In mid-January, a Facebook post reported a video in which Brazilian doctor Raissa Soares claimed that the vaccine against Covid-19 was more dangerous than the virus. This is the doctor who in recent months has become known in Brazil for having a counter-current understanding of Covid-19, in defending that it is the “early treatment”, with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, that prevents the disease and stops the contagion. The same doctor who, in July, made a direct appeal on social media to the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, to send chloroquine to the region of Porto Seguro, where she operates, a request that was granted.
The publication was widely shared on Facebook but has several flaws that lead to it being classified as a fake publication. First, although the entire scientific community admits that the Covid-19 vaccine was developed in record time, and its long-term effects are still being studied, there is no study to prove that the vaccine is dangerous, or, even less, that “it is more dangerous than the virus”.
There are even data in the opposite direction. At the end of January, the still president of task force for the national vaccination plan, Francisco Ramos, informed journalists that a total of 1,332 adverse reactions to the vaccine, which started to be inoculated in Portugal (and Europe) on December 27th. A number that was “on schedule”, and that only related to small reactions such as “swelling [inchaço] of the arm or headache ”. “There are 0.65 adverse reactions for every 100 vaccinees, which is in line with the provisional data we know from the rest of Europe”, said Francisco Ramos at the time.
As for deaths caused by the vaccine against Covid-19, there is no direct relationship with taking the vaccine. That was the conclusion of the study by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the end of January, a month after vaccination started across Europe. In that study, released on January 29, the EMA rules out any link between the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and the deaths that occurred after vaccination in several countries, and says that the data collected after one month are consistent with “the vaccine safety profile ”, with no side effects that were not foreseen identified.
According to European Medicines Agency, reported cases of people who died after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine in countries such as Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden “Do not raise security concerns”, since the deaths were related to previous diseases and were not associated with taking the vaccine. This was the case in Norway, for example, where more than two dozen elderly people died after receiving the first dose of the vaccine – the country did not associate the deaths with the vaccine and doctors concluded that the health of the people concerned was already weakened, and that even the mild side effects of the vaccine can be more harmful in people with poorer health.
Fact Check. Six volunteers killed after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine?
Speaking to the newspaper Expresso about the case of elderly people who died in Norway after taking the vaccine for the first time, Paulo Paixão, president of the Portuguese Society of Virology and professor at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, said: the more people are vaccinated more vaccinated people will die, which does not mean that one thing is related to the other. Autopsies, at that time, will be “fundamental”, he says. “With mass vaccination, there is a high probability that someone will die in the weeks to come, it is practically inevitable”, said the virologist to that newspaper, adding that, “until now, the relationship between vaccination and mortality has not yet been proven, so this situation will have to be monitored and autopsies are essential here”.
If, on the one hand, deaths after vaccination cannot yet be directly related to the vaccine, there is another fact that can be taken into account: how many more people died, due to Covid-19, compared to previous years ? And there is no doubt: Covid-19 has triggered mortality in Portugal. So says a report by the National Statistics Institute, which presents the global numbers of deaths in 2020 (and the first week of 2021), in Portugal, in comparison with the previous year and with the average of the previous 5 years.
And the numbers are these: in 2020, 123,409 people died in Portugal, 11,118 more than in the previous year, e 12,220 more than the average of the last five years. An excess of mortality that began to be felt mainly from March, the month in which the pandemic arrived in Portugal. Between January 4 and 10, 2021 alone, 3634 people died, 830 more than the 2015-2019 average in the same period of the year.
According to Jornal de Notícias, the 123,409 deaths recorded in Portugal in 2020 reflect the highest number of deaths in the country in the last hundred years, since about 154 thousand deaths were recorded in 1920. At that time, there was still the aftermath of the Spanish flu, which has killed millions of people worldwide. This pandemic was responsible for the high number of deaths registered in the country between 1918 and 1920, which, according to the JN, was 253 thousand (1918), 154 thousand (1919) and 144 thousand (1920).
Just look at the past January 22, to see that Portugal broke a record: 721 deaths across the country, the highest number in terms of daily deaths since there was a record and almost double the usual daily average during the month of January. Of these 721 deaths recorded on the 22nd, 221 were directly attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, which suggests that the remaining excess may have to do with the lack of resources for the treatment of other diseases.
Finally, who is the doctor who stars in the viral video? Raissa Soares has a degree in Medicine from the Federal University of Minas Gerais and currently works at the Regional Hospital Deputado Luis Eduardo Magalhães, in Porto Seguro, Bahia. The doctor became known on social networks for having made a video appeal to the Brazilian president to send hydroxychloroquine boxes to Porto Seguro, as she understood that this drug was the answer to Covid-19.
Jair Bolsonaro complied with the request, which catapulted the doctor into the spotlight. Raissa Soares continued to use social media to defend what she calls “early treatment” for Covid-19 and to do what many consider to be “mass prescription”. According to Folha de São Paulo, the Regional Council of Medicine of Bahia (to which this doctor belongs since March 2019), condemns the practice of mass prescription, through, for example, social networks, in addition to the alleged “treatment “using drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, ivermectin, or nitazoxanide, and zinc and vitamin C and D from the USA, not even by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), Brazilian, nor by the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI).
It is not true that the vaccine against Covid-19 is more dangerous than the virus. Recent data on mortality in Portugal show that mortality has skyrocketed in the last year (in comparison with the previous year and with the average of the previous five years) due to the lethality of the virus. A report that analyzed the effects of the vaccine at the end of the first month of inoculation indicates that the Pfizer vaccine has had the “expected” side effects, and even the cases in which people died within weeks of taking the first dose, were not directly related to the vaccine, but rather to poor health. More: the Brazilian doctor who stars in the video is Raissa Soares, a doctor who has been accused of making “mass prescriptions” through social networks of “early treatment” for Covid-19 through the widespread use of hydroxychloroquine – whose effectiveness is not is proven by WHO.
Thus, according to the Observer’s classification, this content is:
In the Facebook rating system, this content is:
FAKE: The main claims of the content are factually inaccurate. Generally, this option corresponds to the “false” or “mostly false” classifications on fact checkers’ websites.
Note 1: this content was selected by the Observer as part of a fact checking partnership with Facebook.
Note 2: The Observer is part of the CoronaVirusFacts / DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a group that brings together more than 100 fact-checkers to combat disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about this alliance here.