New emails leaked on June 3, which were shown in a legal proceeding against the U.S. government, show that the CDC gave Facebook misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
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According to recently leaked emails, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spread fake information to Facebook while the partners worked to battle false information. This is the most recent instance of CDC personnel making false or misleading assertions.
A Facebook representative asked for assistance addressing claims about the vaccines for infants and toddlers, including the claim that the vaccines weren’t effective, in a message (pdf below) posted on June 3. The official claimed that the CDC had assisted the company in “debunking claims about COVID vaccines and children.”
A CDC official responded by providing unsupported information after American regulators authorised the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for young children and the CDC recommended them a few weeks later.
The CDC representative stated: “Claims that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective for children ages 6 months to 4 years are false and belief in such claims could lead to back vaccine hesitancy.” The emails, which were made public as part of ongoing legal proceedings against the U.S. government, had the names of all the officials mentioned in this story redacted.
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“COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are effective at protecting people, including children ages 6 months to 4 years, from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying,” the CDC official added.
There is no proof that vaccines protect young children from serious disease and death.
Lack of Information
In Moderna’s trial for kids aged 6 months to 5 years, there were no occurrences of severe COVID-19 reported, including none in the placebo group. Six of the seven incidences of COVID-19 in Pfizer’s trial for kids between the ages of 6 months and 4 years involved children who had received the vaccine.
During a conference before the CDC authorised the vaccines for young children, Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC official, noted, “The clinical trials were not powered to detect efficacy against severe disease in young children.”
Additionally, the trials’ endpoint was a specific amount of antibodies, which is thought to offer protection against COVID-19 but has not yet been confirmed. The level was calculated using data from adults who participated in the initial trials, which were finished in 2020.
Moderna’s vaccine had poor efficacy estimates for protection against infection; Pfizer’s vaccine had greater efficacy estimates but was regarded as untrustworthy.
Dr. Tracy Hoeg, an epidemiologist in California, told via email that the trials “gave us no information about reduction of severe disease.” She added that the trials “gave us no information about reduction of severe disease.”
The CDC, which describes itself as “the nation’s health protection agency,” pledges to base all of its decisions “on the highest quality scientific data that is derived openly and objectively,” according to a statement on its website. Throughout the pandemic, the agency’s leaders have emphasised that their actions are supported by science.
The emails demonstrate that the CDC was more cautious earlier in 2022. The agency “can’t speak to this until the pharmaceutical companies have reported data on vaccine efficacy against severe illness or death in the 5 year olds,” an official responded when asked to determine whether claims were bogus.
“Thank you so much again for gathering the team to meet with us earlier this week, it was incredibly helpful. Your partnership is critical to us in making sure we can remove false and harmful claims about COVID-19 and vaccines on our platform,” a Facebook official wrote to the CDC in February.
“In follow up to our meeting, I am sharing below the long list of claims that we currently remove related to the COVID vaccine because public health authorities such as the CDC have confirmed they are false and could contribute to imminent physical harm if believed.”
Despite the fact that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines against infection and severe disease has plummeted since Omicron emerged in late 2021, particularly among the newer Omicron subvariants, Facebook continues to remove content that claims the vaccines are ineffective against severe illness or death.
“When we say that we will remove claims that the COVID-19 vaccines are not effective, we are specifically referring to claims that the vaccines do not generally protect against severe illness or death from COVID-19 or that they provide no protection whatsoever in contracting COVID-19,” Facebook says on its website. “However, we will allow claims that someone can still contract COVID-19 even though they are fully vaccinated.”
The CDC is not mentioned on Facebook’s website. It names a few groups whose recommendations it accepts as gospel, including the World Health Organization of the United Nations. Additionally, it claims that “government health authorities” are consulted when establishing guidelines for COVID-19 content.
According to the emails, the CDC has examined several of the claims that are featured on Facebook’s website.
For instance, a CDC representative examined seven claims on November 8, 2021, and deemed them all false. Facebook presently lists all seven as false.
This includes the assertion—which some experts agree is accurate—that the COVID-19 vaccines alter the immune system. The assertion that people’s blood is altered by COVID-19 vaccinations is also included. Numerous vaccine recipients had abnormal blood, according to at least one study, even though blood clots are a documented side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.
On October 28, 2021, a Facebook representative wrote to the agency that the company was “relying on your expertise” over whether or not certain side effects, such as blood clots and Bell’s palsy, can be brought on by COVID-19 vaccines.
Pattern of Misinformation
Throughout the epidemic, the CDC continuously encouraged vaccination while also spreading false information on a number of occasions.
In order to get the vaccines approved for young children, three top employees, including the agency’s head, falsely claimed in June that COVID-19 was one of the top five causes of death for the age group. None have yet provided an update following the correction of the cited study, which misreported CDC data.
Additionally, the government amended its definition of a vaccination, changed other web sites, sometimes substantially modifying its definitions and recommendations, and provided inaccurate information about its monitoring of vaccine safety and adverse effects.
In a key update in August, the CDC scaled back instructions to treat unvaccinated persons differently, and acknowledged the protection a person gains from recovering from COVID-19.
“Yesterday’s misinformation is today’s … public health guidance, which is an illustration of the fact that science and censorship are totally incompatible, and that censorship can only halt the progress of science and can halt testing of new hypotheses and new ideas by trying to prematurely foreclose these questions,” said Aaron Kheriaty, chief of medical ethics at The Unity Project and a plaintiff in the litigation that spawned the new emails. “And that’s just simply not how science works.”
Despite the overwhelming amount of the evidence supporting these accusations, the CDC classified them as false in another email that was made public in the case.
For instance, even though some experts have stated as much, citing the declining vaccine effectiveness, the diminished potency of newer variants, and the fact that children without comorbidities have never been in much danger from COVID-19, the claim that “children who are healthy do not need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine” was deemed misinformation.
The CDC also stated that it was false information to claim that the vaccines are ineffective and not necessary for children in the communication, which was addressed to more than 100 officials with colleges, organisations, and other institutions.
A paediatrician in Illinois named Dr. Todd Porter claimed that he used to rely on the CDC and other organisations like the American Academy of Pediatricians, which had sided with the CDC during the pandemic, and that he didn’t always have time to carefully consider all of their suggestions.
“This trust and reliance has been shattered during this pandemic and perhaps what saved me is my acknowledgement of the importance of First Do No Harm, balance of risk vs. harm, and the willingness to question and be an independent thinker, even when it does not fit the narrative,” he told via email. “I just pray that many of the thousands of pediatricians out there are doing the same, yet to what organization can we now turn?”
Read the messages given below: