RETRACTED – COVID vaccine causes two deaths for every three deaths prevented

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The anti-COVID-19 vaccine crowd thought they had a gotcha with a new paper published that seemed to claim that the vaccine causes two deaths for every three cases of COVID-19 that it prevents. Predictably, this paper became “evidence” for refusing the vaccine.

Except for one little problem. The paper is, from a scientific perspective, pure garbage. And it caused a huge kerfuffle at the “journal” that published the article. Yeah, I put journal in scare quotes because I’d argue it really isn’t much of a journal.

Nevertheless, let’s take a quick look at this paper and the subsequent uproar at the “journal”.

COVID vaccine causes two deaths paper – yikes

The original paper, published in the journal Vaccines which should not be confused with the highly respected and moderate impact factor journal Vaccine. Vaccines is published by MDPI, a publisher with a mixed reputation, and once was considered a predatory publisher.

I’ve been around the block with vaccines for almost 20 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever cited an article from Vaccines ever. The journal is obscure and based on their acceptance of this article, I’m not sure I’d trust them in the future.

But let’s get to the paper.

The paper was written by Harald Walach, a well-known supporter of pseudosciences like complementary medicine and parapsychology. Walach is not an expert on any field of vaccines including epidemiology, virology, public health, or anything else. He is opposed to evidence-based medicine, which tells you all you need about his credentials for making any claims about vaccines.

In this paper, Walach and his co-authors claimed that:

The number of cases experiencing adverse reactions has been reported to be 700 per 100,000 vaccinations. Currently, we see 16 serious side effects per 100,000 vaccinations, and the number of fatal side effects is at 4.11/100,000 vaccinations. For three deaths prevented by vaccination, we have to accept two inflicted by vaccination. 

That sounds serious. It’s hard to argue that the cost-benefit ratio of the COVID-19 vaccine is very positive when only three lives are saved to every two deaths from the vaccine. Except, his data cannot reasonably support that claim.

A critic on PubPeer wrote the the following about this paper:

Maybe more important is the way the authors misuse the Adverse Drug Reactions database of the Dutch National Register LAREB. The authors use the number of deaths from a table on a webpage of LAREB as if these numbers have been checked for causality, while just above that table LAREB explicitly states: ‘Death after vaccination does not mean that an adverse reaction to the vaccine caused the death.’ (“Overlijden ná vaccinatie betekent niet dat een bijwerking van het vaccin de oorzaak is van het overlijden.”)

And furthermore: “Unfortunately, in several reports, there is still insufficient information for a proper understanding. In the reports with sufficient information, existing health problems are the most obvious explanation for death in a large number of cases.” So it is clear that the number of deaths the authors use cannot be attributed to the vaccination.

This sounds like the misuse of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in the USA which is misused by the anti-vaccine crowd. And it does not show causality.

After its publication, anti-vaxxers started to say, “See, we told you this vaccine was dangerous.” In other words, they cherry-picked one study to confirm their bias while ignoring the vast clinical research that says these vaccines are safe and effective. With no deaths attributed to the vaccine.

COVID vaccine two deaths
Photo by Quinten Braem on Unsplash

The kerfuffle

Retraction Watch reported that at least two members of Vaccines’ editorial board, Mount Sinai virologist Florian Krammer and Oxford immunologist Katie Ewer, said they have stepped down to protest the publication of the paper. They have reputations to protect and being a part of a journal that published such nonsense made the choice easy for them.

Vaccines decided to publish an “expression of concern,”:

The journal is issuing this expression of concern to alert readers to significant concerns regarding the paper cited above [1]. 

Serious concerns have been raised about misinterpretation of the data and the conclusions. The major concern is the misrepresentation of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts and misrepresentation of the data, e.g., Abstract: “For three deaths prevented by vaccination we have to accept two inflicted by vaccination”. Stating that these deaths linked to vaccination efforts is incorrect and distorted. 

We will provide an update following the conclusion of our investigation. The authors have been notified about this Expression of Concern.

I’ll bet that this is the first step to full retraction. Anyone willing to take that bet?

COVID vaccine two deaths
Photo by Olesia Bahrii on Unsplash

Summary

This is a bad study that completely ignores causality, completely ignores the vast body of evidence that shows that there is no link between the COVID-19 vaccine and deaths, and is written by authors that have no credible background in anything related to vaccinology.

This is another garbage study on the way to being retracted that is cherry-picked by our favorite anti-vaxxers.

This study can be ignored.

Retracted

Well, that was fast. One day after I posted this article, the journal Vaccines retracted the article because the Editor-in-Chief found that the “article contained several errors that fundamentally affect the interpretation of the findings.”

I really should start a betting pool on retractions of anti-vaccine “articles.”



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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!