MP makes unevidenced claims about vaccine damage

24 September 2021
What was claimed

The government has produced a lot of information about the extent of vaccine damage including the Yellow Card scheme.

Our verdict

It is misleading to equate Yellow Card reports with “vaccine damage”. The MHRA is very clear that reports of adverse events after vaccination cannot be treated as confirmed side effects, as there is no proven causal link.

What was claimed

There is a lot more damage being done to UK citizens as a result of Covid-19 vaccinations than in any other vaccination programme in history.

Our verdict

There is no reliable, publicly-available data to substantiate this claim. No source was provided to evidence his statement.

What was claimed

Ten thousand or more families have suffered “serious damage” as a result of getting a Covid-19 vaccine.

Our verdict

Again, there is no available data to substantiate this claim and no source was provided.

What was claimed

Our hospitals have a large number of in-patients who are there only because they took the vaccine.

Our verdict

There is no evidence to support this.

On 10 September Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope presented the Covid-19 Vaccine Damage Bill for its second reading in the House of Commons.  

The bill seeks to require the government sets up an independent review into “disablement caused by Covid-19 vaccinations” and whether or not people who have suffered serious side effects from the vaccine are able to access adequate compensation. 

During the debate Mr Chope made a number of misleading statements about the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) Yellow Card scheme, which collects reports of suspected vaccine side effects. He also made claims about hospital occupancy and the number of families affected by serious vaccine side effects, which are not substantiated by official data. 

Some of Mr Chope’s words have been picked up by social media accounts opposed to the Covid-19 vaccine and are being used to spread misinformation. 

Full Fact contacted Mr Chope’s office several times for more information about his sources, but did not receive a response. This is not good enough. When a politician makes a claim, they must be able to back up their statement with evidence, so that anyone can check where it’s from and how it’s calculated. 

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Claims about the MHRA

In introducing the bill for its second reading, Mr Chope said:

“The government have produced quite a lot of information about the extent of vaccine damage. Some of that is set out in the documents that the Government produce on those who have applied for compensation or have notified under the yellow card scheme. Essentially, what the yellow card scheme shows—from the most recent report, which came out on 9 September and covers the period from 9 December to 1 September—is that there have been 435 reports of major blood clots and low platelet counts, including 74 deaths. It shows that there have been 767 cases of inflammation of the heart, a condition that is almost unheard of in medicine on a normal day-to-day basis. It shows that there have been some 35,000 reports of menstrual disorder, and there are all sorts of other effects set out in the comprehensive report. Very worryingly, it says that there are 1,632 reports of deaths having taken place shortly after vaccination.”

Here, Mr Chope appears to equate “vaccine damage” with the reports of adverse events after Covid-19 vaccinations submitted through the MHRA’s Yellow Card scheme. 

As we have written many times before, these reports—which can be submitted via members of the public or medics—cannot be used to reliably say whether or not a condition was directly caused by the vaccine. 

The MHRA’s own website states: “It is very important to note that a Yellow Card report does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused that reaction or event”. 

It adds: “Many suspected ADRs reported on a Yellow Card do not have any relation to the vaccine or medicine and it is often coincidental that they both occurred around the same time.” 

With the early vaccination rollout concentrated on the most elderly and vulnerable in society, it’s sadly unsurprising that there were 1,632 reports of death (at the time of Mr Chope’s claim) shortly after Covid-19 vaccinations—a point the MHRA has also emphasised

None of this context was included in Mr Chope’s claim. While the numbers he presented are correct in themselves and they were accurately described as “reports”, it is misleading to claim that they can reveal the “extent of vaccine damage”. 

Comparisons to other mass vaccination programmes 

Following this, Mr Chope also said: “There is a lot more damage being done to our citizens as a result of Covid-19 vaccinations than in any other vaccination programme in history.” 

It’s unclear exactly what Mr Chope was referring to here, but as we have already said, the Yellow Card reports are not a reliable indicator of a causal link between vaccines and “vaccine damage”. Either way, there is no evidence to prove this claim.

When we asked the MHRA about this a spokesperson said: “The Covid-19 campaign is unprecedented in size, and MHRA has worked closely with public health partners to ensure information on reporting is embedded into the vaccination process. 

“It is important to note that Yellow Card data cannot be used to derive side effect rates per product or compare the safety profile of Covid-19 vaccinations as many factors can influence ADR reporting.”

We have asked Mr Chope for more information on his claim and will update this piece if we receive a response.

Claims that 10,000 families have been affected by Covid-19 vaccine “damage”

In response to a question about the priorities of any enquiry into aspects of the pandemic, Mr Chope said "he seems to be suggesting that those hapless families—10,000 of them, or maybe more—who have suffered real, serious damage as a result of doing the right thing [getting a Covid-19 vaccine] should be left hanging around for years".

We don’t know how Mr Chope arrived at the figure of 10,000 families who have “suffered real, serious damage” as a result of getting the Covid-19 vaccine. He did not provide any source for this claim in Parliament, and did not respond when we asked his office for more information. 

According to the most recent Yellow Card data, there have been 363,676 reports of suspected adverse events across the UK since the start of the vaccine rollout. The nature of these reports varies hugely, from reports of pain at the site of injection, for example, to cardiac arrest. The MHRA says that “the overwhelming majority of reports relate to injection-site reactions (sore arm for example) and generalised symptoms such as ‘flu-like’ illness, headache, chills, fatigue (tiredness), nausea (feeling sick), fever, dizziness, weakness, aching muscles, and rapid heartbeat.”

Mr Chope did not specify what he meant by “real, serious damage”, therefore it’s not possible to establish which adverse events he was referring to. 

As we have already said, Yellow Card reports cannot be used to make claims about confirmed vaccine side effects. 

A spokesperson for the MHRA said: “The total number and the nature of Yellow Cards reported so far is not unusual for a new vaccine for which members of the public and healthcare professionals are encouraged to report any suspected adverse reaction.

“It is known from the clinical trials that the most common side effects for all vaccines can occur at a rate of more than one per 10 doses (such as local reactions, symptoms resembling transient flu-like symptoms). Overall, Yellow Card reporting is therefore lower than the reporting rate of possible side effects from the clinical trials, although we generally do not expect all suspected side effects to be reported on Yellow Cards.”

Claims that there are a “large number” of inpatients in hospital due to the vaccine

Towards the end of the debate Mr Chope said “Our hospitals have a large number of in-patients who are there only because they took the vaccine.”

Full Fact could find no evidence to support the claim that there are a “large number” of hospital patients who were only admitted because they had taken the Covid-19 vaccine. We’ve also written before about incorrect claims the NHS is being “overwhelmed” by side effects from Covid-19 vaccines.

Again we’ve asked Mr Chope for the evidence to back up his claim and will update the article if we receive a response.

Correction 27 September 2021

An earlier version of this article stated that the debate took place on 17 September. This has now been corrected.

We deserve better than bad information.

We contacted Mr Chope to ask him for evidence to back up his claims. He has not replied. 

We also contacted the MHRA to suggest that their warning, that a report of suspected adverse drug reaction does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused that effect, needed to be more prominent on their website.

In response, the MHRA took action by including a warning about what a Yellow Card report means at the top of each analysis print, as well as putting it higher up in their weekly report.

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