Conspiracy theory websites and social media channels have leapt on a new piece of research that, they say, shows Covid-19 shots have killed more than 400,000 people in the U.S. Furthermore, they say adverse events reporting systems underestimate side effects by some...
Latest Disinformation Posts
In late November, scientists announced they’d found a new coronavirus variant that could make vaccines less effective. Researchers quickly began probing the mutated virus to find out how much better it was at evading immunity than those that came before it. Scientists...
Videos of young athletes collapsing and even dying are spreading fast on social media. The falls, many users falsely suggest, are the result of sudden, serious heart problems brought on by Covid-19 jabs. Designed to scare, these claims are being used to undermine the...
Over the course of the pandemic, most countries have seen more deaths than normal as Covid-19 has travelled through the population. In many cases, deaths have risen and fallen along with national outbreaks. But in recent months, some highly vaccinated countries have...
No, Covid-19 vaccines don’t cause organ damage
A new viral video falsely claims that Covid-19 vaccines cause serious organ damage. In the fifteen-minute clip, a doctor says he’s found evidence that jabs can make the body’s immune system attack the heart, lungs and other organs.
But the research does not stand up to scrutiny. In reality, there’s no reliable evidence that shows vaccines can cause the damage he describes.
Emerging scientific data, however, shows Covid-19 itself may cause autoimmune damage in some people.
So, what are conspiracy theorists saying?
In the video, a researcher called Dr Sucharit Bhakdi claims to have found evidence of autoimmune damage in the organs of fifteen people he says died after taking Covid-19 vaccines. He then uses emotive and coarse language to criticise authorities who are distributing the jabs.
But the evidence he provides to support these claims is deeply flawed. It takes the form of a four-page summary of research he claims to have undertaken with a colleague, Dr Arne Burkhardt. The summary is based on a presentation the pair made at an event for anti-vaccine activist doctors (see the screenshot above).
To the casual observer, this document may look like a standard scientific study. But it does not contain any methodology, research images, or formal measurements that would allow other scientists to verify its results.
Nor has it been peer-reviewed by other researchers, or published in a legitimate scientific journal: basic standards for reliability.
Aside from these credibility issues, the results don’t actually provide evidence for Bhakdi and Burkhardt’s claims.
The researchers say they examined the bodies of 15 people who died sometime after receiving either one or two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. They claim 14 (93%) of these individuals had experienced auto-immune damage to various organs.
But not only is this far too small a sample size to draw any reliable conclusions about vaccines many millions of people have taken, the data provided for each subject isn’t even complete.
It’s not clear from the paper that all participants actually received Covid-19 vaccines, nor is it certain when each person received them. In two cases, the type of vaccine received is listed as “unknown.” And the interval between vaccination and death is listed as “unknown” for two patients.
Failing to provide this timeframe is a problem. Our bodies are very good at breaking down and removing vaccine components from our systems, so knowing how long it’s been since a person was injected is really important for assessing whether a health problem was caused by a jab or not.
Genuine side effects tend to occur quickly after vaccination: mostly within days or weeks. It’s highly unlikely for side effects to emerge more than a few weeks — or six months, as is claimed for one of the participants of this study — after injection. The “unknown” interval for subjects could be as short as a few hours or longer than a year.
Correlation versus causation
This brings us to perhaps the most fundamental flaw with the paper. The researchers present their data as proof that Covid-19 vaccines cause autoimmune attacks. But they don’t actually show this anywhere.
If accurate, their paper shows that 14 of 15 who died over the last year had evidence of organ damage. It also shows that these people were also vaccinated. But nowhere does it establish a link between these two events.
As Dr Rosie Cornish, a research fellow in Population Health Sciences at the University of Bristol, told Reuters: “This is a study of 15 people who died. All of them had received a Covid-19 vaccine between seven days and six months prior to death. This tells us nothing.
“Chances are that all of these people would have many other factors in common in the same time frame preceding death. For example, had they all eaten bread at some point? Had they had a drink of water? Brushed their teeth? This list could be very long. Nobody is suggesting that any of these other factors could be the cause of death.”
Vaccines are safe and effective
There is no credible evidence linking the vaccines to widespread autoimmune attacks or increased rates of death. A recent study of 11 million Americans (6.4 million of whom were vaccinated), actually showed a slightly lower risk of non-Covid-19 death in individuals who had taken their shots.
There’s also plenty of data from clinical trials and real-world monitoring that shows the jabs are safe and effective. Like other medicines, the vaccines can cause side effects. But they are usually mild and tend to resolve within a few days.
Emerging scientific evidence does show, however, that Covid-19 itself may cause serious autoimmune problems.
Antibodies are a part of the immune system that normally fight off viruses. But sometimes, some antibodies mistakenly target the body itself.
Researchers recently found evidence that patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms were much more likely to have these misdirected antibodies in their system. This risk increased with age.
The results chime with a small British study published last summer, which found that people recovering from Covid-19 had higher levels of “autoantibodies” than other hospitalised patients.
Scientists think a misfiring immune system might also be behind some “long Covid” cases, where patients continue to experience sometimes debilitating symptoms long after initial infection.
But more research is needed to know exactly what role they play in disease severity and length.
First author professor Alex Richter, of the University of Birmingham, explained in a statement: “The antibodies we identified are similar to those that cause a number of skin, muscle and heart autoimmune diseases.
“We don’t yet know whether these autoantibodies are definitely causing symptoms in patients and whether this is a common phenomenon after lots of infections or just following Covid-19.”
Vaccines are proven to reduce your chance of developing Covid-19 symptoms, ending up in hospital and even dying from the disease. Instead of causing auto-immune problems, the jabs may well help protect you from them.