Fact Check: Video Is NOT Correct That VAERS List Of Adverse Reaction Reports Is Data That Proves COVID Vaccine Caused Deaths

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: Video Is NOT Correct That VAERS List Of Adverse Reaction Reports Is Data That Proves COVID Vaccine Caused Deaths VAERS ≠ "Data"

Is this video correct in its claim that the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Report System (VAERS) delivers data proving 6,000 people were killed by COVID vaccines? No, that's not true: The VAERS website repeatedly warns users against making faulty assumptions based on the VAERS list of reports.

As the VAERS webpage itself explains, the list of reports is a wide-open, likely repetitive, messy and incomplete list of anyone's anecdotal, amateur and professional reports. Sifting through the list of unverified reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hope to spot groups of similar reports. The agencies can then investigate them to sort out coincidences from real side effects.

A rare side effect that doesn't show up in the clinical trials on tens of thousands of patients can affect a few dozen when the drug is cleared for use and injected into millions of patients. That's when it might show up as a pattern of reports in VAERS. Even a pattern is not itself evidence, since those reports must be checked for authenticity to determine if the VAERS report highlighted a coincidental health event or an actual vaccine-caused reaction.

The claim was made in a Steve Deace Show video (archived here) posted to BitChute on June 22, 2021, under the title "The TRUTH About COVID-19, Lockdowns, and mRNA Vaccines." It opens:

Pathologist Dr. Ryan Cole joins the show to discuss what we know about the mRNA COVID vaccines ...

Social media users going to the Deace show's link at the time this fact check was written saw this:

Ryan Cole, MD.png

(Source: Rumble.com screenshot taken Fri June 25 at ‏‎‏‎22:45:58 PM UTC 2021)

Cole, a Boise, Idaho pathologist, makes several previously debunked claims, including a recycled falsehood about Japanese regulatory documents that purportedly show massive lipid nanoparticle buildup in women's ovaries. Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that created the document, says it shows results of tests on rats and mice. Both Pfizer and the FDA independently verified on June 24, 2021, that no peer-reviewed study has shown the effects Cole describes.

This fact check addresses the main claim made by Cole: that vaccines are killing thousands of Americans.

At seven minutes 53 seconds into the video, Cole says this:

If you look at the data, and that's what I do. As a pathologist, I'm data-driven. Data, data, data, data. My data isn't political. It's not right, it's not left ... The data is the data ... We have more deaths today in the United States from the vaccine in many states than we do from COVID itself.

He repeats the false claim again at 11 minutes 59 seconds saying "We do know that we're seeing a huge amount of adverse reactions, over 6,000 deaths, over 20,000+ hospitalizations, from the vaccine ... 6,000 people dead? That's twice 9/11 now."

That is the kind of VAERS-based declaration the CDC/FDA team in charge of VAERS calls a flawed assumption.

VAERS is not a precise instrument of measure, nor is it a dataset from which accurate predictions or reports can be assembled. VAERS reports are unverified, can be filed by anyone and, according to the CDC, may include information that is incomplete, inaccurate or coincidental. Multiple people could file a report on the same case. Malicious pranksters could make false reports.

It's a hodgepodge of anecdotal information, not a library of fully investigated cases. When it works correctly, it helps the CDC and FDA monitor the rollout of a new vaccine by revealing patterns.

The website for VAERS makes clear the system's uses and limitations:

When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event ... VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.

And, also:

A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report. VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine.

To gain access to the VAERS data, you have to affirm, by clicking a box, that you have read the VAERS website's warning about what VAERS is and is not, as shown in the following screengrab from the VAERS site.

VAERS assent form.JPG

(VAERS.HHS.gov screenshot taken Fri Jun 25 24:00:00 UTC 2021)

The VAERS data guide web page says that coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a medical condition or from a vaccination. The first thing on the page is this warning:

When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.
VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Dean Miller

Lead Stories staff writer Dean Miller has edited daily and weekly newspapers, worked as a reporter for more than a decade and is co-author of two non-fiction books. After a one-year Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy for six years. As Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting, a dual licensee, he oversaw radio, TV and print journalists, and documentary producers. He moved west to teach journalism at Western Washington University, edit The Port Townsend Leader and write the twice-weekly Save The Free Press column for the Seattle Times. Miller won the 2007 national Mirror Award for news industry coverage and he led the team that won the 2005 Scripps Howard first amendment prize. 

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