There are two individuals who seem to be pushing the incorrect narrative about VAERS the most, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Steve Kirsch.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK)
RFK makes many baseless claims about the safety of vaccines and is one of the loudest antivax proponents in the country. He is simply a liar. In a Congressional hearing earlier this year, he claimed that he has never urged people to avoid vaccination. However, he stated “We – our job is to resist and to talk about it to everybody. If you’re walking down the street – and I do this now myself, which is, you know, I don’t want to do – I’m not a busybody. I see somebody on a hiking trail carrying a little baby and I say to him, ‘Better not get him vaccinated.’ And he heard that from me. If he hears it from 10 other people, maybe he won’t do it, you know, maybe he will save that child” during a podcast in 2021.
RFK got a lot of attention one Joe Rogan’s podcast. Rogan doesn’t have an ounce of science knowledge in his brain and believes all kinds of lies put in front of him. Sadly, he has a large audience and spreads them widely. The particular claims that RFK made on the podcast have been thoroughly rebutted.
RFK started The World Mercury Project in 2016, which is now known as the Children’s Defense Fund, of which he is now the Chairman. The organization was clearly taking the position that all mercury is the same, but that’s simply not true either, and the biosafety profiles vary considerably.
RFK has turned it into a cash cow for himself and reported his income as $7.8 million in 2022. Stoking fear in others around unsupported science claims is a really good way to grift people and get media attention for a presidential run. Given how much his lies are harming and killing people, he should not be considered presidential material by anyone.
Of course, RFK isn’t at all above taking advantage of a family who lost their child to something completely unrelated to vaccination to push his lies and his book.
There is also a good podcast episode detailing his lies.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate has published a book titled The Anti-Vaxx Playbook, which goes after the strategies of the loudest antivax conspirators in detail. The ones they include in the report are pretty much a who’s who of liars.
Steve Kirsch (SK)
SK is a little harder to figure out. He is one of the two inventors of the optical mouse and has done well in businesses he’s founded. Even when presented with evidence around the flaws in his thinking and methodology, he pushes on with it. He often thinks that surveys of his followers on social media are evidence for his claims., which is an amazing amount of selection bias. Without a power or financial motive, all I can deduce is that it is simply attention seeking behavior, which is pretty pathetic.
VAERS is a PASSIVE monitoring tool simply designed to capture signals worth investigating. It CANNOT be used as raw data to make conclusions about vaccine safety. On the ABOUT page of the system, it clearly states “VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning it relies on individuals to send in reports of their experiences to CDC and FDA. VAERS is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a health problem, but is especially useful for detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that might indicate a possible safety problem with a vaccine.” In other words, the raw data IS NOT meant to show causality or causation, but that is exactly what the antivax crowd is doing with it.
This means that the raw data is filled with a lot of noise to sort through, but the system works very well as designed to detect problems. For example, there was an increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) related to the J&J COVID vaccine (Janssen) which is no longer available in the US as of May 2023. Out of the 18 million doses of this vaccine, 60 people got TTS of which 9 died. While those deaths are certainly tragic, it’s worth pushing back with numbers like the COVID minimizing antivaxxers use. For example, they often say that COVID has a <1% chance of death (while completely ignoring that deaths are just a small fraction of adverse outcomes).
In that sense, the risk of death from the Janssen vaccine was 0.00033%, obviously considerably lower than the risk of adverse outcomes from a COVID infection, which is a good point to bring up the meaning of “safe and effective” in this context.
Obviously, nothing is 100% safe or 100% effective. When those terms are used in conjunction in relation to vaccines, pharmaceuticals, or medical devices is really a risk versus benefit calculation. In essence, safe and effective means that the risk of adverse outcomes from the disease (COVID) far surpasses the risk of the intervention (vaccination), when adjusting for the efficacy of the intervention (vaccination).
For example, take one of the examples that the antivaxers like to use about myocarditis. The risk of myocarditis is 16x higher from COVID than just in the general population.
According to a study in the journal Circulation, “There was an increased risk of myocarditis in the 1 to 28 days after a SARS-CoV-2–positive test, which was higher if infection occurred before vaccination (IRR, 11.14 [95% CI, 8.64–14.36]) than in vaccinated individuals (IRR, 5.97 [95% CI, 4.54–7.87]).” In easier to grasp language, the authors stated “The risk of vaccine-associated myocarditis is small, with up to an additional 2 events per million people in the 28-day period after exposure to all vaccine doses other than mRNA-1273. This is substantially lower than the 35 additional myocarditis events observed with SARS-CoV-2 infection before vaccination. Furthermore, vaccination reduced the risk of infection associated myocarditis by approximately half, suggesting that the prevention of infection associated myocarditis may be an additional longer-term benefit of vaccination.”
If someone is trying to use raw VAERS data to make health risk claims, they are either lying or repeating lies because of a lack of a science background and/or an understanding of passive surveillance systems. RFK and SK are prime examples.
You can easily identify people like this by use of terms like the jab (unless they are in the UK), Nuremburg, clot shot, etc. Don’t listen to them. They don’t have a clue what they are talking about.