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Correcting this week’s misinformation: September 29, 2022

Aluminum and asthma

The Claim:

A new study seems to suggest that the aluminum in childhood vaccines is causing asthma.

The Facts:

Admittedly, this study (pdf) does show a positive association between aluminum in vaccines given before the age of two was found and developing childhood asthma between the ages of 2 of 5. However, it is a retrospective study (pdf) that generally cannot establish a causal relationship between a risk factor (aluminum in vaccines) and an observed outcome (asthma). You can’t assume, based on this study, that vaccines caused the observed asthma.

Retrospective studies look back on data collected before the study was designed. Data that would have the potential to impact the observed outcome may not have been collected as it would have in a prospective study.

Let’s consider a few items concerning the results of this study. Young children have many opportunities for aluminum exposure. Aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth and is present in many of the foods we eat, in much higher quantities than found in vaccines. Any aluminum injected from vaccines is metabolized in the body, and the vast majority of it is excreted within weeks.

Retrospective studies are very good at finding associations that need further exploration and testing. Now that a positive correlation has aluminum and asthma has been identified, further studies with different study designs need to be conducted to determine what may actually be causing the increase in asthma. No study at this point, including this one, has suggested that vaccines are the cause of increases in childhood asthma rates.

This study does show that the CDC takes vaccine safety very seriously and that our monitoring systems work.

Updates on myocarditis

The Claim:

Another new study seems to suggest that myocarditis after vaccination is, indeed, self-resolving.

The Facts:

The most recent study published in the Lancet is confirming what many cardiologists and pediatricians have noticed anecdotally in their practices; that myocarditis stemming from COVID vaccination seems to be minor and self-resolving.

This study looked at adolescents and young adults who experienced myocarditis post-vaccination. Of those with available data, most (between 77and 94%, depending on test/marker) had improvements in cardiac diagnostic marker and testing data at 90 days, and of all study participants, 68% were completely cleared for physical activity after 90 days.

Taken along with this study published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, the risks of myocarditis from COVID far outweigh the risks of myocarditis from COVID vaccines.

Vaccines and transmission

The Claim:

Did the CDC just admit that vaccines are useless at preventing transmission?

The Facts:

The CDC recently updated its guidelines to include that “vaccination status is no longer used to inform source control, screening testing, or post-exposure recommendations.” Those who think this statement means that vaccines are useless at preventing transmission are incorrect.

This study illustrates that even when infected with COVID, those who are fully vaccinated were contagious for about half the time and infected much fewer people (almost a quarter fewer) than those who were partially vaccinated or unvaccinated. The COVID vaccine does not completely eliminate the risk of coming down with COVID, but it still significantly decreases the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

So while people can and do experience breakthrough infection and can still transmit COVID during that time, vaccines are a very important part of controlling the spread of COVID, along with masking, testing, isolating, etc.

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