The FranceSoir website, relay of the most eccentric theses on Covid since the beginning of the epidemic, published a highly relaunched text on November 18, the seriousness of which you are asking us. The title proclaims: “Anti-Covid-19 vaccine: a study of Hand it shows the immune erosion of people vaccinated over the months.
In the first few lines of the text, we learn who the study in question is a scientific article published in February 2022 : “Conducted in Sweden with 1.6 million individuals over nine months, [elle] demonstrated that the protection conferred by the vaccine against symptomatic Covid-19 declined quite rapidly” (So far, so good) “and that after six months, the most vulnerable people in the vaccinated group may be more exposed to the virus than their unvaccinated counterparts.”
The use of the conditional soon gives way to the affirmation of too much: “Immediately after the second dose, vaccinated people appear to be better protected from Covid-19 than unvaccinated people. However, beyond six months and even more from eight months, the figures change and may show insignificant or even negative efficacy in some vulnerable people. It is on these last words – which carry all the alleged demonstration – that the author is wrong and, in doing so, deceives his readers.
It is entirely correct that, in this study, the efficacy of the two doses of vaccine against the circulating viral strains becomes, after a few months, “statistically insignificant”. This means that after several months the data collected no longer make it possible to distinguish whether vaccination brings a benefit. In the tables presented in the study, this translates into results with a “confidence interval” whose limits have positive and negative values. The hypothesis according to which the vaccinated have greater protection than that of the unvaccinated can no longer be favored: the uncertainty associated with the results is too great (1).
If the two limits of this “confidence interval” had presented negative values, the result would have returned to being statistically significant… but “the wrong way” : there would have been significantly more infected among the vaccinated than among the unvaccinated, which would have raised legitimate questions. However, none of the results presented in the study fit this scenario.
In summary: in this publication the evaluation of the efficacy of a double dose of vaccine ceases, after several months, to be statistically significant, but at no time is a deleterious effect of vaccination on immune function highlighted.
The authors of the study denounce these errors of interpretation
Marcel Bailin, co-author of the study, confirms this point with CheckNews : “That’s right: Estimates of negative vaccine efficacy against infections of any severity at the end of the follow-up period were not statistically significant.” Thus describes – politely – “inaccurate” FranceSoir’s statement that “The most alarming data [de l’étude] they are found in the most fragile subjects, i.e. people over 80 or with comorbidities. The results presented for these ages, explains the researcher, “are subject to great uncertainty: the confidence intervals are very wide and overlap. Specifically, the efficacy of the vaccine was 5%, with a 95% confidence interval between -53 and +41. So basically no significant effect and a very large uncertainty. No efficacy was found for this analysis, which is not to say that there was a negative effect…”
“It should also be emphasized that this is an observational study and that different forms of bias may explain why efficacy against infections of any severity declines, particularly over long follow-up periods”Bailin continues. “For example, there may be a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated in terms of health-seeking behavior, which could influence an individual’s decision to have a PCR test, which is important to consider since the “any serious infection” result was based on the PCR test. If unvaccinated individuals were less likely to undergo a PCR test than vaccinated individuals, this would also contribute to the decline in vaccine effectiveness. (2).
Note that, for the same reason, if “statistically significant negative results” had they appeared, they would not have been enough – by themselves – to validate the hypothesis of a weakening of the immune system of the vaccinated. In summary, the study measures the cumulative effect of vaccination protection and the differences in behavior of the populations studied.
“Protection against the most serious diseases is maintained”
In their article published in February, the authors, far from warning against “immune erosion”, have already written in black and white that their results “strengthen the evidence-based case for administering a third dose of vaccine as a booster, particularly to specific high-risk populations.”
During 2021, many sites broadcasting medical misinformation had already claimed that vaccination against Covid could cause immunodeficiency. Some have even recounted a fantasy of “vaccine-induced acquired immune deficiency syndrome” (“VAIDS”), a kind of AIDS avatar. In February 2022, Reuters revisited these reports and noted that the newly published study in The Lancet it had already been diverted from its meaning to serve this vision. Speaking to the British news agency, Peter Nordström, also a co-author of the study, formulated a denial that many misinformers turned a blind eye to: “Our studio [montre] that protection against major diseases is maintained, in stark contrast to any claims that our results would support claims of the existence of HIV/AIDS.
Bailin refers to CheckNews that, in the study published in February, the effectiveness of the vaccine against the serious disease “held much better”, over the months, as the only protection against infection (2). Peter Nordström, also joined by CheckNewsnotes that this result, along with those of other studies, “contradicts the idea that vaccines are harmful.” “With the same idea, he continues, claims sometimes encountered that recalls are harmful are contradicted from the results of the last study we conducted on the elderlyshowing that a second reminder is associated with a reduced risk of death, compared with people who had only one reminder. […] It is clear that the overall effect of mRNA vaccines is beneficial.”
Misinformation already served by Fox News this summer
It should be noted that, in support of his interpretation of the study published in February in the hand, FranceSoir refers to a letter published in June in the Journal of Virology by a man named Kenji Yamamoto, “in which he gives his interpretation of this study of Hand». Readers of CheckNews have heard of this text before, which was quoted by Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson in a sequence of pure television misinformation. Because, as we wrote thenwe find no evidence of his interpretations in Yamamoto’s famous letter.
As for the study of Handwe have already told about him the main part of what we are rewriting today: “Authors fail [à] establish a significant difference between the over-80s vaccinated for more than six months and the unvaccinated. It is impossible to establish that the vaccinated of this age, at this distance from their second injection, are more or less at risk of Covid than the unvaccinated. After recalling the conclusion of the authors, in favor of a third dose of the vaccine, let us take note “[qu’]obscuring the elements that allow the correct interpretation of the data […]Tucker Carlson is doing nothing but misinforming – yet again – his audience.” Conclusion that also applies to FranceSoir.
(1) The results are considered “statistically significant” if it is considered unlikely that they would have been obtained if the vaccine had, in fact, been ineffective. In a (very) schematic way, with “a 95% confidence interval”, there is only a 5% chance that by reproducing the trial on the scale of the general population, the real result is outside the interval. When one of the limits of a “confidence interval” is less than zero, the result merges with what would have been observed if the vaccine had no (or no longer had) an effect.
(2) Bailin points this out “This result is not subject to the limitations described above, as it is based on hospitalization. While behavioral differences can affect whether or not people with mild infections take a PCR test (as with the “infection of any severity” result), the same issue does not arise when considering severe infections: whether a person is seriously ill , he will need to be hospitalized”.