Small fraction of Ohio COVID vaccine recipients report complications, as expert says correlation not always causation


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As more COVID-19 vaccines go into arms, doctors are getting a better picture of how those doses affect us.

NBC4 Investigates analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). We found that of the more than 2.1 million Ohioans who received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, fewer than .04% reported complications after a shot.

The 782 reports from Ohio include recipients of the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The VAERS search did not yield any data for recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Commonly reported adverse events include fever and chills, weakness, aches and stomach issues.

“Your body is making an immune response to the spike protein. That’s expected with the vaccine,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist with OhioHealth. He said vaccine recipients should not worry about those symptoms.

Complications reported to the CDC by Ohioans who received a COVID-19 vaccine

Notes: 3,993 symptoms among 782 reports filed. CDC does not vet reports for direct link to vaccine.

Spreadsheet not showing? Click here.

Some reports contained more obscure events, such as anger and acne. One report described a woman who “had stopped talking and was just staring” for two minutes on the car ride home, “then became responsive and talkative again.”

While Gastaldo pointed out that not everything reported is necessarily connected to the vaccine, but it is still worth reporting.

“At the level of the FDA and the CDC, if anything goofy comes up, they look at it,” he said. “They look at the medical records and see if there’s any connection, they’re looking for causation. And that has not been identified with anything. And we want them to continue doing it.”

The VAERS data showed 53 reported deaths in Ohio after vaccination.

“Association does not always mean causation,” Gastaldo said. “As millions and billions of people get vaccinated — and recently we (the U.S.) vaccinated 2 million people in one day — and the baseline background is there are people in that 2 million who are expected to die every day.”

According to the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration requires vaccine providers to report any death that occurs after a COVID-19 vaccination. CDC researchers have not detected any patterns in cause of death that suggest a potential danger with the vaccines.

“That gives me more confidence,” Gastaldo said, “as a doctor — as a clinician recommending the vaccines with the utmost emphasis on safety and then efficacy to my patients.”

The CDC data also showed 38 reports of Ohioans testing positive for COVID-19 after receiving their first vaccine dose. Gastaldo said it is important to follow CDC guidance as it is released and continue to take precautions after getting vaccinated, because the majority of people in the United States are still unvaccinated.

Ohio gives vaccine recipients a QR code to opt into the CDC’s V-safe program, which helps recipients track symptoms for seven days post-injection and reports that information to the CDC.

Ben Orner contributed data analysis.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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