By Helen Petousis Harris 28/04/2021


This is a short blog addressing a list of falsehoods being posted widely across Aotearoa New Zealand.

The flyer (posted at the end) claims ‘8 important covid vaccine facts you probably haven’t heard’. Actually, these are 8 of the most common myths about Covid-19 vaccines. Some have been around so long they probably qualify as zombie myths. The ‘golden rules‘ of propaganda are used in the flyer – uses intense emotions, creates a dichotomy between “good” and “bad”, avoids data and rational discussion.

#1

The COVID-19 vaccines that NZ has pre-purchase agreements for appear very safe. There have been some very rare blood-clotting events detected following administration of the viral-vector vaccines (Astra-Zeneca and Janssen) and these are being intensively investigated. Claims that suggest there are an alarming rate of deaths and serious injury caused by the vaccines are deeply misguided and rely of the intentional abuse of data from spontaneous vaccine safety surveillance systems. Implying that all adverse events that occur after a vaccine is devious, one could just as well say deaths after eating marmite on toast for breakfast were all caused by the marmite and toast. I have previously written about how this sort of data is distorted. Here is a fact check and Here is a guide to interpreting the data (clearly ignored by the claimants). Apart from the risk of severe allergic reactions there are no other serious adverse events associated with the Pfizer mRNA vaccine at this time after hundreds of millions of doses, we continue to watch closely.

#2

Medsafe (NZ’s regulatory agency) have reviewed all the data available on the Pfizer vaccine and have scrutinised the safety data. This is a task that they are highly qualified to undertake. It is their responsibility to do this on our behalf to keep us safe. They continue to monitor the vaccine. The claim that they have concerns about genotoxicity and serious autoimmunity is false. Claimants are misrepresenting Medsafe’s position on the vaccine, this is called a strawman argument. Medsafe are satisfied with the safety profile of this vaccine so far and they have not identified any concerning or unexpected events. Here is their monitoring process.

#3

There has never been an authorised vaccine that has caused cancer, sterility, or dangerous mutation of cells. Ever. However, several vaccines prevent these things, for example HPV and HepB vaccines prevent cancer. Claiming that there is no proof that any vaccine will not cause something far in the future is akin to asking me to prove to you that there are not fairies at the bottom of my garden. I will never be able to prove to you that there are no fairies in my garden. This is also the impossible expectation. You cannot prove a negative – see Here for Russels Teapot analogy which explains this well. The onus is on the proponents of these claims to prove them, not for anyone else to disprove them. There is not even a hint of a reason to think that the Pfizer mRNA vaccine might cause these things.

#4

Animal models are used to assess vaccines early in development. This gives scientists an opportunity to look at safety outcomes and also, if there is an appropriate animal model available, to vaccinate them then expose them to the infection. To understand the phenomenon of vaccine associated enhanced disease – where a vaccinated animal or person gets enhanced disease should they become infected – animals such as hamster and ferret were used, and enhanced disease was observed when non-adjuvanted inactivated coronavirus vaccines were used. This enabled the scientists to understand the mechanisms for this and avoid the risk by designing vaccines that did not induce this effect. Claiming that because coronavirus vaccines have induced enhanced disease in animals is true by insinuating that it was the vaccines we are using is misleading. There is no evidence in animals or humans that the authorised COVID-19 vaccines induce a risk for enhanced disease. See Here for a consensus statement from the experts looking at this issue.

#5

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines prevents death, severe disease, mild disease, and asymptomatic infection in most people who receive it. Taking the vaccine protects not only you but also those around you and the general community. Claiming that that the only reason to take it is that it might reduce symptoms is super misleading. The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective and preventing COVID-19 and the spread of infection. The higher the proportion of people vaccinated the faster we can get back to normality.

#6

The vaccine has been shown to prevent you from catching SARS CoV-2 and passing it on. Claiming that it has not is false. Data from countires that have achieved high coverage are able to report the effects such as Israel and the UK.

#7

The authorised COVID-19 vaccines are not ‘experimental’ any longer. The endpoints required for authorisation for use were met last year (safety and efficacy). Clinical trial participants are a valuable source of data and following them up for as long as possible is desirable and normal in vaccine trials. Also, new vaccine trials are kicking off all the time. Vaccines are used in experiments for their entire life, which can be many decades. Claiming that the COVID-19 vaccines are ‘experimental’ in a bid to scare people is misinforming them. There have been over one billion COVID-19 vaccines administered with safety and effectiveness closely monitored.

#8

Once a vaccine is licensed for use most countries have a system for injury compensation, should someone suffer a vaccine related adverse event. If every person who believed they had been injured by a vaccine sued the vaccine manufacturer, nobody would make vaccines because it costs millions to deal with these things. In New Zealand, ACC provide this cover. A vaccine company can still be held accountable if there is wilful misconduct such as fraud or deceit, however there are unforeseen problems then no. During a pandemic there is already president set for indemnifying vaccine manufacturers. The does not mean the vaccines are not safe. Here is a RNZ report summarising.

Flyer with 8 false claims about COVID-19 vaccines