As new Covid-19 variants become dominant and boosters are needed, vaccine misinformation continues; here are the facts

By Sarah Ladd
Kentucky Lantern

In the last month, new Covid-19 variants emerged as the dominant strain in the United States.

Covid-19 vaccines are still recommended for protection against the virus, and everyone who is 65 and over, or had medical conditions that make them more vulnerable, is advised to get a Covid-19 booster this spring.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services says the KP.2 variant has already been confirmed in the state. Kentucky does not have any KP1.1 cases, cabinet spokesman Brice Mitchell said. These variants are in a group called FLiRT, after letters in the names of the individual mutations.
“These variants are not thought to cause more severe disease but do have some mutations in the spike protein that may make them more resistant to immunity conferred by vaccines and prior infections,” Mitchell said.Kentucky has low levels of emergency-department visits and hospitalizations for Covid-19, but Mitchell said the state Department for Public Health “continues to recommend that all Kentuckians six months of age and older remain up-to-date with their Covid-19 vaccinations.”

A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Lantern that the CDC “continues to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, as the Covid-19 vaccination continues to be the best way to protect against serious illness.”

Despite that advice, not everyone is convinced. In the fourth year of Covid-19 — and about three and a half years since the vaccines arrived — misinformation about them persists, even among elected officials.

During the 2024 legislative session, vaccine misinformation — specifically around the Covid-19 shots — found its way onto the Kentucky Senate floor and into committee meetings. The Lantern consulted the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and other sources in response to several vaccine claims made by lawmakers this year:

Claim: “The deaths and adverse events recorded to the Vaccine Adverse Events Report System that are submitted to this (Covid) vaccine total more than all other vaccines combined since the CDC implemented the reporting system in 1990.”

Response: This claim has been debunked multiple times by multiple sources.After Covid-19 vaccines became available, adverse reactions reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System did increase, the CDC says, in part because so many people — more than 80% of Americans — received the shot. The 675 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine that have been administered in the U.S. are more than other types of vaccines. Also, under the emergency authorization for the Covid-19 vaccine, the FDA required health-care providers to report any adverse reaction in a patient even if it’s unclear the vaccine was the cause.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is a voluntary early-warning system. Anyone may enter information about side effects or other adverse reactions after a vaccine; the reports are not verified, but scientists use the data to spot worrisome patterns that merit investigation.”Anti-vaccination fringe groups have attempted to spin false stories using VAERS data, adding to misinformation about the safety of Covid-19 vaccinations,” says the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March found that the more likely a state was to vote Republican, the more likely its vaccine recipients or their clinicians reported adverse effects from Covid-19 vaccines. These results suggest that either the perception of vaccine effects or the motivation to report them was associated with political inclination.

Claim: “Covid-19 vaccines caused “unprecedented rise in sudden cardiac events, miscarriages and stillbirths, blood clots, myocarditis in youth, and sudden deaths among all ages.”


Response: Receiving the shot does not increase the risk of death from non-Covid causes. That conclusion is based on safety monitoring after more than 675 million doses of vaccine have been administered.

Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy is safe and not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, according to CDC safety monitoring and research. It has identified four rare but serious types of adverse events following Covid-19 vaccination. Two of them — thrombosis and Guillain-Barré Syndrome — were associated with vaccines that have been discontinued in the U.S. and are no longer available.

About 5 people per 1 million doses of vaccine have experienced anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate emergency medical treatment. It can occur after any medication or vaccination.

Also, an increased risk of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart – is associated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Varying by age and sex, the rates of myocarditis after vaccination range from zero to 188 per 1 million doses. Research has found that the risk of myocarditis is higher following a Covid infection than after a Covid vaccine, according to the CDC.CDC and FDA have detected no unusual or unexpected patterns indicating Covid-19 vaccines are causing or contributing to any other serious medical conditions.

Vaccination against Covid-19 reduces the risks of dying from Covid and suffering long Covid. The most common vaccine side effects are usually mild, such as soreness in the area where the shot was given.

Claim: “Pet vaccines are actually safer than people vaccines.”
Response: Animal and human vaccines undergo different approval processes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regulates veterinary vaccines and the Food and Drug Administration regulates human vaccines. According to a 2014 paper in the National Library of Medicine, the two “differ markedly.” Vaccine effectiveness is more highly studied in human vaccines than in animal ones, that study found.

What the FDA says: The FDA “takes its responsibility for ensuring the safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality of all vaccines approved or authorized for emergency use in the U.S. very seriously,” a spokesperson said.

All ingredients in new vaccines are looked at for safety and effectiveness. The “rigorous and extensive” approval process includes lab work, animal studies and human clinical trials.

“Highly trained FDA scientists and physicians thoroughly evaluate the information in a marketing application,” the FDA said, before ever approving shots for public distribution. Both pet and human vaccines are safe.

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