Hamlin’s collapse sparks a new wave of vaccine misinformation

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Unsubstantiated claims about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines proliferated in the hours and days after the Buffalo Bills safety damar hamlin collapsed during Monday’s game, revealing how widespread misinformation about vaccines remains three years after the pandemic began.

Even before Hamlin was carried off the field in Cincinnati, posts that garnered thousands of shares and millions of views began circulating online claiming without evidence that complications from Covid-19 vaccines caused his death. health emergency.

While cardiac specialists say it’s too early to tell What made Hamlin’s heart stop?, have offered a rare type of trauma called commotio cordis as one of the possible culprits. Doctors interviewed by The Associated Press say there is no indication that Hamlin’s vaccine status played a role, and said there is no evidence to support claims that several young athletes have died as a result of vaccines against the virus. covid.

Peter McCullough, a Dallas cardiologist and outspoken critic of vaccines, amplified the theories in a Fox News segment hosted by Tucker Carlson on Tuesday, speculating that «vaccine-induced myocarditis» might have caused Hamlin’s episode. While the Bills have not said whether Hamlin was vaccinated, about 95% of NFL players have received a covid-19 vaccine. according to the league

In his segment on Tuesday, Carlson claimed that McCullough and another researcher found that there have been «more than 1,500 total cardiac arrests» among European athletes «since the anti-vaccine campaign began.»

But Carlson was citing a letter in which the authors’ evidence was a dubious blog listing news reports of people around the world, of all ages, dying or experiencing medical emergencies. The blog does not prove any relationship between the incidents and the covid-19 vaccines; it also includes in its count reported deaths from cancer and emergencies of unknown cause.

“It’s not real research, but he cites it as real research,” said Dr. Matthew Martinez, director of sports cardiology at Atlantic Health System at Morristown Medical Center. «Anyone can write a letter to the editor and then cite an article that is not academically rigorous.»

Many users of social networks have also misleading videos shared which purport to show athletes collapsing on the field due to covid-19 vaccinations. However, several of the cases shown have been shown to be due to other causes.

Although anti-vaccine influencers have insisted that sudden cardiac arrests during sports games are unprecedented, cardiologists say they have observed these traumatic events throughout their careers and long before the Covid-19 pandemic. .

“There have always been cases of athletes suffering sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, a sports health expert and cardiologist at NYU Langone Health. «I have not seen a change in the prevalence of them in recent years compared to the beginning of my career.»

In fact, Phillips said, these rare medical emergencies are the main reason doctors and activists have spent years campaigning to make defibrillators available at sporting events.

That momentum, and the implementation of emergency action plans, has improved outcomes after on-field cardiac events, even as the number of such events has remained «remarkably stable,» Martinez said.

Martinez, who has worked for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, said he investigated but saw no sign that Covid-19 or vaccines are causing a higher incidence of cardiac events among athletes.

Their investigate shows that among professional athletes who have had Covid-19, rates of inflammatory heart disease were around 0.6%, which does not show increased risk compared to other viruses.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin before the start of a game against the Miami Dolphins, in Miami Gardens, Florida on September 25, 2022.Doug Murray/AP File

Online posts mentioning Hamlin and the vaccines soared to thousands an hour after Hamlin’s collapse, according to an analysis conducted for the AP by Zignal Labs, a San Francisco-based media intelligence company.

Not surprisingly, misleading claims about Covid-19 vaccines emerged after Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. dice What a lot of vaccine disinformation it has spread since the pandemic began, said Jeanine Guidry, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor who researches health misinformation and vaccine doubt.

High-profile public events like the Hamlin collapse often create new waves of misinformation as people search for explanations. For people concerned about vaccine safety, Hamlin’s sudden collapse served to affirm and justify their beliefs, Guidry said.

“This happened to a person in the prime of his life, on prime time television, and people watching didn’t immediately know why,” he said. “We like to have clear answers that make us feel more secure. Especially after the last three years, I think this comes from fear and uncertainty.»

Similarly, unsubstantiated claims about vaccine injuries surfaced last month following the death of sportswriter Grant Wahl, who died from a blood vessel to his heart ruptured while covering the World Cup in Qatar. His death was not related to vaccinations.

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