In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread. And among those diseases could be measles and COVID-19.
A release from the Annenberg Public Policy Center:
The federal health system for reporting “adverse events” after vaccination, known as VAERS, is designed to assist in the early detection of complications and responsive action. But when the pandemic and advent of new vaccines for Covid-19 turned a spotlight on this formerly little-known system, the flood of web and social media references to it was accompanied by confusion about what the system is and what the reports in it signify.
A new report from the Annenberg Public Policy Center examines misconceptions about the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS. The report urges the government agencies that manage the system to change its name to a clearer alternative such as “Vaccination Safety Monitor” or “Vaccination Safety Watch,” and make additional changes to reduce the likelihood its information will be misinterpreted or misused.
Since the inception of VAERS in 1990 (CDC, n.d., About VAERS), its data have been mistakenly cited to suggest that the recording of an event in VAERS confirms that it was vaccine-caused. Long before COVID-19 was added to our working vocabularies, people falsely alleging that the MMR vaccine causes autism were backing that bogus claim with mischaracterized VAERS event report data.
Such problematic uses persist. So, for example, on June 18, 2021, lawyer, author, and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., tweeted, “Latest numbers from CDC VAERS is in… Data for 12- to 17-year-olds include 7 deaths + 271 serious adverse events following COVID vaccine” (Kennedy, 2021). The mental representation invited by that text: COVID-19 vaccination is endangering teens.