COVID vaccine death rate staggeringly higher than for flu vaccine: senator's staff analysis

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., asks HHS, CDC, FDA leaders how they followed up on "off-target" protein Pfizer study, how COVID vaccine development was "accelerated," evidence for safety claims.
Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System

Deaths per million doses of COVID-19 vaccines vastly dwarf those from flu vaccines, according to an analysis of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) by staff for Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

The staff informed the Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a letter made public Tuesday.

Johnson, the top Republican on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, also asked HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, CDC Director Mandy Cohen and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf how they responded to a Nature study that found Pfizer's vaccine created "off-target" proteins, a process known as "ribosomal frameshifting," and what they knew of the phenomenon when reviewing the vaccine for approval.

"When it comes to responding to my data requests on the adverse events associated with the COVID-19 vaccines" over the past 32 months, "your arrogant lack of transparency has been unprecedented, irresponsible and completely unacceptable," Johnson wrote in the Dec. 21 letter to the three officials.

He asked for evidence to back Cohen's claim last fall that COVID vaccines "have been studied, frankly, more
then any vaccine in history" and is safe for all ages, based on "over 600 million doses" put in arms at that time.

It's especially irresponsible for Cohen to portray COVID and flu vaccines as "equally necessary and safe" when VAERS reports suggest the former has a death rate of 25.5 per million doses compared to just 0.46 deaths per million for the latter, Johnson said, citing a staff analysis that assumes 70% of distributed flu vaccines were actually administered.

This "midpoint assumption" for flu vaccine administration would create a "55-fold increase" in COVID vaccine-related deaths over flu vaccine-related deaths, which "only adds to the growing evidence of safety signals that are screaming to be taken seriously," Johnson said.

Regarding the Nature study, Johnson told the agency leaders that independent researchers approached his office to share their published skepticism of the study's claim that the frameshifting does not appear to be "associated with adverse outcomes," when the findings demand that regulators undertake "full risk assessments of past or future harms that may have ensued."

The senator asked for their responses to several questions by Jan. 18, including his oft-repeated demand for "all Proportional Reporting Ratio data analyses and empirical Bayesian data mining relating to the COVID-19 vaccines." 

He also wants to know how many flu vaccines were administered going back to 2009, the studies backing Cohen's claim about the research base for COVID vaccines, how their emergency use authorization was "accelerated" as suggested by FDA guidance, and how they responded to the frameshifting study and what Pfizer told them about the phenomenon.