RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The world is more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and misinformation continues to circulate.
What makes a new claim different is the apparent stamp of legitimacy it appears to carry: It was published by the National Library of Medicine — which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
THE CLAIM: There are several dubious claims in the journal entry, including one that says immunity for vaccinated people eight months after the second dose is actually lower than it is for the unvaccinated. It goes on to claim that “as a safety measure, further booster vaccinations should be discontinued.”
THE FACTS: A leading infectious disease specialist called those claims “false information” and “really, a misunderstanding of some of the data.”
“That’s more opinion than it is data and evidence,” said Dr. David Wohl of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
The claims in question show up in a June article from Dr. Kenji Yamamoto, a cardiologist in Japan, that was published in both the Virology Journal and at PubMed.gov, which is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the national library of medicine at NIH.
It cites a study from April in The Lancet that claimed “immune function among vaccinated individuals 8 months after the administration of two doses of COVID-19 vaccine was lower than that among the unvaccinated individuals.”
But that conclusion completely misrepresents the study, which looked at the risks of infection, hospitalization and death up to nine months after the second vaccine dose. The point: The vaccine’s effects wane over time, which makes a third booster dose all the more important.
“It’s a letter that was written to a journal that had false information — really, clearly, a misunderstanding of some of the dates that has been shown previously and published in a peer-reviewed journal,” Wohl said.
Yamamoto did not respond to an email from CBS 17 seeking comment.
His journal entry also calls the media “biased propaganda” for not reporting about side effects like blood clots that people can develop after getting the vaccine.
He says the media “have so far concealed the adverse events of vaccine administration, such as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).”
But as CBS 17 News has reported, not every side effect reported to the open public Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) was directly caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.
Reports about blood clots, for example, have shown up in various mainstream media outlets — and studies show the risk of blood clots is much higher after a case of COVID-19 than it is after vaccination.
It all leads to an even bigger question.
Why does misinformation like this show up in something that carries the NIH brand?
Wohl compared PubMed.gov to “a Google search engine for all publications.”
It is run by the NIH as a way to search citations and papers published in thousands of academic journals — but those search results it turns up are in no way endorsed by the NIH.
“It’s just a nice resource for getting journal data,” Wohl said, “but it has nothing to do with the NIH.”
CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.