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New Study Confirms Its Much Safer to Get Vaccinated Than to Catch Covid-19

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A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine
Photo: Jack Guez (Getty Images)

New research from Israel offers some unsurprising but reassuring news on the safety of covid-19 vaccines. The study found that the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine was not associated with a higher risk of most potential adverse events. And for rare suspected complications such as myocarditis, the risk was still substantially higher in those who got covid-19.

When symptoms show up after taking a drug or vaccine, they’re known as adverse events. These events may be true side effects of a treatment, but they may have happened regardless of the drug. One key way to determine the risk of a potential side effect is to see how often a population of people who received the treatment experience these symptoms compared to those who didn’t take the treatment, the latter being a real-world control group. And that’s what these researchers did, combing through data from the largest health care system in Israel from the start of the vaccination campaign late last year. The study collectively involved more than a million people.

The researchers compared the rate of adverse events documented in vaccinated people to unvaccinated people matched up in age and other demographics. Ultimately, they found that the vaccine wasn’t associated with a higher risk of most adverse events in the 42 days after vaccination. There were some events with a stronger link to vaccination, though. These included appendicitis, swollen lymph nodes, and myocarditis (heart inflammation). But when the researchers then looked at people with confirmed covid-19 and compared them to vaccinated people, the difference was stark.

Potentially severe adverse events much more common in the infected than in the vaccinated. For instance, the rate of myocarditis in the vaccinated was 2.7 cases documented in every 100,000 people, but it was 11 cases per 100,000 in the infected—a fourfold difference. There were also other conditions that vaccinated people didn’t have any added risk of experiencing, but that were more likely to show up in people who contracted covid-19, such as heart attacks, kidney damage, and pulmonary embolisms.

“[O]ur results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 infection is itself a very strong risk factor for myocarditis, and it also substantially increases the risk of multiple other serious adverse events,” the authors wrote in their study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While it may seem obvious that taking a vaccine to gain immunity to a disease will be safer than catching the disease itself, it’s always important to keep an eye out for any major side effects that might have gone unnoticed in clinical trials.

Since their authorization last year, scientists have found that vaccinated people can have a higher risk of some adverse events that weren’t documented in the original clinical trials, including myocarditis in those who get an mRNA vaccine like the Pfizer or Moderna shot. And there have been cases of serious illness and even deaths linked to vaccines, such as the death of BBC journalist Lisa Shaw in May following a rare blood clotting condition tied to the AstraZeneca vaccine. But so far, all of the real-world data has shown that these sorts of serious events remain very rare, while covid-19 deaths and long-term complications are far more common. In the U.S. alone, vaccines may have prevented up to 140,000 deaths by early May. In other words, the benefits of covid-19 vaccination continue to vastly outweigh any risks.

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Anti-Vax Nurse Allegedly Injects 8,600 People With Salt Water

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People attend a protest rally in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.

People attend a protest rally in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.
Photo: Michael Sohn (AP)

A nurse in Germany has been accused of giving at least 8,6000 people saline solution when she was supposed to be administering the covid-19 vaccine, according to a report from the Guardian. The nurse reportedly posted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on social media around the same time she was working for the Red Cross in March and April of this year.

The fake vaccine recipients are from the northern German district of Friesland and primarily elderly, a segment of the population which is most at risk of serious disease and death from covid-19.

Saline solution, which amounts to little more than salt water, isn’t harmful when injected in small doses, but being unvaccinated during a pandemic carries a large number of risks. Health officials are urging anyone who got vaccinated at the Roffhausen Vaccination Center to get vaccinated again.

According to some reports, the nurse is refusing to cooperate with police, which makes it even more difficult to determine how widespread her alleged deception was occurring.

“Since she remains silent with police, we do not know whether and to what extent she was manipulated during this period,” Claudia Schröder, a local public health official in Germany, said according to the New Zealand Herald.

The unnamed nurse has admitted to just six cases of tampering with the vaccines she was supposed to be giving up, but authorities believe it’s many more.

From the Washington Post:

The nurse, who has not been publicly identified, had initially admitted to giving six patients shots of saline solution after suspicions were raised in April. She said she did so to cover up the fact that she had dropped a vial of the Pfizer vaccine, German television channel NDR reported.

However, since antibody testing was carried out, a much wider group of people is suspected to have been affected. Police have also discovered that the woman, who worked with the Red Cross, had shared vaccine-skeptical posts on social media, NDR said.

The nurse reportedly posted anti-vaccine content to WhatsApp right around the time when she was working at the vaccination center.

“We then found three or four of her WhatsApp chats from April 21, right before the act, so we suspect that she did it,” Wilhelmshaven police officer Peter Beer told Euronews.

It’s not clear if the nurse has been arrested or charged with any crime.

Germany has fully vaccinated 55.61% of its population against covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, the 23rd best rate in the world. But there are still large pockets of anti-vaccine activists in Germany who stage protests against any restrictions put in place to mitigate spread of the virus. The U.S. has vaccinated 50.91% of its population, putting it at 30th in the world.

Germany has announced a handful of new measures this week in an effort to get more people vaccinated. The government will stop offering free rapid covid-19 tests on October 11, forcing the unvaccinated to pay for their own tests out of pocket. But who knows how that’s going to work out.

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Facebook News Consumers Are More Anti-Vaccine Than Fox Viewers

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Image for article titled Facebook News Consumers Are More Anti-Vaccine Than Fox News Viewers, Study Finds

Photo: At Washington, DC Facebook headquarters, activists [the Real Facebook Oversight Board] lay body bags and call for Facebook to stop disinformation that leads to Covid deaths on Wednesday, July. 28, 2021 in Washington. (Eric Kayne/AP Images for All the Citizens Ltd.) (AP)

Joe Biden might want to consider re-backpedaling after backpedaling his accusation that social media companies [Facebook] are “killing people” by spreading vaccine conspiracies and bunk. A new study suggests that Facebook’s news consumers are inordinately unwilling to get the covid-19 vaccine.

Facebook fired back at President Biden’s comment earlier this month with a blog post and a study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Delphi Group. It reported that, of millions of Facebook users, 85% of U.S.-based users were vaccinated or planned to get vaccinated. “President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4,” they sniffed. “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.” Biden later clarified that misinformation is killing people.

But the study didn’t account for people who consume news through Facebook, potentially exposing them to its massive disinformation mill and targeting them with the content that Facebook believes will get the most engagement. The new study of that user group nudges Facebook off its high horse.

Researchers from numerous universities, specializing in various public health and political science-related fields, surveyed 20,669 people from all 50 states and D.C., between June and July 2021. They found that 25% of people who only got news from Facebook in the previous 24 hours say they won’t get vaccinated, putting it above only Newsmax (41%) and slightly below Fox (23%).

Image for article titled Facebook News Consumers Are More Anti-Vaccine Than Fox News Viewers, Study Finds

An alarmingly high portion of people got their news (“news”) through Facebook. About a third (31%) had consumed news from Facebook over the past 24 hours, ranking Facebook as the second-largest news provider below CNN. Researchers didn’t define Facebook “news,” which could range from anything from user-generated content to Tucker Carlson to the New York Times.

Image for article titled Facebook News Consumers Are More Anti-Vaccine Than Fox News Viewers, Study Finds

As researcher David Lazer, political science and computer science professor at Northeastern University, pointed out to Gizmodo, Facebook’s numbers simply align with overall population data. “The 85% figure, depending on the threshold [the Delphi Group] used, roughly matches our numbers for the general population for being ‘potentially’ willing to get vaccinated,” he wrote. “Indeed, most surveys find about 15% of the population that is really hardcore that says they will never get the vaccine.”

Facebook and Delphi’s numbers (including people probably willing to get vaccinated) gel with the CDC’s report that nearly 70% of the U.S. adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s finding that 16% of U.S. residents don’t plan to get the vaccine unless forced to. Facebook’s estimate of 85% of users who got vaccinated or are willing to get it matches up.

Facebook could clean up the site, and activists and researchers have been telling it, for a year, about the culprits. And if it really wants to place the blame on users, it could stop algorithmically recommending the most “engaging” content, be it from Ben Shapiro or Aunt Charlene. Facebook will never be able to say it’s done everything it can to fight misinformation as long as it continues recommending content as a business practice. A March 2021 report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that 73% of vaccine disinformation originated from just twelve people. Today, the activist group Real Facebook Oversight backed up those findings with a report that over 83% of posts with the most engagement this quarter came from five disinformation spreaders.

That group also dropped a bunch of body bags at Facebook’s door this morning, pictured above. Facebook’s policy communications director Andy Stone tweeted that they’re out for “cheap stunts” and linked to the insubstantial blog post stating that 85% of U.S. Facebook users are vaccinated.

There’s no way to prove that people are dying specifically because of pieces of information they read on Facebook, but associating a primary vaccine disinformation source with death is not a performative exaggeration. As covid-19 case rates are doubling and tripling, especially in states with paltry vaccination rates like Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, we’re reading daily reports of sufferers who wished they’d gotten the vaccine on their deathbeds. Doctors are pleading with the public to reconsider.

A pastor told Dallas-Fort Worth’s Fox News affiliate that he regretted believing disinformation after a brush with death. A 27-year-old who suffered a severe case said he’d believed he didn’t need the vaccine because he was young and fit. One mother who nearly died told ClickOrlando.com that she let disinformation-spreaders influence her with government conspiracy theories. A grieving mother recounted her 28-year-old son’s dying words to the Washington Post: “This is not a hoax, this is real.”

Facebook has historically chosen to sweep criticism under the rug with broad statistics about disinformation it’s removed and its number of moderators and pledges to change and add labels, but none of that translates to meaningful responsibility as a leading news source.

So Facebook’s hands-off attitude has reached Executive Branch intervention time. Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that, fine, the Biden Administration will do the job. She said they’re tracking covid-19 misinformation on Facebook and are making a series of recommendations for the company, and days later, Facebook told Biden to quit “finger-pointing.”



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