FACT CHECK: Did A Member Of The FDA Vaccine Advisory Panel Say, ‘We Are Killing More People Than We Are Saving With The Shots’?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory panel said, “We are killing more people than we are saving with the shots.”

Verdict: False

The man speaking in the video is not a member of the FDA advisory committee. The FDA disputed the claims he makes in the video.

Fact Check:

The FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Sept. 17 recommended the authorization of booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 or older and those at risk for severe illness, according to The New York Times. (RELATED: Image Claims To Show A CDC Infographic Saying ‘Refusing To Take The Vaccine Is A Form Of Racism’)

Since the committee’s Sept. 17 meeting, social media users have been sharing a video clip of the livestream along with claims a member of the FDA advisory panel said, “We are killing more people than we are saving with the shots.” In the video, a man can be heard making multiple claims, including that the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) significantly underreports deaths associated with COVID-19 vaccines and that the number of such deaths is actually close to 150,000.

The man speaking in the video, however, is not a member of the FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. He identified himself as Steven Kirsch, the executive director of the COVID Early Treatment Fund, when he spoke during the public hearing portion of the advisory committee’s meeting. His name does not appear on the roster of committee’s members available on the FDA’s website.

Kirsch “is not, and has never been, employed by the FDA and is not a member of FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee,” an FDA spokesperson confirmed to Check Your Fact in an email. (RELATED: Will The FDA Not Authorize Or Approve Any COVID-19 Vaccine?)

“As with all of the participants during the open public hearing portion of the meeting, Mr. Kirsch submitted a request to speak per the meeting announcement,” the spokesperson went on to explain. “The open public hearing portion of the meeting is open to anyone who is interested and signed up per the meeting announcement. FDA does not screen remarks from speakers during the open public hearing portion of the meeting in advance.”

Furthermore, the FDA spokesperson said the “statements made by Mr. Kirsch during the open public hearing portion of the meeting were not based in science and go against FDA’s public health mission.” The agency “strongly disagrees with the analysis Mr. Kirsch put forth during the VRBPAC meeting, as we believe the data from VAERS that he referenced were not properly interpreted,” according to the FDA spokesperson.

The FDA “requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which co-manages VAERS. Between Dec. 14 last year and Sept. 20 this year, over 386 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in the U.S., and VAERS received 7,899 reports of death among people who had received COVID-19 vaccines during that time frame, the CDC website states.

The CDC website notes that “reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare” and that “reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.” A review of “available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines,” the FDA spokesperson told Check Your Fact.

There is “no evidence that deaths are underreported in VAERS by the factor claimed by Mr. Kirsch,” the FDA spokesperson said, also going on to note that under-reporting is a “well-known limitation” of passive surveillance systems but not to such a large degree. (RELATED: Will The FDA Not Authorize Or Approve Any COVID-19 Vaccine?)

Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said to Check Your Fact the claim that vaccines kill more people than they save is “baseless.”

“This claim is baseless and distorts data in order to spread fear about the vaccine,” Adalja said. “Any person who is intellectually honest can just open their eyes and see that this vaccine is saving lives in the absence of the vaccine is costing lives. People misinterpret data deliberately in order to dissuade people from being vaccinated and it is despicable.”

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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