Hamlin’s collapse triggered a new wave of misinformation about vaccines

WASHINGTON – Unsubstantiated claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines circulated in the hours and days after the safety of Buffalo Bills. Damar Hamlin collapsed during Monday’s game, showing just how widespread misinformation about vaccines is three years after the pandemic began.

Even before Hamlin was carried off the Cincinnati battlefield, posts began circulating online, with thousands of reposts and millions of views, claiming without evidence that complications from COVID-19 vaccines caused him. health emergency.

While cardiology experts say it’s too early to know what made Hamlin’s heart stop, they suggested a rare type of injury called commotio cordis among 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 a number of young athletes have died as a result of the COVID vaccination.

Peter McCullough, Dallas-based cardiologist and outspoken critic of vaccines, reinforced the theories in a Fox News segment hosted by Tucker Carlson on Tuesday, suggesting that “vaccine-induced myocarditis” could have caused the Hamlin episode. Although the bills do not specify whether Hamlin was vaccinated, about 95% of NFL players have received the COVID-19 vaccine. by league.

In a speech on Tuesday, Carlson said McCullough and another researcher found that “more than 1,500 cardiac arrests have occurred among European athletes since the start of the vaccination campaign.”

But Carlson cited a letter in which the authors’ evidence was a dubious blog listing news about people from all over the world, of all ages, dying or in need of emergency medical care. The blog does not prove any connection between the incidents and COVID-19 vaccines; it also includes registered cancer deaths and emergencies due to unknown causes in its tally.

“It’s not a real study, but he cites it like it’s a real study,” said Dr. Matthew Martinez, director of sports cardiology at the Atlantic Health System at Morristown Medical Center. “Anyone can write a letter to the editor and then cite an article that lacks academic rigor.”

Many social media users also common deceptive videos which are designed to show athletes passing out on the field due to COVID-19 vaccines. However, several of the cases shown were proven to be due to other causes.

While vaccine advocates insist that sudden cardiac arrests during sports are unprecedented, cardiologists say they have seen these traumatic events throughout their careers and long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There have always been cases of sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest in athletes,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, sports health expert and cardiologist at NYU Langone Health. “I haven’t seen a change in their prevalence in the last couple of years compared to earlier in my career.”

In fact, Phillips says these rare medical emergencies are the main reason doctors and activists have been campaigning for years to have defibrillators on standby at sporting events.

This push and the implementation of contingency plans have improved outcomes after cardiac events on the playing field, even as the number of such events remains “surprisingly stable,” Martinez said.

Martinez, who has worked for the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, said he investigated but found no indication that COVID-19 or vaccines are causing an increase in heart disease among athletes.

Him research shows that among professional athletes who have had COVID-19, the incidence of inflammatory heart disease was about 0.6%, which does not indicate an increased risk compared with other viruses.

According to an analysis done for AP Zignal Labs, a San Francisco-based media intelligence company, online posts mentioning Hamlin and vaccines rose to thousands within one hour of Hamlin’s collapse.

Not surprisingly, misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccines have skyrocketed since Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. the How many vaccine disinformation has spread since the pandemic began, said Janine Guidry, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who researches health misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

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

“It happened to a man in his prime, prime time on TV, and people who were watching didn’t immediately understand why,” she said. “We like to have clear answers that make us feel more secure. Especially after the last three years, I think it comes from fear and insecurity.”

Similarly, unsubstantiated claims of vaccine-related injuries skyrocketed last month following the death of sports journalist Grant Wahl, who died of a ruptured blood vessel in his heart while covering the World Cup in Qatar. His death was not related to vaccines.


Philadelphia-based Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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