Recently a “bombshell” article appeared in the BMJ in which an investigative journalist reports a whistleblowers account of problems with the original Pfizer trial (linked below).
As usual, Orac over at Respectful Insolence has done an excellent job evaluating and contextualizing the whistleblower’s claims. Rather that repeat Orac’s labor I want to contemplate the logical implications of the whistleblower’s claims as they relate to the anti-vaccine narrative. But first I will very briefly outline and contextualize some of the claims (read Orac’s take if you want the whole thing).
The claims surround a subcontractor, Ventavia, which ran three testing sites in Texas and signed up ~1000 participants by the time the whistleblower was fired. As others have noted, if all the claims are true, Ventavia was sloppy and this is a genuine problem. Just how big a problem is what I want to explore.
- Claim of unblinding: In the first 2 weeks, clinical staff *may have* inadvertently unblinded some of the subjects by leaving their drug/placebo assignments in their charts. (The whistleblower provides no evidence that unblinding actually occurred.)
- Claim of data falsification: 477 patients with covid-like symptoms were not actually swabbed for covid. So how did they know for sure they had covid?
- Bonus claims:
- Participants placed in a hallway after injection and not being monitored by clinical staff
- Lack of timely follow-up of patients who experienced adverse events
- Protocol deviations not being reported
- Vaccines not being stored at proper temperatures
- Mislabelled laboratory specimens, and
- Targeting of Ventavia staff for reporting these types of problems.
Contextualizing the Claims:
The whistleblower article does very little to properly contextualize the claims and uses misleading framing. Here are some important contextual elements for the two main claims (given time and space limitations I’ll just focus on them).
- There were 153 clinical trial sites participating in the Pfizer trial. Ventavia ran only 3 of those sites. That’s 2% of the sites involved in the trial.
- The unblinding claims refer to the first 2 months of the trial and apply to about 1000 participants. Corrective action was then taken. Total participants in the trial: ~44 000. That’s 2.27% of the total participants in the trial. The claims, therefore, apply to only a small fraction of total trial participants. So, even if they were unblinded to researchers and this affected how researchers input/assessed data, it would have no effect on the trial outcome.
- Regarding the 477 unswabbed subjects (a) this was noted in an FDA memorandum and (b) the share of untested trial participants was the same for both treatment (9.2%) and placebo (10.1%). It follows that the failure to swab symptomatic patients had no biasing effect.
Logical Implications of the Claims on the Safety and Efficacy of Covid Vaccines
Antivaxxers are gleefully pointing to the claims in this article as vindication for what they have long claimed (without any evidence):
- The whole thing’s a sham, see! You can’t trust the clinical trials.
- And from that it somehow follows that, just as they have long warned, covid vaccines are not safe (relative to covid) or efficacious.
I want to accept the whistleblower allegations at face value and think about what follows. Better yet, I’m going to crank the claims up to 11 (see what I did there?): The entire clinical trial was faked!!!!! There was no trial. “THEY” just filled in the numbers they wanted and paid Faucci to let them inject their depopulation poisons into everyone. (This is probably close to what antivaxxers actually believe anyway).
Let’s suppose these claims are true.
None of this gives us any reason to believe that the AstraZenica, Moderna, or J&J vaccines aren’t safe or effective. So don’t get the Pfizer vaccine. What reason is there not to get one of the other 3?
There are more serious logical problems with the antivaxxer claims. We still need to account for a few inconvenient facts. As of today 7.62 billion doses of Covid vaccines have been injected into people. Antivaxxers claim that vaccines are inefficacious and more dangerous than covid itself. If their claims are true, with 7.62 billion doses out there we should expect to see a few things:
- Hospitals overrun with vaccine injured people (or at least more than covid)
- Areas with the highest vaccination rates having the most overrun hospitals and deaths.
We observe none of this. In fact, we observe the exact opposite:
- Hospitals are overrun with unvaccinated people with covid complications and dying of covid.
- Areas with the highest vaccination rates have the least overrun hospitals and lowest death rates.
- No hospitals report high rates of vaccinated people coming in because of serious side effects.
Even if we accept everything that the whistleblower claims at face value and crank the conspiracism to 11, those holding antivax views STILL can’t explain reality. The entire clinical trial could have been fraudulent. But antivaxxers still can’t explain why, by a wide margin, hospitals are overflowing with the unvaccinated and not the vaccinated. With 7.62 billion doses injected, hospitals should be packed with vaccine injured people. Yet, adverse vaccine reactions are not even a blip in hospitalization and death rates.
Even without a clinical trial, there is overwhelming evidence that the vaccines are safe and effective compared to getting covid.
And this is the fundamental problem for antivaxxers. They cannot provide evidence for their main claim that vaccines are more dangerous than covid. And they never will because there’s simply no evidence for their claims.