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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 2, 2021

Journal discredits study it published claiming a COVID-19 vaccine causes deaths

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  • Four days after publishing the study, the journal that published it posted a notice raising serious questions about the study.

Conservative commentator Liz Wheeler, who has 1.4 million Facebook followers, was eager to get to the first segment on her June 30 Facebook show, promising to detail new research on vaccines that she suggested might be censored. 

She claimed that a "peer reviewed, scientific study showed that the COVID-19 vaccine causes two deaths for every three lives it saves." 

A sign posted near Wheeler as she spoke repeated the claim more bluntly: "COVID vax kills two people for every three saved."

A Facebook post for her show’s episode was headlined: "The Vaccine Study You're Not Allowed To See." Calling the study "a big deal," Wheeler said "this will be a test for Big Tech to see if they actually want people to know the truth, or if they’re censoring true information." 

But the information was not accurate. 

The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

What Wheeler didn’t report was that two days before her video was posted on Facebook, the journal that published the study posted a notice raising serious questions about it.

The study, "The Safety of COVID-19 Vaccinations — We Should Rethink the Policy," was done by three European researchers, led by Harald Walach, professor at Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poland. 

The researchers said that they calculated from a large Israeli field study the number of people who needed to be vaccinated to prevent one death; and that they used the Adverse Drug Reactions database of the European Medicines Agency and of the Dutch National Register to get the number of vaccination cases "reporting severe side effects and the number of cases with fatal side effects."

The researchers concluded: "For three deaths prevented by vaccination we have to accept two inflicted by vaccination."

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The European Medicines Agency, however, warns that its data on adverse reactions can’t be used on its own to conclude whether a vaccine caused death:

"The information on this website relates to suspected side effects, i.e. medical events that have been observed following the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines, but which are not necessarily related to or caused by the vaccine. These events may have been caused by another illness or be associated with another medicine taken by the patient at the same time."

The study was published in the journal Vaccines on June 24. Four days later, the journal appended a note to the study, expressing concerns about the study and calling its main conclusion incorrect. The note said:

"The journal is issuing this expression of concern to alert readers to significant concerns regarding the paper cited above. Serious concerns have been raised about misinterpretation of the data and the conclusions.

"The major concern is the misrepresentation of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts and misrepresentation of the data, e.g., Abstract: ‘For three deaths prevented by vaccination we have to accept two inflicted by vaccination.’

"Stating that these deaths linked to vaccination efforts is incorrect and distorted."

A board member of the journal, University of Oxford immunologist Katie Ewer, tweeted that she resigned the board post because of the publication. She said the study "is grossly negligent and I can't believe it passed peer-review. I hope it will be retracted."

The journal’s associate editor, Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, also tweeted that he resigned because of the study.

Walach, an author of the study, told Retraction Watch, a website that reported on the aftermath of the study, that he does not agree with the expression of concern, saying "we have used and analyzed the data correctly, and not incorrectly. But that the data are less than optimal is clear to everyone and we said so in our paper. The purpose is to generate enough momentum for governments and researchers to finally create the good data that are long overdue."

Wheeler didn’t reply to a request seeking comment. 

With the journal backing away from the study due its data misrepresentation, and Wheeler not acknowledging that in her report, we rate Wheeler’s claim Mostly False.

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Journal discredits study it published claiming a COVID-19 vaccine causes deaths

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