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Few things have been more consistent over the past several years than “experts” patronizingly spreading misleading information, especially on COVID vaccines.
The latest such example comes from Mayo Clinic Doctor Gregory Poland.
Dr. Poland recently appeared with former comedian Jon Stewart and gave some very specific figures as to what he believes COVID vaccines can do.
According to him, for everyone one million vaccination doses given, we prevent an astonishing number of COVID cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions. The “price we pay” for such incredible success is 73 myocarditis cases, he says.
There are several key claims made here that are extremely questionable.
Perhaps the most indefensible is that Poland says that every million doses prevents 57,000 COVID cases.
It’s unclear what source he might be referring to, but this is almost certainly a wildly inaccurate statement.
COVID is an endemic virus, which means that, among other things, it will infect virtually everyone on earth. And it will infect everyone, likely multiple times throughout their life.
Claiming that vaccines prevent infections is a scientific impossibility, given that inarguable reality.
Additionally, there’s zero evidence that the vaccines prevent infections, even in the short term, and substantial evidence that they don’t.
Poland’s risk-benefit analysis is hopelessly flawed, because he’s basing it on incorrect assumptions.
Inaccurate Vaccine Claims
Poland doesn’t specify what age group he’s referring to with regards to preventing hospitalizations or ICU admissions. But it’s hard to take his claims at face value, given the profound lack of awareness on infections.
Poland also ignores that many COVID associated hospitalizations, especially among younger males, are incidental. Simply, young high school aged males test positive on admission for another cause. Yet hospitals will report them as COVID patients regardless.
Massachusetts separates out COVID hospitalizations and just 32% of current patients with COVID are there to be treated for it. And 63% of those hospitalized are fully vaccinated.
That’s a population level dataset. The breakdown of with vs. from amongst boys aged 16-17 is likely even more incidental.
All that is to say that his assertions of hospitalizations prevented is questionable, at best.
He also is likely downplaying the risk of myocarditis.
Myocarditis risks were significantly higher after a second vaccine dose, according to the CDC. And they were significantly higher after a booster than dose one.
These rates are why some researchers have concluded that the risk-benefit breakdown for young men does not argue in favor of continued boosters.
Additionally, despite the PR push, there’s no evidence that further boosters are even more effective.
Downplaying those risks while presumably encouraging further vaccination based on unlikely assumptions is irresponsible.
Poland is at least willing to acknowledge the downsides and potential risks. Albeit by likely overselling what the vaccines can do, and underselling risk-benefit calculations.
Until experts are able to carry out accurate, honest, even handed assessments, it’ll be impossible for them to earn back the public’s trust. And until that happens, they don’t deserve to.