COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – UPDATED info about the new vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine facts

There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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HPV vaccine myth debunking – all the science facts fit to print

I’ve written nearly 200 articles on the HPV vaccine, debunking one myth after another. Despite the new COVID-19 vaccines being a recent target of various anti-vaccine myths and tropes, it has nothing on the FUD disinformation propaganda pushed against the HPV vaccine.

Like I did with the COVID-19 vaccines, I wanted to create easy-to-use charts for those of you who need a quick reference to debunk the nonsense out there.

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Gluten-free diets are a food fad that brings few benefits to most people

gluten-free diets

Let’s take a little break from vaccines and COVID-19 and focus on a food fad that lacks scientific support — gluten-free diets. If you listen to the quacks on the internet, apparently organic, GMO-free, gluten-free diets will fix all that ails you and your kids.

Except it won’t unless you suffer from very rare medical conditions that make you very sensitive to gluten.

Like a lot of food fads, such as avoiding fats or carbohydrates, gluten-free diets seem to have a basis in real science and medicine, but it has exploded far beyond what real science-based medicine would recommend, and that would be to a very tiny patient population.

Let’s take a look at gluten and this diet fad.

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Omicron variant of COVID — some initial facts about vaccines

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Just when we thought we might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Omicron variant was discovered in Africa. Although many countries shut down travel from Africa, it’s probably too late — it probably was being spread before the Omicron variant was found.

Like when the Delta variant was first observed, there was a lot of confusion about how serious it was going to be and whether vaccines would be effective. It caused a surge in cases and deaths worldwide over the summer.

Although it’s very early, I think there is enough information to, at a minimum, understand what may be upcoming. Of course, as with everything about this pandemic, stay tuned because what we know today may be superseded by what we discover tomorrow.

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FDA responses to FOIA requests on COVID vaccines – not a conspiracy

FDA FOIA

This article about FDA responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by anti-vaccine activists was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

In contrast to anti-vaccine claims (and the headline that echoed them), the FDA responses to a broad Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are not evidence of a conspiracy or some kind of unusual problem (though it may reflect some of the general issues with our FOIA system).

In a recent set of posts by anti-vaccine activists, they criticized FDA for, allegedly, wanting 55 years to process a FOIA request for vaccine data. Unfortunately, some media sources repeated the claim uncritically. 

The reality, unsurprisingly, is different. A group that includes several anti-vaccine activists and people who have had anti-vaccine support in the past submitted a very broad request for documents related to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial.

These documents need to be redacted before being released, to protect interests like patient privacy and trade secrets. The parties are wrangling about the rate at which FDA should process those documents, and the anti-vaccine talking point is basically a misrepresentation of the FDA’s position about the schedule. Here is the report of both parties’ positions to the courts.

FDA explained that this is a very large request, it is one of several hundred they are dealing with, and their FOIA office is small. It wants to provide it at a rate of 500 pages a month, a rate that, from cases cited by FDA, has been repeatedly accepted by courts as reasonable (reflecting standard practice) and has already started providing some of the data. The group is demanding all the information in the next four months. The court will have to decide what is the appropriate rate of release. 

To emphasize — at no point did FDA ask the plaintiffs to wait 55 years for documents. The FDA offered to start releasing documents immediately, and work at a rate of 500 pages a month after December 1, releasing 500 pages to the plaintiffs each month – in order of priorities set by the plaintiffs.

This post will examine numerous issues surrounding FOIA requests to the FDA, and whether the responses by the FDA are reasonable or not.

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Thanksgiving turkey and sleep — tryptophan isn’t the reason

Thanksgiving dinner

The old Thanksgiving turkey and tryptophan causing sleep myth appears every year on the fourth Thursday in November when the United States celebrates a holiday called Thanksgiving. You’ll hear about it over and over and over.

Basically, after eating mountains of food, including turkey, one of the guests at the table (fully vaccinated, of course) will pontificate about how eating turkey, which they claim is high in tryptophan, makes everyone want to sleep after the meal. 

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Do COVID-19 vaccines cause diabetes? No, just another anti-vax myth

COVID-19 vaccines diabetes

Here we go again, anti-vaxxers are now claiming that COVID-19 vaccines cause type 1 or 2 diabetes. I don’t think I’m over-exaggerating when I say that each new day brings a new claim about COVID-19 vaccines that is easily debunked.

At least I can find the reason, albeit requiring some contortions of logic and science, behind this claim. However, typical of anti-vaxxers, they take it several steps too far.

Anti-vaxxers have tried and failed, to link vaccines with type 1 diabetes. And we know that COVID-19 itself might increase the risk of type 1 diabetes. But is there a link between COVID-19 vaccines either type of diabetes? No.

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Comparing COVID drugs from Pfizer and Merck — vaccines still critical

COVID drugs pfizer merck

Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Merck have developed new COVID-19 drugs that could become a part of the tools used by physicians to treat COVID. Because of the importance of these drugs, both companies are seeking Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) from the US FDA to get them in the hands of physicians as quickly as possible.

I have previously written about the Merck drug, molnupiravir, which will go by the trade name of Lagevrio. The Pfizer drug is called PF-07321332, with the trade name Paxlovid. Both drugs are purpose-developed anti-viral medications that have shown strong effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These are real antiviral drugs that were developed to treat COVID-19, unlike horse dewormers that have no effect against COVID-19.

This article will be in the form of a simple chart so that you can quickly see the advantages and disadvantages of both Pfizer and Merck COVID-19 drugs. I hope you find this helpful, and drop a note in the comments if you want me to add or change any information.

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Court stays the Biden OSHA COVID vaccine mandate — an analysis

OSHA COVID-19 vaccine mandate

This article about the Court of Appeals stay of President Biden’s OSHA COVID vaccine mandate was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On November 6, 2021, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed President Biden’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) – the emergency temporary standard by which OSHA required large employers to adopt a COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate – citing grave constitutional and statutory concerns.

On November 12, 2021, the Fifth Circuit published a decision keeping in place its stay and elaborating on the reasons. The decision is concerning — first, the legal analysis does not follow established law in several ways, and the innovations (or misapplications) are not well reasoned. Second, the decision suggests a lack of close reading of the Emergency Temporary Standard the decision is putting on hold. And third, and perhaps most concerning, the decision suggests the panel attributes little to no importance to halting COVID-19, or to the fact that over a thousand people in the United States are dying from COVID-19 every day, or to the fact that the ETS is estimated to save thousands of workers lives and prevent a quarter of a million hospitalizations, under conservative assumptions.

All of these give cause for concern if the Fifth Circuit is the one chosen under the lottery to hear the cases against the mandate. A panel that clearly ascribes little importance to protecting employees from COVID-19 is unlikely to consider the need for a mandate carefully. 

To be clear, the bar for putting out an ETS is high. Another panel may end up not upholding the ETS for not meeting that high bar, and that would be well within the lines of existing jurisprudence. But this decision isn’t it. 

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COVID vaccinated are NOT as likely to spread the virus as unvaccinated

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I keep seeing the anti-vax claim that those who have received the COVID-19 vaccinated are just as likely to spread the virus as unvaccinated individuals. Another day, another myth from anti-vaxxers that must be debunked, because this is utterly ridiculous.

I know, it’s been debunked so many times, it seems fruitless to do it again, but it’s being used as one of the excuses to not get the vaccine. Among all of the dumb claims of the COVID-19 vaccine deniers, this is one of the dumbest.

This claim about those vaccinated against COVID-19 are as likely (or sometimes more likely) to spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus as unvaccinated is not supported by any scientific evidence. Yet, your local Twitter or Facebook anti-vaxxer loves to spread this inane trope, mainly because they can. And because people seem to believe any outlandish claim made about the vaccine.

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Inflammatory foods and dementia – there may be a link

inflammatory foods dementia

I know you want me to write about COVID-19 vaccines, but a new study seems to show a link between inflammatory foods and dementia. And I thought it might be of interest to my readers.

I’m not a big fan of nutrition studies for reasons that I’ll explain – they are generally hard to interpret, but this one might show us that foods with a higher inflammatory potential are tied to an increased risk of dementia.

Let’s take a look at what was the researchers found.

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A Nobel Prize does not mean Traditional Chinese Medicine works

traditional chinese medicine

In 2015, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Prize for Medicine to three researchers, one of whom investigated one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This Nobel Prize continues to be used by TCM advocates as “proof” that it works, and is “real” medicine. In fact, the Nobel Prize does not confer special status to TCM.

One of the winners of this prize was Youyou Tu (see note 1), for her novel work in developing a medicine to treat malaria. Dr. Tu was the first Nobel Prize winner in the natural sciences from China, so she is a groundbreaking scientist in many ways.

Dr. Tu found this potential treatment for malaria through her research into Chinese herbs, which led people to proclaim that Traditional Chinese Medicine has now been “proven.” But not so fast.

What is the relevance of the Nobel Prize and Traditional Chinese Medicine – is there any importance at all?

Let’s take a look at Traditional Chinese Medicine, in general, and Dr. Tu’s work itself. The story is quite a bit more complicated, nuanced, and scientific than you might have read.

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