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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of January 9, 2024

Are birth shots safe for newborns?

The Claim:

seasoned anti-vaxxer is again promoting the idea that Vitamin K and Hepatitis B vaccines administered at birth can cause jaundice and neurological damage leading to breastfeeding difficulties.

The Facts:

This tweet tries to link aluminum and alcohol they claim are in the Vitamin K shot to jaundice and neurological damage. However, the Vitamin K shot doesn’t contain aluminum in anything other than trace amounts, much like everything else on this planet – including drinking water. It is not added as an ingredient as it is with some vaccines (as an adjuvant), and would only be present because aluminum is present in the environment (ingredient list here).

It’s important to note that these reactions to Vitamin K shots are far, far more common when Vitamin K is given by IV in very large doses. Vitamin K is not administered in newborns this way. A birth dose of Vitamin K has only ever been noted in one life-threatening case in a newborn in Turkey.

Why do we give the Vitamin K shot at birth? Babies are born with very low levels of Vitamin K, putting them at risk for hemorrhagic disease (uncontrolled bleeding). The Vitamin K shot has reduced the number of severe bleeding cases in babies.

The tweet also tries to link the Hepatitis B vaccine to neurological damage. The birth dose of Hepatitis B prevents the worst possible complications of the disease, including cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. If a newborn catches Hep B, they have a 90% chance of the disease becoming chronic, which is a major risk factor for liver cancer.

Babies born to mothers who are Hepatitis B positive are at the highest risk for developing the disease, but a third of the people who develop Hep B were at no risk of developing the disease.

The vaccine is very safe, and the benefits of the birth dose far outweigh any risk.

Do vaccines cause prion disease?

The Claim:

A vocal Twitter user has taken to anti-vaccine Twitter to claim that COVID vaccines are causing Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

The Facts:

Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD) is a brain disorder that causes mental deterioration and dementia, ending in death. While rare, there are about 350 cases in the US every year. This tweeter is pointing to 25 cases in 2023 and claiming them all to be caused by the vaccine without any evidence that any of these people received a vaccine. His claims about a rapid form of CJD being a new phenomenon are wrong since CJD is known to have cases with rapid onset, where death can occur within weeks.

This particular claim, however, stems from a paper by J. Bart Classen published in a non-peer review, for-profit, open-access journal that accepts any article along with payment.

Classen speculates that mRNA will trigger abnormally shaped proteins, becoming the basis for prion and other neurodegenerative diseases. However there is absolutely no evidence that mRNA can cause prion disease, nor have there been any reported cases to VAERS.

Why is the Florida Surgeon General against vaccines?

The Claim:

The Surgeon General of Florida has issued a statement warning that mRNA vaccines are unsafe and should be recalled.

The Facts:

A promoter gene (a DNA sequence that starts RNA transcription) that has been found to promote a high level of gene expression for producing proteins has been used in DNA vaccines. While promoters are used in the manufacturing of mRNA vaccines, they are not considered an ingredient in the vaccines as the vast majority of it is removed during production. Some residual amounts are left, however, and this is what is tested when looking for DNA.

The Surgeon General, citing a Canadian preprint paper, raised concerns about the high levels of DNA molecules in mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, which he claims exceed FDA and WHO guidelines. This paper acknowledges that one study limitation is the “unknown provenance of the vaccine vials under study.” The authors also note that the vaccines arrived without proper cold chain processes and were all expired.

The authors obtained and tested “24 unopened expired vials” and “three vials of in-date remnants.” As mRNA degrades much faster than DNA, especially when held in suboptimal conditions, any proportion of trace amounts of DNA used in manufacturing would be amplified in expired vials, as these were, or ones not held in optimal conditions.

This advisory portion was based on the experiences of an anti-vaccine Florida internist. He claims side effects in his patients after vaccination, including anaphylactic reactions, blood pressure issues, and the development of conditions like POTS and blood clots.

COVID vaccines, like anything else you put in your body, can cause allergic and anaphylactic reactions. And some people feel lightheaded after vaccination because of the poke. And while there may be some rare associations with POTS, people suffering from COVID are much more likely to develop the condition.

Anti-vaccine activists have used prior concerns about a particular type of blood clot associated with adenovirus vector vaccines. mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have a minimal risk of blood clots, unlike COVID itself, which significantly increases the risk of blood clots and stroke.

Dr. Paul Offit explains that it’s virtually impossible for DNA fragments in COVID mRNA vaccines to cause harm, such as cancers or autoimmune diseases. He outlines three protective mechanisms in our cells that prevent these DNA fragments from causing harm: the cytoplasm’s immune mechanisms and enzymes destroy foreign DNA; the DNA fragments lack a necessary signal to enter the nucleus; and they also lack the integrase enzyme needed to integrate into our DNA There is no scientific evidence or plausible mechanism suggesting that these DNA fragments would alter our genome.

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