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USA Debate on COVID Vaccines Has Lessons for Other Countries

The USA was among those countries which were in the fore front of speeding up the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. — Bharat Dogra


The USA was among those countries which were in the forefront of speeding up the development and distribution of COVID vaccines. Over a much longer period the USA has developed a relatively more detailed system of records and data relating to various vaccines. In addition the USA is also known for intense debates on various issues of widespread public interest, and so it is useful to follow this debate here with a view to learning from the experiences here. Although the US government as well as several multinational companies and foundations , including those promoted by billionaires, are deeply committed to very strong promotion of vaccines and any other view is actively discouraged in many ways, nevertheless democratic space is still available here, in media, public campaigns and in courts, for articulation of alternative views.

One aspect of the more detailed record keeping in the USA relates to the much quoted VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System), an officially recognized and supported system where adverse events, serious adverse events and deaths following various kinds of vaccines have been recorded for years yielding a lot of data. Although officially recognized studies have also stated that adverse events are seriously underestimated in VAERS, nevertheless this system remains useful for the continuity it provides and providing a lot of data in public domain. There are other sources of official data also which are not so readily shared. Also it must be stated clearly that VAERS does not establish a cause and effect relationship. It merely tells us, in terms of the experience for a certain number of days following vaccine, a certain number of adverse events including deaths that were reported and recorded.

The VAERS system tells us that for the roughly sixteen and a half  year period (198 months) from July 1997 to December 2013, counting all the various vaccines that are administered in the USA, many adverse events were recorded which included 2149 deaths. This figure is available in a paper titled Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System 1997-2013, authored by Pedro L. Moro, Jorge Arana, Mario Cano and others. This paper, as its title tells us, is based on what was recorded in VAERS. The paper also tells us that the deaths were mostly of children and reduced towards the end of the period (declining trend). This paper also informs us that hundreds of millions of vaccines are administered every year in the USA.

By dividing 2149 by 198 we find that on average per month 11 post-vaccine deaths were recorded, counting all the various vaccines administered in the USA.  

Now let us look at the post-vaccine deaths recorded only for COVID-19 vaccine in the USA under the VAERS since this vaccination started a few months back. During the roughly seven months period from December 14 2020 to July 16 2021, a total of 5467 deaths have been recorded This works out to an average  of  781 deaths per month. 

Regarding both the previous records and the recent COVID ones, we are here of course referring to the recorded numbers of events (and not to any cause and effect relationship), under the same VAERS system. Nevertheless it is significant to know that in the context of COVID vaccine, 20 per cent of deaths took place within 48 hours of vaccination and 34 percent took place due to illness which started within 48 hours following vaccination.

Hence, to summarize in one sentence, what we see in terms of VAERS records is that the number of post-vaccine deaths recorded per month for just COVID-19 vaccine up to July 16 2021 (781) is more than 70 times of the deaths per month that were recorded earlier for all vaccines combined (11), as revealed in a longer-term study of VAERS records for 198 months, years 1997-2013. 

Isn’t this disturbing?

Actually the reality may be even more disturbing as the total number of deaths reported in VAERS systems following  COVID vaccine is closer to 11000 or  nearly double the number we have used, but it was stated recently by official US sources that this includes some deaths in foreign locations which should be excluded. Hence above we have used the much lower adjusted estimate which excludes these ‘foreign’ deaths. However even a calculation based on those official estimates which are underestimates in more than one way are quite disturbing.

Similar calculations can be made for the European Union, for UK and perhaps for some other countries and regions as well, where there is a continuity of such data for several years.

As pointed out it is also useful to look at the data of other adverse events. During the period of about 7 months following COVID-19 vaccine, in the VAERS system, after excluding foreign location data, till July 16, a total of 425,950 adverse events and 33,748 serious injuries were recorded. The serious adverse events can include serious illness and health problems requiring hospitalization but these can also include health problems which can be the beginning of longer-term disease or disability. All VAERS recorded data is widely known to be a significant underestimate of the actual situation, as admitted in officially recognized reviews or studies. But even the underestimated figures are revealing.

Despite this many observers in developing countries feel that the safety systems in a developed country like the USA must anyway be better than in their countries, even if only factors relating to availability of much higher budgets and advanced technology are considered, Therefore these observers are puzzled how the recorded rates of adverse events including serious adverse events and deaths (in the context of COVID 19 vaccine) are much lower in these developing countries compared to developed countries. Is this a case of there being actually much lesser adverse events (which would be great, if true) in these countries compared to the USA or the European Union, or is this a case of very few of these getting into official records? 

Needless to add, proper recording and data collection are extremely important for forming and following correct policy.  qq


The writer, a journalist and author, is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man Over Machine (Gandhian Ideas for Our Times) and Planet in Peril. 

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