[Regarding “Side Effects: Local Handling of COVID Vaccine Troubles Breeds Medical Mistrust,” Jan. 12, Xpress]: The article includes the experiences of several people who have developed serious problems after vaccination. It accepts that these were caused by the vaccine and suggests that there is significant underreporting of adverse effects due in part to the actions of clinicians and hospitals to minimize the actual rates.
This is an important question; in my view, the survey and analysis that the newspaper provided in its article is inadequate, as it does not provide a basis for estimating the rates of significant adverse events.
The COVID-19 vaccines were deployed because of the clear evidence of the serious effects of COVID-19 infections and adequate evidence that, in the short term, the benefit of the vaccines in preventing serious COVID-19 infections was great and their serious adverse effects rates were sufficiently low to justify widespread use.
I consider the Mountain Xpress a valuable local newspaper and believe its articles can influence the beliefs and actions of many viewers, including affecting decisions on vaccination.
As a retired pediatrician with experience as a medical review officer at the Food and Drug Administration and in drug development in the pharmaceutical industry, I am keenly aware of the importance of vaccine safety.
As an individual physician, I propose that the newspaper work with clinicians (including the Western Carolina Medical Society and the North Carolina Medical Board) and with the N.C. Division of Public Health epidemiologists to adequately review case reports from our area and present an updated article.
— Stephen Rinsler, M.D.
Editor’s response: Thanks much for raising your concerns. We were unable to estimate local rates of significant adverse events because federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System data is only searchable at the state level. However, our reporting found multiple serious local events that had not been reported, and previous research, including the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care study cited in the story, indicates that vaccine adverse events are widely underreported.