Sydneysiders (L) leave a vaccination centre in Sydney on June 24, 2021, as residents were largely banned from leaving the city to stop a growing outbreak of the highly contagious Delta Covid-19 variant spreading to other regions. ( AFP / SAEED KHAN)

Posts mislead on vaccine side effects recorded in Australia

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Multiple Facebook posts have shared a graphic purportedly issued by an Australian government-funded organisation that monitors Covid-19 vaccination side effects. Figures in the graphic purportedly show vaccines are not safe. But these posts are misleading: the graphic was not issued by the organisation. The actual figures for reported vaccination side effects were generally mild or in fact unrelated to Covid-19 vaccination. The Covid-19 vaccines being administered in Australia have been approved by international and national health authorities.

"How can they force people to get something with stats like this," reads a Facebook post published here on July 1, 2021.

The post shares a graphic that reads: "SAFETY DATA
243,380 surveyed
51.1% reported any adverse event
22.3% reported missing work, study or routine duties
1.6% reported seeing a doctor or going to emergency department


A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post taken on July 5, 2021

AusVaxSafety is an organisation funded by Australia's Department of Health that monitors adverse effects following vaccinations in the country.

Australia had been widely lauded for its early handling of the pandemic but a slow vaccine rollout has left just 10 percent of the population protected, AFP reported.

The misleading graphic was also shared in Facebook posts here and here.

Comments on the posts indicated some people thought the figures show Covid-19 vaccines are not safe.

"Any other 'vaccine' with these sorts of numbers would have been stopped a long time ago," one wrote.

But the posts are misleading.

Fabricated graphic

The graphic in the misleading posts "was not produced or published by AusVaxSafety," a spokesperson for the organisation told AFP.

The figures in the misleading graphic appear to have been taken from this report published by AusVaxSafety.

The same figures are shown in the section titled "Comirnaty vaccine Dose 2 - All participants".

"Comirnaty" is the name of the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech.

The report shows vaccine safety surveillance data for the vaccine brand as of June 27, 2021.

Screenshot comparison between the misleading graphic (L) and AusVaxSafety's Covid-19 vaccine surveillance figures (R)

Misleading context

The figures indicated the misleading graphic generally match those shown in the AusVaxSafety report, but they have been shared in a misleading context.

A spokesperson for AusVaxSafety told AFP the reported adverse events have been "generally mild".

"Most who reported not being able to work or do routine duties had lethargy, headache, and joint pain... Some people have chosen to rest and take care after vaccination."

The AusVaxSafety report reads: "Adverse events are self-reported, have not been clinically verified, and do not necessarily have a causal relationship with the vaccine.

"These expected adverse events are related to the immune response to vaccination and are expected to resolve within 1-3 days after vaccination."

Dr. Natasha Yates, assistant professor at Bond University's Faculty of Medicine, told AFP that "adverse events" from vaccinations include very mild side effects.

"Half of my patients [receiving a vaccine] get a sore arm, fever or something else totally expected - that is what is reflected in the number "any adverse event", she said.

She went on to say that people who reported missing work after the vaccine were generally not suffering from serious side effects.

"Those reporting "missing work, study or routine duties" is also not surprising," she said.

"Taking the day off work/other duties does not mean that people are flat out in bed and feeling very unwell, it just means they have a symptom that makes them unable to engage with the community, even if they are certain that symptom is from the vaccine".