A scholarly article published in a medical journal, in which authors concluded that a “lack of clear benefit should cause governments to rethink their vaccination policy,” has been retracted less than two weeks after publication. The article entitled “The Safety of COVID-19 Vaccinations—We Should Rethink the Policy” was published by MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) on June 24, 2021 and analyzed the information from international databases. The article was retracted on July 2.1
The article’s authors used a large Israeli field study that included approximately one million people to calculate the number of individuals needed to vaccinate in order to prevent one infection and death caused by COVID-19. They then extracted numbers of side effects reported to the Dutch National Register for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines to calculate risk. Their findings indicated that “for three deaths prevented by vaccination, we have to accept two inflicted by vaccination… thus placing risks and benefits on the same order of magnitude.”1
Underplaying Adverse Reactions by National Authorities and Media Outlets
The article’s authors suggested that “perhaps it might be necessary to dampen the enthusiasm with sober facts,”1 stating the need for independent science case reviews of severe reactions, reconsideration of national policies, and evidence-based recommendations for vaccination on an individual case-by-case basis.
This stance is echoed in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article, which criticizes the lack of media representation about the potential risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the politicization of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the vaccine. The authors state that public health authorities are risking the public’s trust by not being forthcoming about potential harms from the vaccine, and that “the battle to recover scientific honesty will be an uphill one in the U.S.”2
Researchers Resign Following Widespread Criticism and Article Retraction
The website Gizmodo was quick to publish an article entitled “Journal Retracts Terrible Study that Claimed Widespread Covid-19 Vaccine Deaths” two days following retraction of the journal article.3 The Gizmodo author states that the article was condemned as flawed and irresponsible by other scientists and that the well-respected researchers have since resigned from association with the journal. Following criticism, the journal article was retracted after the journal’s editors said they found “several errors that fundamentally affect the interpretation of the findings.”3
Mainstream Media Alleges VAERS is Source of “Misinformation”
Gizmodo reports that adverse reporting systems such as the one used by the researchers who published the retracted article are designed to report any health problem or death after using a new drug or vaccine, but that the reports don’t necessarily indicate the drug or vaccine caused the health problem or death. The Gizmodo article author states:
But caution should be warranted if someone starts making extraordinary claims about safety or lack thereof—especially if those claims are based on adverse event reporting systems.3
Vaccine adverse event reporting systems, which many people did not know existed prior to the dissemination of experimental COVID-19 vaccines under an emergency use authorization (EUA) granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2020,4 increasingly have been criticized by the media as the numbers of serious health problem have been reported following COVID-19 vaccinations. Despite being credited for identifying the blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine5 and myocarditis associated with the mRNA vaccines,6 many news outlets report that the U.S. based system VAERS (the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) is a tool used by those opposed to mandatory use of COVID-19 vaccine to emphasize vaccine risks and that the system is “ripe for abuse, misuse, and plain misunderstanding.”5
The CDC’s website describing VAERS clearly identifies limitations of using VAERS data to make conclusions about causal relationships between an adverse event report filed in VAERS and the vaccination(s) received. However, CDC officials also urge vaccine providers and recipients to report adverse events following vaccination to VAERS as required under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.7 There have been more adverse events, including deaths, reported to VAERS following COVID-19 vaccinations than for any other vaccine.8
Most mainstream media outlets promoting the use of COVID-19 vaccine are critical of VAERS and minimize the significance of adverse event reports filed in VAERS. As ABC News states: “Although VAERS contains millions of reports of injuries following vaccinations, the vast majority of those injuries are coincidental.”5
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1 Walach H., Klement R, Aukema W. (2021) The safety of COVID-19 vaccinations—We should rethink the policy. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute 9(7); 693.
2 Ladapo J, Risch H. Are COVID vaccines riskier than advertised? The Wall Street Journal June 22, 2021.
3 Cara, E. Journal retracts terrible study that claimed widespready COVID-19 vaccine deaths Gizmodo July 2, 2021.
4 U.S Food and Drug Administration. Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19: Guidance for Industry. May 25, 2021.
5 Tawagi K. What Americans need to know about the government’s VAERS database: Analysis. ABC News Apr. 24, 2021.
6 Gargano J. et al. Use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after reports of myocarditis among vaccine recipients: Update from the advisory committee on immunization practices—United States, June 2021. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention July 9, 2021.
7 CDC. Fact Sheet for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): A National Program for Monitoring Vaccine Safety.
8 Fisher BL. More Deaths Reported to VAERS Following COVID-19 Vaccinations Than for Any Other Vaccine. The Vaccine Reaction July 11, 2021.