Amongst the most recent misinformation being spread through social media about the COVID-19 vaccines, is that there is a cover-up centred on tens of thousands of unreported deaths caused by the vaccines, which can be confirmed by checking the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) website. Aside from social media, this idea is also being pushed by some promoters of the recent protest in Marigot. Most importantly, when questioning whether or not this is true, is the fact that VAERS is not designed to determine whether vaccines cause problems or not.
Rather, it is designed to collect data with an overly wide scope, which includes “incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental and unverified information” that can later be investigated if needed. This way, “safety signals” can be quickly noticed if unusual or unexpected adverse events are reported. Also important to note is that anyone can make a report, not just healthcare providers, and reports are encouraged whether or not it is believed that an adverse event is connected to the vaccine.
Disclaimers and explanations to this effect are littered all over the VAERS website, and impossible to miss.
The main disclaimer includes: “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Most reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind.
“…If a safety signal is found in VAERS, further studies can be done in safety systems such as the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) or the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project. These systems do not have the same limitations as VAERS, and can better assess health risks and possible connections between adverse events and a vaccine.”
What’s more, “VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up.”
A few frequently asked questions for the public that may want to check data, quoted directly:
What is VAERS?
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S. licensed vaccines. VAERS is co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS accepts and analyses reports of adverse events (possible side effects) following vaccination.
VAERS is not designed to detect if a vaccine caused an adverse event, but it can identify unusual or unexpected patterns of reporting that might indicate possible safety problems requiring a closer look.
What are the strengths and limitations of VAERS?
One of the main limitations of VAERS data is that it cannot determine if the vaccine caused the reported adverse event. This limitation has caused confusion in the publicly available data from VAERS WONDER, specifically regarding the number of reported deaths.
There have been instances where people have misinterpreted reports of deaths following vaccination as deaths caused by the vaccines; that are not accurate. VAERS accepts all reports of adverse health events following vaccinations without judging whether the vaccine caused the adverse health event.
Some reports to VAERS represent true vaccine reactions and others are coincidental adverse health events and not related to vaccination. Overall, a causal relationship cannot be established using information from VAERS report alone.
Strengths of VAERS: VAERS collects national data from all U.S. states and territories; VAERS accepts reports from anyone; The VAERS form collects information about the vaccine, the person vaccinated and the adverse event; Data are publicly available; VAERS can be used as an early warning system to identify rare adverse events; VAERS is a tool for identifying potential vaccine safety concerns that need further study using more robust data systems.
Limitations of VAERS: It is generally not possible to find out from VAERS data if a vaccine caused the adverse event; Reports submitted to VAERS often lack details and sometimes contains errors; Serious adverse events are more likely to be reported than non-serious events; Numbers of reports may increase in response to media attention and increased public awareness; VAERS data cannot be used to determine rates of adverse events.
Who can report to VAERS?
VAERS accepts reports from anyone. Patients, parents, caregivers and healthcare providers (HCP) are encouraged to report adverse events after vaccination to VAERS even if it is not clear that the vaccine caused the adverse event. In addition, HCP are required to report certain adverse events after vaccination.