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COVID: Cardiologists debunk Florida vaccine claims

Two US health agencies have issued a letter warning that “misleading” claims about COVID-19 vaccines made by Florida’s surgeon general last month could be harmful to the public.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control sent a letter to Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo on March 10 in response to a letter they wrote last month.

Ladapo, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, has previously attracted national scrutiny for sharing DeSantis’ opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other health policies, such as mask mandates, that have been proposed by the federal government.

In his Feb. 15 letter to federal agencies, Ladapo claimed that Florida recorded a Significant increase in VAERS (adverse vaccine event reporting system) reports related to COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We saw a 1,700 percent increase in reports after the release of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to a 400 percent increase in vaccine use during the same period,” Ladapo wrote, though he did not specify which period the report was from. happened. “Reports of life-threatening conditions increased (by 4,400 percent”).

He cited a “recent study” that found mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were associated with an “excess risk of serious adverse events,” including blood clotting disorders, acute heart injuries, Bell’s palsy, and encephalitis. He said the “risk is 1 in 550” but did not say what the exact risk was.

“To claim that these vaccines are ‘safe and effective’ while minimizing and ignoring adverse events,” he wrote. It document letterhead also bore the name of DeSantis.

In their letter, the federal agencies denounced Ladapo’s claims as potentially harmful misinformation.

“The claim that the increase in VAERS reports of life-threatening conditions reported from Florida and elsewhere represents an increased risk from COVID-19 vaccines is false, misleading and could be harmful to the American public,” said the letter, which was signed by is. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

They argued that cardiovascular experts had concluded that the risk of stroke and heart attack was lower in vaccinated people, not higher, and pointed out that more than 13 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been given worldwide, with low rates. adverse effects.

“It is the job of public health officials across the country to protect the lives of the populations they serve, especially the most vulnerable,” the letter said. undermines these efforts“.

Health professionals in Canada have their concerns about the claims made in Ladapo’s letter and the quality of the evidence it cites.

Dr. Peter Lew is Chief Scientist and Vice President for Research at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He reviewed the letter and told in a phone interview that he could find no credible evidence to support many of the claims it made.

He pointed out that the letter outlined the increase in vaccine-related adverse event reports only in percentage terms, omitting absolute numbers and any explanation of how those percentages were calculated.

“Unfortunately, the interpretation of all this information is colored and it creates a lot of misinformation,” he said. “A letter like this, which is not really supported by published data, all these kinds of percentage figures in the data and very hard to verify, to draw a conclusion can lead to very concerned people.”

Dr. Chris Overgaard, a research fellow in cardiology at the University of Toronto’s Division of Cardiology, pointed out that Ladapo’s letter also did not specify what types of cardiac events were reported.

“It’s inherently flawed based on that,” he told in a phone interview.

For example, Overgaard said that while COVID-19 vaccines can affect the heart in a number of ways, many of the most common cardiac effects, such as temporary palpitations, are benign. After vaccination, one person may report a fluttering sensation in the chest that resolves quickly on its own, while another may see a cardiologist about mild palpitations without much caution due to underlying heart disease.

“We have a lot of people who come to see cardiologists either because they’ve had COVID and they’re worried about their heart, or they’ve had the vaccine and they’re worried about their heart, and in the vast majority of those cases, there absolutely is. there is nothing wrong in their hearts,” he said.

In the absence of more information about the data presented in Ladapo’s letter, Overgaard said we don’t really know what the Florida Department of Health considers a legitimate adverse effect report. Moreover, considering how DeSantis and Ladapo they have set their positions on the COVID-19 vaccine, it is difficult to trust that their data collection methods are unbiased.

DeSantis has been accused by the US House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis of promoting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and disinformation, and Ladapo has a history of repeating himself. vaccination and anti-mask messages, including several far right podcasts.


A separate notice published alongside Ladapo’s letter cited several studies proving that COVID-19 vaccines cause more harm than COVID-19 infections. However, these studies have been criticized within the medical community cherry picking and distortion data support a predetermined conclusion.

For example, in a July 2022 article published on the Science Based Medicine website, New York-based neurologist and science writer Dr. Jonathan Howard argued that one of the studies, titled “Serious Adverse Events of Special Interest After mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination.” in randomized trials in adults,” inflated potential vaccine-related harms compared to the damages associated with COVID-19.

“A single person with post-vaccination gastroenteritis and abdominal pain was counted as two adverse events, while someone who was hospitalized with COVID was counted as one, even though they had multiple severe complications as a result,” Howard wrote.

In a June 2022 YouTube video, Susan Oliver, Ph.D., in nanomedicine, explained how the study authors used a technique called data mining, or “p-hacking,” to falsify the data presented. to study

“It’s basically a garbage paper using a technique called p-hacking, followed by some apples-to-oranges comparisons,” he said. “Essentially, p-hacking occurs when researchers collect or sample data or statistical analyzes until non-significant results become significant. If their initial analysis does not show a statistically significant difference between the data, they continue to analyze different subsets until they find something. it’s significant.”

In other words, p-hacking allows someone who has reached a predetermined conclusion to manipulate the data until it confirms that conclusion.

Another study cited by Ladapo, titled “MIT Study Shows COVID Vaccines ‘Significantly Linked’ to Jump in Emergency Heart Problems,” has been debunked Reuters fact check In May 2022, Reuters claimed that a study suggested that the emergency heart problems discussed were caused by the COVID-19 vaccines, but failed to show any link between the two.

Neither Liu nor Overgaard denies that there are cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular risks associated with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. However, both say a growing body of publicly available, scientifically sound evidence shows that for most people, the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks.

“The risks of severe heart disease with COVID-19 are much greater than the risks of the vaccine,” Overgaard said.

With files from the Associated Press

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