Fact Check: Dermatopathologist Ryan Cole Does NOT Back With Data His Claim That Pfizer Vaccine Weakens Patients' Immune Systems

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: Dermatopathologist Ryan Cole Does NOT Back With Data His Claim That Pfizer Vaccine Weakens Patients' Immune Systems Claims ≠ Proof

Did an Idaho doctor trained in skin-test analysis prove his claims that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine weakens the immune system and seems to be causing cancer? No, that's not true: The claims are supported only by anecdotes, not by data and he has declined to provide data. Pfizer says it has seen no such pattern in studies conducted after hundreds of millions of doses administered. The Mayo Clinic, which trained the dermatopathologist, has distanced itself from his views.

The claim originated in a Sept. 19, 2021, video Facebook post (archived here) under the title "DR RYAN COLE WORRYINGLY REPORTS A 20 TIMES INCREASE IN CANCER." It continued:

I'm already seeing the early signals and we are modifying the immune system to a weakened state

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Sep 20 19:11:04 2021 UTC)

The person making the claims, Dr. Ryan Cole, runs a medical testing lab near Boise, Idaho, where he was a leading opponent of COVID-19 vaccination during that state's late-2021 surge in cases. Cole is board certified in dermatopathology, a medical specialty in which doctors are trained to do the lab work and analysis dermatologists and other specialists require for treatment of cancer and other skin disorders.
He videotaped himself making the following claims:
Post-vaccine what we're seeing is a drop in your killer T-cells, your CD8 cells;

I'm seeing an uptick of herpes-family viruses;

I'm seeing a huge uptick in Human Papillovirus in cervical biopsies and cervical pap smears in women;

I am seeing a 20 times increase in individuals over the age of 50 of this little bump and rash (Molluscum contagiosum);

We're literally weakening the immune system of these individuals;

Since January 1 in the laboratory, I've seen a 20 times increase of endometrial cancers over what I see on an annual basis;

A Pfizer spokesperson said there is no data that match Cole's claims. In a September 20, 2021, email to Lead stories, Pfizer spokesperson Kit Longley wrote:

Pfizer has seen no evidence to support these claims, and all clinical trial data and real world evidence show that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. With hundreds of millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administered globally, the benefit risk profile of our vaccine remains positive.

Cole is often described as "Mayo Clinic trained," but the famed Minnesota medical center on September 21, 2021, distanced itself from Cole's anti-COVID-vaccine claims in an email to Lead Stories. Mayo spokesman Bob Nellis wrote:

Mayo Clinic is aware of claims made by Dr. Ryan Cole regarding vaccines. Dr. Cole was trained at Mayo Clinic but is not a Mayo Clinic employee. His views do not represent Mayo Clinic.

Lead Stories wrote to Cole to ask for the raw numbers on which the 20-fold increase was calculated and to ask for the standard materials by which to review a scientific claim:
  1. The raw numbers that show a 20-fold increase;
  2. Overall Cole Diagnostics test numbers (to learn if the jump is part of a jump in all testing from 2020 to 2021)
  3. Any changes in the hospitals and specialists referring cases to Cole Diagnostics (which could change the types of samples sent to him)
  4. Comparative demographics of 2020 and 2021 patients tested (to determine if the age and diagnoses of patients has changed)
Cole Diagnostics wrote back on September 20, 2021 to say:
This is for general educational purposes only, as he is not a primary care provider and cannot prescribe medications or give personal medical advice. He is simply sharing his personal research and experience.
Attached to the email was a document Cole hands out when he speaks out against COVID vaccines.
The document says his claims are based on scientific studies, but he declines to list them:

Some of the information given in my talk was based on synthesis of thousands of hours of listening to and reading the world's science journals on COVID. I do not have an exact reference for every piece of information because it may not be currently accessible ... My concerns regarding the COVID vaccine are related to the historical failures of vaccines for coronavirus, and the lack of long-term studies showing safety and efficacy for this vaccine.

Cole's statements about the vaccines stand in direct contrast to the findings of studies of the Pfizer vaccine's effectiveness and safety, which were published in peer-reviewed journals of science, that include full public access to data and methodology and have been through professional peer review in advance of publication as well as continuing review post-publication.

There is no published research by Cole found in The National Library of Medicine, which draws on an index of more than 1 million titles to provide the widest selection of medical science publications.

Based on findings after hundreds of millions of doses were administered, the Food & Drug Administration on August 23, 2021, gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommend it for anyone age 12 or older.

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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 Managing Editor 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 Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University's Center for News Literacy for six years, then as Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting. Most recently, he wrote the twice-weekly "Save the Free Press" column for The Seattle Times. 

Read more about or contact Dean Miller

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