CDC Spreads False Information About COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

CDC Spreads False Information About COVID-19 Vaccine Safety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta on April 23, 2020. (Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

A top U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official gave false information about COVID-19 vaccine safety to the agency’s vaccine advisory panel, and a spokesperson for the agency refused to correct the misinformation.

Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, presented on COVID-19 vaccine safety to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Feb. 24.

Shimabukuro went over updates to the safety signal for ischemic stroke following Pfizer bivalent booster vaccination that CDC officials detected in one of the agency’s monitoring systems.

After sharing the updates, he made a false statement.

“No safety signals were detected for ischemic stroke for the primary series or monovalent boosters for Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in U.S. and global monitoring,” Shimabukuro said.

That’s not true. The CDC identified ischemic stroke as a safety signal following Moderna and Pfizer vaccination after analyzing reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a different system, which the agency co-manages.

Asked for comment, Shimabukuro didn’t respond. But a CDC spokesperson doubled down on the false claim.

“The statement from Dr. Shimabukuro’s slides is correct. There have not been any safety signals detected at this time in the U.S. for ischemic stroke for the primary series or monovalent boosters,” Katherina Grusich, the spokesperson, told The Epoch Times in an email.

The CDC has previously offered misinformation and refused to correct it.

Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, said what unfolded was concerning.

“Those of us who worked with Congress to secure vaccine safety informing, recording, and reporting provisions in the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act—of which VAERS was one—are deeply concerned that federal health officials are deliberately ignoring signals in VAERS and that mRNA COVID shots are causing ischemic strokes and other potentially fatal complications,” Fisher told The Epoch Times in an email.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology.

Bivalent boosters from both companies were authorized in the fall of 2022, but the primary series are still composed of the original vaccines, sometimes referred to as monovalent shots.

Shimabukuro’s statement had an impact. After his presentation, while the slide with the false information was on the screen, a member of the panel highlighted it.

“I think it’s important to note [the statement] for the public,” Veronica McNally, president and CEO of the Fanny Strong Foundation, said before reading it in full.

Another False Statement

Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, a member of the advisory panel, also offered false information about the safety signal.

“Previous surveillance in ... U.S. systems found no evidence of increased risk of ischemic stroke or TIA [transient ischemic attack] after the primary series or monovalent COVID-19 booster vaccination for either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna products,” Keipp Talbot, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, said during the meeting.

Keipp Talbot didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The CDC announced in January that it detected a statistical signal for ischemic stroke in the elderly following Pfizer bivalent vaccination, based on records from the Vaccine Safety Datalink, a CDC-run system.

Dr. Evelyn Twentyman, also a CDC official, said in the meeting that a review of the signal uncovered no signal in any other system for the bivalent boosters and “when data for the two mRNA vaccine types are combined.” She also said no ischemic stroke signal was found in other monitoring systems, including VAERS.

Twentyman referred a request for comment to Grusich, who said: “CDC has not detected a signal for ischemic stroke following bivalent Pfizer or Moderna vaccination in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.”

Shimabukuro said an analysis of 224 reports of ischemic stroke or TIA following mRNA bivalent vaccination, as of Feb. 6, verified 67 and that 130 others are under review. The number of reports wasn’t above the background rates or the occurrence of stroke among the general elderly population.

Some 2,200 cases of ischemic stroke have been reported to VAERS after mRNA vaccination, including bivalent shots, as of Feb. 10. Millions of other adverse event reports have been lodged. According to previous research (pdf), adverse events are underreported to VAERS.

Signal Hidden From Public

The CDC identified hundreds of signals for the monovalent Pfizer and Moderna vaccines when it performed an analysis called proportional reporting ratio on VAERS data for the first time in 2022.
The CDC didn’t alert the public to its findings. The Epoch Times released the results of the analysis after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act.

The analysis was conducted on adverse events reported after vaccination from Dec. 14, 2020, to July 29, 2022.

Brianne Dressen, who was injured by the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, helped start a group called React19 to advocate for the vaccine injured. She said U.S. authorities are ignoring people who suffered strokes from the vaccines.

“The CDC’s own data certainly shows this is happening,” Dressen told The Epoch Times via email. “Why deny this is happening? People know when they’re being lied to. It erodes public trust and their ultimate goal to increase vaccine uptake. It also hurts those suffering with these disorders who are in need of adequate recognition and care.”