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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of August 3, 2023

What killed Lisa Marie Presley?

The Claim:

After her sudden death in January, vaccine conspiracy theorists promoted the unfounded hypothesis that vaccines killed Lisa Marie Presley. What really killed her?

The Facts:

Lisa Marie Presley passed away at 54 after being rushed to a California hospital in cardiac arrest. Predictably, antivaccine conspiracy theorists blamed vaccines. Here, a cardiologist says the vaccines must be pulled off the market. Others tried to take Snopes to task for reporting a lack of evidence of vaccine involvement with her death.

Autopsy reports have been released, and the medical examiner states Lisa Marie Presley passed away due to a bowel obstruction. The obstruction was caused by scar tissue, known as adhesions, resulting from surgery several years prior.

Vaccines typically contain only tiny amounts of the germ or parts of it, not enough to physically block any part of the body, including the intestines, or cause adhesions that would do so. They cannot cause bowel obstruction because they don’t interact with the digestive system in that way. Instead, vaccines help the body develop immunity without causing the disease itself, providing a valuable defense against harmful illnesses.

What do we know about cardiac events and vaccines?

The Claim:

LeBron James’ son suffered cardiac arrest and was hospitalized. The usual suspects are connecting this medical event to vaccines, with the owner of the social media platform formerly known as Twitter connecting this event to myocarditis and to all we apparently do not know about vaccines.

The Facts:

Bronny James is in stable condition after suffering cardiac arrest during basketball practice.

While there is a risk of developing myocarditis from receiving COVID mRNA vaccines, the risk is relatively low. And most people who had it got better without any big problems. Anti-vaccine activists claim that vaccines have caused a jump in cardiovascular injuries, yet COVID infections are more likely to cause them. The relative risk for myocarditis is more than 7 times higher from COVID infection than
from vaccination. And while these activists like to point out that Bronny James sure got the vaccine, data from the CDC estimates that in his age cohort, over 90% have had at least one COVID infection.

Cardiac arrest is the most common cause of death among young adult athletes, with Black basketball players at higher risk than others. Sudden Cardiac Death and other events in athletes are rare but serious, even before COVID and the COVID vaccine.

As a side note, young athletes are encouraged to stay safe in the extreme heat sweeping the country.

Does race change vaccine risk factors?

The Claim:

RFK Jr. is getting a lot of attention for his claims that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered to attack some while being less severe for others. His history of claiming that vaccines are prone to causing autism, particularly in some sub-segments of the population, is being recirculated by people who agree and feel like now is the moment.

The Facts:

RFK Jr.’s claims about autism are based on a re-analysis by Brian Hooker (chemical engineer) of a previous autism study. One of its co-authors of the original study expressed concerns about the original findings, claiming that important data was left out. So, Hooker got the data he claimed was missing, added it to the study, and did his own calculations.

The CDC defended its original study and said there was no cover-up.

Experts criticized Hooker’s re-analysis, saying it was flawed and didn’t consider other variables that could influence the results. They questioned how he used the CDC data set and argued that the study design was inappropriate for his analysis.

Brian Hooker used a cohort design to analyze a dataset originally intended for case-control analysis. Subsequently, he performed multiple subset analyses, which can besusceptible to false positives.

When evidence is excessively segmented or divided into smaller subsets for analysis, there is a higher likelihood of observing apparent correlations that may not nactually be meaningful or valid. This phenomenon is often called the “multiple comparisons problem” or “data dredging.”

Let’s illustrate this with an example:

Imagine a researcher is studying the relationship between eating ice cream and the incidence of sunburns in a particular city over the summer months. They collect dataon ice cream sales and sunburn cases for each day of the summer and decide to analyze the data in several ways:

  1. They compare ice cream sales on sunny days vs. cloudy days to see if more ice cream is sold on sunny days. They find a correlation: more ice cream is sold on sunny days.
  2. They analyze sunburn cases on sunny days vs. cloudy days to see if more sunburns occur on sunny days. They find a correlation: more sunburns occur on sunny days.
  3. They break the data into different age groups and compare ice cream sales and sunburn cases for each group. They find correlations within certain age groups.
  4. They split the data into different time intervals (morning, afternoon, and evening) and compared ice cream sales and sunburn cases for each interval.

They find correlations within some time periods.

Now, the researcher has several apparent correlations:

  • Sunny days are correlated with higher ice cream sales.
  • Sunny days are correlated with more sunburn cases.
  • Certain age groups show correlations between ice cream sales and sunburn cases.
  • Specific time intervals show correlations between ice cream sales and sunburn cases.

But here’s the catch: just because these correlations appear in the data doesn’t necessarily mean a true cause-and-effect relationship exists between eating ice cream and getting sunburned. The correlations might be coincidental and not based on any real underlying relationship.

In scientific research, it is crucial to be cautious about interpreting correlations.

And about taking medical advice from environmental lawyers.

Do vaccines cause turbo testicular cancer?

The Claim:

A viral tweet claims that mRNA COVID vaccines’ spike protein is causing “turbo” testicular cancer.

The Facts:

The claim that “spike protein localizes to the testes” makes it sound like spike protein is circulating and accumulating when the spike protein is generally not free floating. Most of the mRNA stays at the injection site, but some of it travels and is taken up by other organs.

Like in every other situation, the mRNA will then direct those cells to produce spike protein, which will be anchored to those cells, and then the mRNA will degrade within a day or so. Because the mRNA cannot access the nucleus of the cell where DNA resides, it does not change your DNA, and it cannot, therefore, give you turbo cancer.

Rather, the spike proteins trigger an immune response and nothing else. They are not capable of entering another cell or replicating. They are just on display for your immune system to learn about.

Testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in men 20 to 40 and second most common in men 15-19. The tweet claims a correlation between these cancers and vaccine status but offers no evidence. Without a plausible mechanism or evidence, the claims must be rejected.

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