There are no vaccine studies with saline placebo?

Are there really no vaccine studies done with a saline placebo? This is a common comment from antivaxers. They think vaccines cannot possibly be safe unless they are tested against an inert substance, aka the saline placebo, and there are none in existence. Therefore, vaccines are BAD.



What is a placebo and what is a saline placebo?  A placebo is a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect. Saline is something impregnated with salt. A saline placebo is basically a dose of salty water in lieu of a drug. So, the idea is that one group of study participants should get the vaccine while the other groups has a shot of salty water and neither group knows who got which. This is what is meant by double-blind, saline-placebo.

The World Health Organization has a great document explaining how placebos work and why certain substances are chosen for vaccine trials.

“Randomisation and the use of placebo interventions are designed to control for confounding effects, such that significant differences in disease incidence or adverse effects between the vaccine and control groups can likely be attributed to the vaccine. However, randomised, placebo-controlled trial designs often raise ethical concerns when participants in the control arm are deprived of an existing vaccine. Furthermore, testing a new vaccine against placebo is scientifically and ethically fraught when the hypothesis being tested is whether an experimental vaccine is more efficacious than one already in use in the same or in other settings.”

WHO goes on to detail how it may be unethical to deprive a study participant of a vaccine when an efficacious one exists. Meaning, if they are testing a new vaccine it would be unethical to test it against saline when an older, proven safe version exists. So, they can use the older version as the placebo and, therefore, not deprive the study participant of the protection. It is also considered ethical to use an adjuvant in lieu of a vaccine when the vaccine being studied has that adjuvant in it. So, you can use an aluminum adjuvant as a placebo if the adjuvant has been around enough to have been studied for safety. This is a controversial topic, with some feeling that aluminum adjuvants don’t have a proven safety record to use as a placebo.  That is a topic for another blog post. This one is focused solely on saline placebo.

“Between these two poles, the use of placebo controls in vaccine trials may be justified even when an efficacious vaccine exists, provided the risk-benefit profile of the trial is acceptable. “

The rest of the document sets out a “framework sets out the conditions under which placebo use is clearly acceptable and clearly unacceptable in vaccine trials.”

That being said, this does not mean there are no vaccine studies which use a saline placebo. Many clinical trials use a saline placebo. Read inserts to learn more. And, PubMed, the online database of scientific studies organized by the USA’s National Institutes of Health, has many listings for vaccine studies which use a saline placebo.

Here are some vaccine studies which used saline placebo:
I could go on. This was from only the first two pages of my PubMed search.


So, as you can see, there are very important reasons why a scientist might not use a saline placebo in a vaccine study but there are also many vaccine studies which do use a saline placebo. As usual, antivaxers are conveying misinformation. In fact, my online friend, Mike, came up with this and I turned it into a meme. This is exactly what they do, goal shifting!

no true scotsman


Remember to always verify claims!



This post is dedicated to Bernadette for always giving me great ideas for blog posts


17 thoughts on “There are no vaccine studies with saline placebo?

  1. Pingback: Antivaxers bring up Hannah Poling and vaccine safety, AGAIN | vaccinesworkblog

  2. Consider the problem is with the toxic ingredients like Aluminium in the adjuvant.
    I looked at the first link: – a randomized, placebo-controlled study ON ONLY HIV positive and all under Antiretroviral therapy, tested with a live vaccine (no adjuvant was described in the abstract).

    The second one: – Is for pre-natal flu vaccine and is unclear if of the 19,000 potential infants, in the control groups, recieved any vaccines after birth.

    The third one: – Is a live vaccine with no mention of any adjuvant.

    I quit researching after that.
    From the first three studies I have 0% confidence that vaccines with adjuvants have been tested against a saline placebo.


  3. I had to look that up, scotsman fallacy. I didn’t exclude anything, I looked at the first three. So let’s have a look at the next three. – This one does have a vaccine adjuvant versus a saline palcebo yay!!! Oh, only 68 participants! Sorry, the sample group is too small, otherwise I would have accepted this as conclusive. Furthermore this is a study of a single vaccine over a 57 day period. In the real world we are concerned about the general health outcomes over a longer time-span and multiple vaccines with adjuvants. – Also a good study, a decent sample size of 420 , but no Aluminium adjuvant. The adjuvant was vitamin E and squalene. – Wow. No adjuvant mentioned, but wow, in the adverse events section, while the heatlh outcomes of the placebo group were not very different from the vaccine group they were worse for vaccines in every category except one. Deaths of infants in the palcebo group 50, versus 61 in the vaccine group, a 0.61% higher risk of death. I wouldn’t push that one as a pro-vaccine study. Would you give your kids this vaccine?

    Four more to go. Thanks for this engaging blog.


    • You posted on a blog post where I explain the no true scotsman fallacy and you had to look it up?

      You are posting on a study discussing how antivaxers think there are not vaccine studies with saline placebo. But, they are wrong.

      Do you have a point here? Because the main point of my blog post is that there are studies with a saline placebo. End of story. Period. Nothing more.


      • I think the point is that this person did not really read the article. If they did, they did not understand it. Nor do they understand that not every vaccine has an adjuvant.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. If you want to go after people that say there are no saline placebo comparative studies, fine, there is clearly there an education gap, okay. Most people don’t understand the science of placebos and they have heard something that has grabbed their attention. So let’s help them out and suggest an area of study that may be missing placebo’s from vaccine safety studies. The aluminium hydroxide adjuvant versus placebo study. Can you find that one?


  5. I am sure you are aware that the hypothesis of toxic build up in the brain is a valid one, be it mercury, aluminium or any known neurotoxin that can be found in vaccines, foods, tooth fillings, light bulbs etc. Chris Exleys work on Aluminium, (which has set benchmarks in previous studies) finds higher levels of Aluminium in Alzheimer brains. Which you know about, and don’t bother pointing me to your pals over at , they failed to notice previous studies of Aluminium and focus on Exleys one work as if it is the defining comaprative study, which it is not. It is a study, not a comparison. Comparisons are against previous studies, but oh, they are closed for comments. There may be a number of causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders and where we know there is a potential for triggering it through toxic overload then it would be really helpful to develop a screening process to help parents rule out a toxic overload risk. It would also help parents to attempt ASD reversal by the method mentioned by Exley, increasing silicates in the diet. Your kids may be unaffected by vaccines because they already have a high silicate diet. Call it a Scotsman fallacy if it makes you happy. I cant’ help thinking it is better to look in to every potential cause for an adverse reaction rather than to exclude one source of neurotoxins, vaccines.
    It is important to research exactly why vaccines are unavoidably unsafe, be it neurotoxicity or allergic reactions. Who knows, a few hundred kids could already have had their ASD diagnosis reversed simply by changing diet after their environment made them hypersensitive or overloaded with toxins?

    The problem with this website is that you make an assumption that there is nothing wrong with vaccines, when we know they are unavoidably unsafe. If you took the line of looking in to every possible cause of their unsafeness it may show help to reveal oddities like changes in diet can reduce ASD.


    • No where in that wall of text is any real evidence that is more harm from the vaccine when compared to the disease. In no paper has Exley shown aluminum causes more harm than the diseases.

      His paper, paid by the Dwoskin family, looking at just five brains of dead people with claims that they were high in aluminum and all had autism was very silly. There were from brains of people who died between age 15 and 50. There were no controls. Plus the methods to access the amount of aluminum was wonky:

      Autism is not a death sentence. Please stop claiming autism is more horrible than a child suffering from pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus. This claim shows that you do not respect people with genetic disabilities.

      “It is important to research exactly why vaccines are unavoidably unsafe, be it neurotoxicity or allergic reactions”

      That is always being done. There is a reason the IPV is used instead of OPV, the DTaP replaced the DTP, a new safer rabies vaccine was introduced in 1968 and the first rotavirus was replaced by newer versions. You seem to be invoking the Nirvana fallacy

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exley’s work has been debunked over and over. His work is rife with conflicts of interest and bad analyses. He averaged the data from his autism aluminum brain data. Bad science!

      Tell me, which of the brain samples in Exley’s autism brain aluminum study were vaccinated?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Mrs Antivaxer goes to Atlanta! | vaccinesworkblog

  7. Pingback: Zwölfter Teil III – -Aluminium und das Immunsystem – Ganzheitlich Durchleuchtet

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