Anti-vaxxers are one of the few minority groups it’s still ok to poke fun at and today is no exception. In honor of the science that took man into space on this day in 1961, I am taking the opportunity to point out that a study of coronavirus vaccine deaths that anti-vaxxers loved to cite has been retracted.
The study, “The Role of Social Circle Covid-19 Illness and Vaccination Experiences in Covid-19 Vaccination Decisions: An Online Survey of the United States Population,” was originally published in on January 24 of this year.
It purported to find 278,000 deaths as a direct result of coronavirus vaccinations. To say it thrilled the anti-vax crowd would be a gross understatement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had at that time only reported 19,476 verified cases where someone died immediately following inoculation.
The failings of the report that led to its ultimate retraction inform greatly about bogus science.
For starters, the study had been authored by an economist, Mark Skidmore of Michigan State University. As many of you know, I’m an historian by virtue of my undergraduate and graduate degrees but I’ve been researching and reporting on the pandemic since before it was even officially a pandemic and I would not seek to undertake to publish such a report.
It had been published in BMC Infectious Diseases, a peer-reviewed medical journal associated with the Nature publishing group. This gave it a burnish that glowed like the Habsburg Kaiserliche Schatzkammer in the Hofburg and it was the most-viewed paper in the journal’s history.
Now please fasten your seatbelt. Here comes the bumpy ride.
The journal retracted Skidmore’s study on Tuesday, specifically citing doubts about “the validity of the conclusions” related to death statistics because of flaws in the study’s methodology. Skidmore, incidentally, disagrees with the retraction but has no say in the matter.
The retraction followed months of dickering between the two parties over the nature and wording of the retraction notice. I am citing the retraction notice in its entirety due to the importance of cleansing the scientific record of research that could have an adverse impact on public health, but what concerns me is how it got published in the first place as its flaws were – at least to me, your humble historian who authored a dissertation entitled “Religious Freedom in the Habsburg Hereditary Lands During the Enlightenment” – self-evident.
“The editors have retracted this article as concerns were raised regarding the validity of the conclusions drawn after publication. Post-publication peer review concluded that the methodology was inappropriate as it does not prove causal inference of mortality, and limitations of the study were not adequately described. Furthermore, there was no attempt to validate reported fatalities, and there are critical issues in the representativeness of the study population and the accuracy of data collection. Lastly, contrary to the statement in the article, the documentation provided by the author confirms that the study was exempt from ethics approval and therefore was not approved by the IRB of the Michigan State University Human Research Protection Program.”
(Photo: Accura Media Group)