COVID Misinformation from C2C Journal

In a wide-ranging article “The Virus, the Vaccine, the Victims: Beginning the Great Reckoning (C2C Journal, May 26, 2023), Margret Kopala cites several researchers opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, including one who insists the vaccines have “proven useless against Covid-19” and another who claims the death toll from COVID-19 vaccines is “utterly shocking.” Kopala, herself, contends that a study by the renowned Cleveland Clinic found that COVID-19 vaccines actually increase the risk of infection with the coronavirus. 

These allegations are all false.

First, consider Kopala’s assertion: “The positive finding in a study by the Cleveland Clinic of its 51,000 employees that the boosters ‘afforded modest protection’ was essentially negated by its conclusion that the greater the number of vaccine doses an employee had received, the greater the risk the employee had of contracting Covid-19.” On this basis, Kopala arrives at her conclusion that the Cleveland Clinic established that mRNA jabs are “worse than useless.”

That deduction is plainly erroneous. Like so many other journalists and editors — not to mention politicians and conspiracy theorists — Kopala does not understand the distinction between correlation and causation. The fact that there is a positive correlation between people who use canes and people who fall does not prove that canes are useless as a means of preventing falls. 

Correspondingly, the fact that one study of 51,000 employees found that the more COVID-19 vaccinations a person had received, the more likely the person was to become infected with Covid 19 does not prove that the COVID-19 vaccines are worse than useless. Such reasoning overlooks the likelihood of other pertinent variables. For example, it might be that the employees at the Cleveland Clinic with the most COVID-19 vaccinations are mainly older people who are especially vulnerable to infection even if they have been vaccinated. 

To take such covariables into account, statisticians at the Cleveland Clinic used a “multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression model” adjusted for age, gender and other factors in addition to the number of vaccines received. In this way, the authors of the study deduced that “the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster was 30 per cent effective in preventing infection during the time when the virus strains dominant in the community were represented in the vaccine.”

On February 23, 2023, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article “Effectiveness of Bivalent Boosters. Against Severe Omicron Infection” that was based on a study 1,070,136 persons who had received a bivalent booster between September 1 and December 8, 2022. This study concluded that the booster was 62 per cent effective against severe infection resulting in hospitalization or death,

Numerous other studies by specialists in epidemiology have likewise confirmed that the COVID vaccines are both effective and safe. In a recent paper, the Yale University School of Public Health concluded that from December 2020 to November 2022, COVID-19 vaccinations had prevented 3.2 million deaths in the United States.

To counter such evidence, Kopala cites the testimony of Dr. Peter McCullough, a distinguished cardiologist. In a recent lecture, he affirmed: “As of March 3, 2023, for U.S. domestic cases only, VAERS [the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System] has recorded 17,071 deaths within a few days of taking the COVID 19 vaccines.”

In this same lecture, McCullough observed that the World Council for Health (WCH) reported in an article “COVID Adverse Events Around the World” that VigiAccess, a statistical agency affiliated with  the World Health Organization (WHO), has tabulated 4,000,000 deaths shortly after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. On this basis, the WCH maintained: “There is sufficient evidence to indicate a recall of Covid-19 vaccines.”

Is that conclusion warranted by the evidence? Not at all. 

To deduce that (a) must have caused (b) because (b) occurred shortly after (a) is a commonplace logical fallacy. The fact that someone died shortly after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination does not prove that the vaccine caused the death. VAERS warns on its website: “When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established.”

Likewise, the World Health Organization advises: “Information in VigiAccess on potential side effects should not be interpreted as meaning that the medicinal product or its active substance either caused the observed effect or is unsafe to use. Confirming a causal link is a complex process that requires a thorough scientific assessment and detailed evaluation of all available data. The information on this website, therefore, does not reflect any confirmed link between a medicinal product and a side effect.”

Suppose, though, that all the deaths which reportedly occurred after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination were actually caused by the vaccine. Would that confirm McCoullough’s contention that the death toll from COVID 19 vaccines is “utterly shocking?”

Definitely not. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “More than 672 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 1, 2023. During this time, VAERS received 19,476 preliminary reports of death (0.0029%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Each death is tragic. But surely it is reassuring that fewer than 20,000 deaths have been reported in the United States after injection with a COVID-19 vaccine that has saved millions of lives.

In comparison, more than 42,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the United States during 2021. Yet neither McCullough nor anyone else is clamoring for the recall of all motor vehicles. 

To determine if deaths reported to VAERS were actually caused by a vaccine, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) examines each of these reported deaths in view of autopsy reports, medical records and other related evidence. By means of such detailed assessments of every death reported to VAERS following a COVID-19 vaccination, the CDC has established that: “People receiving COVID-19 vaccines are less likely to die from COVID-19 and its complications and are at no greater risk of death from non-COVID causes, than unvaccinated people.”

Health Canada likewise reports that as of May 26, 2023, the Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization Surveillance System (CAEFIS) had received preliminary reports of 442 deaths following a COVID-19 vaccination. According to Canada’s Advisory Committee on Causality Assessment (ACCA), only four of these 442 reported deaths were probably caused by the vaccine. 

On the basis of such evidence, Health Canada steadfastly assures: “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and severe reactions after vaccination are rare.” Similar agencies in Britain, France, Germany and virtually every other country have come to the same conclusion. Are all the epidemiologists who give credence to these assurances simply wrong? 

Perhaps so. The world’s astronomers thought the earth is the centre of the universe until Copernicus developed his superior heliocentric theory. 

Is it likely that McCullough is a Copernicus for our time? Evidently not. 

Copernicus was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer, well set by training and experience to make an astonishing discovery in astronomy. McCullough is a cardiologist, not an epidemiologist. He has not specialized in discerning the distribution and determinants of disease. For this reason alone, it is very unlikely that he is right and the world’s epidemiologists are all wrong about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

As for the World Council for Health, it is a fledgling agency founded in 2021 and directed by a six-person steering committee consisting of an osteopath, a physician specializing in emergency medicine, a “certified holistic health counselor” and three other persons who have no medical pretensions or training. In contrast, the New England Journal of Medicine was founded in 1812, is one of the world’s leading medical journals and has an expert editorial board led by editor-in-chief Eric J. Rubin, formerly the Irene Heinz Given Professor and chair of the department of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Who is better qualified to assess the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines — McCullough or Rubin? As a source of vaccine information, which publisher is more credible — the World Council for Health or the New England Journal of Medicine?

The great majority of us Canadians cannot tell the difference between a statistical two-tailed test and a multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression model. For all of us non-experts, the best, most reasonable approach to deciding how to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic is to heed the latest advice of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), an independent, non-partisan body of medical experts assigned to provide timely advice on immunizations to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Currently, NACI recommends that the elderly and all other moderately-to-severely immunocompromised people get three to four COVID-19 bivalent vaccines four to eight weeks apart. For all other Canadians over the age of six months, NACI recommends two bivalent vaccines at least eight weeks apart. 

All Canadians should heed this expert advice. Those who fail to do so will run a significantly increased risk of hospitalization and death.

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