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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of June 8, 2023

European Medical Agency and fertility

The Claim:

A man who once asserted that the royal family was actually lizard aliens is now claiming that COVID vaccines cause fertility issues, as shown through heavy menstrual bleeding, and that his source is the European Medical Agency (EMA), who are presumably not lizard aliens.

The Facts:

These assertions are a classic form of cherry-picking. One part of a statement is taken as proof of fertility side effects while conveniently ignoring the rest of the statement that specifically states that heavy menstrual bleeding is not a sign of any effect on fertility.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended that product information about the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines should state that some people might experience heavy periods, but it’s unknown how often it happens. People often have problems with menstruation, with many different reasons why it can happen. EMA also states: “There is no evidence to suggest the menstrual disorders experienced by some people have any impact on reproduction and fertility.”

Suggestions that mRNA COVID cause fertility issues have not been borne out by studies.

Your immune system on vaccines

The Claim:

Canadian oncologist (who is no longer allowed to practice medicine) is publicly celebrating the acceptance of his paper, wherein he claims that COVID vaccines suppress the immune system, causing COVID re-infections, chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.

The Facts:

While it can be impressive to be published, this paper has no evidence, and it is not a study but simply a hypothesis. There is some suggestion that the journal that published it is predatory. The paper also cites another that claims countries with higher vaccine uptake had higher all-cause mortality, but fact-checking and more thorough analysis has shown those claims to be unsupported.

The main assertion in the paper concerns IgG4 antibodies. Scientific understanding of these immune cells is still evolving. Another paper looked at the issue of IgG4 and offered that they make up only a small part of the total antibodies that target the COVID spike protein after vaccination. The paper concluded that overall, they are unlikely to weaken the immunity of vaccinated people.

Since the main paper in question makes extraordinary claims about the role of vaccination in causing immune system problems, it should bring extraordinary evidence to back it up. Alas, it does not.

For example, the paper makes a claim about the UK Office of National Statistics. The claim is that between April and mid-November 2021, more people who hadn’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine died compared to those who had received two doses. But later, from the end of November 2021 to December 2022, things changed: more people who had received a third vaccine dose died compared to those who hadn’t gotten vaccinated at all.

The error here is confounding by indication, neglecting to take into account that, at that time, the third dose was reserved only for the sickest and most vulnerable people. As it turns out, those people are also the most likely to die. The claim is extraordinary, and the evidence fails to account for such variables.

HPV vaccination saves lives

The Claim:

For years, anti-vaxxers have claimed that there is no proof that HPV vaccination actually prevents cancer.

The Facts:

An important new study looked at the impact of HPV vaccination on cervical cancer in England. The vaccine was given to girls aged 12-13 years, starting in September 2008. They also had a catch-up program for girls aged 14-18 years from 2008 to 2010.

The study found that girls who received the vaccine at different ages had a reduced risk of cervical cancer and one pre-cancerous condition. The reduction in cervical cancer rates ranged from 34% to 87%, depending on the age at which the vaccine was given. For the pre-cancerous condition, the reduction ranged from 39% to 97%.

The vaccine has nearly eliminated cervical cancer in the UK in women born since September 1, 1995.

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