Did a "bombshell new study" prove that mRNA "jabs" have "caused tens of millions of serious new health problems worldwide," including a condition known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)? No, that's not true: The 2022 study, conducted by researchers from Cedars-Sinai and Brigham and Women's Hospital, found that COVID-19 vaccinations were associated with an increased risk of certain health conditions, including POTS, but that individuals infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus were five times more likely to develop these conditions. A spokesperson for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center told Lead Stories that that finding underlined "the importance" of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Furthermore, the researchers had ackowledged a "possible association" that warrants further investigation rather than a causal link between COVID-19 vaccines and POTS. They did not state that "tens of millions" of any "serious new health problems" had occurred worldwide after vaccination against COVID-19.
The claim originated in a February 28, 2023, article on Substack (archived here) by Alex Berenson, whose claims Lead Stories has fact-checked before. The article's introduction read:
Adults have sharply higher risks of being diagnosed with heart, skin, and psychiatric conditions for at least 90 days after they receive Covid jabs, a peer-reviewed study of almost 300,000 people in California has shown.
The researchers examined new diagnoses given to the same people before and after they were vaccinated to see whether the shots changed the risk of new health problems.
Berenson later shared a screenshot of the Substack post on Instagram and Twitter. This is what they looked like at the time of the publication of this fact check:
(Source: Instagram and Twitter screenshots taken Fri March 3 20:44:11 2023)
In response to an enquiry from Lead Stories, Sally Stewart, associate director for media relations at Cedars-Sinai, the nonprofit hospital that ran the study's research in Los Angeles, California, emailed on March 3, 2023, that:
We understand that some have been posting social media messages about the study that do not accurately report the findings.
A mischaracterization of the findings
Berenson mischaracterized the findings of the study ("Apparent risks of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome diagnoses after COVID-19 vaccination and SARS-Cov-2 Infection"), which was published on December 12, 2022, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Cardiovascular Research. He took data from the study, but presented it without context.
The study does report that the rate of new-onset POTS diagnoses was slightly higher after COVID-19 vaccination. However, that rate is five times lower than the rate of POTS diagnoses after SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to Stewart.
This same general trend of proportionately higher rates of new diagnosis after infection compared to after vaccination was consistently seen for myocarditis, as well as for other more common diagnoses.
The study's authors note that this trend highlights the importance of vaccination against the SARS-CoV-2 virus:
[T]he rate of new POTS diagnoses made after vaccination was much less frequent the rate of new POTS diagnoses made after SARS-CoV-2 infection, indicating that excess risks remain higher after infection than after vaccination.
Stewart emailed Lead Stories that "as scientists, the study authors believe the most effective way to address misstatements and correct the record about the work is to clearly re-state the correct and accurate facts found in the published study." Stewart continued:
... the main message is that while there is a potential - not proven -- link between COVID-19 vaccination and POTS, preventing COVID-19 through vaccination is still the best way to reduce the risk of developing POTS.
POTS has been associated with another vaccine
The HPV-vaccine Gardasil also has been associated with POTS.
POTS is a non-life-threatening condition that affects about 1 to 3 million people in the U.S. It causes a person's heart to beat faster than normal when transitioning from sitting, lying down, or standing up, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The cause of POTS remains unknown, but the condition is often treated with dietary and behavioral changes like exercise and physical activity. The National Institutes of Health reports that it is possible that pregnancy, major surgery, trauma or a viral illness could make a person more prone to POTS.
A case of POTS following a COVID-19 vaccine first was reported in 2021.
Conducting the study
The study's researchers analyzed the health data of 284,592 COVID-19-vaccinated individuals between 2020 to 2022 from the Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles County, California. The authors note that their observational data was based on medical records. Such records do not always contain information about vaccination.
The odds of a POTS diagnosis were assessed in the 90 days before the first vaccine exposure and then in the following 90 days. This data was then compared with new POTS diagnoses after a COVID-19 vaccination versus natural infection.
The team found that the odds of POTS are higher 90 days after being vaccinated than in the 90 days before. This is described as a "possible association" and not a link or causation since the study was merely observational. The authors did not apply the findings to "millions" of people "worldwide," as was suggested by Berenson.
The authors explicity wrote that because the rate of new POTS diagnoses after vaccination "was much less frequent than the rate of new POTS diagnoses made after SARS-CoV-2 infection," that "excess risks remain higher after infection than after vaccination." This general trend, they note, was also seen for myocarditis cases and other common diagnoses.
In short, though these health conditions are associated with the COVID vaccine, occurrences are far more frequent following viral infection.
Addressing the study limitations
An important limitation of the study is that POTS diagnoses require symptoms to exist for at least 90 days. The study period barely touched this threshold, so the researchers concede that they could have overestimated the incidences.
Furthermore, the study authors note that unvaccinated individuals may have inherently different lifestyle and health choices than those who are vaccinated, potentially making one group more prone to the condition than the others.
Lead Stories also reported that COVID mRNA vaccines have not been found to cause an 84 percent increase in death for men ages 18-39, confirmed that myocarditis and pericarditis did not increase nearly eightfold in England after vaccines were rolled out, and that there is no evidence to prove that vaccines "need to be withdrawn from the market."