Fact Check: Peter Breggin Article Contains False Claims About VAERS Data, Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: Peter Breggin Article Contains False Claims About VAERS Data, Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, SARS-CoV-2 Virus VAERS Misuse

Are Peter Breggin's claims about COVID-19 vaccine deaths, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and the SARS-CoV-2 virus all correct? No, that's not true: In describing a conspiracy's bid for global dominion, Breggin misstates the clearly labelled contents of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database, falsely claims ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are proven effective against COVID and falsely declares no SARS-CoV virus has been found in nature. Breggin, a psychiatrist, makes claims that are refuted by the consensus of hands-on clinical and lab experts in COVID-relevant fields of virology, immunology and public health.

Breggin's claims appeared in an October 6, 2021, americangreatness.com article (archived here) titled "World Renowned Psychiatrist: 'Global Predators' Fauci, Gates, and Schwab Behind the COVID 'Reign of Terror,'" which opened:

A world-renowned psychiatrist says an evil cabal of powerful elites, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, tech billionaire Bill Gates, and World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab...

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

World Renowned Psychiatrist: 'Global Predators' Fauci, Gates, and Schwab Behind the COVID 'Reign of Terror' › American Greatness

A world renowned psychiatrist says that an evil cabal of powerful elites, including, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, tech billionaire Bill Gates, and World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab...

In support of his "cabal" theory, Breggin recycles multiple false claims whose debunks are amply documented in the public record.

False Claim: The VAERS database proves COVID vaccines are killing thousands

In the article, Breggin says there are 13,000 reports of vaccine-caused death in the VAERS database "and no one is investigating it?" He continues, "... we have a vaccine that has more deaths than every other vaccine all put together."

That assertion, that VAERS shows COVID-19 caused thousands of deaths, shows Breggin either ignored or did not understand the multiple explanations and warnings on the VAERS website.

Anyone with internet access can add a report to the VAERS list of reports. The public access link to it expressly warns against unwarranted conclusions based on VAERS material because the list only provides a tally of unverified notes about any health event people experience after they are vaccinated.

The list itself cannot be used to prove or quantify, since all it shows is a chronological correlation, not the causal link that would be more difficult to establish. It's the equivalent of a police precinct's running "blotter" of reports that may serve as a starting point for police work, not an end point.

VAERS website warnings include:

When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established ... 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:

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, each user must affirm having read the VAERS disclaimers of what VAERS is and is not.

VAERS assent form.JPG

False Claim: Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are proven to fight COVID

In the article, Breggin says two treatments have proven helpful in fighting COVID -- ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine -- and that they are "... inexpensive, and safe to use."

But, the Food & Drug Administration counsels doctors not to use either.

On a webpage titled Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19, the FDA writes:

The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in people or animals. Ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications.

There's a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it's okay to take large doses of ivermectin. It is not okay.

Even the levels of ivermectin for approved human uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners. You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death.

Merck, which makes the drug, is blunt in its advice about using ivermectin to treat COVID-19: Don't.

On its website, Merck, which could profit if the drug were proven and demand soared, discouraged use. In an August 23, 2021, email to Lead Stories, a Merck spokesperson wrote:

As our company has already indicated company scientists are carefully examining the findings of available and emerging studies of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 for evidence of efficacy and safety and continue to engage with the external scientific community regarding ongoing research. It is important to note that based on our review of available data, our analysis has identified:

  • No scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies;
  • Significant limitations in evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease, rendering existing data inconclusive, and;
  • A lack of safety data in the majority of studies.

Under pressure from then-President Donald Trump, who advocated for several miracle cures, the FDA responded by looking into it as a therapeutic drug.

The FDA first granted emergency approval for hydroxychloroquine as a COVID treatment, but then reversed that permission June 15, 2020, after investigators in a nationwide clinical trial found evidence it caused serious heart problems. The FDA announced:

... chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA. Additionally, in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use.

In a study published in the December 2020 Journal of the American Medical Association, the leaders of a nationwide clinical trial wrote:

Hydroxychloroquine has been widely promoted as a potential therapy for COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory effects and in vitro studies suggesting antiviral activity ... Among adults hospitalized with respiratory illness from COVID-19, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, compared with placebo, did not significantly improve clinical status at day 14.

False Claim: The spike protein mRNA vaccines train the body to attack is not part of the COVID-causing virus and is an assault on humanity

In the American Greatness article, Breggin declared that "the spike protein is the spearhead of an assault on humanity that has nothing to do with COVID-19 whatsoever."

FDA press officer Abby Capobianco said in a June 23, 2021, email to Lead Stories that there's no support for the claim that spike proteins generated by COVID vaccines are dangerous. She wrote:

There is no scientific data to indicate that the spike protein in mRNA vaccines is toxic or that it lingers at any toxic level in the body after vaccination. As with many other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines can cause some side effects. Most side effects of vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, are usually minor and short-lived.

Lead Stories searched the National Institutes of Health indexes of science journals and found no peer-reviewed studies that would support the assertion that the spike protein itself is dangerous.

In a June 22, 2021, email to Lead Stories, a Pfizer spokesman said clinical testing and follow-up with test subjects shows the opposite:

There is no evidence of harmful quantities of toxicity in humans from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. All adverse events are regularly and thoroughly reviewed by Pfizer as well as by regulatory authorities such as the EMA, FDA and CDC. With more than 400 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administered globally, the benefit risk profile of our vaccine remains positive.

Multiple independent studies of the virus that causes COVID-19, such as this study in the August 2020 edition of Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, determined it is defined by the spiky "corona" structure, which is what mRNA vaccines teach the immune system to target.

False Claim: No SARS-CoV virus has been found in nature, only in labs

"One thing folks don't know is there's never been a SARS-CoV virus found in nature," Breggin says in the American Greatness article, "Never--But there are untold numbers of SARS-CoV viruses floating around in labs."

Coronavirus has been found in swine, civet cats and raccoon dogs as scientists drew lessons from the SARS outbreak, according to the 2004 report, "Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak" from the National Academies Press.

Seventeen years later, during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, wildlife biologists discovered the virus in wild deer, the Department of Agriculture reported.

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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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