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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of January 19, 2023

Overcounting and COVID

The Claim:

A prominent doctor is claiming that COVID deaths and hospitalizations are not as high as we think they are due to overcounting.

The Facts:

In the interview, the doctor is attempting to point out the difference between deaths and hospitalizations where the primary cause is listed as COVID, deaths and hospitalizations where COVID is listed as a contributing cause, and deaths and hospitalizations where COVID was simply present and not necessarily related to the cause.

That these categories exist, however, does not necessarily lend to the concept of overcounting COVID cases. In fact, data suggest the number of COVID deaths is overwhelmingly undercounted.

But first, what is the difference between dying of COVID and dying with COVID? A lot depends on who is filling out the death certificate and what information they had about the patient. But in the end, we can look at excess deaths and see that, in all likelihood, the number of COVID deaths is far greater than the official numbers.

Stroke risk and COVID Vaccination

The Claim:

Safety signals seem to indicate that the Pfizer mRNA vaccine may be connected to stroke risk in people over 65 years old.

The Facts:

The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is one system that monitors vaccine safety in the general population. A few days ago, the CDC announced that Pfizer COVID vaccine, through VSD monitoring, “met the statistical criteria to prompt additional investigation into whether there was a safety concern for ischemic stroke in people ages 65.”

Programs like these are designed to catch events that may arise in the general population that may not have been caught in initial trials, but because of the way these systems collect data, they may also capture coincidental or confounding events— separate events not related to the vaccine causing these strokes.

These monitoring programs do highlight areas, such as this, that warrant further investigation into these links to try to determine if there actually is a causal relationship between the vaccine and ischemic strokes. As it is, none of the other US-based sentinel programs, nor any global safety monitoring system, has picked up any increase in ischemic stroke after the bivalent vaccine

The CDC believes it unlikely that the signal indicates an actual causal relationship. The CDC and FDA will continue to monitor and evaluate data from VSD and other safety systems, as they always do.

The mRNA chicken cure

The Claim:

Anti-vaccine Twitter is upset that Bill Gates (we really could just stop there) is vaccinating chickens using mRNA vaccines. They claim that these chickens will pose a threat to human health.

The Facts:

People are once again conflating mRNA vaccines with gene therapy. While mRNA can be used in gene therapy, it’s a completely different technology than that which is found in mRNA vaccines.

For vaccines, mRNA does not involve the DNA housed in the nucleus of a cell and does not change the DNA of the animal being vaccinated. It merely temporarily provides the cells with instructions on how to build antigens that can be used by the immune system to identify and target the real antigens from infectious diseases. And since no genes are altered, the animal (chicken or human) is no different than one that has not been vaccinated.

And if the concern is ingesting mRNA, people need to realize that most cells, plant or animal, regardless of vaccination status, are already chock full of mRNA, DNA, and all kinds of other genetic material. And all of it is safely consumed because our digestive system destroys much of it.

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