Vaccine or Garlic? Badly Designed Research, With a Prejudice Toward Nurses
We have discussed in length how to read contradictory research articles and I thought it was about time to give an example of a very bad research project, and explain how to approach what I call very bad scientific interpretation that is tinted with prejudice and steeped in politics.
This team of researchers, Sobierajski et al. (2023), decided they will conduct a research survey of physicians and nurses, and administrative staff in three teaching hospitals - asking about influenza and what methods are best to prevent getting infected.
So let's roll our sleeves and quickly outline just a few reasons why this project is so slanted, and in my view, quite misleading, and with a very bad twist - an attitude against nurses that took my breath away.
Timing: The survey took place in the first phase of Covid-19, August-September of 2020. This is in itself, a very bad timing to ask about attitudes and knowledge on how to prevent infection. There was too much fear and the information was disjointed and not accurate.
The scientific community was hushed while the media went wild. Surveys are about opinions. It would have been good if the researchers emphasized that they did this research during a time of turmoil.
The Questions: The team asked about seasonal vaccination at a time when fear was at its hight about Covid and drug companies were competing to get their vaccine out. Remember that the first vaccine was approved and given in Dec. of 2020.
When fear is involved about an infectious disease that is seemingly running rampant, the tendency is to generalize to other similar (or not) diseases and magnify the negative.
In fact, this is what our stress hormones do in order for us to be "prepared for the worst." Seann has taught all of us about the stress hormones and how they effect health and disease since the early 90s.
So we know that the answers will not be accurate since they originate in fear. Doctors and nurses were completely overwhelmed during this time.
Politics: In the survey, doctors emphasized vaccination, while nurses did not. How did the researchers relate to this difference? They described the 'attitude of nurses' as uneducated and their knowledge base on what garlic does for infections 'a myth'...
All they needed to do was look at the literature, and in a twisted fashion, within this time and just a few months after they did their research, quite a few articles described the efficacy of garlic against Covid. Same with vitamin C.
Not only did the team of Sobierajski et al. (2023) treat nurses with prejudice and with unscientific bias, they also missed on an opportunity - they could have said that nurses believe in more holistic ways of preparing the body for a flu season, or they could have said that nurses observe more since they work more closely with patients in hospitals. But they did not...
Also an important point to consider: teaching hospitals, as part of a university, do get grants and are therefore beholden to the companies, institutions, and government. So if the government holds a certain political position such as flu vaccines are necessary for health, so do these hospitals and especially the doctors that have to hold this position.
Contradiction: This research group studied and compared physicians and nurses primarily in adult and children 'academic' hospitals in Poland - hospitals that are attached to universities. On one hand, the research team criticized the nurses for not knowing facts from myths since the nurses believe in "natural" methods (vitamin C and garlic as examples).
On the other hand, the researchers talk about these physicians and nurses as more "educated" - so what does that mean? That other nurses are even further the path of myth creators because they believe in holistic methods of strengthening the immune system?
Gaps in Research: Garlic in fact was not the only holistic method that mentioned by the participants as helpful against the flu. 6.4% or around 60 people thought it would work very well. But Vitamin C was considered as effective, by even more participants, 8.6% - or about 82 participants! Yet the article's abstract is about Garlic and vitamin C vs vaccine.
The other interesting bit is that at best, almost 50% of physicians, considered flu vaccination to be effective and "completely effective in preventing flu" - but what about the other 50%?
Also, it is emphasized that only 20% of nurses considered the vaccine to be really effective. But 10% of nurses considered the vaccine to be not effective at all. and the other 70%? In between effective and not effective does create a significant "not totally effective" - why is this not in the conclusion? And for only 20% of nurses to rally behind a vaccine is a significant number for the researchers to ignore, and worse, treat the rest as uneducated, especially in a university's hospital.
Enjoy the Article - and for fun, I have included some nice research on garlic and Covid.
- Ansary, J., Forbes-Hernández, T. Y., Gil, E., Cianciosi, D., Zhang, J., Elexpuru-Zabaleta, M., ... & Battino, M. (2020). Potential health benefit of garlic based on human intervention studies: A brief overview. Antioxidants, 9(7), 619.
- booster against SARS-CoV-2. Biotica Research Today, 2(8), 755-757. Article
- Donma, M. M., & Donma, O. (2020). The effects of allium sativum on immunity within the scope of COVID-19 infection. Medical hypotheses, 144, 109934. Abstract
- Pandey, P., Khan, F., Kumar, A., Srivastava, A., & Jha, N. K. (2021). Screening of potent inhibitors against 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) from Allium sativum and Allium cepa: An in silico approach. Biointerface Res Appl Chem, 11(1), 7981-93. Article
- Serrano, H. D. A., Mariezcurrena-Berasain, M. A., Castillo, A. D. C. G., Carranza, B. V., Pliego, A. B., Rojas, M. T., ... & Rivas-Caceres, R. R. (2020). Antimicrobial resistance of three common molecularly identified pathogenic bacteria to Allium aqueous extracts. Microbial pathogenesis, 142, 104028.
Sobierajski, T., Rykowska, D., Wanke-Rytt, M., & Kuchar, E. (2023). Vaccine or Garlic–Is It a Choice? Awareness of Medical Personnel on Prevention of Influenza Infections. Vaccines, 11(1), 66. Article
Yours as Always,
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