CLAIM: Experts with the Food and Drug Administration revealed that the COVID-19 vaccines are killing at least two people for every person they save.
THE FACTS: FDA experts did not say this, and they strongly refuted this false claim in an email to The Associated Press.
A speaker who is not affiliated with the FDA made these statements during the open public hearing portion of a Sept. 17 FDA vaccine advisory panel meeting. The 15-member panel of outside experts held an eight-hour streamed meeting to make recommendations on the use of booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
In the days after the meeting, social media users and bloggers began misattributing several statements from the livestream to FDA panelists, when they instead were made by independent speakers during a public comment period.
“FDA Panel Member Says COVID Vaccines are Killing More Than They’re Saving During Youtube Livestream,” read a headline on a blog post shared widely in conservative Facebook groups. But, this unsubstantiated claim actually came from Steve Kirsch, an independent speaker unaffiliated with the FDA, a YouTube video of the meeting shows.
Abby Capobianco, an FDA press officer, confirmed that none of the comments in the open public hearing session came from FDA employees or advisory committee members. She said the FDA does not screen remarks by speakers for the open public hearing portion of the meeting.
To support his argument, Kirsch referenced data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a CDC- and FDA-run database of unverified reports of adverse events that occur after receiving a vaccine. But, the VAERS system does not determine whether a vaccine caused the events that are reported.
The FDA requires health care providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, “even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause,” Capobianco said. More than 380 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S., and reports of death after vaccination are rare, according to the FDA.
Meanwhile, research shows that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and extremely effective at preventing severe COVID-19 disease and death. The vaccines also have continued to provide strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant.
Kirsch did not respond to a message requesting comment.
Another post that widely was shared online falsely claimed that the FDA advisory panel had said the “unvaccinated are more educated on the vaccine than most people who have gotten it,” and that experts cannot disprove concerns made by anti-vaccine advocates. But, the vaccine advisory committee did not make those statements, either.
Similar comments were made by Dr. Joseph B. Fraiman, an emergency medicine physician in New Orleans, during the open public hearing portion of the meeting. Fraiman confirmed to The Associated Press that he is not affiliated with the FDA or the vaccine advisory committee and said that some of his wording was changed and taken out of context in the online posts.
In his comments to the committee, he was urging the FDA to pursue larger booster vaccine trials that, he argued, could help counter vaccine hesitancy. Several days after the Sept. 17 meeting, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky decided Thursday that people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 and older who have chronic health problems should be offered a COVID-19 vaccine booster once they are six months past their last Pfizer dose.