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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of November 2, 2023

What's the risk of autoimmune disease after vaccination?

The Claim:

A technology enthusiast is once again exploiting the misfortune of a young person by claiming an mRNA vaccine caused antiphospholipid syndrome, a condition where your immune system gets confused and starts attacking the healthy proteins found in your blood, often causing blood clots.

The Facts:

Frightening anecdotes are always difficult to counter because we never have all the information we need from the medical records to form a complete opinion about the causes and features of a person’s health experience. We do know, from the linked article, that the doctors treating the child during his medical emergencies did not see vaccines as the cause of his blood clots or autoimmune issues. The family received a second opinion from a doctor in Florida who made a name for himself by treating COVID patients with Ivermectin, an ineffective treatment favored by agents of disinformation.

In one study of American veterans aged 45 and older, researchers discovered a slight increase in the risk of VTE (blood clots in the veins) following COVID vaccination with both viral vector and mRNA vaccines. This increase amounted to only 0.10%, or roughly 1.4 additional VTE cases per 1,000,000 vaccinated people, reaffirming the overall safety of these vaccines and the extremely low risk of blood clots.

We do know that COVID infection is far more likely to lead to autoimmune problems. New research from Yale indicates that COVID mRNA vaccines do not lead to the development of autoantibodies, which are self-attacking antibodies commonly found in COVID patients. This finding suggests that vaccination is associated with a substantially lower risk of autoimmune diseases compared to getting infected with the virus. The study highlights the benefits of vaccination in generating protective immunity without the risk of autoantibody development, making vaccination a safer choice for reducing the risk of autoimmune responses.

Is the flu vaccine safe while undergoing cancer treatment?

The Claim:

viral story claims that a mother refused a flu vaccine for her child who was hospitalized with leukemia, but the vaccine was administered anyhow and now her child’s condition has worsened.

The Facts:

One common myth of the anti-vaccine movement is that nurses are secretly giving people vaccines without consent. While it is not necessary for providers to receive signed informed consent before vaccination, they do, by law, need to provide the patient or their guardian with a Vaccine Information Statement. The claims that the child received a vaccine without consent make this entire story seem fictitious.

Some vaccines are perfectly safe for cancer patients, while others should be avoided. The two main types of vaccines at play are inactivated (killed) vaccines or vaccines containing live but weakened viruses. People with cancer or a weakened immune system should generally avoid vaccines with live viruses, as their immune systems may have trouble fighting even weakened viruses, leading to severe infections.

The American Cancer Society suggests that providers can recommend safe vaccines, and family members and caregivers should also consult their doctors about vaccinations.

For people with cancer, receiving the annual inactive flu shot is crucial due to the flu’s potential severity; however, they should steer clear of the nasal mist flu vaccine as it contains a live virus. Family members and caregivers should opt for the flu shot to safeguard themselves and those at high risk, unless the person with cancer has an extremely weakened immune system or resides in a germ-protected area, in which case they should not receive the nasal mist vaccine. Seek personalized advice from your doctor.

Are people dying from vaccination?

The Claim:

An author acclaimed for her poor research is now claiming that a thousand Americans have died on the same day they received a COVID vaccine–a number, she notes, that is a third of those who died on 9/11.

The Facts:

The CDC has verified that only nine deaths total were linked to COVID vaccines. These cases were connected to rare blood clots caused by the viral vector vaccine.

Where did this thousand-plus figure come from? VAERS.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): 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. See the FAQs below for more information on VAERS.

It is crucial to remember that anyone can report anything to VAERS, regardless of causation, as is noted on the VAERS website. 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.”

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