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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of February 15, 2024

Do COVID vaccines harm unborn babies?

The Claim:

A new research letter is being cited as proof that mRNA COVID vaccines are crossing the placental barrier, suggesting that babies may be hurt in utero.

The Facts:

This study involved only two pregnant individuals, a minuscule sample size. Placental data was collected in both cases, but cord and maternal blood was only collected in one case.

Two earlier studies by the same team investigated if COVID vaccine mRNA is present in the placenta using different methods, resulting in different findings. Additionally, the study concludes: “The evidence overwhelmingly supports the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness in mitigating the morbidity and mortality related to the COVID-19 disease in pregnant and non-pregnant individuals,” suggesting that this research shows potential benefits of the vaccine.

One reason we vaccinate during pregnancy for some diseases (such as RSV, pertussis, and influenza) is that the unborn baby can receive maternal antibodies and be protected until the baby receives their own vaccines. The COVID vaccine does the same during pregnancy. The vaccine is safe to receive while pregnant, and the study doesn’t show anything that would contradict that.

Did they lie about mumps vaccine effectiveness?

The Claim:

Andrew Wakefield made a new movie based on that claim and the dismissed “whistleblower” lawsuit concerning the mumps vaccine effectiveness.

The Facts:

This new film is based an old, dismissed lawsuits. It was alleged that Merck defrauded the government and misrepresented data to secure contracts for manufacturing the vaccine.

This article, by our friend Dorit Reiss, discusses the dismissal of a 2010 lawsuit against Merck over its mumps vaccine. A lawsuit against Merck alleged fraud after questions about the minimum ‘release potency,’ an analysis of the amount of live virus in the vaccine at the beginning of the vaccine’s shelf life. After protocols changed in 1996-1997, the analysis included the amount of live virus at the end of shelf life.

In the end, the Federal District Court found that even if there were misrepresentations by Merck, they were not material to the government’s decision to contract with Merck for its mumps vaccine, as the government had its own data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and did not rely on the data provided by Merck. The court decided this without ruling on the fraud allegations.

Is the COVID vaccine more dangerous than COVID?

The Claim:

video featuring a cardiologist claims that only 120,000 Americans have died from COVID while 550,000 have died from COVID vaccination.

The Facts:

The cardiologist claims only 10% of deaths listed as COVID deaths are primary causes of death; therefore of the 1.2 million deaths due to COVID, only 120,000 are legitimate COVID deaths. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how death certificate data is filled out. Some (approximately 6% of cases according to this CDC interview) were filled out with COVID-19 listed as the primary cause of death. However, “the cause of death section on the death certificate is designed in a specific way . . . to elicit a sequence of events leading to death.”

The cardiologist gives the example of a case of COVID-19 where respiratory distress was the cause of death, but  “respiratory distress” is the primary cause of death, followed by what caused that distress (possibly viral pneumonia) followed then on the 3rd line the cause of that viral pneumonia – COVID, which would have occurred first in the sequence of events. Without COVID, this person would likely be alive.

The claim that side effects are underreported by a factor of about 30 comes from this analysis by a famed anti-vaxxer, starting with the false premise that the reporting rate for adverse events to VAERS after vaccination is proportional to the actual incidence of adverse events.

This assumption has several problems, namely that VAERS reports are not proof of causation. In fact, any death after COVID vaccination was required to be reported by law as a function of the EUA, regardless of causation, meaning deaths not caused by the vaccine are included in these reports. Attempting to use that percentage of deaths that occurred after vaccination, regardless of cause as proportional to the number of deaths caused by the vaccine, is false.

These claims wildly underestimated the number of deaths due to COVID by misunderstanding death certificates and wildly overestimated the number of serious adverse events by misusing VAERS. Is it poor math or lying with numbers? You decide.

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