Original article (in Serbian) was published on 10/09/2023; Author: Teodora Koledin
At the end of August, the web portal Nulta tacka portal published a text about a “new official study”, the results of which suggest that people vaccinated against Covid-19 have twice the chance of being infected with this virus.
Who is Steve Kirsch?
The author of the so-called “official study”, entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, is known for spreading disinformation about vaccines. He is the author of several unsubstantiated studies, the subject of which is almost always related to vaccination and its potential “side effects” (1, 2, 3).
For example, in July of this year, he published a “study” in which he claims that there is no autism, cancer or high mortality due to Covid-19 in the Amish community because the members of this community “don’t get vaccinated”. This claim was quickly denied by the web portals Healthfeedback and Factcheck.org, and FN Tragac also wrote about similar allegations last year.
What methodology does Steve Kirsch use?
What is very problematic when it comes to Kirsch’s “research” is the methodology by which he obtains the data. He does this through surveys on Substack, a platform where “everyone can start their own online space that combines a personal website, blog, newsletter or podcast”. So, it is not a collection of medical and scientific papers, a website of a certain official organization, but a platform that anyone can activate and use to promote their own ideas (or to try out the role of a researcher).
On his Substack profile, Kirsch often publishes various surveys for data collection, and already completed tables with answers can be found. This type of sample is not valid for scientific research, especially when you take into account the fact that the survey is mostly filled out by people who already follow Kirsch on the aforementioned platform. Also, there is no control to determine the authenticity and truthfulness of the given answers. For example, in the table based on which the research was created (the results of which were shared by Nulta tacka), it can be seen that a certain number of respondents confirmed being infected with Covid-19 at some point during the pandemic, but in the notes, they state that they “have not been tested” but “assume”. This type of response undermines the validity of the conclusions. The notes are also full of messages of support for Kirsch: “You are fantastic”, “Thank you for exposing the truth”, and “Keep it up”…
What does relevant scientific research tell us?
One of the conclusions of the controversial study suggests that vaccinated people have twice the chance of getting Covid-19, i.e. “unvaccinated people are less likely to have Covid-19”. What do the relevant, peer-reviewed studies say?
A study from 2021, which included 30 different studies, showed that “vaccines against Covid-19 are very effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections”, and that “fully vaccinated persons can in some cases still become PCR-positive for SARS-CoV-2, but that they only play a minor role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2”.
Research that is focused on evaluating the effectiveness of individual Covid-19 vaccines also presents almost identical results (1, 2, 3) and one of the main conclusions is that “increasing the vaccination rate in many countries reduces the infection rate among vaccinated people”.
When assessing the risk of hospitalization due to a Covid-19 infection, Kirsch states that it is “completely the same, regardless of vaccination status”. In a 2022 study that talks about the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the rate of hospitalization and mortality, the authors concluded that “the effect of complete vaccination on reducing infection, hospitalization and mortality is high regardless of SARS-CoV-2 variants”, as well as that the outcome of this study confirmed the results of previous studies on the prevention of hospitalization related to Covid-19.
Considering the appearance of new subvariants of Covid-19 EG.5 and BA2.86, as well as the increase in the number of infected people on a global level, the spread of such disinformation is very dangerous. The World Health Organization (WHO) published data on one and a half million new infections in the period from July 10 to August 6, and even though the exact level of vaccination effectiveness has not been confirmed for new virus mutations, the United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency believes that vaccines are still “the best defence against Covid-19”.