Health workers with vaccination syringePhoto: Viacheslav Lopatin (Shutterstock)

The US government maintains a database called VAERS that anyone can file a report on if they think something bad has happened to them after receiving a vaccine. It’s an important tool for keeping tabs on vaccine safety, but it’s also being broken down by anti-vaccine activists to make vaccines seem more terrifying than they are.

VAERS is the abbreviation for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. “Adverse events” are literally things that happen (events) that are bad (adverse). Scientists and doctors prefer this term to something like “side effects,” which implies a cause-and-effect relationship that often cannot be established. For example, if you have a headache after being shot, it is an adverse event. Was it caused by the vaccine? Maybe, but that’s a separate question and it can be difficult to answer definitively.

How VAERS is actually used

As the CDC explains hereThe VAERS database was established in 1990 as part of a package of vaccination safety reforms. (The same law put a Vaccination dish without errors Compensating people for vaccination violations without having to sue drug companies.)

Everybody can send a report to VAERS: You, your doctor, your family member, even your lawyer. (Doctors have to report certain adverse events, but submission is largely voluntary.) In a sense, it’s a bit like Wikipedia: the things in it may not all be true, but probably many of them are and you can still get a lot out of that learn what it contains.

The idea is that if there is a problem with a vaccine, reports will appear in VAERS. Investigators will deal with events that appear serious, common, or interrelated. Here’s how HHS describes the program’s objectives:

  • Identify new, unusual, or rare adverse events in the vaccine.
  • Monitor the increase in known adverse events.
  • Identification of potential patient risk factors for certain types of adverse events;
  • Assessing the safety of newly approved vaccines;
  • Identify and address possible reporting clusters (e.g. suspected localized clusters) [temporally or geographically] or product / batch / batch-specific reporting of adverse events);
  • Recognize persistent safe use issues and administration errors.
  • Providing a national security surveillance system that extends to the entire general population to respond to public health emergencies such as: B. an extensive vaccination program against influenza pandemics.

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The reports in VAERS can provide an early indication of problems related to a vaccine, or even a particular batch of vaccine. It is One of many ways regulators said they were keeping an eye on security how the new COVID vaccines hit the market.

How VAERS is abused

Anti-vaccine activists have abused and misrepresented VAERS for as long as it has existed. The reports are publicly available so anyone can, and they do, search the database.

Before searching the database, be sure to click through a massive disclaimer screen that explains that the reports have not been reviewed and lists other important restrictions. ((Vice reported recently A group of activists created a search portal for VAERS that allows you to view reports without seeing this screen.)

You can probably see the problem here. Pulling out a number of reports that say “death” that mentions a particular vaccine does not mean that the vaccine killed those people. It just means that the person died at some point after receiving the vaccine. In fact, a recent adverse event analysis in the COVID vaccine, both from VAERS reports and from another surveillance system called V-SAFE, found that most deaths occurred after vaccination were in elderly residents of long-term care facilities and were likely not caused by the vaccines.

So if you see information that allegedly links deaths, miscarriages, or other frightening reactions to the new COVID vaccines, Use your critical thinking skills with common sense and find out where the data came from. There could very likely be safety issues with these or other vaccines, but if there were, serious issues would be front page news – so be wary if you only find out about them from a viral Facebook post.