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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of April 6, 2023

Does COVID vaccine suppress the immune system?

The Claim:

A tweet uses a news video to claim that research suggests the COVID vaccine might suppress the immune system, resulting in heart problems, blood clots, and reduced ability to fight off future infections.

The Facts:

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a news station widely recognized for fanning the flames of vaccine hesitancy is running yet another anti-vaccine segment based on flawed claims unsupported by facts.

Let’s start with the facts first. An immune response can be measured by the presence of interferons (IFNs) in the body. Interferon is a natural substance that helps the body’s immune system fight disease. Research shows that interferon is produced—not suppressed—by vaccination and that those who had received a vaccine prior to hospitalization for COVID had a better antiviral interferon response than those who were unvaccinated.

First, the author of the first paper mentioned should cause some hesitation. Previously she has claimed that vaccines cause autism and suggests that glyphosate is a factor in COVID. Second, in this paper is a claim that, when compared with those infected with COVID, there is a “dramatic upregulation … of interferons (IFNs) in COVID-19 patients, but not in vaccinees.” arguing that this is consistent with the idea that the anti-COVID-19 vaccines actively suppress type I IFN signaling when that is not borne out by the evidence.” As we have explained above, research shows the opposite of this claim: interferon is produced—not suppressed—by vaccination.

Finally, the news segment claims that a Lancet study supports the conclusions of the paper. This is also untrue. The Lancet study suggests that protection from the vaccine wanes after a time and boosters might be indicated.

Did the COVID vaccine kill as many people as the COVID virus?

The Claim:

A tweet claims the COVID vaccine death count is as high as the COVID virus death count.

The Facts:

A glance at the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink is all it takes to disprove this wild claim. According to the CDC, there have only been 9 deaths in the United States associated with COVID vaccination, all from blood clots caused by the J&J/Janssen vaccine. The death count from the COVID virus in the United States, on the other hand, is well over 1.4 million.

The entire foundation of this tweeter’s claim is a completely unscientific poll of 1,078 people (hardly an accurate sampling of our country’s population). Poll participants were asked two questions: “Has any member of your household died from COVID-19?” and “Has any member of your household died whose death you think may have been caused by side effects of COVID-19 vaccines?” To the first question, 10% responded yes, while 11% responded yes to the second question. Obviously, these people have opinions and beliefs, but opinions and beliefs are not science-based facts, and the perspective of 1,078 people is far from an accurate representation of our nation’s population.

Have COVID mRNA vaccines caused heart problems and strokes?

The Claim:

A tweeter reposts an article claiming that the COVID mRNA vaccine has played a role or been a primary cause of unexpected cardiac arrests, heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure since 2021.

The Facts:

Once more, the facts soundly refute this tweeter’s claim.

Research shows that COVID infection, not the COVID mRNA vaccine is responsible for increasing the risk of serious cardiac events. COVID vaccines actually protect against serious cardiac events and stroke in people who have had previous COVID infections.

So how does this tweet get it so wrong?

Chalk this one up to mistaking anecdotal experience for scientific fact. The tweeted article features a British cardiologist who started to suspect that mRNA vaccines caused unexpected cardiac arrests, heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure after his father suffered cardiac arrest.

This unfortunate event highlights the dangers of using emotionally charged anecdotal experience to come to supposedly scientific conclusions. The cardiologist claimed to know his father’s lifestyle and health, but he was his father’s son, not his father’s doctor. This cardiologist also didn’t mention and may not have been aware of any past COVID infections his father may have experienced.

Based on his limited knowledge of his father’s health condition, this cardiologist decided that vaccines increase the risk of adverse serious cardiac events. This is the problem with using anecdotes alone, unsupported by any scientific research, to draw conclusions and rule out other possible causes of these cardiac events.

This cardiologist never considered that a COVID infection—and not a COVID vaccine—might have weakened his father’s heart.

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