Was a Brisbane doctor really fired after revealing a link between vaccines and miscarriages?
CheckMate is RMIT FactLab’s weekly newsletter that summarizes the latest in the world of fact-checking and disinformation, building on the work of FactLab and its sister organization, RMIT ABC Fact Check.
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CheckMate August 12, 2022
This week, CheckMate is investigating whether COVID-19 vaccines have caused an increase in miscarriages that authorities have sought to hide.
We also bring you a spicy take on astronomy and debunk claims that monkeypox is actually vaccine-induced “super shingles.”
‘No evidence’ COVID-19 vaccines cause miscarriage, despite Queensland doctor’s claim
Viral posts about the risk of miscarriage after COVID-19 vaccination have lit up social media, sparked by claims that a Brisbane doctor has been sacked in a bid to cover up his findings.
“Dr Luke McLindon, a fertility specialist at Mater Hospital in Brisbane, has collected data that reveals a worrying 74% miscarriage after the injection.[ion]“, read a widely shared tweet.
“In an attempt to silence him, he was fired last Friday!!”
Telegram has also been inundated with claims that Dr McLindon ‘was just fired on Friday for not taking the hit and trying to leak his miscarriage data’.
So what’s the story?
According to a spokeswoman for Mater Health, which runs the hospital where Dr McLindon worked, the obstetrician and gynecologist “no longer practices at Mater and has not done so since November of last year”.
She added, “Mater has observed no change in the miscarriage rate over the past five years or more specifically since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines.”
Other experts have also poured cold water on the suggestion that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe in pregnancy.
Shaun Brennecke, who heads the Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Pregnancy Research Center at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne, told CheckMate via email that published data “indicates that such vaccination does NOT increase the risk of miscarriage nor does it cause miscarriage”.
As proof, he pointed to the numerous peer-reviewed articles in respected medical journals, whose studies “include several tens of thousands of total pregnancies and come from many countries (United States, Norway, China, Switzerland, Romania, etc.)”.
“Miscarriage is unfortunately a relatively common pregnancy problem, occurring in around 25% of all pregnancies, so there will be cases of women miscarrying by the time they receive their COVID vaccine,” Prof Brennecke said. .
“However, this association is coincidental and not causal, given that published data indicate that the risk of miscarriage is similar in vaccinated and unvaccinated women.”
According to an unverified online article, which allegedly quotes “a colleague” of Dr McLindon, the data behind the 74% figure was based on a sample of 38 “high risk” pregnancies.
Importantly, these numbers have not been published in a formal study or subjected to the scrutiny of a peer review.
Meanwhile, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the profession’s peak body, strongly advises pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“There is no evidence of an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery or other adverse pregnancy outcomes,” he said in a December 2021 statement.
“Conversely, infection with COVID-19 is associated with an increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation, and death in pregnant women, and an increased risk increased prematurity and stillbirth.
CheckMate attempted to contact Dr McLindon to confirm the origins of the online claims but did not receive a response before publication. However, he no longer consults privately in Mater’s private specialist suites. Google’s cached files show that its website, currently offline, was active as recently as July 9.
No, monkeypox is not a COVID vaccine-induced form of shingles in people living with HIV
Shingles, HIV, COVID-19 vaccines and monkeypox have been linked in a conspiracy theory shared on social media after appearing on a website previously found by fact checkers to share misleading information.
The theory relies on speculation and unreliable study to make three unsubstantiated claims: that monkeypox is actually shingles; that it is a side effect of COVID-19 vaccines; and that it only affects people with HIV.
RMIT FactLab discovered this week that these claims were false.
Diagnostic tests have revealed that the two viruses, shingles and monkeypox, are markedly different and that some symptoms of the monkeypox virus – swollen lymph nodes, for example – are not present in shingles.
Additionally, no definitive link has been found between COVID-19 vaccines and the development of shingles, and there is no correlation between being HIV-positive and getting monkeypox.
In the current monkeypox epidemic, there have been people who have contracted the virus who are not HIV-positive, including children.
Spicy Astronomical Tale An Expert Case Just Be A Dumb Sausage
A French scientist has apologized after tweeting a close-up photo of a slice of chorizo along with a caption suggesting the image was taken by the James Webb Telescope.
“This level of detail… a new world is revealed every day,” tweeted Etienne Klein, director of France’s Atomic Energy Commission, suggesting the image showed Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun.
But in what has become a lesson in “distrust of arguments from authority,” as Dr Klein himself put it in a next tweetthe image was actually of a slice of spicy Spanish sausage.
“According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.”
According to Dr Klein, who spoke to French media Le Point, the viral tweet “also illustrates the fact that on this type of social network, fake news is always more successful than real news”.
Is Australia the “largest non-NATO contributor” to Ukraine?
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fifth month, President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the international community to do more to support his beleaguered nation.
During a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese responded to the call by pledging additional military aid and extending sanctions and travel bans to Russian companies and individuals.
Speaking to Sky News on July 7 on his return to Sydney, Mr Albanese said Australia had been “the biggest non-NATO contributor” to Ukraine.
But RMIT ABC Fact Check this week found the claim was not accumulating.
Experts told Fact Check that such comparisons are complicated by a lack of data, varying definitions of what constitutes a “contribution” and difficulties in drawing direct comparisons between countries.
The best available data breaks down single government donations on the basis of humanitarian, financial and military assistance, and also quantifies joint donations from European Union members made through multilateral funds.
When the euro value of these types of aid is combined, Australia’s contribution actually ranks sixth among the 14 non-NATO donors in the dataset.
Measured as a proportion of GDP, Australia slips to seventh most generous place.
In terms of individual metrics, Australia’s ranking ranges from first (for the euro value of its military aid) to equal last (for no financial aid).
But when calculated as a proportion of GDP, Sweden’s military aid alone is more than twice that of Australia.
In addition, counting only aid provided through bilateral military agreements excludes multilateral contributions made by non-NATO countries such as Sweden to the Ukrainian military through the EU.
Even considering only one country’s contributions, experts have questioned the value of comparing military aid alone when a non-NATO donor such as Japan – which has constitutional constraints on spending military – gave nearly three times as much as Australia, but mostly in the form of financial aid.
There are other factors such as economic sanctions and the cost of hosting refugees that could also be considered a “contribution”. However, these forms of support are not easily quantifiable and therefore difficult to compare across countries.
Edited by Ellen McCutchan and David Campbell