It’s currently circulating on social media table of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is alleged to prove that after administration of covid vaccines, side effects occurred 2.5 million times. It causes fear and outrage among social media users.
“Any animal experiment would have been discontinued at this point long ago!” – sounds a tweet of one of the users. Another writes about covid vaccines: “At least in terms of global side effects, they are many times better than proven vaccines.”
However, the data on which these comments are based is taken out of context – and does not prove that vaccines against COVID-19 have far more unwanted side effects than other vaccines.
The figures in the spreadsheet as of November 12 appear to be genuine. Up-to-date data on possible side effects can be found on the website VigiAccess, which provides public access to the WHO VigiBase database. This database includes list of potential side effects of medical products. These are summarized data for all vaccines for specific diseases. For example, measles or COVID-19 vaccines.
In response to a question from the editorial office of Deutsche Welle, a WHO spokeswoman explained that the number of reported possible side effects is not the same as the actual number of side effects related to vaccination. The occurrence of these or that symptoms may also be a matter of coincidence or misinterpretation.
The VigiAccess website also states that: “The information on this site does not reflect the confirmed relationship between the drug and the side effect.”
Not only is the number of side effects reported on social networks claiming to be extremely high, it is also expected to be much higher than for vaccines against other diseases. However, a WHO spokeswoman points out that it is clear that for a medical product that is administered much more frequently than other products, many more potential side effects are also reported.
The proportions must be taken into account here, the spokeswoman points out.
According to WHO so far all over the world over eight billion doses of covid vaccines were administered – that’s more than any other vaccine. That being said, “reports of suspected adverse effects of vaccines on COVID-19 do not exceed those for other vaccines.” In relation to the number of doses administered, there are even fewer of them – a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to DW. After all, the worldwide covid vaccination campaign is the largest vaccination campaign in human history.
The editors also turned to the Uppsala Monitoring Center, which runs the database. A spokesman for the Center confirmed that in recent months many false claims were disseminated in connection with their database. The spokesman drew attention to the center’s recently published report, which explains numerous reports of potential side effects. About ten years ago, only a few possible side effects of drugs entered the database. Since February 2021, the number of submissions has increased by millions, he said.
“The recent period of rapid growth can be largely explained by the sharp surge in reports of COVID-19 vaccines,” the site reads. The purpose of the database is to support the introduction of new vaccines by collecting data on their safety.
To sum up: data from WHO and the Uppsala Monitoring Center are misinterpreted on social media. These are absolute numbers without proportion. And they don’t prove that covid vaccines have many more side effects than vaccines against other diseases. These are only potential side effects. Their relationship with the administration of vaccines has not been proven.