The Covid-19 vaccine continues to be a subject of controversy, with commentators and anti-vaccine campaigners criticising its development and rollout.
One regularly shared claim compares the likelihood of adverse effects from the vaccines to serious complications from the Covid-19 virus itself.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it False
Claims alleging that the Covid-19 vaccines aren’t safe have been commonplace throughout the pandemic. But the contention that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine leads to more serious side effects than Covid-19 has been widely-shared after an article published in The Journal of Insulin Resistance written by Dr Malhotra, one of its editors.
The two-part article looks at an analysis of clinical trial data from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna trials for their mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, data on cardiac arrests and ambulance call outs, as well as statistics detailing US and UK vaccine side effects.
The report uses data from another article published in the Vaccine journal looking at data from the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials. It compared the side effects in the vaccinated group to those of a control group (which did not receive the vaccine).
This was examined alongside data on the number of people who were hospitalised with Covid-19 during the trial. This study came to the conclusion that the risk was higher for those in the trial who were vaccinated than those who had Covid-19.
However, this study has been questioned by health experts including Health Feedback, which found the evidence did not support its conclusion, and suggested the article was guilty of selectively using data, known as ‘p-hacking’.
P-hacking – or data dredging – is a problem in science as results can be manipulated to confirm an existing bias, or to make an article more likely to be printed in an academic journal.
Health Feedback found that the study in Vaccine had been inconsistent in its inclusion of certain side effects over others, and noted that some of the adverse effects after vaccination included weren’t as bad as Covid-19 hospitalisation, such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and rashes.
Furthermore, each vaccine adverse effect was counted separately, which means they were overrepresented compared to Covid-19 hospitalisation, which would only happen once. Health Feedback found this led to a misleading overcounting of adverse effects and an exaggeration of the negative effects of the vaccine.
Scientific evidence suggests that the approved Covid-19 vaccines are safe. Numerous studies have found that they are effective, and they are recommended by the NHS, World Health Organisation and US Center for Disease Control. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was evaluated in clinical trials including more than 44,000 participants
The UK’s scheme has received 857 reports of deaths after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. These deaths are not necessarily a result of the vaccine itself, but have been reported as potentially linked. There have been
Ferret Fact Service verdict: False
The claim promoted on GBNews was based on research which has been questioned for being selective and inconsistent. The majority of evidence suggests that the approved Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and serious side effects are rare.
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