Tuesday, June 15, 2021

That mRNA Spike Protein Is Very Dangerous

npr |  The largest U.S. database for detecting events that might be vaccine side effects is being used by activists to spread disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

Known as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, the database includes hundreds of thousands of reports of health events that occurred minutes, hours or days after vaccination. Many of the reported events are coincidental — things that happen by chance, not caused by the shot. But when millions of people are vaccinated within a short period, the total number of these reported events can look big.

Epidemiologists consider this database as only a starting point in the search for rare but potentially serious vaccine side effects. Far more work must be done before a cause-and-effect link can be determined between a reported health event and a vaccine.

"It's a very valuable system for detecting adverse events, but it has to be used properly," says William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "And it's ripe for misuse."

In fact, VAERS has played a major role in the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The data is regularly appropriated by anti-vaccine advocates, who use the reports to claim falsely that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. They are aided by the fact that the entire VAERS database is public — it can be downloaded by anyone for any purpose.

"There's very little control over what can be accessed and what can be manipulated," says Melanie Smith, director of analysis at Graphika, a company that tracks vaccine misinformation online. She says that she sees VAERS data being shared across a wide variety of anti-vaccine social media channels. "I would say almost every mis- and disinformation story that we cover is accompanied by some set of VAERS data."

VAERS was established decades ago, partly in direct response to the anti-vaccine movement. In 1982, a TV documentary called DPT Vaccine Roulette aired nationwide. It was filled with unsubstantiated claims that the vaccine given at the time against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus could lead to intellectual and physical disability.