Covering—or Ignoring—Controversy Over Covid Vaccines
The Mediaverse by Dennis Kneale, TruthDAO opinion columnist
A nationwide audience was stunned by the on-the-field cardiac arrest of 24-year-old Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, on “NFL Monday Night Football” on Jan. 2. Instantly, one portion of the audience wondered something that never occurred to another portion: was Hamlin’s near-death experience related to the Covid-19 vaccine?
Twitter lit up with speculation, as conservatives including Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, and vaccine critic Dr. Peter McCullough jumped to the Covid conclusion.
Just as quickly, many media outlets rushed to correct them. Headline on Fortune.com the next day: “Blaming Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on the COVID vaccine is ‘wildly and irresponsibly speculative,’ says expert.” Forbes.com: “Anti-Vaxxers Exploit Damar Hamlin’s Crisis With Unfounded Covid-19 Vaccine Claims.” The Washington Post: “Covid misinformation spikes in wake of Damar Hamlin’s on-field collapse.”
And this in the Los Angeles Times: “COVID-19 vaccines almost certainly didn’t cause Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. Here’s what may have.” Almost certainly, got that?
Just one problem: these stories ran within a day or two of the scary events on “NFL Monday Night Football,” so, they were based on the same lack of evidence and information as were the claims that the vaccine might be the hidden cause.
The New York Times, meanwhile, refused to address the issue at all. In the days after Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, I counted 17 stories on the incident—and none mentioned the vaccine angle. It is an example of the things the media don’t say, as I wrote here.
This week, a new interview with Damar Hamlin on ABC’s “Good Morning America” thickened the plot. Hamlin is asked, at one point, “How did doctors describe what happened to you?” He pauses for 10 seconds and says, “Um, that’s something I want to stay away from.”
That one moment, four and a half minutes into an eight-minute-long interview, was turned into a 68-second clip that ran on Twitter and drew 3.4 million views—compared with fewer than 50,000 views of the official ABC News video on YouTube.
On Twitter and other social media, reports circulate of thousands of cases of myocarditis, a swelling of the heart, linked to the vaccines. Thousands of people say they suffer from bad side effects, or they have lost a loved one. Disturbing videos show young people toppling over in public, some of them athletes.
The media are quick to demonize any doubts as conspiracy theories, while rarely exploring the data. A year ago, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist, Glenn Kessler, published an impressive refutation: “How the falsehood of athletes dying of coronavirus vaccines spread” and cited “mysterious Austrian websites with ties to that country’s far-right populist party” and “right-wing media in the United States.”
Politifact.com in June 2022 published a takedown here. In December, a Reuters Fact Check article risked a back sprain with this headline: “Fact Check-Finding that most people dying from COVID-19 are vaccinated does not mean vaccines don’t work.”
The media are burying an important medical story, perhaps wary of making more people reluctant to keep getting the Covid vaccines our government is pushing so hard.
It was inevitable that mRNA vaccines, tested on only tens of thousands of patients and then injected into three billion people worldwide, might result in millions of cases of severe side effects or even death. Yet the media continue to dismiss this prospect rather than study it.
Factcheck.org said that “online, people have baselessly speculated—some within minutes of the collapse—that Hamlin’s condition is a result of COVID-19 vaccination.”
Baselessly? CDC data as of May 2022 show that in the U.S. population, regardless of vax status, myocarditis can appear in up to 2.2 cases per one million people in a seven-day period; but the rate was 75.9 cases—34 times as high—for males ages 16 to 17 on their second dose of an mRNA vaccine. Among boys 12 to 15 on a second shot, the rate was 46.4 cases per one million, 21 times as high as in the general population
Among men ages 18 to 24 with a second mRNA vaccine, the rate of myocarditis was 38.9 per one million, a 17-fold higher rate than in the population at large. You can find these numbers on page 10 of a 41-page CDC report, here.
Elsewhere, a Nordic study of 23 million people, published this month on the JAMA Cardiology website of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found similar results: “Both first and second doses of mRNA vaccines were associated with increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation).”
The study tracked 23 million residents in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden from December 2020 to October 2021. It found the risk was highest among young males ages 16 to 24, after a second dose: up to 70 “excess events” per million for Pfizer and up to 280 excess events per million for Moderna—vastly higher than the 2.2. rate for the general U.S. population.
Last October, a study of vaccinated Florida residents from December 2020 to June 2022 found an 84% increase in cardiac-related deaths among men ages 18 to 39 within 28 days after getting an mRNA vaccination. It was conducted by the Florida Department of Health, which offers its analysis here.
As a result, the Florida state surgeon general put out guidance recommending that men younger than 40 forgo the Covid vax, given that “the benefit of vaccination is likely outweighed by this abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death among men in this age group.”
It adds: “Non-mRNA vaccines were not found to have these increased risks.”
Interestingly, people older than 65 comprised 75% of the 1.1 million Covid-labeled deaths in the U.S. thus far, and they have very low rates of myocarditis among vaccinated men. So, the vax is a great benefit to them, at low risk.
By contrast, fewer than 1,500 people under age 18 have died from the Covid virus, and they have a vastly higher risk from the vax—and the government wants to inoculate all 74 million of them. Critics should be allowed to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaxes. The media should be more willing to cover them.
Dennis Kneale, @denniskneale on Twitter, is a media strategist and writer in New York. He spent more than 30 years at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, and Fox Business. His podcast is called "What's Bugging Me."