to personally reflect on areas the GAT deems as weak. Peterson and various GAT creators think immediate evaluations are beneficial because they provide soldiers time to recognize and accept their results; this recognition proves valuable when soldiers attempt resilience behavioral transitions in later stages of the CSFP.

An example of a successful GAT synopsis on a male lieutenant using common military psychology vocabulary is shown below:

Figure 1, Peterson Christopher, A male lieutenant’s GAT synopsis from Christopher Peterson’s GAT analysis report, Assessment for the U.S. Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program: The Global Assessment Tool.

This GAT score report shows that this soldier tested well in trust, friendship, and optimism compared to other soldiers, but he lacked adaptability and problem-focused coping mechanisms. Thus, through the second prong of the CSFP, the Army will create a specialized online training module to improve the weaknesses this soldier has demonstrated. 

The GAT was successful in predicting this lieutenant’s and many other soldiers’ potential to suffer from PTSD, depression, and substance abuse. Additionally, the GAT gauged how well soldiers would progress in the CSFP in terms of resilience and mental health. Many soldiers reported that the GAT was helpful in evaluating their current mental toughness standings. However, no data proves the test’s success in reanalyzing the progress, or lack of progress, of soldiers who followed specialized training plans. The GAT does not assess a soldier’s mental resilience in the long term. 

Overall, results are inconclusive as to whether the GAT and the following online program do more than just point out a soldier’s mental flaws. 

Fortunately, the third prong of the CSFP, the mental resilience training program, is a little more promising. The MRT program contains four modules. The first and second are focused on teaching the competencies that make up mental toughness and resilience. The third and fourth  aim to strengthen soldiers’ social relationship skills and encourage character reflection. 

James Griffith, a military psychologist, and his team gauged the success of the MRT through a questionnaire distributed to the Army National Guard. The questionnaire evaluated soldiers’ takeaways from the program. Soldiers reported that the MRT helped in improving self-assessed resilience and decreased behavioral health symptoms (symptoms known to be associated with suicide or depression). Peter Harm’s behavioral health evaluation, an evaluation not funded by the military, also reported that the MRT portion of the CSFP decreased mental health issues and substance abuse problems.

The fourth prong of the CSFP implements and measures the effectiveness of different resilience training programs. Each Army development school and battalion does not receive the same CSFP outlined training plan. Instead, most battalions receive and follow different tactical approaches for teaching resilience. Thus, small successes or failures from each specific program cannot be associated with the CSFP as a whole and cannot prove that this prong significantly develops soldiers’ mental resilience. However, with so many controlled resilience programs being tested on different battalions, the fourth prong of the program almost seems as though it’s turning our soldiers into guinea pigs for military psychologists to use as they please. 

While certain aspects of CSFP, such as the Mental Resilience Training program, are beneficial in reducing the number of soldiers that suffer from mental health issues, no evidence suggests that the CSFP is a psychological breakthrough in increasing mental toughness. 

Yes, the CSFP does help advance the field of military psychology; however, no one practice or module has been directly correlated with increased resilience. Furthermore, results showed the program’s failure to increase soldiers’ emotional buffer between a stressor and negative behavior. An emotional buffer is the delay between the brain’s recognition of the stressor and the resulting emotion. This emotional buffer is the “effective adaptation” in the resilience definition. 

These negative implications of the CSFP don’t stop at largely ineffective mental resilience training. Many psychologists also ponder if the CSFP breached ethical conduct.

Psychologists from the American Psychology Association regard the CSFP as a research endeavor, not a legitimately tested program to increase resilience. According to Roy Eidelson, a distinguished social psychologist, the CSFP violates the Nuremberg code by not giving soldiers who were placed in this program informed consent. In his “Dark Side of the Comprehensive Fitness Program” report, Eidleson reprimands the CSFP for not hosting control trials before publishing and testing this program on one million soldiers. Moreover, Eidelson warns that such a push on mental toughness could cause soldiers to underestimate a potential threat, putting themselves and their comrades in further danger. 

The magic formula for teaching mental resilience has not yet been cracked. Although programs such as the CSFP are under ethical scrutiny and devices such as the Halo Neuroscience headset haven’t shown transformative outcomes, they are still a step forward in the field of resilience research.

Who knows, with enough steps, maybe one day a daughter program of the CSFP or an advanced brain zapping headset will allow us to readily lug logs up and down a beach with only four hours of sleep. 

By: N. Van Liew 


Casey, G. W., Jr. (2011). Comprehensive soldier fitness: A vision for psychological resilience in the U.S. Army. American Psychologist, 66(1), 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021930

Eidelson, R., Pilisuk, M., & Soldz, S. (2011). The dark side of comprehensive soldier fitness. American Psychologist, 66(7), 643–644. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025272

Griffith, J., & West, C. (2013). Master Resilience Training and Its Relationship to Individual Well-Being and Stress Buffering Among Army National Guard Soldiers. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 40(2), 140–155. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11414-013-9320-8

Harms, P. D. (2013). The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program Evaluation. Report #4: Evaluation of Resilience Training and Mental and Behavioral Health Outcomes. Retrieved January 24, 2020, from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/pdharms/10/

Lester, P. B., Mcbride, S., Bliese, P. D., & Adler, A. B. (2011). Bringing science to bear: An empirical assessment of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. American Psychologist, 66(1), 77–81. https.//doi: 10.1037/a0022083

Peterson, C., Park, N., & Castro, C. A. (2011). Assessment for the U.S. Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program: The Global Assessment Tool. American Psychologist, 66(1), 10–18. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021658

Image Credits:

Image 1: Smith Stew, Special Ops Prep for Log PT and Leg Stamina, Military.com, https://www.military.com/military-fitness/workouts/special-ops-prep-for-log-pt-and-leg-stamina

Image 2: Figure 1 op. cit. Peterson Christopher, Global Assessment Tool Report, Assessment for the U.S. Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program: The Global Assessment Tool.