COVID Vaccine Conspiracy Theories?
I’ve got quite a few critical COVID topics to cover, but given that many people have been chiming in on the blog where I showed myself getting vaccinated, I thought this blog needed to come first. The Internet abounds with various easily disprovable conspiracy theories around the two existing COVID-19 vaccines. So today I will tackle those I hear the most. Let’s dig in.
I Hate the Phrase “Conspiracy Theory”
One person’s facts are another person’s conspiracy theories. Meaning what is or is not a conspiracy often depends on your perspective. However, here, I’ll define it as something that’s easily disprovable with only a little searching around the Internet.
A Stroll through a Century-Old Cemetary
I’ve always been fascinated with the Victorian era and that’s where my blog will begin today. You can’t really get a sense of how much an impact modern medicine has had on life expectancy until you stroll through a graveyard where everyone died over 100 years ago. What you’ll immediately notice is that dying young was VERY common. Young women who died in childbirth. Young children who died of infectious diseases. Young men who died of infections or trauma. Middle-aged people who died of tuberculosis. Reading the tombstones will literally blow you away.
What were the two things that changed everything? We began conquering deadly bacterial infections and viruses. Antibiotics became widespread in the 1940s and vaccinations in the 1950s. Let’s focus on the latter. For example, smallpox had a mortality rate of 30%. Smallpox was irradicated worldwide through widespread vaccination in 1980 with the last known case in 1977. In the US, the last smallpox outbreak occurred in 1949. How was smallpox eradicated? Everyone got vaccinated and with few hosts where the virus could survive, it eventually died out.
The Beginnings of the Anti-Vaccine Movement
I remember my older siblings who wore their smallpox vaccine scars on their shoulders like a badge of honor. So how could we go from that world to ours today where 40% of Americans refuse to have their kids vaccinated? (1) That seems to have begun with a now-discredited 1998 paper written by an English physician showing a connection between the pediatric MMR vaccine and autism. A 2011 paper published in the British Medical Journal then demonstrated that this Wakefield paper involved research fraud (2):
“Specifically, Deer reports that while the paper claimed that eight of the study’s 12 children showed either gastrointestinal or autism-like symptoms days after vaccination, records instead show that at most two children experienced these symptoms in this time frame. Additionally, while the paper claimed that all 12 of the children were “previously normal” before vaccination with MMR, at least two had developmental delays that were noted in their records before the vaccination took place.
After examining the records for all 12 children, Deer noted that the statements made in the paper did not match numbers from the records in any category: the children having regressive autism; non-specific colitis; or first symptoms within days after receiving the MMR vaccine. The Lancet paper claimed that six of the children had all three of these conditions; according to the records, not a single child actually did. (See a table that breaks down the comparison between the Lancet numbers and the medical records here.)”
However, the Wakefield paper had already changed the public’s perceptions of vaccine safety, so the damage was done.
Vaccines and Side Effects
Even if Wakefield had been right that 12 kids had autism because of the MMR vaccine (he wasn’t), about 9 million doses of the vaccine had been administered. So let’s say that 90 kids out of 9 million were disabled due to the vaccine. How many kids would have died if the MMR vaccine didn’t exist:
- Measles-about 1,000 British kids dead with 250,000 hospitalizations
- Mumps-100 kids dead with tens of thousands with permanent neurologic damage due to encephalitis
- Rubella-The biggest impact is that infected women pass the virus to their unborn babies with an 85% risk of birth defects in the first trimester. So hundreds of thousands of miscarriages or birth defects.
Hence, the benefits of widespread MMR vaccination would still far outweigh the risk of a rare vaccine side effect. That’s the thing with vaccines, they only work to bend the curve when nearly everyone gets one for the good of society as a whole.
The COVID Vaccines
Ever since I posted my blog on getting vaccinated, I’ve had countless comments about how these vaccines will do everything from rewriting your DNA to them being part of a worldwide conspiracy to half-baked science lectures by people who barely finished high-school biology. I think many of the fans of my hard-hitting science-based COVID blogs that question the prevailing media narrative were shocked that I could have somehow defected to the other side and become a shill for Pfizer and Moderna.
If you read this blog every day, you know one key thing about me. I follow the data like a dog with a bone. In fact, that’s why people fly from all over the world to get treated in our Colorado clinic or decide to go to a Regenexx site instead of a local office offering dead stem cells. I am a scientist physician.
Medicine is ALWAYS Playing the Odds
On a personal note, all of my kids are vaccinated because the net positive effects of vaccination outweigh any possible net negative effects. People don’t like to acknowledge that they can be harmed or killed by any drug, medical procedure, physical therapy session, or even chiropractic adjustment, but rare events can and do happen. Hence, that’s why I’m so focused on using small injection-based procedures with lower risk to replace much bigger surgical procedures with higher risk. Vaccines are no different.
Dismantling the Internet PseudoScience on COVID Vaccines
This Will Rewrite My DNA
This is false. DNA plus an enzyme generates mRNA which generates proteins and then is destroyed. These vaccines use mRNA to generate the spike protein from the SARS-CoV2 virus. Then that mRNA is destroyed. There is no way that mRNA can reprogram your DNA. That statement comes from somebody who obviously failed high school biology class.
Months after Being Vaccinated Many People Will Develop Severe Immune Reactions
This is an interesting one as it seems to come from a video online put together by a virologist from Ireland:
Her position is that the COVID vaccines will prime the immune system in such a severe way that people will begin dying 2 months after they get the vaccination. As proof of this, she shows a 2012 research paper, which I looked up and read (4).
First, this paper didn’t test the novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov2) from 2019, but the MUCH more lethal (by two orders of magnitude) SARS-CoV from 2003. This is from the CDC and the SARS-CoV (3):
“Almost all patients with laboratory evidence of SARS-CoV disease evaluated to date developed radiographic evidence of pneumonia by day 7-10 of illness, and most (70% -90%) developed lymphopenia. The overall case-fatality rate of approximately 10% can increase to >50% in persons older than age 60.”
Meaning that the original 2003 SARS-CoV was so serious that a very high proportion of patients ended up in the ICU, which is one reason it burnt itself out so quickly as these people were so sick they could only spread it to hospital employees.
In addition, this paper didn’t look at an mRNA/liposome vaccine like the Pfizer and Moderna products but a deactivated whole virus vaccine (two of them), a recombinant DNA vaccine (a very dangerous approach), and a virus against mouse hepatitis coronavirus. They tested the lungs of rats and ferrets on day 2 and 56 and saw significant inflammatory lung disease.
So what’s the practical issue with how this paper is being applied? First, we have the wrong virus, second, we have the wrong vaccines, third no human subjects, and fourth, if anything like this was happening, the initial study patients who got this vaccine would be dropping like flies. For example, Moderna had enrolled 30,000 patients by Oct 22nd and is still providing the FDA with safety data. Their initial FDA submission includes follow-up through a mean of 2+ months and NONE of these types of reactions were reported (2). From the FDA approval documents, there was a 1% chance of a severe adverse reaction in both the vaccine group and placebo group.
These Vaccines Have only Been Tested on Under 200 People
The Moderna trial enrolled more than 30,000 people with 15,208 getting into the vaccine group and 15,210 getting into the placebo group (5). Of those people, 2.2% of each tested positive for the virus before the study began so they were excluded (a total of 675 people). On the first analysis of the data, there were 5 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group and 90 COVID-19 cases in the placebo group. The serious adverse events were 2.0% and the same in both vaccine and placebo groups.
The Pfizer trial initially enrolled 38,000 people and then more to get to a total of 43,651 participants (6). 21,823 were in the vaccine group and the same number made it into the placebo group. Unlike the Moderna study, there was no pre-trial testing for COVID-19. There were 8 cases of COVID-19 in the vaccine group over two months and 162 in the placebo group. Serious adverse events were 0.6% in the vaccine group and 0.5% in the placebo group.
Hence, between the two vaccine trials, more than 70,000 patients were treated. The safety profiles were excellent. The efficacy rates were high.
Is this typical for a vaccine trial? Yes. For example, this Hep C vaccine was determined to be ineffective based on recruiting 548 patients with 14 infections in the control and 14 in the vaccinated (7). That’s not a study of 28 patients, that’s a study of the effects of a vaccine on 548 patients.
There is No Data that this Vaccine Will Reduce Disease Transmission nor Protect Anyone!
A little true but mostly false. These vaccines were approved under operation Warp Speed, so there was no time to perform research on a vaccinated person’s inability to spread the disease. However, since widespread vaccinations were first used, they have always irradicated the diseases they targeted. That list now includes smallpox, polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles, and rubella. Meaning once everyone who is vaccinated develops antibodies to COVID-19, the disease can’t spread as it dies in its new host. Hence the data we have strongly suggests that this vaccine will be able to reduce disease spread.
This Vaccine Only Helps Reduce Symptoms-Nothing Else
False. These vaccines are approved by the FDA for a claim that they prevent COVID-19 infection. Both approval documents show clearly that the companies meticulously defined how they determined COVID-19 infections and severe COVID.
Let’s focus here on the Moderna vaccine. In the second tier later analysis submitted to FDA, there were ultimately 11 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group and 189 in the placebo group. There were 0 severe COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group and 30 in the control group. These approval documents say nothing about a reduction of symptoms, only that using stringent case definitions that the disease was prevented.
A Side Note
I have been a big critic of the pseudoscience surrounding COVID-19. From tests that are far too sensitive and that are likely picking up an epic number of false positives to over attribution of COVID-19 as a cause of death. Having said that, after hundreds of hours of research on this topic, some facts are indisputable. Many people have died and we have wrecked the lives and livelihoods of countless people with our reaction to this virus. The only way that gets fixed asap is if everyone gets the vaccine. This means that conspiracy theories need to stop. That doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to report and analyze additional data on the safety of these vaccines. Nor does it mean that smart people with medical and science training can’t look at that data and come to different conclusions than Pfizer or Moderna.
The upshot? As you can see, these anti-COVID-19 vaccine points floating around on the Internet are easily disprovable. Please do your homework and please, for the sake of all of your neighbors, get vaccinated.
(1) National Public Radio. How The ‘Pox’ Epidemic Changed Vaccination Rules. https://www.npr.org/2011/04/05/135121451/how-the-pox-epidemic-changed-vaccination-rules Accessed 1/8/21
(2) The History of Vaccines. BMJ: Wakefield Paper Alleging Link between MMR Vaccine and Autism Fraudulent. https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/blog/bmj-wakefield-paper-alleging-link-between-mmr-vaccine-and-autism-fraudulent Accessed 1/8/21
(3) The centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the Absence of SARS-CoV Transmission Worldwide: Guidance for Surveillance, Clinical and Laboratory Evaluation, and Reporting. https://www.cdc.gov/sars/surveillance/absence.html Accessed 1/8/21
(4) Tseng CT, Sbrana E, Iwata-Yoshikawa N, et al. Immunization with SARS coronavirus vaccines leads to pulmonary immunopathology on challenge with the SARS virus [published correction appears in PLoS One. 2012;7(8). doi:10.1371/annotation/2965cfae-b77d-4014-8b7b-236e01a35492]. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35421. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035421
(5) USFDA. Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advivisory Committee Meeting December 17, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/media/144434/download#:~:text=Efficacy%20data%20from%20the%20final,the%20placebo%20group%20and%20was Accessed 1/8/21
(6) USFDA. Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting
December 10, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/media/144245/download Accessed 1/8/21
(7) Lantos PM, Shapiro ED, Auwaerter PG, et al. Unorthodox alternative therapies marketed to treat Lyme disease. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;60(12):1776-1782. doi:10.1093/cid/civ186