Covid-19 vaccine side effects reported to the VAERS database are not verified evidence, warn CDC experts.
These days, several posts can be found circulating on social media, citing data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), claiming that thousands of people are either experiencing serious side effects or dying from receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
While the numbers the claims draw from aren’t made up, the claims about the purported effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are misleading.
What these social media ‘awareness’ posts fail to mention is VAERS is an open system database where anyone can submit a report. But because the reports are not verified, VAERS results are not enough to determine whether a vaccine causes particular side effects.
VAERS is receiving several reports for the COVID-19 vaccines, but because these reports are non-verified, incomplete, inaccurate, and coincidental, the site has become potent fuel for misinformation.
How is the site intended to be used?
Established in 1990, VAERS is an open-source system that works as a national early warning system for the detection of possible safety issues with US-licensed vaccines. It’s a website where people report their experience after a vaccination. It is useful in the following ways:
- The site helps researchers collect and analyze data on vaccine after-effects.
- It allows FDA and CDC to calculate risks associated with vaccines and respond accordingly.
- It can be used by researchers to study patterns.
Despite being an important data source for the researchers, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is unlike other official government data sources, such as the Census Bureau, which are screened before any information is made available to the public.
A breeding ground for misinformation?
Although VAERS warns its users that reports should not be used on their own to draw conclusions about COVID-19 vaccine side effects, people do so anyway and spread misinformation on social media, leading to fear and panic.
J&J COVID-19 vaccine controversy
Recently, with the help of VAERS, health officials were alerted about a rare type of blood clot in six people who were inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This was a rare occurrence but important enough to trigger CDC to investigate the matter.
After reviewing the cases, the use of the J&J vaccine was resumed as the team found that the benefits outweighed the risks and the occurrences of blood clots were rare.
Misinformation can have a serious impact on the battle against coronavirus. Therefore, any information on social media should not be blindly believed, and facts must be verified.