FALSE: Pfizer-BioNTechs COVID-19 vaccine causes meningitis – Rappler

The authors of the two case reports cited in the video maintain that the COVID-19 vaccine remains effective and that vaccine-induced meningitis bears a negligible risk

At a glance
  • Claim: Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine causes meningitis.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: The authors of the two case reports cited in the video maintain that the COVID-19 vaccine remains effective and that vaccine-induced meningitis bears a negligible risk.
  • Why we fact-checked this: The video with this claim was posted on February 21, 2022, and has amassed more than 480,000 views, 35,000 shares, and 22,000 reactions as of writing.
Complete details

A video posted by Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, the chief public attorney at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) features an interview with a woman whose child allegedly got meningitis as a complication of getting the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. 

In the video, the head of PAO’s forensic laboratory cited two case reports in which aseptic meningitis was a complication following the administration of the vaccine. He said, “’Pag pinag-aralan mo yung causation nito, yung proximate causation nito, talagang alam mo na ito’y nanggaling sa itinurok sa kanila.” (If you study the causation, the proximate causation, you’ll find that this was caused by what was injected into them.)

These claims are false. 

The two studies cited in the video were case reports by Kazuyuki Saito and colleagues of Japan and Joon Kee Lee of South Korea. In the case reports, both authors report that the vaccine remains to be effective in protecting individuals from the COVID-19 virus. Joon Kee Lee adds that “[in] general, vaccination has decreased the prevalence of viral meningitis with negligible risk of vaccine-induced meningitis.”

In both cases, the diagnosis of aseptic meningitis was made as no other possible causative agent for meningitis was found. Given the recentness of the COVID-19 vaccines, there are currently no studies that have proven a causal link or association between meningitis and any of the COVID-19  vaccines. 

In a review of the merits and limitations of the general study design of case reports, the authors remark that case reports cannot establish any epidemiologic quantities. That means case reports cannot speak of how often or rare a health outcome is in a given population, nor can they offer a generalizable association between variables. 

They add that case reports also cannot establish causality between the variables they are reporting. Thus, these two case reports must not be construed as having established any causal or associated relationship between the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and aseptic meningitis. – Renzo Arceta/Rappler.com

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