Question asked on August 2, 2022
You are asking us about a video sequence widely shared on social networks in which the host Tucker Carlson, of the Fox News channel, multiplies the alarmist allegations on the anti-Covid vaccines, according to him supported by scientific publications, of which he gives the references.
The footage is taken from the July 21 broadcast, still available on the channel’s website, along with a transcript of Carlson’s remarks. “Is it possible that the vaccine could actually harm you, especially if you keep getting booster shots? Can it weaken your immune system? Well, it seems possible”he begins, before brandishing “the conclusions of several researchers” published “last month [dans] the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology“. And to quote the authors, who affirm that vaccination “induces a profound alteration in interferon type 1 signaling, which has various adverse consequences for human health”and evoke “potential profound disruptions in the regulatory control of protein synthesis and cancer surveillance.” In fact, adds Carlson, “it seems likely that the vaccine could completely suppress the immune system”.
The frightening publication cited by the host is not unknown to readers of CheckNews, since we had already devoted an article to it at the beginning of May, to highlight its speculative and fallacious characteristics. For example, starting from the observation that the immune response to the vaccine confers protection without inducing the deleterious inflammatory reactions associated with infection by the virus (which is the objective of vaccination), the authors present this controlled response as a sign of a weakened immune system. Elsewhere, the authors blithely confuse the literature on the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection and those of the vaccine. Following this publication, many researchers denounced its shortcomings, some denouncing the exploitation of data “misunderstood, even manipulated, in favor of a pre-established hypothesis”.
Among the four co-authors of this dubious article, in addition to a naturopath, we find the computer scientist Stephanie Seneff (known for having argued that the serious cases of Covid were linked to exposure to glyphosate residues present in biofuels), but also the cardiologist Peter A. McCullough, disavowed by his home university following the repeated relay of false assertions (low contagiousness of the virus, impossibility of reinfection, etc.), who now displays his links with a foundation linking Covid to 5G networks and promoting “faith-based therapeutic approaches”.
In his television sequence, Tucker Carlson ends his presentation of this first publication with these words: “We sincerely hope this is not true, but this is not the conclusion of a single scientific journal. The Lancet, which is perhaps the most famous scientific journal in the world, published similar findings in February…” Then appears on the screen the name of a study, actually published in The Lancet en February, and available online.
However, it is not on this study that Carlson’s commentary continues, but on a “letter” published in another journal, which elaborates a reasoning from its data. “A doctor by the name of Kenji Yamamotoexplains the presenter, [écrit] in a letter to Journal of Virology [que l’étude du Lancet] showed that the immune function of vaccinated people eight months after receiving two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine was lower than that of unvaccinated people.” And the Fox News presenter to invite his viewers to go through the study of the Lancet. “You won’t find anything in the text of the article that says what Kenji Yamamoto said, which is weird. Why the Lancet would he want to hide a major discovery like this? We can’t say, but if you look at Table 3 in the article, here’s what you’ll find buried in the data. Among people around age 80 who have been double-vaccinated […] the per capita medical incidence rate, including hospitalizations for death, is almost twice as high as the severe incidence rate for unvaccinated people. And this, 180 days after vaccination. What is it and why isn’t anyone interested in it? The article also includes a graph showing negative vaccine efficacy for all ages after eight months for all study participants.”
“The merits of administering a third dose”
There is no demonstration of his assertions in Yamamoto’s famous letter. Reason for which, presumably, Carlson tries himself the exegesis of the publication. Cleverly, at least if his intention is to deceive the viewer. First, because the famous “table 3” of the study of Lancet does not relate to “the severe incidence rate”but on “all infections, regardless of their severity”. But also and above all because the values presented turn out to be raw data, without adjustment according to the structure of the groups studied (in particular the age of the members of each cohort).
However, a few boxes further down in the same table are the figures for vaccine effectiveness, adjusted for age and date of vaccination, and with the associated margins of error. In reality, the authors fail here to establish a significant difference between the over 80s vaccinated for more than six months and the non-vaccinated. It is impossible to establish that vaccinated people of this age, at this distance from their second injection, are more or less at risk of Covid than non-vaccinated people.
This is why the authors of the study concluded that their results “reinforced the case for administering a third dose of vaccine as a booster.” In short: by presenting as serious a publication which is in no way serious, and by obscuring the elements which make it possible to correctly interpret the data of a second publication, Tucker Carlson is doing nothing but misinforming – once again – his audience.