On Wednesday, writing for The Washington Post fact-checker, reporter Salvador Rizzo tore into Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his false claims that the COVID-19 vaccines are causing thousands of deaths and injuries.
Specifically, Johnson has invoked the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to support his claims.
"I can report what's being reported on the VAERS system," said Johnson recently on "The Vicki McKenna Show." "It's an imperfect system. In general, the complaint is a very small percentage of adverse effects actually get reported, and so you have to take this with a grain of salt, but according to the VAERS system, we are over 3,000 deaths of, after, within 30 days of taking the vaccine. About 40 percent of those occur on day zero, one or two."
As Rizzo noted, VAERS data is not intended to be an actual list of vaccine injuries — only a list of medical events that happened after vaccinations, regardless of whether they were related. And the data isn't even verified; one doctor in 2004 submitted a report to VAERS that a flu shot had turned him into the Incredible Hulk.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this data does not establish cause and effect between coronavirus vaccinations and reported deaths. A range of experts on immunology told us Johnson was misusing the data and exaggerating the known risks of getting the shot," wrote Rizzo. "The CDC also says: 'A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.'"
"The body's immune response may aggravate the health problems of patients afflicted by covid, but no study or case has established that the vaccine itself could trigger a lethal immune response in people who recovered from covid-19 and waited to get the shot," concluded Rizzo. "As we keep saying, the burden of proof is on the speaker. All in all, Three Pinocchios."
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