COVID-19 vaccine liability – new information after FDA approval

small judge gavel placed on table near folders

This article about COVID-19 vaccine liability 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.

A number of questions have come up around COVID-19 vaccine liability. I previously addressed the general framework for liability. In this article, I will try to outline how individuals may be liable for potential harm from COVID-19 vaccines especially in light of the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

Also, this short post addresses a bit of misinformation that appears to have come up from anti-vaccine sources.

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No evidence of post-vaccine mortality – a systematic review

covid vaccine bottles and syringe

There is a belief by the anti-vaccine world that there is plenty of evidence of post-vaccine mortality. For example, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and I have written two articles, about Nick Catone and Colton Berrett, that refute parental claims post-vaccine mortality involving their children. Those boys’ deaths were tragic, but according to the best evidence we have, neither was caused by vaccines.

Post-vaccine mortality is often not causally related. It may feel like one event that follows another event is related, which is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. There may not be any correlation, let alone causality, that would make us accept that vaccines kill.

Those of us who accept the fact that vaccines are very safe, and indeed, not really a risk for causing death, have found no evidence of post-vaccine mortality over the past couple of decades. This comes from examining the high-quality scientific and medical literature, which may or may not include all incidents of post-vaccine mortality.

Now, I’ve always contended that there is no evidence that there has ever been a death attributed to vaccines. I never agreed with the old adage that “science can’t prove a negative,” but I do think that the burden of proof is on those making that claim. Where is the evidence of a link between vaccines and mortality? Sometimes, the absence of evidence can be evidence of absence, Carl Sagan’s claims notwithstanding, especially if we look very carefully for that evidence.

Let’s move on to an important published study that should help our understanding of whether vaccines kill. They don’t.

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Polio vaccine does not cause cancer – anti-vax myth debunked

polio vaccine causes cancer

Apparently, the “polio vaccine can cause cancer” zombie memes have been reanimated by the anti-vaccine world. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure. And once again, I’m seeing it.

The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, Reddit) is that it’s fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 200 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a “fact”. So, if you see a claim that “Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus,” many people will immediately see that and accept it without much criticism.

Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute anti-vaccine claims take a lot more than 200 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced, and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to send that claim into orbit. It’s highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn’t emotional–it’s coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.

And the third problem is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think “yeah, this is great information”, and pass it along as if it’s the Truth™. Killing zombie anti-vaccine tropes and memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these anti-vaccine fake facts is a full-time job. Sadly, even after a thorough debunking, someone will call us a paid shill, ignore the evidence, and repeat the trope.

I need to create a bot that automatically refutes every repeated trope. In lieu of that, let’s just discuss the myth. And refute it once again.

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Experimental COVID vaccines? Another anti-vaxxer trope to be debunked

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And here we go with another one of those silly anti-vaxxers tropes – the COVID-19 vaccines are experimental, and the government/Big Pharma/Bill Gates are conspiring to test the vaccine on innocent people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The claim that the COVID-19 vaccines are experimental probably arises from the fact that most of them received anEmergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the USA and other countries. The anti-vaxxers what to use the EUA to make a strawman argument that EUA is equivalent to “a risky, experimental drug that will cause great harm to you.”

But if these anti-vaccine activists spent just a little bit of time to understand the high-quality science behind these vaccines and the Emergency Use Authorizations, they might move on to some other topic. But in case someone finds this article among all of the nonsense on the internet, looking to find out if COVID-19 vaccines are, in fact, experimental, let’s debunk that with actual facts.

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CDC recommends coronavirus vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women

coronavirus vaccine pregnant

On 11 August 2021, the CDC strongly recommends the coronavirus vaccine for pregnant women to protect the health of the mother and the developing fetus. Despite the claims of COVID-19 deniers everywhere, the disease is dangerous and can cause both short- and long-term harm to anyone, and that means pregnant persons and their newborn babies. That’s why the COVID-19 vaccine is so important.

The CDC’s recommendation is:

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19.

Unfortunately, recent data from the CDC shows that coronavirus vaccine uptake by pregnant women has lagged badly in the USA. There are a lot of reasons for this, as you might guess.

Let’s take a look at what the CDC is stating and why pregnant persons should get the coronavirus vaccine.

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CDC vaccine patents – Robert F Kennedy Jr gets this one wrong too

CDC vaccine patents

If you follow the anti-vaccine world, you will hear Robert F Kennedy Jr often claim that there are CDC vaccine patents that are so valuable that the CDC itself sets aside all morality and ethics to endorse the vaccines developed through these patents just to make more money for the CDC.

Kennedy, who once threw himself at Donald Trump in an effort to head a Vaccine Commission, has made this claim for several years now, but repeated it in an interview, stating that, “the CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually.”

Typically, Kennedy provides absolutely nothing in the form of supporting evidence. It makes no sense to argue against an imaginary claim – this is a pretty good example of an opinion rather than facts.

But along comes Ginger Taylor, one of the most ardent and science-ignoring anti-vaccine activists around these parts. In fact, she inspired my article entitled, Vaccines and autism science say they are unrelated

Taylor, who apparently has an autistic child, believes that vaccines “damaged” her child because, as a mother, she knows more than actual scientists. She considers science to be an elitist pursuit, it’s not data and evidence that matter but only her opinion.

Seriously, Taylor has an utter lack of self-awareness, which apparently broke one of Orac’s favorite Big Pharma Irony Meters™. Her opinion of her own scientific knowledge, i.e. her Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias, is betrayed by the reality of the vast mountain of scientific knowledge supporting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

So this same Ginger, the vaccine-denier that she is, decided to write an article with another torturous description of the CDC vaccine patents conspiracy theory, trying to support Kennedy’s outlandish claims. And she wrote this article in GreenMedInfo, one of the most ignorant anti-science websites on the interwebs, just a bit below NaturalNews in quality.

The problems with Taylor’s article are multi-fold – but generally, like so many other anti-vaccine zealots, they think they know a lot about a topic based on their 15 minutes of Google search time, rather than doing the tens of thousands of hours of actual vaccine research using science.

Taylor is utterly uneducated about and inexperienced with not only science but also patents – she gets nearly everything about her conspiracy theory totally wrong. 

So here we go, debunking the anti-vaccine myth of the CDC vaccine patents.

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VAERS is not the best method to evaluate vaccine adverse events

VAERS

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is one of the systems employed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to monitor vaccine safety. VAERS is a post-marketing surveillance program, collecting information about adverse events (including death) that occur after the administration of vaccines to ascertain whether the risk-benefit ratio is high enough to justify the continued use of any particular vaccine.

VAERS, the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), and the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Network (CISA) are the major tools used by the CDC and FDA to monitor vaccine safety. These are powerful tools that contradict the trope from anti-vaccine activists that regulatory agencies do not monitor vaccine safety – they do.

This article will review how VAERS works along with its strengths and limitations. However, one thing we will focus on how dumpster diving into the VAERS database without context is a very bad use of statistics.

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Today, nearly all COVID deaths in the USA are in unvaccinated

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The Associated Press has just published an analysis that shows that currently, nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the USA are in those who have not received the vaccines. If that’s not an incentive to get the vaccine, I don’t know what else to say.

Although the number of deaths from COVID-19 has dropped to under 300 a day (as of 30 June 2021), compared to the over 3000 per day before vaccines became available, one has to wonder if that number would be near zero if everyone vaccinated.

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COVID vaccine during pregnancy – uptake lagging in the USA

close up photo of pregnant woman in white dress holding her stomach

The CDC strongly recommends the COVID vaccine during pregnancy to protect the health of the mother and the developing fetus. The CDC stated that there are “no safety concerns” among women in their third trimester and for their newborn babies.

Despite the claims of COVID-19 deniers everywhere, the disease is dangerous and can cause both short- and long-term harm to anyone, and that means pregnant persons and their newborn babies. That’s why the COVID-19 vaccine is so important.

Unfortunately, recent data from the CDC shows that COVID-19 vaccine uptake during pregnancy has lagged badly. There are a lot of reasons for this, as you might guess.

Let’s take a look at what the CDC is reporting and why pregnant persons should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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43,000 HPV-associated cancers annually – HPV vaccine can prevent most

HPV-associated cancers

As I’ve written before, there are just a handful of ways to reduce your risk of cancer. One of which is to prevent HPV-associated cancers with the HPV vaccine (see Note 1).

Too many people who discuss the HPV vaccine, especially among the anti-vaccine religion, tend to focus on HPV-related cervical cancer. But HPV is linked to several dangerous and deadly cancers, and a new report examines the details of those cancers. 

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