By: Devika Kandelwal
February 1 2021
The figures listed in the CDC report have been misinterpreted. 2.7 percent did not have permanently disabling side effects.
The figures listed in the CDC report have been misinterpreted. 2.7 percent did not have permanently disabling side effects. People are misinterpreting figures reported in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presentation to spread misinformation and disinformation regarding the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The sixth slide of the presentation notes that, on December 18, out of 112,807 registrants with the recorded first dose, there were a total of 3,150 health impact events. CDC describes health impact events as "unable to perform normal daily activities, unable to work, required care from a doctor or health care professional." After the report was published, social media users misleadingly claimed that "3,150 people vaccinated in one day are unable to perform normal daily activities, unable to work after vaccination. This is a massive 2.7 percent of people who can no longer work after having the Pfizer vaccine." As Reuters reports, the figures in the presentation correspond to the figures reported through V-safe: a "smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins following COVID-19 vaccination." The figure of 112,807 was not actually the total number of vaccine recipients in the U.S. but the number of people that had registered with V-safe and received a first dosage of the vaccine. If we look at the fourth slide of the CDC presentation, then we can see that on December 19, a total of 272,001 doses of vaccine had been administered in the U.S., not 112,807. Secondly, the figure of 3,150 does not actually represent 3,150 people. When using the V-safe app, a person can tick on multiple options, including "unable to perform normal daily activities," "unable to work," and "required care from a doctor or health care professional." Each tick is registered as one report. It is not possible to predict how many people actually suffered from side-effects. As Martha Sharan, a spokeswoman for the CDC, told Reuters: “We anticipate anyone getting vaccinated may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.” According to the CDC, common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccination include pain and swelling on the injection site, as well as fever, chills, tiredness, and headaches. Lastly, characterizing the side-effects as "permanently disabling" is extremely misleading. The CDC never reported what the side-effects were. The side-effects listed by the CDC are treatable. Moreover, the phrase "unable to perform normal daily activities, unable to work, required care from a doctor or health care professional" does not imply permanent disability. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.