VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video citing reports on adverse effects of COVID-19 shots NEEDS CONTEXT

A July 11 Facebook (FB) post has misled over a million online users by reviving outdated reports about the side effects of vaccination against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It cited a number of deaths that needs context, and also mentioned AstraZeneca’s suspension that has long been lifted.

The Department of Health (DOH) has reminded the public that “as with any vaccine, you may experience adverse effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.” These are “signs that your body is building protection” against the deadly virus.

The spurious post carried a caption in Filipino touting that “it is scary to get vaccinated.” One netizen said: “Papatayin Ka talaga Ng vaccine (the vaccine will kill you).” While another user commented in Filipino that vaccinations should stop “if you want people to stay alive.”

Reported deaths after immunization have been assessed by an independent committee at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most of these fatal events were found to be “coincidental” or unrelated to the vaccine as they “occurred in persons with multiple existing comorbidities.”

VERA Files Fact Check flagged similar posts in May spreading fear over the vaccine. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts MISLEAD; AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine no longer suspended in PH)

A reverse image search showed that the FB page WE ARE AS ONE compiled two unrelated video reports published separately in April this year:

The first is a broadcast by media organization One PH on April 23, which tackled 24 reported deaths after immunization. Majority of the cases, however, are not associated with getting vaccinated, said Enrique “Eric” Domingo, director-general of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As of July 18, the FDA has received 449 fatal events after vaccination. Following an assessment of an independent committee, 212 of these case reports were considered “coincidental events or not related to the vaccine,” 16 cases were “indeterminate,” and 11 were “unclassifiable.” Other cases are “still under investigation and are continuously being reviewed.”

The agency also stressed that most of these events “occurred in persons with multiple existing comorbidities” such as cardiovascular diseases, ischemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and infections including pneumonia.

Meanwhile, the other video was about the temporary suspension of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot in early April due to a very rare blood condition.

The DOH resumed the use of Vaxzevria on May 7 for all eligible populations, stating that “the benefits of receiving the vaccine against COVID-19 still outweighs the risk.”

Based on the latest reports of suspected adverse events to the FDA from March 1 to July 18, there is still no recorded case of the said blood disorder (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome) in the Philippines.

Rosalio Torres, blood expert and president of the Philippine College of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine (PCHTM), said in an interview with VERA Files Fact Check that people should “look first at the risk of getting COVID which is very very high, as against the risk of getting an adverse effect from a vaccine so as not to get COVID, which is extremely low.” (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The low odds of blood clots from COVID-19 vaccines)

The World Health Organization (WHO) also assured that “all of the approved COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully tested and continue to be monitored.”

They have gone through “a rigorous, multi-stage testing process, including large clinical trials that involve tens of thousands of people,” which are designed to identify any safety concerns.

As of July 26, more than six million Filipinos have completed two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine of the government’s 70 million target for herd immunity. The country has so far administered vaccines by Astrazeneca, Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Gamaleya.

The misleading post has been viewed 1.4 million times on FB and received at least 19,000 reactions and 4,900 comments, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

The FB page WE ARE AS ONE was created on Feb. 14, 2017 with 51,836 followers.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)