Fact Check: Canada Did NOT Publish Data That 'Suggests' People Triple-Vaccinated For COVID-19 Get Sicker, Develop Vaccine-Associated Enhanced Disease

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Canada Did NOT Publish Data That 'Suggests' People Triple-Vaccinated For COVID-19 Get Sicker, Develop Vaccine-Associated Enhanced Disease 3X Vax ≠ Sick

Did the Canadian government publish data suggesting those triple-vaccinated against COVID-19 develop vaccine-associated enhanced disease (VAED) or antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) and have higher COVID case rates than others? No, that's not true: The data does not show COVID vaccines make people worse. Instead, people who have had them are better protected from severe illness, hospitalization and death. COVID vaccines boost the ability of our bodies to fight coronavirus.

"[T]he number of people vaccinated with a primary series (i.e., those who received two-doses in a 2-dose series, or one dose in a 1-dose series), who were hospitalized and who died from COVID-19 was larger than the unvaccinated. This is due to the fact that there are far more vaccinated individuals in the population than unvaccinated. Data as of May 8, 2022, shows that 86% of the Canadian population aged 5 years and older had completed a COVID-19 primary vaccine series," the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said in an email to Lead Stories.

The claims appeared in an article (archived here) published by The Exposé on May 11, 2022, under the title "Antibody-Dependent Enhancement: Covid-19 Case/Hospitalisation/Death Rates now highest among Triple Vaccinated in Trudeau's Canada." It opened:

Despite the Government enforcing Draconian restrictions which have in turn coerced millions into getting the Covid-19 injections, since the turn of the year the country of Canada has experienced its largest wave of Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths to date.

If only those 'selfish' people who refused to obey the Canadian Government and its Medical/Scientific Advisors had actually done as they were told and got vaccinated, then maybe this would never have happened.

That's what the mainstream media and Government of Canada will be telling the public anyway. But it's not what the official data shows. This record-breaking number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths has actually been a pandemic of the fully vaccinated, and not just because the majority are vaccinated either.

Official Government of Canada data shows that the vaccinated population as a whole has accounted for 4 in every 5 Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths from 21st February 2022, up to 17th April (the latest dataset). But it also shows the case/hospitalisation/death-rates per 100,000 population have been highest among the triple vaccinated during the same time frame.

So high that the data shows the triple vaccinated are on average 4 times more likely to be infected with Covid-19, 2 times more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19, and 3 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than the unvaccinated.

This is what the article looked like on The Exposé website on May 17, 2022:

The Expose'.png

(Source: The Exposé screenshot taken on Tue May 17 21:01:54 2022 UTC)

Their argument

The crux of what The Exposé is saying can be summed up in this paragraph from the middle of the article:

The triple vaccinated population are on average 4x more likely to be infected, 2x more likely to be hospitalised, and 3x more likely to die of Covid-19 than the unvaccinated. Not because there's more of them, and not because the injections don't work. It's because, as this data strongly suggests, the Covid-19 injections make recipients worse and cause Vaccine-Associated Enhanced Disease (VAED) and Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE).

In a May 20, 2022, email to Lead Stories, PHAC said its data shows the opposite of what The Exposé article claims:

The risk of severe outcomes continues to remain higher amongst unvaccinated individuals. For the period of March 28 - April 24, 2022, unvaccinated individuals who got COVID-19 were 4 times more likely to be hospitalized than individuals vaccinated with a primary series, and they were 6 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who received an additional dose after their primary series. For this same period, unvaccinated individuals who got COVID-19 were 4 times more likely to die as a result of their illness than individuals vaccinated with a primary series, and they were 7 times more likely to die as a result of their illness than those who received an additional dose after their primary series.

No evidence COVID vaccines cause VAED or ADE

While The Exposé says Canadian government data suggests triple-vaccinated people have developed VAED or ADE, that's unlikely. The article cites a Pfizer document published in April 2021 that details vaccine adverse event (AE) reports. The document does list VAED and ADE as possible AEs, but:

No post-authorized AE reports have been identified as cases of VAED/VAERD [vaccine-associated enhanced respiratory disease], therefore, there is no observed data at this time. An expected rate of VAED is difficult to establish so a meaningful observed/expected analysis cannot be conducted at this point based on available data.

In a February 8, 2022, email to Lead Stories, Pfizer global media relations said (words in bold appeared in bold in the statement):

We take adverse events that are potentially associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine very seriously. As part of our post-marketing responsibilities, we closely monitor all adverse events and collect relevant information to share with global regulatory authorities. It is important to note there is no evidence to suggest our vaccine causes vaccine associated enhanced disease.

What is VAED?

The Melbourne [Australia] Vaccine Education Centre provides this definition of VAED:

Vaccine-associated enhanced disease (VAED) occurs when an individual who has received a vaccine, develops a more severe presentation of that disease when subsequently exposed to that virus, compared with when infection occurs without prior vaccination. This assumes that the vaccine recipient has not previously been exposed to the disease and is seronegative at time of immunisation.

The potential for vaccination with a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be associated with enhanced disease after subsequent infection is a theoretical risk, and the vaccine-induced antibody (so called antibody dependent enhancement) or TH1 biased T-cell responses leading to adverse responses to natural SARS-CoV-2 infection need to be carefully evaluated once a COVID-19 vaccine rollout commences.

VAED is also known as antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) or vaccine enhanced disease (VED). Nebraska Medicine infectious diseases expert and physician Nada Fadul wrote on its website there's no evidence to support the claim that the Pfizer vaccine is showing up in the real world:

Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) is something researchers watch for very carefully and is extremely rare. In ADE, certain antibodies make it easier for viruses to get into cells. This is bad because it would mean a virus or a vaccine makes people more at risk for severe disease.

If COVID-19 vaccines caused ADE, people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 would have more severe disease. This is not happening. On the contrary, people who are vaccinated typically have very mild disease or none at all. In fact, the majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are people who aren't fully vaccinated.

Not in the statistics

In a February 9, 2022, email to Lead Stories, the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom agreed. It said there's no evidence to suggest COVID vaccines are causing VAED. It's not showing up in their numbers:

In the period July to December 2021, the age-adjusted risk of death involving coronavirus (COVID-19) was 93.4% lower for people who had received a third dose, or booster, at least 21 days ago compared with unvaccinated people.

In the period July to December 2021, the age-adjusted risk of death involving COVID-19 was 81.2% lower for people who had received a second dose at least 21 days ago compared with unvaccinated people; for January to June 2021, this was 99.5% lower.

Also in its email, PHAC added:

While COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, it is important to note that no vaccine is 100% effective and that even with high vaccine effectiveness, a percentage of people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick and some may be hospitalized or even die as a result of their illness. A booster dose following a primary series of mRNA vaccines offers better protection against Omicron infection and severe disease than the primary series alone. Among people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, studies show that: their level of protection against infection from the primary series decreases over time and is low against Omicron, but can be improved with a booster dose; the primary series appears to maintain good protection against severe disease and hospitalization caused by Omicron; and, protection against severe disease and hospitalization is higher after a booster dose.

Lead Stories previously debunked other claims by The Exposé about Canadian government COVID data and the Pfizer vaccine causing VAED.

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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.


  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

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