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week of September 1, 2022

Face paralysis

The claim:

Remember that anti-vaccine film we discussed last week? One of the main claims was that the COVID vaccine caused the woman's paresthesia.  

The facts:

Some people may believe the vaccine caused their facial paralysis because of the timing of vaccination and subsequent paralysis.

We have an anecdote, as well. Remember the uproar over Justin Beiber's face and the speculation it was a side effect of the COVID vaccine? He was actually suffering from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which is a remanifestation of varicella-zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox.

What does the science say? During clinical trials, 7 of the 73,000 people who received an mRNA vaccine reported facial paralysis. This number was too low for FDA to assert the vaccine as the cause but high enough for it to monitor for more cases after licensure. It should be noted that one person who received a placebo also reported paralysis.

Further study has not found an association between mRNA vaccination and facial paralysis. COVID-19 infection is much more likely to lead to facial paralysis. The most common cause of facial paralysis is nerve swelling or damage.

Pregnancy claims

The claim:

Some people are claiming the NHS advice about COVID vaccination during pregnancy has changed. Should people get vaccinated during pregnancy?

The facts:

Bureaucracy is a problem here and not science. The NHS publishes its advice based on documents sent to them by Pfizer. While Pfizer routinely sends updates, it has not updated its pregnancy data since 2020, so the NHS advice posted has outdated information.

Subsequently, many studies have shown the safety and efficacy of vaccination in pregnancy. Since the vaccine prompts the body's cells to create spike proteins in order to learn how to defend itself against real COVID infection, a mechanism by which anything untoward could cross the placental barrier and harm a developing baby seems almost impossible. We know a lot, not, about how the vaccine works during pregnancy, but due to the lack of paperwork submitted by Pfizer, full knowledge is not reflected in the NHS advice.

Diseases: minor or major?

The claim:

An old but always pertinent claim is that the diseases we prevent through vaccination are actually just no big deal.

The facts:

You always hear people saying "they were routine childhood diseases in my day. We all dad them and we're all fine."  Except not everyone was fine. That's a fallacy known as survivor bias, where you lived to tell the tale of your ordeal, but someone who didn't survive is not around to tell their story.

Each year, before the vaccine came out, there were 3-4 million cases, 400 to 500 deaths, 48,000 hospitalizations, and 1,000 cases of encephalitis due to measles.

Before the mumps vaccine was available, mumps was the major cause of deafness in children 

In the last major epidemic of rubella before routine vaccination, there were 2.5 million rubella cases in the United States, resulting in 2,000 cases of encephalitis, 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which can result in congenital defects such as cataracts, heart defects, and hearing impairment.

Once you have been infected with varicella zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox, not only do you have to deal with chickenpox itself, but the virus will take up residence in your body, where you have a 30% lifetime chance it will emerge and be re-expressed as shingles, a very painful rash.

And now we can prevent all these untoward outcomes. Isn't that wonderful?

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