Video falsely claims that you cannot refuse the Covid-19 vaccines

6 September 2021
What was claimed

mRNA vaccines cause a variable response in amounts of spike protein expressed and therefore some people will produce dangerous amounts and could die, while for others there will be no harm.

Our verdict

There may be variation in the amount of spike protein that different people produce after vaccination. But this does not appear to be an ‘uncontrolled’ amount, and there is no evidence to suggest people have died because of this.

What was claimed

Dose range finding studies were not performed for the Covid-19 vaccines.

Our verdict

False. Dose ranging studies were performed for the vaccines currently in use.

What was claimed

The vaccines aren’t safe during or prior to pregnancy.

Our verdict

Approximately 200,000 women across the US and England reported that they were or could be pregnant at the time of vaccination with no serious safety concerns regarding maternal or fetal outcomes. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says that the vaccine “is considered to be safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy”.

What was claimed

You are not being given an option to refuse the vaccines.

Our verdict

False. Consent must be obtained before the vaccines are given and people with ‘capacity’ have the right to refuse. There are special procedures to follow regarding individuals who do not have capacity to make this decision.

A widely shared post on social media includes a video featuring the former Pfizer scientist Mike Yeadon. The video includes lots of misleading or incorrect information about the Covid-19 vaccines. 

We haven’t fact checked every single claim, but some of the false claims include misleading information about the effects of spike protein production after vaccination, dismissal of the dose range finding studies conducted, false claims about vaccines and fertility and pregnancy and incorrect information about the right to refuse Covid 19 vaccines.

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The vaccines do not appear to produce ‘huge quantities’ of spike protein

In the video, Mr Yeadon says that the amount of spike protein that each individual makes in response to vaccination varies, and says that some people could make "huge quantities" of spike protein and then become ill and die.

There is a protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus which causes Covid-19), called a spike protein. This spike protein helps the virus enter cells and is also one of the ways the human body’s immune cells recognise a virus and attack it. 

The Covid-19 vaccines available for use in the UK work by giving the body instructions on how to make the spike protein, so that if the person is later infected, their immune system can generate a response that attacks the virus (via the spike protein) faster and more effectively.

More than 48 million people have received their first vaccine dose in the UK, and there has been no evidence to suggest that some people are dying because their bodies are making “huge quantities” of this spike protein in response to the vaccine.

Professor Penny Ward, chair of the Education and Standards Committee at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, told Full Fact that it is true that there could be slightly different quantities of spike protein produced in response to the mRNA vaccines. 

She explained, however, that similar levels of antibody have been found in individuals who have been vaccinated, and individuals post infection, which suggests that there is not an uncontrolled production of spike protein after vaccination as Mr Yeadon implies. 

Dr Stephen Griffin, a virologist at Leeds University, told Full Fact that he would be “very surprised if people made very dramatic differences in how much spike [protein] they made”. He also pointed to the safety record of the sheer number of vaccines that have now been given.

Dose range finding studies were performed on Covid-19 vaccines

Mr Yeadon also claimed that dose range finding studies were not performed on the vaccines. This is not true. 

Dose range finding studies are usually conducted in the early stages of clinical trials, to try to find the best dose to trial at scale. This will take into account the best dose to achieve the desired effect, but also which doses are safest or best tolerated.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines underwent phase one and two studies which included different dosing regimens. In the early phases, the AstraZeneca vaccine also trialled two different dosing regimens (one or two doses of vaccine), while the later trial compared the impact of a half or full initial dose.

Evidence to date suggests that vaccines are safe in pregnancy and prior to pregnancy 

In the video, Mr Yeadon says that there haven’t been any studies done to characterise the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy or prior to pregnancy.   

It is true that pregnant women were not included in the original vaccine studies, and long term data on babies born to women who had the vaccine during pregnancy is awaited. There is now increasing real world data to inform health professionals about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy.

Currently, in America, over 150,000 women who reported they were pregnant have been vaccinated to date. In England, over 60,000 women who reported that they were pregnant or could be pregnant at the time of vaccination have received at least one dose of vaccine. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) which is the professional association of pregnancy, childbirth, and women's reproductive and sexual health says that there is “no evidence” to date to suggest that the Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility. It also states that there is no biologically plausible mechanism by which the vaccine would cause fertility problems. Similar statements have been issued by the British Fertility Association, the NHS and Public Health England

Based on the available evidence, organisations such as RCOG say that “The vaccine is considered to be safe and effective at any stage of pregnancy”. 

We have written more about these topics before.

People do have the option to refuse the vaccines 

Mr Yeadon claims that people are not being given the option to refuse a Covid-19 vaccine “most of the time”, and suggests that “eventually they'll come around and injection [sic] you”. 

Public health guidance around giving Covid-19 vaccines states that an individual must consent to the vaccine being given (or particular procedures must be followed for individuals who lack capacity to consent). 

There are increasing examples of events, travel restrictions or certain job roles where vaccination may be required. However, the decision to have a vaccine still lies with the individual. 

The information included in this article contains the latest evidence and official guidance available at the time it was written. This is not a substitute for medical advice. If you require specific medical advice please consult your GP or midwife.

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