Well, its the worst “research” I’ve come across! So bad, it’s interesting – partly because it was published in a respected peer-reviewed journal but also as it led to sensational headlines like these:

“More Than 217,000 Americans Killed by the COVID Jab!!” and…

“1 million Americans seriously injured by Vaccines!!!”

Wow! But is this true? We’ll look at that in a minute, but as usual Mercola, Americas own blend of Andrew Wakefield and pinnochio, offers his daily missive on his popular website to amplify the papers ‘biblical’ ‘truths’….

“[We’ve] killed at least 217,000 Americans and seriously injured 33 million … in just the first year, and the CDC and FDA want to give you more shots … Since deaths from the vaccine were higher in 2022, most experts would estimate the all-cause mortality death toll from the COVID vaccines to be in the range of 500K to 600K“…. so claims Steve Kirsch, a prominent anti vaccine campaigner whose expertise is in, er, technology, though not it seems in arithmetic. 33 million seriously injured? That extrapolation of extrapolations lead to the number of 1 in 10 Americans seriously injured! Bullshit Alert!!!

Aseem Malhotra, another “Top” cardiologist (anti vaxx doctors always claim to be “Top” doctors) also shares the claims with the half a million viewers of his Twitter feed who are likely to believe what he says and share them on into an increasingly foggy cyberspace.

All these pundits demand these findings are investigated further, so let’s do that for them. I will do my best to be brief.

This is a screenshot of the paper – all looks very official and worthy…

The ‘research’ was done by Mark Skidmore who is an economics prof at Michigan University. Now economists have plenty of interesting things to say, so thats not a a problem in itself, but a glimpse at Marks own website clearly lays out his dislike of vaccines and his prior belief that they are killing large numbers of people. Also he shares ‘research’ on his blog suggesting there are nano razor blades in the vaccines and that vaccine induced magnetism is a real thing. Oh Boy! He has also interviewed Dr Peter McCullough, a genuine medical crank, in an interview caller “Mind blowing reality of death after injection!” No bias there then! Incredibly, he doesn’t list these as competing interests! Always check out the author. The peer reviewers clearly didn’t.

To be fair, he does say: “The limitations of the study are threefold: (1) The sample of 2840 respondents is small; (2) reported COVID-19 illnesses and COVID-19 vaccine adverse events are not diagnosed in a clinical setting; and (3) health survey responses are biased.” In other words, even he admits it has some very shaky foundations. In reality these are just the tip of an iceberg of error.

So what does he do?

Basically, he asked 2840 people, some vaccinated some not, if they know of anyone who had died or suffered side effects after vaccination or after COVID19. The study had two aims; to examine the influence of perceived or real problems seen with vaccination decisions, and to estimate the total number of COVID-19 vaccine induced fatalities nationwide from the survey.

The first aim seems a reasonable exercise, but he doesn’t do what he claims – indeed rather the reverse: the data shows how feeling about the vaccine affect perceptions of side effects in others. The second aim is utter nonsense – total number of deaths associated with an event can hardly be estimated by a small poll.

For one thing, the sample was not representative of the US population. It over represented the unvaccinated and thus biased the sample in favour of those who see vaccination as a bad thing: a major sample bias. The questions asked are also biased in themselves with subtle but important differences in what they actually asked the two groups. (Problems after being ill with COVID19, or any significant problems after vaccination). This explains why some of the answers to ‘vaccine damage’ include people who are listed as dying of er, COVID19.

Its gets worse. They sneakily magnify the bias 36 times above reality by elevating ratios of vaccine related deaths/COVID deaths which are way above those used officially (0.345 vs 0.0096). This is based on faulty analysis of self reported symptoms to VAERS, the system used in the US to monitor vaccine safety and which cannot ascribe causation to reported incidents in any case. The posh looking ‘scientific’ reference on which they base this awful calculation actually comes from a “concerned citizen” blogger who does not seem to understand VAERS at all.

They use this elevated and nonsensical ratio to extrapolate their findings to the US populations to arrive at their figure of USA vaccine deaths in 2021. Hence the headline grabbing number of 278,000 deaths, with a million serious injuries to boot. This is total bullshit.

Worse still, they make back of envelope calculations by assuming the background death rate from heart attacks and strokes in their age demographic is usually zero to which it is not, and this error further elevates their claims of vaccine harm.

Another howler – they used mortality rates for the average age (48) of the respondents (288/100,000) instead of the likely mortality rates of the actual people in the survey (561/100,000) thus again underestimating the expected deaths and compounding the biases mentioned above.

The reality

If you use this more accurate latter figure for expected deaths, they actually report less deaths in the vaccinated than would be expected in a normal year. The real spread of ages in the study is not mentioned, camouflaging this error and making the exact calculation impossible from the paper. I wonder why!

There extrapolations are rather like saying that I heard a cuckoo yesterday. I heard another one today. There are 64,000,000 people in the UK. If half of them heard cuckoos as I have done, that means there are 64,000,000 cuckoos in this country. Its nonsensical gibberish!

In other words even the results in this survey, highly biased to find vaccine problems actually shows that there are no unexpected deaths due to the vaccine. No sensational headlines there Im afraid, an of course, no corrections from Mercola, Malhotra or anyone else!

I have written to the journal editors as their peer review process gives the impression of a nodding dog if they let this sort of dangerous garbage through.

The editors have now attached the warning shown below to the paper, but that is pushing the stable door half shut after the horse has bolted, jumped over the fence, eaten all the neighbours crops got onto the road and caused a traffic accident!

As always, the antivaccine lobby have used the sensational but actually non existent findings to create a huge amount of on-line traffic leading to fear and outrage which is harmful to the gullible reader whose angry ideas will be based on a paper so bad its fraudulent – the consequent rebuttals and sensible science generates no headlines.

Thankfully, there are some excellent science educators out there – like Dr Susan Oliver and Dr Wilson whose You Tube channels are an excellent source of decent scientific thinking and whose analysis helped form this blog post. Thanks Susan in particular!

Thanks for getting this far in my own little effort to inform accurately. Do feel free to comment in the box below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

9 thoughts on “Is this the worst COVID research ever?

  1. he is propagating the old chestnut regarding 90% of the positives are false. This is a misinterpretation in that following a covid infection the pcr test will continue to give positive results due to fragments of the virus still being in the body although the disease has passed and the person is not infectious. So much so that after some 2 months after an infection the probability of a positive test actually signifying disease was about 10%.

  2. I wonder if this lack of quality evaluation is due to this being a ‘predatory journal’ who will publish rubbish. If it ain’t, then the journal has some serious work to do. The consequences of this are too big to be allowed to go on.

  3. As someone who has published a few in peer review journals the biggest fear was in publishing something that was wrong., the shame. It would approach fraud.

    There seems to be a lot of shoddy papers coming out. Don’t these people have colleagues who will read through their papers?

    But where are the peer reviewers? What do they actually do?

    When I was in industry we had an originator, a checker, a customer and a regulator each of which would do an actual check on the paper.
    The checker would be allocated a week of time for the check, which probably means 20-25 hours actual checking work. It would be interesting to know how long peer reviewers take and what fee they are paid.

  4. Excellent work Colin, and one wonders at the quality of research going on at University of Michigan, once a leading institution

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