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Did a Canadian Study Grossly Inflate COVID Vaccine Heart Risk?

AP Photo/Matt Marton

The authors of a study indicating that two widely-used COVID-19 vaccines could cause high rates of a serious heart condition now say their report “vastly inflates the incidence of post-vaccine myocarditis.”

According to Canada’s National Post, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Peter Liu of the Ottawa Heart Institute, explained that incomplete data from Ottawa Public Health’s open database meant they didn’t have “the full numbers” of those vaccinated.

You probably read the scary headlines that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations might induce a 1-in-1,000 risk of potentially dangerous heart inflammation.

But no.

The authors calculated that, during the same study period, a total of 32,379 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were administered in the Ottawa area. “Therefore, if our cohort captured all cases in the Ottawa area, then the incidence of myocarditis would be 0.1 per cent of all vaccine doses,” or 10 cases of myocarditis for every 10,000 doses of vaccine, they wrote.

Except their denominator was wrong.

Ottawa Public Health confirmed to the National Post that, during the study period, more than 833,000 mRNA (Pfizer of Moderna) COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in Ottawa.

Once those complete figures were reported, the incidents of heart inflammation dropped to four per 100,000 doses from 10 per 100,000.

Those numbers are too small to indicate correlation much less causation, and are in line with the results of a much larger study conducted in 40 hospitals on the American West Coast and published by JAMA.

The incorrect figures were merely part of a “preprint” version of the study, and weren’t supposed to be final. Nevertheless, the authors went public with the preprint numbers that indicated a problem that now doesn’t appear to be real.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Heart Institute announced via Twitter that the authors have requested the paper be retracted, and that the incorrect data “vastly inflates the incidence of post-vaccine myocarditis.”

Aside from the very stupid part where scientists went public with incomplete data that had yet to be peer-reviewed — something I have a very hard time wrapping my head around — the rest is exactly how science is supposed to work.

Science isn’t a “settled” belief system like the “follow the science” crowd of actual science-deniers would have you believe.

Science is nothing more than a process for reducing, as much as possible, human error in our quest to discover how the universe works.

The authors had incomplete data, had their error caught, and then publicly insisted that their own conclusions be retracted.

Kudos to Dr. Liu and his team for doing the right and scientific thing, but maybe next time they ought to lay off revealing the preprint figures to an already anxious world.