Fact Check: COVID-19 Vaccine 'Analysis' Does NOT Prove $147 Billion In Economic Damage, Tens Of Millions Injured Or Disabled

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: COVID-19 Vaccine 'Analysis' Does NOT Prove $147 Billion In Economic Damage, Tens Of Millions Injured Or Disabled Bad Analysis

Does a "new report" prove that an estimated "26.6 million people were injured, 1.36 million disabled, and 300,000 excess deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 vaccine damages in 2022 alone"? No, that's not true: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided data from a government report, which told a much different story. It said that tens of millions of COVID cases, more than a million hospitalizations and hundreds of thousands of deaths were prevented during the first year the vaccine was available. The report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services estimated total health benefits of nearly $3 trillion.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by Zerohedge on March 28, 2023, under the title "Bombshell Vax Analysis Finds $147 Billion In Economic Damage, Tens Of Millions Injured Or Disabled." It opened:

A new report estimates that 26.6 million people were injured, 1.36 million disabled, and 300,000 excess deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 vaccine damages in 2022 alone, which cost the economy nearly $150 billion.

This is what the article looked like on the Zerohedge website at the time of writing:

Zerohedge.png

(Source: Zerohedge screenshot taken on Mon Apr 3 16:37:17 2023 UTC)

The Zerohedge article accurately cites the conclusions of a report by Phinance Technologies called "The Vaccine Damage Project - Economic Impact," which details what its analysis says are billions in "economic damage" and millions of people either injured or killed by the COVID vaccine.

But, while Zerohedge reported what Phinance Technologies wrote, what was written is not true.

In an April 4, 2023 email, Dr. James Lawler with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center told Lead Stories that it's "Important to recognize that this analysis is posted on a website (of little scientific credibility) and not in a peer-reviewed scientific journal." He also said:

I do not think it would ever pass muster with a reviewer who understands epidemiology and statistics. The analysis is full of mistaken assumptions, mischaracterizations, and statistical leaps of faith. For instance, it mistakenly equates severe adverse reactions from vaccine trials as disability - the vast majority of defined 'serious adverse reactions' in vaccine trials do not result in long-term disability or health effect.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In its response to Lead Stories, the CDC points to statistics that show net economic benefits totaling trillions of dollars. In an April 3, 2023, email, Public Affairs Specialist Lisa George said, "COVID-19 vaccines are the best tool to prevent and reduce complications due to COVID-19." She continued:

Data from just the first year of the vaccine's use suggest approximately 25.32 million cases, 1.38 million hospitalizations, and 213,000 deaths were averted because of vaccination. Additionally, the total health benefits are estimated at $2.95 trillion, including reductions in deaths ($2.45 trillion), hospitalizations ($354.14 billion), and cases ($139.96 billion).

The CDC recommends COVID vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. George added (emphasis hers):

These vaccines are safe and effective and have undergone the most extensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

According to Lawler, the paper doesn't accurately reflect the positive benefits of COVID vaccines on the economy. He said:

The paper grossly over-exaggerates negative impacts of the vaccine and does not account for any of the benefits of vaccination in reducing hospitalization, morbidity, and mortality from COVID-19. For instance, a paper published in Lancet (one of the preeminent medical journals in the world) estimated the first year of vaccinations alone saved 14.4 million lives globally (Watson et al. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(22)00320-6)

Pfizer response

Pfizer media relations, in another April 3, 2023 email, told Lead Stories it would not comment directly on the Zerohedge article or the paper it's based on, but the company did provide the following statement:

Over the course of the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives1, tens of billions of dollars in health care costs2, and enabled people to go about their lives more freely.

Pfizer cited two papers to support its case:

  1. Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study
  2. Unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations cost billions of dollars

The paper included in the Zerohedge article lists four data sources that were interpreted by the authors to draw the conclusions outlined in the paper:

1 - Disabilities data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
2 -
V-Safe database (available data described here).
3 -
Analysis of SAEs from mRNA Vaccine Clinical Trials.
4 -
Analysis of Severe AEs from Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Trial.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

In an email chain with Lead Stories on April 3-4, 2023, Cody Parkinson with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) press office sought to distance the BLS from the results drawn from the bureau's data. He said the BLS can't provide an "interpretation of conclusions made by outside sources." He also said:

To clarify, the data you referenced previously, '... 26.6 million people were injured, 1.36 million disabled, and 300,000 excess deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 vaccine damages in 2022 alone, which cost the economy nearly $150 billion' do not come from the BLS.

In his email, Lawler described the estimated numbers of people injured, disabled, or who were counted as excess deaths as "wildly inaccurate."

First, they use data from VAERS to calculate vaccine morbidity and mortality. VAERS documents all reported data, regardless of causality or likelihood and thus - by design - significantly overrepresents adverse events. Articles and papers on how to appropriately interpret and explore VAERS data have been written ad nauseum, but it remains an irresistible tool for manipulation and fabrication for anti-vax activists.

Second, they appear to use very fancy looking calculations for excess mortality while ultimately attributing all US excess mortality since 2021 to vaccination. This is an outrageous claim, particularly since excess mortality trends since 2020 have closely mirrored COVID activity in the US but not vaccine administration. Rigorous studies have consistently shown that COVID vaccination is associated with a large reduction in hospitalization and mortality.

Lawler adds that the latest data, as of January 2023, show that "people who were unvaccinated were EIGHT TIMES more likely to die of COVID-19 than persons who were up-to-date with a bivalent booster."

VAERS data

VAERS, which the CDC co-sponsors with the Food and Drug Administration, operates as a crude early warning system and not as a database for the quantification of specific outcomes following vaccination.

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" reports that may serve as a starting point for police work, not an endpoint.

Vaccine Safety Datalink

The CDC's Vaccine Safety Datalink started in 1990 and is used to monitor the safety of vaccines and conduct studies about rare and serious adverse events following immunization. A project overview on the VSD website says:

The VSD conducts vaccine safety studies based on questions or concerns raised from the medical literature and reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). When there are new vaccines that have been recommended for use in the United States or if there are changes in how a vaccine is recommended, the VSD will monitor the safety of these vaccines.

About Phinance Technologies

The people behind Phinance Technologies have no particular medical training or epidemiological background. The website's "About" page lists the three partners who have expertise in finance, mathematics and physics.

The Nebraska infectious disease expert, Lawler, said "People should be careful whom they are trusting for COVID information and data analysis." He continued:

You probably wouldn't want your next door neighbor lawnmower mechanic servicing the commercial airliner you are flying on. You probably should be skeptical about COVID data analysis by people who haven't been trained in epidemiology, particularly when they have a particular ideological axe to grind.

About Zerohedge

Zerohedge's publishing of Russian-produced material led U.S. officials to tell The Associated Press that Zerohedge is a Kremlin propaganda vessel, a claim it denies.

Additional fact checks related to COVID-19 vaccines can be found here.

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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.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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