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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of February 29, 2024

Is CDC hiding COVID vaccine safety information?

The Claim:

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, tech millionaire Steve Kirsch argues that a Freedom of Information Act request revealed 770 safety signals the CDC had not previously disclosed, making it, he says, the most dangerous vaccine in history.

The Facts:

This claims stems from a concerned blogger who, through a FOIA request, discovered 770 safety signals. However, they don’t quite understand what a safety signal is or how they are handled.

A safety signal is not proof the vaccine is unsafe and it does not indicate there is a problem with a vaccine. Safety signals, as identified by VAERS are “unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse events” in the data, which are then further analyzed by other vaccine safety systems to determine if something should be addressed. See below for more information on VAERS.

The video also conjures up concerns about lawsuits and transparency. Anti-vaxxers use lawsuits and FOIA requests as a means to rally their followers and spread anti-vaccine narratives through misleading tactics and misrepresentation of outcomes thereby aiming to create doubt and reinforce anti-vaccine beliefs among the public.

Given the concerns about VAERS and FOIA requests, why not give them access to the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD)? While researchers can access VSD data for vaccine safety studies, the process involves detailed proposals, ethics approvals, and limitations on the data available. This structured access ensures data is used responsibly for scientific research, making it challenging for anyone with an axe to grind to access VSD data directly.

Are HPV vaccines safe?

The Claim:

Claims on Twitter and RFK Jr’s organization website could leave people with the impression that HPV vaccines are causing severe injury and death in adolescent girls.

The Facts:

These claims rely heavily on VAERS and lawsuits.

What is VAERS? The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) analyzes reports of adverse events that happen after vaccination. Anyone can submit a report to VAERS, and submissions do not mean that a vaccine definitely caused the event.

One doctor famously submitted a report that the flu shot turned him into the Incredible Hulk. VAERS is helpful for keeping track of vaccine safety, but just because something is reported doesn’t mean the vaccine caused it. Even if they’re not sure, doctors should report any important health problems that happen after vaccination.

The most pertinent warning on the website helps put the above claims into context: “VAERS reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Reports to VAERS can also be biased. As a result, there are limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind.”

According to the CDC, “findings from many vaccine safety monitoring systems and more than 160 studies have shown that HPV vaccines have a favorable safety profile—the body of scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports their safety.”

Additionally, A compelling Swedish study of 1.7 million women demonstrates an almost 90% reduction in cervical cancer rates in the vaccinated population versus the unvaccinated population.

It’s important to note that science is never settled in court, and the Figueroa case has gone to court because it did not receive a settlement due to the parents withdrawing their claim to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Can vaccinated people donate blood?

The Claim:

An internet rumor that vaccinated people are asked to wait to donate blood is being used as proof that COVID vaccines are unsafe.

The Facts:

Let’s find out from the Red Cross what their policy on blood donation after COVID vaccines is. According to the Red Cross, “COVID-19 vaccine does not make you ineligible to donate blood,” and there is “no wait period after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as long as they are feeling well and symptom-free,” and as long as the vaccine you received is FDA approved.

More than 13 billion doses of COVID vaccines have been administered since the end of 2020, giving us a robust body of data from which to draw conclusions. A recent global study of 99 million people found that severe side effects from vaccination were incredibly rare, meaning the vaccine is safe.

The screenshot from the meme is taken from the Red Cross “RapidPass” program that allows people to complete their pre-donation paperwork before their scheduled donation. Answering “yes” to the question posed in the meme merely directs you to provide the name of the vaccine manufacturer to ensure it is FDA-approved. Then, if all other eligibility criteria are met, you are free to donate.

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