As more Americans get COVID-19 vaccinations, misinformation about their side effects has popped up all over the place. In this video, we take a look at a specific area of misinformation: how vaccines are affecting pregnancies.
An Instagram post with a screenshot of what looks like a news story claiming that “920 Women Lose Their Unborn Babies After Getting Vaccinated” recently racked up 70,000 likes. All the post shows is the headline, so there is no way to confirm anything it says without more evidence from the alleged article. The Instagram caption isn’t much help either, claiming that the data is “From the UK” and has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a U.S. agency.
Who’s behind the information?
The best way to start a fact check is by looking at who’s behind the information. Is it a partisan or biased organization? Does the person sharing it have some sort of expertise in what the post’s about?
The account’s username is Drslkroner and the display name is Dr. Shannon Kroner. The account has almost 15,000 followers. Kroner’s bio says she’s a doctor of psychology. Just because someone is a doctor doesn’t mean that they can provide advice on every medical topic. Since Kroner is focused on psychology, we wouldn’t expect her to be a credible source on infectious diseases or pregnancy complications.
Her feed is actually full of vaccine misinformation. Her bio also says she’s affiliated with an organization called FOR-US. Since their mission is to fight vaccine mandates, there might be some bias against vaccines there.
When you’re checking out the evidence in a post, always go directly to the original source of the claim — whether it’s an original article, video, research paper or speech transcript. This is called reading upstream.
By looking through your Google search results for the title shown in the Instagram image, you can find that the claim originated from a website called “The True Defender.”
The article doesn’t mention 920 women losing their babies anywhere besides the headline, which is just one red flag. The article uses statistics from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, which is a CDC database where anyone can submit adverse side effects after receiving any vaccine. The article includes a screenshot of the VAERS database claiming that 395 miscarriages have been reported. This is obviously different from both the 920 number from the headline and 571 number mentioned in the Instagram caption.
Correlation does not equal causation
When we go directly to VAERS, we can find that the agency says that “VAERS data alone usually cannot be used to determine cause.” It’s the difference between causation and correlation. Certain things may happen around the same time you received your shot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a link between the two. For example, your stomach hurting after getting the vaccine might have more to do with the baked beans you had for lunch than any side effect.
What are other sources saying?
In our original Google search, we found a few fact checks of this particular claim. This article from PolitiFact cites VAERS saying that reports “may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.” They further say that the data is voluntary and could very possibly be biased. This Newsweek piece has more information about the flaws of the VAERS database.
PolitiFact also reports it hasn’t been proven that vaccines cause miscarriages, because miscarriages are a common occurrence in a quarter of pregnancies. This headline makes the connection as if it’s a fact.
We should also look to official trials and medical agencies, like the CDC, to give us guidance on vaccines, instead of Instagram users. Vaccines were tested in a trial of 35,000 pregnant women, where no safety concerns were found. The CDC has since recommended that those who are pregnant receive the vaccine. The CDC has also reported that pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The Instagram caption and headline of the article don’t match the content, which conflicts what the CDC says. The VAERS database in the article does not determine causation, and a large clinical trial found that the vaccines don’t cause miscarriages. So we’re going to rate this claim as Not Legit. Remember, just because someone is a doctor in a certain field doesn’t mean they’re an expert in all health matters.