The following is an in-depth analysis of two articles:
- 18 Reasons I Won’t Be Getting a Covid Vaccine – by Christian Elliot, April 5th 2021
- ’18 Reasons I Won’t Be Getting a COVID Vaccine’ Post Filled With Reckless Falsehoods – by Alex Kasprak, April 16th 2021
I originally found the article by Elliot which provided some data-backed analysis of many of my own concerns from personal research around the vaccines. After sharing this post with my family, in consideration of whether we should “all get vaccinated” prior to a reunion this Summer, I was pointed to the Snopes article that supposedly “debunked” all these findings.
In the past I’ve had experiences with Snopes where their claims of “true” or “false” seemed to be somewhat disconnected from the actual data, so I decided to investigate. What I found was a long article written by Kasprak that felt more like reading a dismissive assault on someone’s character, rather than a clear-headed scientific rebuttal.
Here’s my own “fact-checking” on the topics of concern presented by Elliot, and supposedly debunked by Kasprak on Snopes.
1 “Vaccine Makers Are Immune from Liability” – TRUE
“It is true that vaccine manufacturers are shielded from liability. Without this liability protection, vaccine manufacturers were unwilling to supply the government with vaccines.”
“All vaccines including the ones that have been required by schools for decades fall into this category.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
Snopes’ argument is that this point is actually true, but applies to all vaccines, not exclusively the COVID-19 Vaccine.
2 “The Checkered Past of the Vaccine Companies” – TRUE
“Pharmaceutical companies, including some involved in COVID-19 vaccine production, have indeed been fined billions of dollars in damages or criminal fines.”
“Elliot’s framing falsely suggests that the only check on vaccine safety derives from the word of the manufacturer. But all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, have all passed through phase I, phase II, and phase III trials, and these data are analyzed by both academics and government health officials. The process is not a rubber stamp of approval.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
First, standard Phase III trials usually take several years for results. Typical Vaccine timelines for development are 5-10 years. Every Phase trial done for COVID-19 has been substantially rushed, many of the trials are incomplete, and just as the article says this process is “not a rubber stamp of approval” in any case.
“Elliot states that neither Moderna nor Johnson & Johnson had ever brought a vaccine to market before COVID-19. While true, neither company is inexperienced in vaccine development.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
First, this point again validates the article, as it IS TRUE that Modern and J&J have never brought a vaccine to market. Secondly, this point completely avoids the fundamental issues brought forward by Elliot in his article, which is the vast history of lawsuits which each of these companies have LOST, which primarily include “false claims, misbranding and false advertising, carcinogenic ingredients, adverse side effects,” and other product safety claims.
There is no “debunking” of the claims of these lawsuits, as they are public knowledge, accurate, and factually true.
3 “The Ugly History of Attempts to Make Coronavirus Vaccines” – FALSE BASED ON NEW STUDIES
“An October 2020 report in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that “The mRNA-1273 vaccine [i.e Moderna] induced [Th1] biased … responses and low or undetectable Th2 … responses.” As reported in Nature, data from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine indicate a “TH1-biased response.” These, along with the 192,282,781 doses administered in the United States alone, are quite literally the data necessary “to suggest they overcame that pesky problem of Vaccine Enhanced Disease.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
In this section, the authors at Snopes appropriately provide counter data to the historical data provided by Elliot in his article. Their references suggest that the COVID-19 Vaccines claim to have solved the issue of “generating high levels of neutralizing antibodies,” and “produce an an immune response dominated by what are called Th-1 cells as opposed to Th-2 cells.” This data was published in a “non-human primate” test done by a group published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
While it may still be worth consideration that these tests and results were produced in an extremely short period with few considerations for side-effects, this portion of the Snopes article is the first that actually offers a counterpoint to the research and claims made in the article.
4 “The ‘Data Gaps’ Submitted to the FDA by the Vaccine Makers” – TRUE
“Elliot focuses extensively on what the FDA identified as “data gaps” in the approval reports for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to suggest the vaccines do not prevent transmission or mortality of COVID-19.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
This is true, and it is true that there is no data on transmission, preventing mortality, or duration of protection from COVID-19 in the documents sent to the FDA:
“However, these reports, published in December 2020, contain no data collected after November 2020. Writing in April 2021, Elliot ignores the data that includes the hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine that have since been administered. These data are providing more definitive answers to those questions.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
This is also true that these reports were published in December 2020 before the hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, which further casts concern on these Pharmaceutical companies. This is not a pre-administration test, but an active trial of a vaccine with unknown effects and no data of their actual impact on transmission, mortality, or prevention, on hundreds of millions of people.
The most definitive point made by authors at Snopes on this topic is to point to several recent research articles which suggest that the vaccines have been effective and overcome these data gaps. However, a deeper dive into those research articles does not provide this definitive answer that they claim. For example:
In Nature.com they state clearly:
“Where does the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 lie along the spectrum of natural infection versus vaccine-induced protective efficacy? The answer to this question will be known only as more data are collected from ongoing natural infection and vaccine studies;” while pointing to the “initial results” being “very encouraging.” This is not definitive, and further studies covered in the nature article show “that animal model studies predict [that they] would provide protection” but are not clear on human results.Nature.com
Furthermore, the study reads:
“The disadvantage of such an outcome [of antibodies not reaching complete sterilizing immunity as hoped] is that the vaccine probably would not prevent ongoing transmission from an infected vaccinee. In contrast to many of the vaccines, natural infection induces highly variable levels of neutralizing antibodies, a proportion of which may not provide immunity. At the patient level, there are isolated reports of re-infection with SARS-CoV-2 associated with an insufficient initial antibody response.”Nature.com – https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-01180-x
The Nature article is fully optimistic about vaccines “achieving” immune responses and protection superior to natural immunity, but is clearly not stating that we are “there.” All of this backs the concerns expressed in Elliot’s article, and does not support Snopes’ supposed “debunking of false claims” in the article.
5: “No Access to the Raw Data from the Trials” – FALSE BASED ON MISSING INFORMATION
“While the “raw data” from clinical trials is not widely available, data from the clinical trials referenced by Elliot along with their entire experimental protocols can be found in these two journal publications.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
In this section, it is clear that Elliot does not acknowledge the availability of data from clinical trials or protocols, and also may be misinterpreting results due to information sourced from another article.
However, while Elliot may have failed to find this research, it would not likely have improved their perception of the vaccines. In the two journal publications cited above, there are significant “limitations and remaining questions” provided, specifically:
- Safety and efficacy beyond 2 months and in groups not included in this trial (e.g., children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons.
- Whether the vaccine protects against asymptomatic infection and transmission to unvaccinated persons.
- How to deal with those who miss the second vaccine dose.
6: “No Long-Term Safety Testing” – TRUE
“It is necessarily true that the world lacks long-term data on vaccines that are less than a year old. We also lack long-term data on the disease for which the vaccines are designed to stop, but what little data we do have suggests the possibility of long and lasting effects in severe cases of COVID-19.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
Elliot’s article provides truthful and accurate concerns on this front, acknowledged by Snopes.
7: “No Informed Consent” – TRUE
“Contrary to the assertions made in this blog post, COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization in the U.S. have completed phase three trials — or at least an interim analysis of a phase three trial — before being approved. It is not true, as claimed in the post, that any person given a COVID-19 vaccine is part of a clinical trial.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
As mentioned earlier, the actual timeline for COVID-19 vaccine trials was highly accelerated (even beyond the 1-2 year standardly acceptable accelerated timeline), and since there is ongoing safety monitoring, testing, and new data, it appears that anyone could mistake our current vaccine use as a “clinical trial,” even if it is defined as “approved.” Clearly, all the data is not in on the vaccine, and so to some extent, we are in a “mass trial” of its effectiveness.
As for Elliot’s opinion on the FDA potentially hiding harmful effects from vaccines, this opinion could be influenced by the fact that prior FDA director Margaret Hamburg’s husband Peter Brown was heavily invested in Johnson & Johnson stock through a company called Renaissance Technologies (to the tune of $500M). Alongside J&J, both the prior FDA director and husband were sued under the Federal RICO act, a law created to go after organized crime.
The lawsuit involved Levaquin, a drug that was heavily propagated by J&J and marketed directly through doctors, but which is a fluoroquinolone that quickly deteriorated tendons and bone strength in the bodies of certain users. In worst case scenarios, they were nearly paralyzed. This happened to a close friend of mine, and my ex-wife suffered injuries due to these drugs.
8: “Under-Reporting of Adverse Reactions and Death” – FALSE, LIKELY EXAGGERATED CALCULATION
“Using something purported to be a “Harvard study” (but that is actually a grant report on a project that could not be completed), Elliot performed some truly outrageous back-of-the-envelope math”…-Kasprak, for Snopes
Snopes is correct in asserting that this is not a “Harvard Study” but a grant report from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Inc. That part of Elliot’s assessment was FALSE.
In addition, the “back-of-the-envelope math” spoken of is Elliot’s use of actual reported data from VAERS (verifiable at the following links), multiplied by 50 or 100 based on the named grant report which suggested that only 1% of all adverse reactions are reported to VAERS. Here’s the VAERS search result links, where you can see the actual reports:
Snopes is correct in that the number of deaths from vaccines could be vastly overestimated. In any case, there have been 2,602 deaths reported at the time of this writing, along with 82,891 other adverse reactions reported. Less than one-third of those are considered “not-serious” and another third are reported “recovered.” This still means that over 30,000 cases are extreme and significant, ranging from permanent disability to life threatening.
It is not clear from Snopes what percentage of adverse reactions ARE reported, only that it is more likely that minor reactions are not reported, while major ones (like death) are reported.
According to Elliot, there are significant concerns about the VAERS reporting system through an article published by a group of independent researchers:
9: “The Vaccines Do Not Stop Transmission or Infection” – INCONCLUSIVE
According to Snopes, “The vaccines reduce asymptomatic transmission.” They refer to the following studies which confirm this claim:
So based on these studies, there is a “reduced risk of asymptomatic” infection after mRNA based vaccines were administered.
Reduced risk is not elimination, so Elliot’s claims are partially TRUE, but with these very recent studies, it appears that at least some vaccines being tested have some efficacy in reducing asymptomatic transmission and infection.
Elliot’s concerns are also connected to the fact that “experts” still insist that everyone wear a mask in public after receiving the vaccine. This seems odd, if the vaccine is expected to significantly reduce transmission and infection. Yet a simple search in Google, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo for “can I stop wearing a mask after vaccine?” will produce countless results of news articles and health publications clearly stating that the answer is No.
Some of these articles include expert reporting from people like “infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD” who clearly explain that “Those who have been vaccinated might be asymptomatic spreaders. The vaccines prevent illness, but more research is needed to determine if the vaccines also prevent transmission.”
It’s clear that the jury is still out on this issue, and the data is currently inconclusive.
If we go straight to the CDC, they tell us “We’re still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease. Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated. We’re still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.”
In addition, the CDC says, “We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.”
10: “People Are Catching COVID After Being Fully Vaccinated” – TRUE
“Some people have caught COVID-19 after being vaccinated. This is not unexpected. When vaccine manufacturers say their product is, for example, 95% effective, that means it will be not effective in 5% of cases.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
First, Snopes clearly acknowledges the accuracy of Elliot’s claims. They provide a more clear statistical analysis of effectiveness in their acknowledgement, but there is no debunking here.
Second, Elliot raises several concerns around some fairly shocking articles, namely one which starts with, “Earlier this month, 35 nuns in a northern Kentucky convent received an mRNA-developed COVID-19 vaccine. Just two days later, two died and twenty six others tested positive for the virus.” It goes on to say “In an apparent attempt to quell fears about the dangers of the vaccine, Dr. Steven Feagins, the Hamilton County public health director, explained that strong side-effects are “actually way more common than you might think.”
Another article Elliot points to says, “The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced Tuesday it is investigating reports of people who tested positive for COVID more than two weeks after being fully vaccinated against the disease.” While the group of nuns may be seen as a fluke, Elliot presents an entire series of articles where similar post-vaccination COVID cases are reported.
11: “The Overall Death Rate from COVID” – FALSE
“At the time of this reporting, according to Johns Hopkins University, the case fatality rate for COVID-19 in the United States — the number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases — is 1.8%.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
According to CDC’s most current reported data, Snopes is correct that the fatality level is higher than claimed by Elliot (99.74% survival rate). In searching the CDC data myself, I found the following figures as of April 14th 2021, which does match Snopes:
31,231,869 Total Cases Reported
562,356 Total Deaths Reported
However, this particular debunking becomes suspect when considering the following topic:
12: “The Bloated COVID Death Numbers” – INCONCLUSIVE
“COVID-19’s death numbers are not “bloated.” Once again, Elliot is making an argument rooted in a complete misunderstanding of the data he touts as evidence.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
Snopes suggests that Elliot is entirely misinterpreting data from a section of the CDC reports on “comorbidities and other conditions” where it suggests that only 6% of the death rate is caused by COVID-19 alone, while all other deaths had an additional cause associated with them. They are correct in the assertion that COVID may have still played a significant role in those other deaths, even if there were existing respiratory conditions, cancer, kidney disease, etc. However, it is not clear that COVID-19 was the PRIMARY cause of death in any of these other reported cases.
In addition, I have personally spoken with many people who experienced the death of a family member or friend which was reported as COVID-19 when the virus had nothing to do with the hospitalization or death. In addition, there are many reports (not conspiracy social media posts) which suggest that there are financial incentives for Hospitals directly connected to the number of deaths by COVID-19.
For example, in this article, “U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has confirmed that, despite claims otherwise from the left, there is indeed a “perverse incentive” for hospitals to overcount their coronavirus deaths by falsely attributing unrelated deaths to the virus.” They go on to quote Redfield saying:
“I think you’re correct, in that we’ve seen this in other disease processes too, really in the HIV epidemic, somebody may have a heart attack, but also have HIV — the hospital would prefer the [classification] for HIV because there’s greater reimbursement,” Redfield replied. Similarly, because of the CARES Act passed by Congress in March, hospitals receive a 20 percent premium when seeking payment for Medicare patients who died allegedly of the coronavirus.”https://www.bizpacreview.com/2020/08/02/cdc-director-admits-hospitals-medical-folks-have-perverse-incentive-to-falsely-count-covid-deaths-954633/
These are not just loose claims, they are well backed by any study of the CARES Act and HHS.gov.
Whether or not hospitals and clinics would intentionally abuse their reporting in order to gain financial relief is the only uncertainty here, but it certainly seems like they are being given plenty of green lights to include COVID-19 on the death reports if someone had any trace of COVID-19, regardless of the actual cause of death.
“Having COVID on there [death certificate] if the person was COVID positive, there’s nothing actually wrong with that,” Holcombe said. “Actually determining the cause of death – the cause of death may have been respiratory failure associated with COVID and so forth. So, it becomes a contributing factor anyway. So, there’s nothing actually wrong with that if it allows for some additional reimbursements.”https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/are-hospitals-using-covid-19-causes-of-death-as-financial-incentives/ar-BB14ZJGc
Sections 13 & 14: Political and Not Relevant to this Research Article
13: “Fauci and Six Others at NIAID Own Patents in the Moderna Vaccine”
14: “Fauci Is on the Hot Seat for Illegal Gain-Of-Function Research”
I have no interest in researching the finer points and accusations around a specific politically oriented individual in regards to the vaccine.
15: “The Virus Continues to Mutate” – TRUE
“Viruses do mutate — this is not a surprise or a breaking news story.” – Snopes-Kasprak, for Snopes
16: “Censorship … and the Complete Absence of Scientific Debate” – TRUE
“It is hard to take seriously allegations of “censorship” from someone whose blog post has been viewed over 2 million times and shared over a hundred thousand times on Facebook.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
While Snopes takes some hard punches at Elliot for this claim, they seem to be aiming at him personally, rather than addressing his concerns. Their response reads more like a tabloid assault than a scientific dialog or review of factual evidence.
Let’s be clear: none of the vaccines have been made “open-source” or available for public scientific review and inquiry. As far as I can tell, there have been no open scientific debates on the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, and most tests for each pharma company’s vaccine are being done by related companies and organizations.
These are the issues that Elliot is pointing at, even in a poorly stated and clearly emotionally upset manner, not whether or not he has been able to reach people through his own blog, or whether or not people have “debated” about the vaccine and COVID-19 on the news.
17: “The World’s Leading Vaccinologist Is Sounding the Alarm…” – FALSE
“Vanden Bossche is not “the world’s leading vaccinologist.” … He does hold a Ph.D. in virology, and he has worked on vaccine development at several institutions.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
Snopes is correct on both these points, though I imagine any title of “world’s leading” is probably more a matter of opinion than fact.
Does this mean that the concerns raised around the vaccines by Vanden Bossche are entirely false? It is difficult to tell at this time, as we have not yet seen the impact of current vaccines on the mutation of the virus.
18: “I Already Had Covid” – TRUE & FALSE
“Elliot asserts that he already had COVID-19 and that it wasn’t all that bad. He claims that this means he has “beautiful, natural, life-long immunity” — an assertion based on eight months of data that does not speak to lifelong immunity.”-Kasprak, for Snopes
While Elliot’s statement of having “life-long immunity” may not be correct, there is significant data showing that long term immunity can develop from having direct natural exposure:
Snopes authors’ main point here is that Elliot’s “vaccine hesitancy potentially inspired by these largely incorrect ideas increases the risk to everyone.” They continue by saying, “Vaccines are not only about protecting an individual, but about reducing the spread of a disease and environments in which viral mutations can occur.”
This is a mixed bag. What is truly the greater risk: taking a vaccine that may cause severe side-effects and even death, or not taking the vaccine and risking facing COVID-19 symptoms and possible death? The answer is probably different for everyone.
Elliot’s complete “anti-vaccination” stance is probably too extreme, in my opinion. However, his case for concern is not, based on the data provided. On the other hand, Snopes is supposed to be a fact-checking site, but their article reads more like a tabloid, full of defiant emotional writing, harsh personal attacks on Elliot, and wide claims that seem to me to be as dangerous as the article they are supposedly “debunking.”
To the reader, I close this detailed review with a cautionary note: just because someone writes an article that supposedly “fact-checks” another article doesn’t mean that their information is any more accurate or trustworthy. Do the research yourself, and always remain curious in your exploration and search for truth.
As for myself, the verdict is clear, and there are far too many valid concerns around the viability, long-term effects, and impact of these vaccines for me to trust them.
UPDATE: Additional concerns for me have arisen around specific “vaccine mandates” that have been going into effect in certain locations and with some government employees. In the past, even with very dangerous and deadly forms of flu and other viruses, vaccination recommendation has always been framed as a suggested option, and not vaccinating is simply “at your own risk.” The tone of this has drastically changed over this year.
In addition, a recent autopsy done around 25 days after an individual was vaccinated and died from acute renal failure and bronchopneumonia showed significant permeation of the spike protein through much of the body. Their conclusion of the scientific study is more than enough reason for me to be very concerned about vaccination in its current state (link to FDA resource definition on immunogenicity and bold emphasis added):
“In summary, the results of our autopsy case study in a patient with mRNA vaccine confirm the view that by first dose of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 immunogenicity can already be induced, while sterile immunity is not adequately developed.“US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health