Terrible Data Visualization, aka, This Map is Crap.

Posted by K8Baldwin K8Baldwin
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Terrible Data Visualization

This Map is Crap.

I have noticed a popular link on Social Media sites that leads to an interactive map. This map shows colorful circles over a world map. With link titles like, “One map sums up the damage caused by the anti-vaccination movement,”it gives the illusion that these explosive circles are the recent result of reduced vaccinations.


Vaccine Preventable Outbreaks Map

I am extremely pro-vaccine, but this is not the type of chart we should look at for the subject of vaccines and preventable dissease. Here are some of the key issues with this map:

This chart is not about vaccination.

This is a bad way to visualize data.


Vaccine Preventable Outbreaks Map

The downloaded data is sloppy and doesn’t match the map.

A New Graph

I made my own chart to address the rates of vaccination and illness rates. I choose to use the US because I live here, and I choose the MMR vaccine because I think that Rubella, Measles, and Mumps are very serious diseases that should be eliminated. My mother contracted Rubella (German measles) while pregnant with my sister in the 1960’s, before the rubella vaccine was available. Beth Ann was born severely retarded, deaf, and nearly blind. This is an extremely serious disease that many young people haven’t even heard of.

For my graph, I used data collected by the CDC and WHO. I took into account the changing population of US by presenting the data as cases per million Americans. You can see my raw data and detailed list of sources here .

Click here to view a large PDF of this graph.


Kate's Graph

Reflections from this graph

Future Directions

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Re: Terrible Data Visualization, aka, This Map is Crap.

I completely agree with this articles take on the original graph of measles outbreaks, but then it concentrates on mumps and characterizes Dr. Wakefield's study as the reason for the anti-vaccine movement. Both are unfortunate. The anti-vaccine movement (I would call it the vaccine safety movement) has existed for centuries, but has increased lately mostly as pressure against the exponentially increasing number of vaccines we are expected to give our children, including a vaccine at birth intended to prevent what is almost exclusively a sexually transmitted disease.

Now with respect to mumps, what is very interesting to me is the two-year-old Whistleblower lawsuit originating from two Merck employees who tell us that Merck intentionally not only withheld data, but actually tampered with samples to produce fraudulent studies showing that the mumps portion of their MMR vaccine was effective, when in fact it is not. Perhaps you can keep that in mind while you discuss the dangers of mumps, and then turn around and blame it on what you call the "anti-vaccine" movement? Not only is the mumps portion of MMR ineffective, but us parents have been lied to about this for years.

And now we have a CDC Whistleblower who is telling us that the 2004 MMR/autism study, which has been used as definitive proof that MMR vaccine does not cause autism, contained other data which was manipulated, in the case of an increased risk of autism in African American children after earlier MMR vaccine, or actually withheld, in the case of an increased risk of autism in the so-called "Isolated" autistic children (those with autism and no other developmental problems). This whistleblower is one of the actual authors of that study, and he has additional information and notes and thousands of pages of data which have been shared with Congressman Posey, look for investigations to begin after the election.

So not only are we being lied to about the benefits of vaccines, we are lied to about the risks as well. Do you still blame the entire "anti-vaccine" movement on Dr. Wakefield's paper?