No balanced coverage of covid vaccines in legacy media, says Peter Doshi
Peter Doshi, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and senior editor at The BMJ, has spoken out about how the mainstream media has ignored important data on covid-19 vaccines.
In a recent interview with German TV, Doshi said, “Our legacy media has not done a good job in providing balanced coverage about the vaccines.”
He said there has been “a lot of nervousness” about how to communicate vaccine harms to people and is concerned that “we're not getting the information we need to make better choices and to have a more informed understanding of risk and benefit.”
Doshi’s concerns extended to the over-confidence of public health authorities engaged in promoting the covid-19 vaccines.
“It was very unfortunate, that from the beginning, what was presented to us by public health officials was a picture of great certainty…but the reality was that there were extremely important unknowns,” said Doshi who has written and spoken about these unknowns, highlighting that even public health officials were aware of these limitations.
“We entered a situation where essentially the stakes became too high to later present that uncertainty to people.” He added, “I think that's what set us off on the wrong foot. Public officials should have been a lot more forthright about the gaps in our knowledge.”
A pivotal study
Doshi was part of an international group of eminent academic researchers and physicians who went back and re-analysed the safety data from the original randomised clinical trials that underpinned the FDA’s decision to authorise the mRNA vaccines in December 2020.
The authors focused on serious adverse events that occurred in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine trials, events the sponsors classified as “serious” generally because they resulted in hospitalisation.
In short, their analysis showed that mRNA vaccines were associated with 1 additional serious adverse event for every 800 people vaccinated, which Doshi said is “much more common” than what we’ve traditionally observed for other vaccines where the adverse event rate is in the range of 1 to 2 per million vaccinees.
“Just to put that in some perspective, a rate like that in past years has had vaccines taken off the market. In 1976, we saw Guillain Barre Syndrome after influenza vaccines that were then withdrawn.”
The authors of the study also found the trial data showed that the increase in serious adverse events following mRNA vaccination surpassed the reduction in risk of ending up hospitalised with covid-19.
Despite public assurances that covid-19 vaccines would save lives and protect the community by preventing transmission, Doshi knew from the outset that it was never properly tested. In Oct 2020, Doshi published an article in The BMJ:
Hospital admissions and deaths from covid-19 are simply too uncommon in the population being studied for an effective vaccine to demonstrate statistically significant differences in a trial of 30 000 people. The same is true of its ability to save lives or prevent transmission: the trials are not designed to find out [emphasis added]
It was, therefore, unsurprising to Doshi that the vaccines failed to stop the spread.
“One of the big reasons is that it’s an intramuscular vaccine, and this doesn't produce mucosal immunity. Infections of covid, influenza and other acute respiratory infections, start in the mucosal membranes, a place where these vaccines are not particularly good, historically, at producing immunity antibodies” said Doshi.
Calling for raw data
Doshi and his colleagues have called on public health authorities and drug manufacturers to release the raw data so that we can better understand who is most at risk of a serious adverse event.
“There's no reason to think that these risks are going away and if it’s in the low-risk population, that's very bad news, because low-risk people have much less to potentially gain from covid vaccines, so the side effect profile in such people has to be extremely low,” said Doshi, pointing out that Denmark now recommends against routine covid-19 vaccination for people under 50.
The FDA and the vaccine manufacturers have the raw ‘patient level’ data, but they have not released it and we’re now almost 2 years into the roll out of the product.
“They should immediately be warning people about this safety signal that we found, and they should immediately be replicating our analysis -- the data are indicating there’s increased risk at a level that is much higher than has previously been realised,” said Doshi.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been told to “trust the science” but Doshi says, “How can one recommend responsibly that these products are based on science if the data are not available? Science is about sharing data. We're in an era of open science, not secret science.”
Doshi and colleagues have penned an open letter to the CEOs of the vaccine companies asking for the raw data, but as yet, they have not received a reply.
See the full interview on mdr.de