Skip to content

Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of February 23, 2023

Adverse event rate for COVID vaccine

The Claim:

A tweet uses a physician interview to claim that the COVID vaccine should be withdrawn from the market because its adverse event rate is higher than those of the swine flu vaccine (withdrawn in 1976) and the rotavirus vaccine (withdrawn in 1999).

The Facts:

There are two problems with this claim: it wildly overstates the number of serious adverse events from the COVID vaccine and it misrepresents the comparison of the COVID vaccine with swine flu and rotavirus vaccines.

The interviewed British cardiologist seems to focus his practice primarily on obesity while promoting vaccine misinformation. He introduces his vaccine concern with the false claim that current COVID variants are “no worse than the flu.” In fact, the latest variants of COVID kill more than 450 daily—that’s more than three times as many people as are killed by the flu. He claims that his high estimate of serious adverse events is based on “good quality data.” However, his numbers are based on the misleading findings of a study. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that serious adverse events from the COVID vaccine are rare and the benefits of vaccination outweigh its risks.

Finally, this claim assumes that adverse events alone prompt the withdrawal of a vaccine. In fact, the decision to withdraw swine flu and rotavirus vaccines was not exclusively based on adverse events. These decisions also weigh vaccine benefit versus risk. In the two cases of withdrawn vaccines, the vaccine benefits did not outweigh the risks. Conversely, the life-saving benefits of the COVID vaccine vastly outweigh the rare risks of an adverse event.

Did COVID vaccine injure 250 nurses?

The Claim:

An anti-vaccine tweet suggests that COVID vaccines aren’t safe because a California physician treated more than 250 Kaiser nurses for vaccine injuries, after treating only one vaccine injury in his 20 years of practice before the pandemic.

The Facts:

This physician’s claims should be evaluated in light of his history of official medical reprimands for anti-vaccine behavior. He received a stern warning from the Medical Board of California for selling mask and face shield exemptions for students, was dismissed from his previous practice for refusing to wear a mask, and claims that he has written over 4,000 vaccine exemptions. Now, he says his family medicine and cosmetic clinic treats thousands of people with vaccine injuries.

He incorrectly tries to use VAERS data to suggest that vaccine injuries have risen 1700% since the pandemic began, even though VAERS claims are not proof that an injury was caused by a vaccine. He also calls the COVID vaccine “gene therapy” (it’s not), and admits treating his COVID patients with ivermectin, a treatment shown to be ineffective against COVID.

Perhaps most telling, he admits that vaccine injury has not killed any of his patients, but he has lost more patients to COVID in the past two years “than ever” in his 20 years of practice.

Does post-COVID infection immunity protect as well as vaccination?

The Claim:

An anti-vaccine cat lover retweets study findings and claims that immunity from a past COVID infection protects as well as vaccination against severe illness and death.

The Facts:

Although this claim is accurate, gambling on immunity via COVID infection isn’t worth the risks. The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, compared the immunity conferred by prior infection to that conferred by two doses of mRNA vaccine. Findings suggest that immunity from prior infection may be as protective as immunity from two doses of mRNA vaccine for variants up to and including the initial Omicron lineages.

However, there are other important factors the tweet doesn’t mention. First, the risk of death from COVID is far higher for unvaccinated people than for those who receive the vaccine. In order to get prior infection protection, you risk the potentially deadly consequences of facing COVID unvaccinated.

Second, this study’s scope was limited. It looked at the protection offered from two doses of mRNA vaccine but did not look at booster doses or address the issue of waning immunity. Both infection- and vaccine-induced immunity protection weakens over time. Booster doses provide needed protection against waning immunity.

Just the Facts Newsletter:

Correcting this week's disinformation

Sign up to get a weekly look at the latest vaccination facts as we debunk the latest false vaccination claims making the rounds on the internet.

Back To Top