By Stuart Jenner.
Back to school means lots of information coming at parents. One big topic is obviously health, including Covid. Recently at the school board meeting, there was a citizen comment about Covid vaccinations and possible complications. (The comments also covered masks, but I want to focus here just on Covid vaccinations). Those comments were included here.
I did some checking, and there are a few items worth noting. First, this study as noted by the speaker and included in the online version is “pre-print.” That means the study has not been peer-reviewed by other scientists. It means no journal editors have said “we think this is sound science, rigorous, and credible.”
Second, any discussion of a scientific study needs to include context, citations of additional studies, and critiques.
Context includes looking at other studies, population totals, and the chances of something random happening as opposed to a direct cause-effect of one action (vaccine) leading to another (health problems).
Since the study is pre-print, any critiques are in their very early stages. But, both Reuters and the Associated Press ran fact checks that are a first, but by no means the last, step in analyzing the study. These fact checks were both published on August 18 and are available to read here:
Part of the challenge in reading these critiques is they address posts on Facebook and some “viral” comments on other social media platforms. (I apologize for the use of the word “viral” since Covid is a virus, but in this case, it is the least poor choice of words I can find). These messages picked certain elements of the study and so that’s what got rebutted in the Reuters and AP posts. I want to highlight a few paragraphs from the articles.
The study has almost “no value,” said Dr. Eric Adler, cardiologist and director of cardiac transplant and mechanical circulatory support at the University of California, San Diego Health. He noted that the study included no placebo to compare the results to. Its findings are also consistent with the general medical consensus, he said: there is an increased risk of myocarditis, which is inflammation specifically affecting the heart muscle, among young males following COVID-19 vaccination, but the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
Most of the other symptoms that the study documented, such as shortness of breath, are insignificant and could be due to anxiety from receiving the vaccine, Adler added.
“Most of the symptoms could occur if I gave someone an injection with water,” he said. “There’s really no insight gained from this study.”
Although the study authors note in their paper that many of the survey participants (44%) had other underlying diseases including asthma, allergies, blood or thyroid disorders, and migraine, the study does not analyze whether these conditions were associated with differences in risk for side effects or cardiovascular effects after the vaccine. The authors also note that they were unable to do baseline testing of kids prior to the first vaccine shot, which is a limitation of the study.
Also from Reuters:
Abnormal ECG alone is not sufficient to diagnose myocarditis in someone without symptoms, writes Dr. Eric Han, who notes that the reader also cannot tell how abnormal any readings might have been because data from before vaccination isn’t provided for comparison.
Of the different types of heart rhythm described as abnormal in the study, all but one could be considered normal in a child depending on the circumstances, Han notes. “Elevated troponin has its own causes as well, not all of which are myocarditis,” he also writes.
“To the trained observer,” Han concludes, “there are no shocking findings in this study. Overall, it supports the current body of knowledge regarding COVID vaccination myocarditis.”
Closing comment: it is critical to get medical advice from medical professionals and to critique social media posts, rather than take everything at face value. And it is essential to compare risks both of actions and of non-actions. Read widely, look for critiques, then compare, contrast, and try to get context.