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Correcting this week’s misinformation: December 8, 2022

Nasal flu vaccine and Strep A

The Claim:

A new study has sparked a rumor that the live, attenuated flu vaccine spray can cause Strep A infection.

The Facts:

The claims are a misreading of the science. The study includes an important note: “Following infection with an influenza virus, infected or recently recovered individuals become transiently susceptible to excess bacterial infections, particularly Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus…Importantly, LAIV, unlike wild-type virus, did not increase severe bacterial disease of the lower respiratory tract.” In other words, Strep A infections were not more likely following LAIV vaccination when compared to influenza infection

And while the study did identify increased bacterial load in the nasal cavity in mice of Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, neither of those two bacteria are Group A Streptococcus. Staphylococcus aureus isn’t even streptococcus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae is a Group B strep. Furthermore, bacteria in the nose is not a lower respiratory infection, and mice are not people.

Benefits and risks in young adults

The Claim:

A new essay published in the British Medical Journal claims that for young adults, the risks outweigh the benefits of COVID vaccination.

The Facts:

The above proposition flies in the face of the scientific method. The cardiologist is incorrect to fill in the gap of unexplained causes (in this case of cardiac events) with the vaccine. His is an argument from ignorance. If he believes that the vaccine is causing all these cardiac events, he needs to prove that they are instead of pointing to events with no known cause.

This essay’s authors are COVID minimalists who have made their names looking for reasons to dismiss COVID diseases and refuse COVID vaccination. This essay is more of the same: downplaying COVID, and overstating the risks of the vaccine.

COVID vaccines have been associated with an increased risk of myocarditis in young males. COVID infection, though, dramatically increases the risk of serious complications to such a level that the two aren’t comparable. Myocarditis after vaccination is usually mild and self-limiting, whereas myocarditis after infection can be severe and take much longer to recover from.

This preprint estimates that “vaccinating one million 18-25 year-old males would prevent 82,484 cases, 4,766 hospitalizations, 1,144 ICU admissions, and 51 deaths due to COVID-19, compared to 128 vaccine-attributable myocarditis/pericarditis cases, 110 hospitalizations, zero ICU admissions, and zero deaths.” The benefits of COVID vaccination among teenage and young adult males absolutely dwarfs its risks.

The difference a vaccine can make

The Claim:

As we close out 2022, we have a lot more information about the difference vaccines made in saving lives, including this recently published analysis.

The Facts:

This analysis compared states with the highest vaccination rates to those with the lowest vaccination rates. They found that the top 10 states, with an average of 73% vaccination uptake, had about 75 deaths per 100,000, while the bottom 10 states, with about 52% coverage had 146 deaths per 100,00.

During the study’s run, we would “have averted 122, 304 deaths if COVID-19 mortality matched that of the 10 most-vaccinated states and 266 700 deaths if US excess all-cause mortality rate matched that of the 10 most-vaccinated states.”

Vaccines were the game-changer. Those claiming that vaccines do not work are unaware of the facts or living in a different reality.

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