News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Controversy in ‘vaccine injury’ reporting

Anti-vaxxers, a nebulous confederation that cannot easily be quantified nor qualified, use as one of their arguments adverse vaccine reactions as reported on VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Reaction Reporting System).

The VAERS database is run by two federal agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Any person, lay or professional, can report an adverse event that occurs after a vaccination, and anyone can view the reports without restrictions. However, VAERS accepts reports without verifying whether a vaccine actually caused that incident.

That makes VAERS an incubator for misinformation spreading rapidly on social media and elsewhere. For more than 30 years, VAERS data has been misused to justify broad conclusions that vaccines are a danger.

A TikTok video “liked” by just under 1 million viewers claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have killed some 6,000 people in the United States. “The Vaccine Adverse Event Recording System shows that 5,946 people have died because of the vaccine,” the poster claims. The TikTok post was shared on Facebook and flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its news feed.

Reuters and other mainstream news organizations discredit such reports. To the contrary, fact checker PolitiFact says, there have been no established or proven cases of a COVID-19 vaccine causing death in the U.S.

Two high-ranking FDA scientists announced early retirement over booster concerns. Philip Krause and Marion Gruber are among the authors of a scathing critique of widespread booster shots that was published in the highly respected Lancet medical


The article argues that the scientific evidence does not yet justify giving most people third shots of messenger RNA vaccines. This further fuels the debate already raging over masking and employer vaccine mandates. The arguments show no signs of abating any time soon.

At Friday’s day-long FDA panel hearing that met to approve Pfizer’s booster dose for everybody 16 and over, the panel voted 16-2 to allow boosters only for those 65 and over. During the highly anticipated hearing, a slide was shown with recent VAERS counts. From January 1 to September 3 of this year there are 531,667 reports to VAERS, which include 7,662 deaths.

The reports taken as stand-alone do not stipulate that a vaccine caused a particular adverse effect. They indicate only that a particular event occurred after a vaccination.

“A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines,” the CDC says.

Taken at face value, if there were around 7,500 deaths from roughly 350 million doses, that would be a fatality rate of .000021, a number that the 210.7 million Americans vaccinated so far might deem an acceptable risk.

On the flip side, for the vaccine hesitant or resistant, the 7,642 number is a strong booster to their argument. People like Sheryl Ruettgers, who is not an anti-vaxxer, are more concerned about the 522,000 “injured” claims — she being among them — than the reported death count. (See related story, page 8.)


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