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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of October 5, 2023

Do supplements work better than a flu shot?

The Claim:

video claims that taking massive amounts of Vitamin C, Zinc, and other supplements can boost your immune system and eliminate the need for a flu vaccine.

The Facts:

Supplements are not necessarily useless. Oral zinc may help with cold treatment if taken within 24 hours of symptom onset, but it can have side effects and interactions with medicines. Intranasal zinc should be avoided due to the risk of irreversible loss of smell.

While Vitamin C may have some minor protective effects against colds and may slightly reduce their duration and severity, high doses of Vitamin C, like suggested in the video, can cause digestive issues and in some populations, increase the risk of kidney stones.

Vitamin D may help prevent colds and the flu in those who are deficient in Vitamin D, but has little benefit for those who are not.

Studies suggest quercetin may reduce the severity of influenza, but this assumes you already get sick.

None of these home remedies will prime your immune cells to fight influenza before you are exposed, though. The most effective defense against the flu, however, is vaccination, which is recommended for all individuals aged six months and older.

Do all vaccinated people have heart damage?

The Claim:

A tech millionaire claims that literally every person who received a COVID vaccine now has heart damage.

The Facts:

This study looked at the hearts of people who had received COVID vaccines compared to those who hadn’t. They wanted to see if there were any changes in the heart muscle of people who got vaccinated but didn’t have any heart-related symptoms.

They found that people who received COVID vaccines showed increased activity in their heart muscles on the scans, especially within 180 days after their second vaccine dose. This increased activity wasn’t related to age, gender, or the type of vaccine they received.

There are some limitations to this study, however. This study was conducted at one hospital, retrospectively, meaning people were there because they were experiencing health problems, the scans they conducted are not by themselves indicative of cardiac damage, and the vaccinated cohort was older and had other risk factors that could account for the inflammation that was found. Also, they didn’t consider factors like fasting, which could affect the results.

Studies like these are important as a jumping-off point for additional research to determine if there is a causal relationship, but this study does not determine one. It’s also essential to note that these changes seem to be relatively minor and not a sign of severe heart problems. More research is needed to understand these findings better, including comparing them with other heart-related tests and non-mRNA vaccines.

Do HPV vaccines prevent cancer?

The Claim:

An environmental lawyer is spreading doubt that the HPV vaccine can actually prevent cancer.

The Facts:

It’s unreasonable to expect us to point to one specific case of prevented cancer, since we can’t point to someone without cancer and say, “That person doesn’t have cancer because of the vaccine.” However, data can help us determine if the vaccine is preventing cancers.

At least 6 types of HPV can cause cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common, but other cancers include vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, mouth, and throat cancers. Each year, about 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed, and about 4,290 women die from cervical cancer. Almost all of those cases are due to HPV.

HPV vaccines have been developed to prevent HPV infection and, by extension, cervical cancer. While clinical trials demonstrated the vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing HPV infections and precancerous lesions, it takes time to determine if they actually reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

And here is a determination! This Swedish study analyzed data from nearly 1.7 million women over an 11-year period from 2006 to 2017. The study found that girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine before the age of 17 experienced an approximately 90% reduction in cervical cancer incidence compared to unvaccinated women.

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