- A recent Channel4 documentary described the growing influence of well funded anti vaccination movement.
- Claims that vaccine spike proteins are toxic are typical of manipulation of science to create fear.
- Exaggeration of deaths after vaccination is becoming a constant background noise.
- Vaccines continue to be doing a good job and are creating far more good than harm.
Motivated by wish to see things from the other side, I continue to delve into the world of those who have some very different views on the pandemic. While some of this is rightly challenging, and debate is a good thing, much of it strikes me as incredibly misleading and sometimes frankly dishonest. As good food is critical for good physical health, good information is important to maintain a healthy mind and make reasonable decisions – so I feel the need to continue my series of misinformation posts with my own dissection of disturbing and largely inaccurate online commentaries on vaccination. I feel like Im doing my bit.
The anti-vaxx movement on the move
My mind was focused by viewing a recent Channel 4 documentary which took a look at the recent history of the antivaxx movement, featuring of course, those select few individuals who are driving it. Prominent of course, is Andrew Wakefield, whose striking off the UK medical register for fraud, deceit and dishonesty put rocket boosters under his career as the darling of the US antivaxx movement. This is despite, as the GMC stated in its ruling against him, having ‘callous disregard for the distress and pain’ of the children he studied. His failure to disclose his financial interests which clouded his judgement and corrupted his research seems to have, paradoxically, earned him far more money than he could ever have dreamed of earning as an honest doctor.
Then along comes COVID19. The pandemic has fuelled a dramatic increase in conspiratorial and anti vaccination sentiment, and with some significant funding from a small number of wealthy supporters, antivaxx posts dominate the internet. As the Editor of the BMJ concluded in the C4 documentary, misinformation is now more than ever a real threat to health. As an example, a recent bandwagon rolling around cyberspace relates to the toxicity of the spike protein which projects from the viral membrane and which is why this family of viruses are called coronavirus. (Corona = crown) Let’s have a look.
Sars2 spike protein must be one of the most studied proteins on earth and for an amazing look at its structure and function click here. To summarise – the viral genome comprises 30,000 pairs of bases, coding for 10,000 amino acids which are the building blocks for the proteins which make up the viral structure, including the spike with its 1,273 amino acids. The graphic below shows the structure changes its shape dramatically when locked into the ACE2 receptor, enabling the virus to fuse with our cell membrane and enter the cell to replicate. Cleverly, the protein is coated with polysaccharides (assemblies of sugar molecules) to camouflage it from our immune system.
The viral spike has recently become more interesting still as a paper examined its direct toxicity on cells lining the respiratory tract and blood vessels called epithelial cells. This may explain the increased risk of heart, kidney and brain problems caused by COVID19 and have some bearing on the unfortunately common chronic symptoms after infection. The study was limited by the fact it used a pseudo-virus to deliver the spike protein to the cells studied, so the authors refrain from making too many conclusions before using the real virus, but ended with the following comment:
“…This conclusion suggests that vaccination-generated antibody and/or exogenous antibody against S protein not only protects the host from SARS-CoV-2 infectivity but also inhibits S (Spike) protein-imposed endothelial injury….“
So the viral spike can do damage on its own, and vaccine generating antibodies against this spike can prevent this happening. However, the authors conclusions were ignored by online anti-vaxers citing the study as evidence that vaccine induced spike can do harm and vaccination should be stopped. They missed the study’s main point which highlighted how harmful the real infection can be. They then claim spike proteins manufactured within our cells via the mRNA and vector vaccines are more toxic than the those of SarsCov2 on the basis that they have been altered and cannot enter cells. For me, that is a positive thing and makes vaccine spike proteins less rather than more of a worry.
The respected Salk Institute, where the research was carried out, stated clearly in their press release that ” the virus spike proteins (which behave very differently than those safely encoded by vaccines) also play a key role in the disease itself.” Anti-vaxxers mischievously use the paper as ‘proof’ that the vaccine spike proteins directly damage cells, something the study never addressed.
They ignore these points:
- Vaccine spike protein levels found in blood were at least 40,000 times less than those after real infection.
- Vaccine induced spike disappear after a few days.
- The vaccine spike protein is not the same as the real deal, as it is unable to perform the contortions the natural spike protein carries out to gain entry to our cells.
- Unlike in COVID19, the vaccine does not lead to production of more spike protein by invading other cells.
Dr Byram Brindle a Canadian Immunologist and member of the Canadian Covid Care Alliance (the branch local of the American FLCCC group and a conflict of interest if ever there was one), claims the spike proteins remains in the blood after vaccination, are toxic and are distributed around in the body. One of his conclusions was immediately spotted as a howler as he misquoted the paper he analysed. Other virologists strongly dispute his claims. He fails to mention that the spike proteins measured in the paper had all disappeared by day 14 in the study he cited and the levels were so low that novel detection techology has to be used to find them at all. The authors of the very papers he cites state otherwise. Dishonestly, he fails to account for the simple facts above, though he at least acknowledges at the start of his interview that he is going to scare people, feeding into fears of many whose thinking is becoming distorted by disinformation. Please don’t buy into this!
Vaccine related deaths – reality behind the headlines
Then there are the vaccine side effects and the reporting systems results being manipulated leading to claims of, at the extreme end of the spectrum, a vaccine holocaust. II kid you not!
Dr Peter McCullough gives such thinking credence as he appears another apparently genuine American doctor with vaccine worries. He announced himself to the world as “considered by some to be the the most published doctor in the world an in history in his field“. (The interface between heart and kidney disease) A quick search of Medline, the prominent medical database, lists him as having 51 papers in the last decade, which knowing the prodigious output of some researchers, makes me wonder why he should make such a claim.
Trump may have gone, but Trumpism is doing well in the US. Self aggrandisement works for celebrities, but is not a good look for a doctor.
I started to watch his recent clip published on the obscure Rumble platform, where those who cannot evade the barriers put up by the internet giants go to air their views. To be honest, I only watched the first few minutes and the last few, a useful technique to get a taste of what is being said before settling in for the long read, but in this case, that was enough. The whole video was 1hr 45 mins long! Even in sample there seemed to me to be mistakes galore relating to his claims of vaccine side effects and deaths.
A more detailed look at his video reveals the nonsense of this claims. There have not been ‘thousands’ of vaccine related deaths in the US. Sure, there have been thousands of deaths reported after a vaccination, the vast majority of which are not related. Remember that 7,000 or so people die daily in the US, and with a vaccination programme covering huge chunks of the elderly and vulnerable, there will be lots of associations between the vaccine and death.
What they actually mean is that 4,000 US deaths been notified through their system of reporting adverse events called the Vaccination Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). On first hearing that, it sounds terrible, but let’s have a closer look. In the US, about 150 million people have had at least one vaccine. There are about 8000 daily deaths in the US, meaning 1 in 41,000 Americans die each day. So, since the vaccination campaign began, in those 150 million people, 3,600 daily deaths would have been expected even if not vaccinated.
Nevertheless, headlines about “vaccine related deaths” follow, catch the eye and can make a bit splash. Yet given that the elderly and vulnerable are being prioritised for vaccination, 4000 deaths in total reported to VAERS is just about what would have been expected. In not addressing this, the headlines seem intentionally misleading.
The American VAERS system is not comprehensive, but does well in signalling rare serious events and health staff have been instructed to report deaths or illness after vaccines. Surveillance succeeded with the issue of blood clots due to the AZO and J+J vaccine, as did doctors who initially noted and flagged up the association. Deaths immediately after vaccination are looked at individually and no concerns have been flagged up. Still the story rumbles on.
What should we make of the 1,500 deaths that take place the day after the Queens speech, or after the forthcoming England vs Germany football game?
They are simply an association of one thing with another. Causation is another thing altogether. There will of course be deaths due to the vaccines. We have already seen clotting problems, a few cases of myocarditis, together undoubtably with a small number of very frail who were unable to tolerate some of the expected side effects. The detection of rare clotting events offers reassurance that the system for spotting genuine vaccine side effects is robust.
And in the UK…
Over here, there were 1,400 deaths a day averaged over the last 12 months (England and Wales), three quarters of which were in the 9 million people aged over 70, where vaccination uptake is almost universal. So in that age group, there will usually be about 1000 deaths a day. In other words, the daily chance of death in this age group in 0.01%.
As the programme rolled out, we were vaccinating this age group at the rate of 300,000 daily. 0.01% of 300,000 equates to about 30 people a day co-incidentally dying on the same day as their jab, or on any day. The JCVI target was to give all those over 70 their first vaccination by mid February, that is, two months after the campaign began.
The total number of deaths reported to the Yellow card system occurring ‘shortly’ after vaccination stood at 1,173 against a total of 1,800 people over 70 who would have been expected to die over the course of the campaign.
Personally I’m reassured by this and thank all those on the front line who have filled in these Yellow Card reports. It’s an important chore.
Of course, there will be lots of heartfelt experiences and resultant stories of people having the vaccine and dying shortly afterward. It will make the grieving process more difficult if it is believed that lives were shortened by the vaccine when usually, they would not.
For those who want to see things that way, conclusions will be made about how dangerous the vaccine is. That is not helpful to those experiencing loss. It is the job of doctors to determine the cause of death, and fill in death certification as best as they can – if there is no evident cause of death, then the coroner if informed and a post mortem will be conducted to find out what the cause was.
Of course, the sad fact is that 128,000 people have died due to COVID19 in the UK, and the majority of these would would have been saved by vaccination. Evidence to date suggests 10,000 lives have been saved in the UK by the vaccine programme so far. The graph below shows the benefits in the US nursing home residents, for example.
Vaccines in the real world
There have been 224,000 reports of side effects to the yellow card scheme and they are detailed here. Most are not serious, some are, though thankfully rare. Bells Palsy, blood clots, neurological problems all occur after the vaccine, but at a far lower rate that after COVID19 infection. Nothing is risk free.
After my second jab, oddly enough, I had to go to bed early with feelings of tiredness and a slight fever, having hardly noticed the first. I reflected that if I were 90 this might be far more challenging to me. Perhaps side effects, (which are less common in the elderly), do genuinely affect some old and vulnerable people, and perhaps there are cases when it just made the difference between life and death in people who were not far from death before vaccination.
This is sad of course, but doesn’t mean that the vaccination would have been the wrong decision. Given the increased risk of COVID in the elderly and the need to keep nursing homes and their staff COVID free, vaccination is still a good call. If I were 90, I would have accepted the jab to help the home, make it more likely to see loved ones, to protect them, and improve my own chances. When you get to those ages, sadness and loss is always around the corner and it makes matters worse for those in the public eye to use such deaths to create false alarm.
Hot of the press at Mercola is the claim that deaths from COVID19 are 5 times more likely in the vaccinated than in the non-vaccinated, stating: “The PHE report shows that as a hospital patient, you are six times more likely to die of the COVID Delta variant if you are fully vaccinated, than if you are not vaccinated at all”. WOW! But…….
He fails to mention the conclusion from the paper…”the 28-day case fatality rate for Delta remains low (0.1%)”, and that this is largely thanks to vaccination. Sure, in the data he refers to, there were 251 admissions of the unvaccinated with the Delta variant, and 23 deaths (9%), and 20 admissions of the fully vaccinated with 12 deaths (60%). Hence his sensational claim, now rippling around cyberspace..
He also fails to mention that there were far less admissions in the vaccinated population, that the unvaccinated are far younger and less vulnerable than those in the vaccinated group and that no one ever claimed the vaccines were 100% protective. This distortion of the source he quotes I find disappointing.
Why this matters
The pyramid of damage done by the pandemic starts with deaths, hospitalisations, long term health problems, a miserable illness for many, a damaged health sector, economic hits, and short and long term social and cultural damage. Much of this we are just beginning to understand.
Added to this must be the worry and anxiety caused by misinformation and disinformation, reaching more and more people than ever possible before the information revolution. Imagine if the online world was full of clips of self proclaimed ‘experts’ discussing how tobacco doesn’t really cause cancer, air pollution is not a health issue, processed food is good for you, poverty is always the fault of the individual, or climate change is not real; then how can we get ready to face the immense changes and very real hardships we face in the next century? The pandemic has brought misinformation into the headlights and has now become a part of the pandemic’s pathological effects.
Distrust in the state is entirely understandable, as is suspicion of “Big Pharma”. Don’t get me started on that one! So too is frustration at the struggle which is day to day life so far too many people. Anger at the way society is run is appropriate given our prioritisation of profits now for pain later. Trust should be at a low ebb given incompetence and corruption. Yet, I feel these sense of alienation is misplaced when channeled into the anti vaccination sentiment, fuelled as it is by some pretty terrible information. For me, it distracts from the simple and harsh realities of the pandemic, our troubled times and truly epoch defining worries about the future.
It looks like this won’t be my last post on misinformation.