we read often on social media false statements such as “COVID-19 vaccination’s side effects could cause imminent death or serious illness”, other claims state that the vaccination is ineffective. No matter your vaccination status or your feelings about getting the shots, such false claims are likely to give you a pause. Let’s have a look at the latest data from the USA now that more than half of the world population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
WHAT DOES THE DATA TELL US?
In the USA, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) was established in 1990 as a national early warning system to detect potential safety problems with vaccines. It is managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The system allows anyone who has received a vaccine (not just a COVID-19 vaccine) to report “adverse events” (think side effects) that they experience following vaccination. Health care providers are required to submit reports of events that come to their attention even if the events clearly have no relationship to vaccination.
The system serves to alert federal health authorities to potential safety concerns, but it is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a particular problem. All reports to the system are unverified.
Since December 2020, more than 469 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S., and VAERS has received 10,483 reports of death (0.0022%), according to the CDC. (Numbers as of Dec. 29, 2021.)
However, that statistic offers no insight into the cause of death for those people. If a 90-year-old nursing home resident got the vaccine and then died days, weeks or even months later of another ailment, the resident’s death would be reported to VAERS.
THE MISINFORMATION STRATEGY
Opponents of vaccination use the VAERS numbers in statements that suggest cause-and-effect conclusions. This misinformation then influences some people not to be vaccinated.
In this case, the numbers are correct, but the presumed conclusions are not.
To address the misinformation about VAERS, the CDC shares context around adverse events associated with the COVID-19 vaccines and emphasizes that reports of deaths (and other adverse events) do not necessarily mean the vaccines are to blame. “A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines,” the CDC notes.
Meanwhile, what we do know for sure is that more than 58 million U.S. residents have been infected and more than 800,000 have died from COVID-19, and the vaccine is one of the best tools to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
*Latest dataset from January 8, 2022
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