Lawsuits and bad studies recycle COVID-19 vaccine myths

Old myths rarely die in anti-vaccine conversations—they’re simply recycled. Two recent papers resurfaced discredited claims about COVID-19 vaccine safety, sparking days of contentious online discussions. Meanwhile, a second state official has launched a lawsuit against Pfizer, following the Texas attorney general’s anti-vaccine playbook. The lawsuit, like the ongoing Texas case, is based on debunked claims about the safety and effectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. 

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Trending narratives from the past month 

Kansas attorney general sues Pfizer for “misleading” the public 

The Kansas attorney general is suing Pfizer for allegedly “misleading” the public about COVID-19 vaccine safety and potential risks, specifically, supposed pregnancy complications and myocarditis. The lawsuit is similar to one launched by the Texas attorney general, who claims that the vaccines are less effective than the public was led to believe. The Kansas lawsuit’s false claims that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines increase infertility and miscarriage risk have gained considerable traction online. Read the fact checks here and here

A new analysis of mortality data from 47 countries found 3 million excess deaths reported between 2020 and 2022, with 2021 having the highest number of reported deaths. The study concluded that “excess mortality has remained high … for three consecutive years, despite the implementation of COVID-19 containment measures and COVID-19 vaccines.” Vaccine opponents are using the study to falsely claim that COVID-19 vaccines—not COVID-19 infections—drove excess deaths after 2020. Read the fact checks here and here

Discredited COVID-19 vaccine autopsy study passes peer review

A study authored by several prominent anti-vaccine figures claiming to link COVID-19 vaccines to deaths was recently published. The study was previously pulled from the Lancet’s preprint server due to its unfounded conclusions and failure to meet the server’s standards. Although vaccine opponents have celebrated the paper’s publication, experts continue to highlight the study’s critical weaknesses. Read the fact checks here and here.

What you might say in response

Recent lawsuits challenging the safety of COVID-19 vaccines are based on false and misleading claims, not scientific evidence. 

  • Early reporting on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and safety was not “misleading”—it was accurate and based on clinical trial data that was later backed up by real-world data. 
  • Serious vaccine side effects like myocarditis are extremely rare and closely monitored by federal regulators. Billions of people worldwide have safely received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines with no evidence of widespread serious health concerns.
  • Dozens of studies have confirmed that COVID-19 vaccination does not increase pregnancy risks but actually reduces the risk of complications linked to COVID-19 infections. 

No study has found a link between COVID-19 vaccines and deaths. Higher COVID-19 vaccination rates are associated with lower excess deaths globally.

  • After over three years of extensive research and independent monitoring, no study has found evidence of COVID-19 vaccines causing excess deaths in any country. 
  • A recent study finding that excess deaths were elevated in the first three years of the pandemic does not link the deaths to vaccines and, in fact, reveals nothing about the cause of the deaths. The study has also been heavily criticized by experts for its methods and is being investigated by the journal that published it and the researchers’ institution. 
  • Research shows that COVID-19 was the direct or indirect cause of the vast majority of excess deaths during the pandemic. Large-scale global studies have shown that higher COVID-19 vaccination rates are linked to lower excess mortality.

There is no evidence linking COVID-19 vaccines to deaths. A recent study by vaccine opponents claiming otherwise has been thoroughly discredited. 

  • Recent claims that an autopsy study linked COVID-19 vaccines to 74 percent of deaths in vaccinated people are untrue. The study was originally pulled from a server for papers that have yet to be peer-reviewed because it violated the site’s screening criteria, and its conclusions were unsupported.
  • Many reputable sources have debunked the research, notably highlighting that the study never established that COVID-19 vaccines caused a single death in the study. The newly published study is largely unchanged from the discredited original.
  • The study was authored by several prominent vaccine opponents who routinely promote conspiracy theories and profit off of false claims about vaccine safety.

What we’re reading

Studies and trainings

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Quick response media assets

Below, we've provided a social media asset in English and Spanish. Use these assets on social media to fight false claims and help provide your network with accurate information. Just right-click the asset, or press and hold on mobile, to download.

Proposed social copy:
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a record-breaking rise in excess deaths, the vast majority of which were directly or indirectly caused by COVID-19. Researchers are still investigating all the factors contributing to these deaths. But one thing experts know for sure is that, throughout the pandemic, higher COVID-19 vaccination rates corresponded with a lower risk of COVID-19 death for individuals and lower mortality for populations.

Publicación propuesta:
La pandemia del COVID-19 causó un aumento récord en las muertes en exceso, la gran mayoría de las cuales fueron causadas directa o indirectamente por el COVID-19. Los científicos aún están investigando todos los factores que contribuyen a estas muertes. Pero algo de lo que los expertos están seguros es que, a lo largo de la pandemia, las mayores tasas de vacunación contra el COVID-19 correspondieron con menores riesgos de muerte por COVID-19 en individuos y menores índices de mortalidad en las poblaciones.