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Social media posts and online articles have made a series of inaccurate claims about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and have at times asserted that the revelations come from leaks of confidential documents from the drug company. But health regulators and independent experts say the data – which has been officially released by the US Food and Drug Administration – doesn’t show the shot is dangerous or ineffective.
“Pfizer Knew Its Vaccine Would Kill” is the headline of an article in The Light that appeared as an image in Instagram and Facebook posts in May 2022. The article claims that Pfizer documents reveal “thousands of side effects that occurred at a troubling time. The rate was a direct result of To take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Similar misleading claims, often shared with the hashtag #pfizerdocuments, have spread across social media in multiple languages. They were exposed by AFP in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Dutch and Serbian.
AFP examines the origin of the documents and inaccurate allegations below.
On social media, the phrase “Pfizer documents” is usually a reference to data that is gradually being released by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A group called Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency (PHMPT) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Food and Drug Administration in August 2021 to access all data used to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Initially, the FDA said it would release 500 pages per month, a rate that PHMPT deemed too slow given that about 330,000 pages fall under a FOIA request. In January 2022, a Texas judge ruled that the FDA must release documents at a rate of “more than 12,000 pages” on or before January 31, and then “55,000 pages every 30 days” beginning or before March 1.
As of May 12, PHMPT has made 238 sets of documents available for download.
It is estimated that more than 5 billion people have received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine worldwide.
Health authorities including the World Health Organization have monitored the safety of the shot, and several independent scientists maintain that this data shows that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, even as misleading claims are made based on each version of the documentation.
List of side effects
Multiple social media posts claim that a list of dangerous side effects has been identified in documents from Pfizer.
“Pfizer drops the bomb close to fatal side effects on consumers of vaccines,” says one Facebook post.
“Release the list of Pfizer side effects. No joke!” Another claim.
But Aurelie Grandvoilimen, deputy head of the Burgundy Regional Center for Pharmacovigilance, told AFP: “This is by no means a list of the adverse effects reported from the Pfizer-Bioantek vaccine.”
This list, which has been available on the PHMPT website since November 2021, details “adverse events of particular importance”. These are cases that should be subject to special monitoring, in part because of their association with previous vaccines. The list includes symptoms reported after vaccination for which a causal relationship has not been established.
In Canada, the government monitors for myocarditis, or myocarditis, and pericarditis, or inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart. recommends the vaccine, and finds that “the number of reports of myocarditis/pericarditis after the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine is higher than would be expected in the general male and female population <30 years and primarily after the second dose.”
However, Glenn Pyle, professor of molecular cardiology at Canada’s University of Guelph, and Jennifer Hwang, associate professor of pediatric cardiology at Oregon Health & Science University in the US, wrote in The Talk in January 2022 that “in cases of myocarditis following a virus vaccination, Covid-19, the vast majority of cases are mild and resolve quickly.” They said there is a greater risk of heart damage from SARS infection.
AFP also revealed allegations about this list in French, German, Serbian and Dutch.
“Pfizer Data Dump Reveals Over 1,200 People Died Within One Month Of Taking Covid-19 Vaccine,” says an article published on May 8, 2022 online.
The article repeats AFP’s claim that it was debunked in both English and French in December 2021. It pulls information from the same document behind the allegations about adverse events, not the newly released data.
Pfizer’s spokeswoman, Dervilla Kane, told AFP that the figure of 1,223 deaths reflected reports from sources including health officials in several countries, without verifying the cause. It does not indicate specific causes of death, she said, and the deaths may include people with “various diseases” such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.
FDA spokeswoman Alison Hunt said health care providers should report any deaths after vaccination, even if it is not clear if the vaccine was the cause.
“Reviews by the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC determined that the vast majority of reported deaths are not directly attributable to vaccines,” she said, adding that reports of deaths after Covid-19 vaccination are “rare.”
“The next batch of Pfizer docs is out and conclusion: The mandatory #Pfizer vaccine wasn’t 95% effective, only 12% effective…but for about a week. Its efficacy then drops to less than 1%,” a May 5, 2022 tweet.
Similar claims about the vaccine’s effectiveness can be found across social media in English and French.
At the end of its clinical trials in November 2020, Pfizer reported that the Covid-19 vaccine was 95 percent effective starting 28 days after the first dose.
Pfizer followed 18,198 people who received the vaccine, and eight tested positive for Covid-19 a week after the second dose of the vaccine. This compared to 162 people who tested positive out of the 18,325 people in the placebo group.
Many of the claims that the vaccine was only 12 percent effective can be traced back to an April 3, 2022 Substack article published by Sonia Elia, a British freelance journalist who writes for Trial Site News, a website that promoted unproven Covid-19 treatments and criticized public health authorities.
In her blog post, Elijah claims that the true vaccine efficacy should be calculated by the numbers on page 42 of the data that Pfizer shares with the US Food and Drug Administration and that has been publicly available since December 2020. She says: “Of the 3,410 suspected but unsuspected cases Confirmed Covid-19 in the total study population, 1,594 occurred in the vaccine group versus 1,816 in the placebo group.”
However, the researchers say it would be a mistake to use this data to calculate the overall vaccine efficacy because these individuals did not have cases of Covid-19 confirmed by PCR testing.
Clinical trial protocols published by Pfizer state that a participant was told to schedule a PCR test if they experienced certain symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or loss of taste/smell.
Jeffrey Morris, director of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, explained on his website that the 3,410 “suspected but not confirmed” cases were of people “who had any of the symptoms listed in the list, which of course can come from many cases” that do not cause Only Covid-19 infection.”
He said: “Since the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was clearly not intended to prevent all types of cough, fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches, shortness of breath, vomiting, etc., for whatever reason, it would be silly to include all reports of common symptoms such as Covid-19 cases for the purpose of calculating vaccine efficacy.”
Studies have confirmed the strong protection against severe diseases. The European Medicines Agency reported in January 2022 that preliminary results showed that the vaccine also continued to protect against severe disease and hospitalization during the Omicron variant outbreak.
Pregnant and lactating women
A tweet dated May 4, 2022 reads: “Remember, ‘Vaccine is safe for pregnant women’ – allow me to provide the 50,000-page paperwork that Pfizer has thrown in. Now we know why they wanted to hide this vaccine for 50+ years.”
The post includes an image of the vaccine guidelines, highlighted to highlight: “The COVID-19 mRNA BNT126b2 vaccine is not recommended for use during pregnancy.”
As described in a previous verification report, this document has not been issued by the Food and Drug Administration. Instead, vaccine guidelines for UK health professionals were published in December 2020.
A spokesperson for the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed the document’s origin, and that it did not reflect current vaccine guidelines.
Victoria Mayle, a lecturer in reproductive immunology at Imperial College London, told AFP on 10 May 2022: “Because pregnant women were not included in clinical trials, during the first few weeks of the vaccine launch in the UK, they were not offered the vaccine. . However, as of January 1, 2021, recognizing the fact that Covid can cause serious illness during pregnancy, including premature birth and stillbirth, we have extended vaccination to high-risk pregnant women.”
Health officials in the UK, US, France and Canada are recommending the Covid-19 vaccine for pregnant women.
The title of an article published on May 10, 2022 from The Exposé, a website with a history of circulating inaccurate health information, says, “New Study & Confidential Pfizer documents prove that COVID ‘vaccine leakage’ was and continues to occur with dire consequences.
It claims: “A confidential Pfizer document actually confirmed that exposure to an injection of mRNA was entirely possible via skin-to-skin contact and inhalation of the same air as someone who received a Covid-19 injection.”
This claim is false, as previously reported by AFP.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains on its website that Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines “are mRNA vaccines that do not contain the live virus that causes Covid-19, and therefore cannot give a person Covid-19.”
This is how mRNA vaccines work:
Dasantella Golemy-Kotra, a microbiologist at Canada’s York University, also emphasized that vaccinated individuals do not infect others.
“Spike protein is not eliminated when we are vaccinated,” she said.
You can find all AFP’s reporting on the coronavirus pandemic check here.