CLAIM: A Pfizer document reveals that 82 percent-97 percent of pregnant women who received the company’s COVID-19 vaccine “lost their babies.”
THE FACTS: The flawed calculation misrepresents a narrow subset of data from a Pfizer database of adverse events recorded during the first two months of the vaccine rollout.
Some social media users shared screenshots of headlines from pro-life blogs that made the false claim. “Shocking Pfizer Document Reveals 82 percent of Vaccinated Pregnant Women Suffered Miscarriages,” read one. “Court Ordered Release Of Pfizer Document Reveals 82 percent – 97 percent Of Vaccinated Pregnant Women Lost Their Babies,” said another. The blog posts make the misleading calculation based on an April 2021 document that Pfizer submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and later released as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, FDA spokesperson Abby Capobianco confirmed to the AP.
The document compiled adverse event reports from Dec. 1, 2020-Feb. 28, 2021, across 63 countries. Anyone could report to the registry, and it contained reports submitted to Pfizer, those reported by federal health authorities, cases published in medical literature and clinical studies. The data described 270 reported vaccinated pregnancies. No outcome was recorded for 238 of those pregnancies. Details on adverse events or other outcomes were recorded for 34 pregnancies. Of this group, 28 women reported either the loss of a fetus or a neonatal death.
Five others reported “outcome pending,” and one reported “normal outcome.” To come up with its high percentages, the blog divided the 28 cases of fetal or neonatal loss by the 34 cases that listed outcomes. This yielded the 82% figure. Then, the blog factored in a calculation that assumed without evidence that the five pending cases also resulted in fetal losses, which would bring the total losses to 33. Thirty-three was then divided by 34 to yield 97 percent.
“This takes data from the Pfizer document completely out of context,” said Dr. Laura Morris, co-chair of the University of Missouri health care system’s COVID-19 and influenza vaccine committee.
The document does not give the total number of vaccinated pregnant women, so the overall rate of specific adverse events cannot be determined, she said.
Experts say the online posts’ interpretations paint a false picture of the vaccine’s effects, and fail to account for important factors, including patient reporting bias, which reflects that women who have experienced an adverse pregnancy event would be more likely to report to the registry, regardless of whether or not the vaccine was linked to the event.
“We have no evidence that the vaccine in any way would interrupt a pregnancy or cause this,” said Dr. Elyse Kharbanda, executive director of research at the Minnesota-based HealthPartners Institute. “If we saw a difference in rates following vaccination versus without vaccination, that would be what we call a signal and need more investigation. But bigger studies that have been done more vigorously haven’t shown a signal.”
Those studies include one that she authored, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2021 and found that COVID-19 vaccine exposure did not increase the odds of spontaneous abortion — pregnancy loss before 20 weeks.
Experts and health officials say there is no medical proof that the adverse events reported to Pfizer are linked to the vaccine, and the vaccine is safe and effective for pregnant women and fetuses. Representatives for Pfizer said the company doesn’t comment on unverified reports.