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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of March 28, 2024

Did vaccines give Princess Kate turbo cancer?

The Claim:

It’s as predictable as the sunrise: a celebrity (Kate Middleton) announces something health-related (cancer), and the anti-vaxxers blame vaccines without proof.

The Facts:

This tweet follows a pattern for the author, who blames many events and deaths to the COVID vaccine, regardless of evidence and even despite known causes of death, such as car accidents.

No evidence supports the claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause so-called turbo cancer or any other form of cancer. The idea that these turbo cancers are a result of vaccines stems, in part, from claims that doctors are seeing huge spikes in cancer rates. However, even some of the most powerful carcinogens can take years to manifest in the form of cancer. While there has been an increase in early-onset cancers (not turbo cancer), this increase started in the early 1990s, well before the introduction of COVID vaccines.

We know that mRNA vaccines cannot change your DNA. Your DNA is housed in the nucleus of your cells and contains all the instructions for the development and functioning of your body. Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is transcribed and carries those instructions outside the nucleus where they are implemented. The mRNA introduced by a vaccine cannot enter the nucleus where the DNA is housed.

Vaccines are not shown to cause cancer, and anti-vaxxers have yet to produce credible evidence the vaccine is causing turbo cancers.

Did a whistleblower expose how vaccines cause autism?

The Claim:

It’s the myth that won’t die: vaccines and autism.

The Facts:

This claim stems from a 2014 re-analysis of a 2004 study, which was eventually retracted citing undeclared competing interests on the part of the author. The author, Dr. Brian Hooker, analyzed a case-control dataset as a cohort study, which gave skewed results.

The CDC issued a statement regarding the data in question, along with a link to the study, and notes that while there was a small correlation with autism in young vaccinated children, it was likely because there were vaccine requirements for autistic children enrolled in special education preschool programs.

So instead of taking a randomized group of children and looking for a correlation between vaccines and autism, Dr. Hooker took a study of children that purposely included vaccinated autistic children and concluded that autistic children were more likely to be vaccinated, not that the vaccinated children were more likely to be autistic, given the population the study was looking at.

Does COVID vaccination raise my risk of dying?

The Claim:

viral and common claim right now is that COVID vaccines are causing more harm than good, and in particular, they are causing untold death.

The Facts:

To believe the claim that 550,000 people died from COVID vaccines, we would need to believe that every death happening within days of the vaccine is caused by the vaccine. We would also need to believe that side effects are underreported by a factor of about 30 (a claim from this analysis).

But it’s wrong to conclude that every death is a vaccine death without any evidence that the vaccine caused these deaths.

Using VAERS to support this claim is unreliable. In fact, the government required any death after COVID vaccination to be reported as a function of the emergency use authorization, regardless of causation. Deaths clearly not caused by the vaccine are included in these reports.

Comparing the total number of deaths after vaccination, no matter the cause, with the number of deaths caused by the vaccine itself is misleading and incorrect. Moreover, assuming that the rate of reporting adverse events to VAERS after vaccination accurately reflects the true occurrence of adverse events is not accurate since these reports are unconfirmed.

As with any question in science, we can use the scientific method, review it, and publish our results instead of just making assumptions. To whit: this study looked at the risks of different types of deaths after people got COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). They found that the risks of dying from non-COVID-19 causes, all causes, and certain heart-related problems were not higher after getting any of these vaccines. This suggests that the vaccines are safe in terms of these types of deaths.

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