James Thorp spreads false claims that COVID-19 vaccines harm fertility, pregnancy, infant survival in The Sentinel Report interview
Ample evidence from safety surveillance and published studies continue to show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and that their benefits outweigh their risks. The vaccines are also safe before and during pregnancy, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people who are pregnant or willing to conceive receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Flawed reasoning: The claim that COVID-19 vaccines have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. is based on flawed calculations using VAERS death reports, which on their own are insufficient to establish causality.
Factually inaccurate: Contrary to Thorp’s claims, available evidence indicates that COVID-19 vaccines don’t harm fertility or increase the risk of pregnancy complications.
Inadequate support: While U.S. infant mortality increased in 2022 compared to 2021, respiratory infections and maternal healthcare inequities are much more likely contributors to this trend than COVID-19 vaccines.
On 1 November 2023, host Alex Newman interviewed gynecologist James Thorp for the U.S. TV show The Sentinel Report. During the interview, Thorp claimed that “Americans are dropping dead” from COVID-19 vaccines and that the spike protein from vaccination is harming fertility, pregnancy, and infant survival.
COVID-19 vaccine safety has been a central target of misinformation since the beginning of the pandemic. None of these claims is new, and this is also not the first time that Thorp made such claims, which Health Feedback debunked on several occasions.
In Newman’s interview, Thorp combined many of the false and unsupported claims he made previously to produce a wider conspiratorial narrative. The interview conveniently concluded with Thorp promoting The Wellness Company, of which he is part of the Chief Medical Team. This company markets supplements that purportedly protect against the spike protein, as well as unproven COVID-19 treatments including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
Below, we will analyze the central claims made during the interview in detail.
Claim 1 (Unsupported):
“[P]eople who were just rapidly pushing these things are now dying of strange cardiac events at young ages”
Newman introduced the interview with this statement accompanied by a photo of late actor Matthew Perry that he posted on Twitter in May 2021. In it, Perry—who advocated for COVID-19 vaccination—wore a T-shirt with the message “Could I be any more vaccinated?”, paraphrasing a catchphrase of his character in the popular sitcom “Friends”.
While Newman didn’t explicitly state that it was the COVID-19 vaccine that caused Perry’s death, the implication was clear by presenting Perry as an example of vaccinated people dying in supposedly strange circumstances.
Blaming—without any evidence—COVID-19 vaccines for celebrities’ death has become an anti-vaccine trend, and Perry was no exception. However, this theory has no basis in fact, as Poynter and USA TODAY explained.
According to Los Angeles Times, Perry was found dead in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles on 28 October 2023. Perry had a history of serious health complications, and neither the family nor medical authorities made any statement suggesting a potential link between his death and COVID-19 vaccines.
At the time of writing, the County of Los Angeles Medical Examiner listed the cause of death as “Deferred”, which means that an autopsy was conducted, but the cause of death is still under investigation. Without knowing the cause of death, any attempt to link Perry’s death to COVID-19 vaccines is baseless speculation.
While COVID-19 vaccines have been associated with some serious adverse events, including a few deaths, the belief that any event that occurs following vaccination is necessarily caused by the vaccine is incorrect. Many factors can cause or contribute to increase the risk of a person dying without the need for COVID-19 vaccines playing any role in it, particularly when vaccination hasn’t been associated with an increased risk of death, as we will explain below.
Claim 2 (Incorrect):
“Your government and your healthcare systems have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, probably 350,000 or 400,000 from the vaccine alone”
Thorp didn’t cite any source to support his claim. However, other frequent spreaders of misinformation have mentioned this exact figure before, suggesting that the claim originates from the same source.
In a Substack article published in October 2022, epidemiologist and former science adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Paul Alexander claimed COVID-19 vaccines caused 350,000 U.S. deaths.
During an “Expert Panel Discussion on COVID-19 and Medical Freedom” hosted by Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano in March 2022, entrepreneur Steve Kirsch had also claimed that COVID-19 vaccines had “killed” 410,000 Americans.
Kirsch and Alexander’s figures were both based on death reports recorded in the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). According to Kirsch, the number of reports following COVID-19 vaccination was 10,000, while Alexander referred to almost 35,000 deaths. Both argued that deaths were largely underreported. Thus, they multiplied the number of death reports by a factor that supposedly corrected for this underreporting—41 in the case of Kirsch and 100 in the case of Alexander. This is how they arrived at their respective estimates of 350,000 (35,000 x 100) and 410,000 (10,000 x 41) deaths.
However, these calculations are incorrect for several reasons, as Health Feedback explained in a review addressing Kirsch’s claim.
For starters, the VAERS database records any event that occurred following vaccination, regardless of its cause. Therefore, the fact that a death is reported to VAERS doesn’t necessarily imply that the vaccine caused it. While VAERS is a helpful tool for identifying unusual patterns that could sign vaccine side effects, determining whether the vaccine caused the event requires much further investigation than just looking at the total number of reports.
In addition, there is no evidence supporting the idea that post-vaccination deaths are vastly underreported as Kirsch and Alexander claimed. COVID-19 vaccines have much stricter reporting requirements compared to previous vaccines, for which only those deaths associated with certain adverse events require reporting. In contrast, healthcare professionals are required to report all deaths occurring after COVID-19 vaccination, even if the cause seems unrelated to the vaccine.
Therefore, the claim that COVID-19 vaccines caused hundreds of thousands of deaths is based on flawed analyses and incorrect assumptions.
This claim is also inconsistent with evidence from published studies, which didn’t find that vaccinated people are more likely to die compared to unvaccinated people. On the contrary, COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease, and studies have observed lower mortality rates in vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people[2,3].
Claim 3 (Inaccurate):
“It’s proven that the COVID-19 vaccine is declining fertility rates in both male and female”
Throughout the entire pandemic, Thorp has been a prominent promotor of the persistent narrative that COVID-19 vaccines impair fertility and pregnancy, which Health Feedback debunked on multiple occasions. During the interview with Rogan, Thorp repeated the same claims, adding that “the spike protein is a lethal bioweapon” that is “hijacking the cellular machinery”.
COVID-19 vaccines instruct cells to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The immune system then recognizes this protein as foreign and learns how to respond to it in the case of future infection. But the protein produced following vaccination isn’t produced endlessly in the body. Instead, it is eventually broken down, as any other protein in the body.
Available evidence from safety surveillance and scientific studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and they don’t suggest that the small amounts of spike protein induced by vaccination are toxic or harmful.
Contrary to Thorp’s assertions, there is also no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility in either men or women. Studies show no differences in the ability to conceive between vaccinated and unvaccinated couples[4,5] or between vaccinated and unvaccinated women[6,7].
Researchers also observed no changes in men’s sperm quality before and after vaccination[8-10]. In contrast, several studies have reported a decrease in sperm counts and quality following a SARS-CoV-2 infection[11-13].
The effect of COVID-19 vaccines on menstrual cycles has also been evaluated in several large studies[14-16]. The results consistently show a slight increase in cycle length of less than one day. However, cycle length can vary greatly from one person to another, from cycle to cycle, and through life depending on factors such as weight and age. Since changes in cycle length of less than eight days are considered within the normal range of variation, a one-day increase is highly unlikely to have an effect on a person’s health.
Claim 4 (Unsupported):
Infant mortality rate “trended up over 3% from the last year for the first time in 20 years”; “They’re now pushing four vaccines in pregnancy, this is outrageous, this is why these babies are dying”
CDC estimates showed that infant mortality rose 3%, from 5.44 per 1,000 live births (19,928 infant deaths) in 2021 to 5.6 (20,538 infant deaths) in 2022. This is indeed the first year-to-year increase in the last two decades after a decline of 22% since 2002.
The causes of death that increased the most were maternal complications and bacterial meningitis. Although the report noted an increase in infant mortality across all racial and ethnic groups, this increase was more pronounced in Native Americans. This group, together with Black infants, faced the highest risk, highlighting inequities in maternal healthcare.
Thorp interpreted CDC data as evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause pregnancy complications that ultimately led to more infants dying.
However, there is no evidence whatsoever that supports this claim. In fact, some of Thorp’s claims verged on conspiracy theory. For example, he suggested that by recommending COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, public health authorities deliberately “went after women”.
First of all, it is important to bear in mind that the CDC data are provisional, so the figures may vary slightly when final data for 2022 becomes available. Danielle Ely, a health statistician and lead author of the report, told Associated Press that researchers still couldn’t establish whether the rise was a one-year statistical blip or indicated an actual change in trend.
That said, the data shows a significant and concerning increase in infant mortality. However, there’s no scientific basis for attributing this increase to COVID-19 vaccines.
Although the initial vaccine clinical trials didn’t evaluate the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women, later studies showed no safety issues[17-20]. Instead, they observed multiple benefits.
Pregnant women are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women[21,22]. In turn, having COVID-19 is associated with a higher risk of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, stillbirth, newborn mortality, and newborn admission to neonatal intensive care[23,24], along with a higher risk of maternal mortality.
Therefore, COVID-19 vaccination not only protects pregnant women against illness but also helps improve pregnancy outcomes for both the mother and the baby[25,26]. For this reason, the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.
But what then is the possible cause for the increase in infant mortality?
Eric Eichenwald, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explained to STAT News that “experts at this point can only speculate as to why a statistic that generally has been falling for decades rose sharply in 2022”. But he pointed to the surge of respiratory infections, including flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), last year as potential contributors to at least part of this increase.
In a statement on the CDC’s infant mortality report, March of Dimes—a U.S. nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and infants—also cited RSV, COVID-19, and flu infections among possible reasons for the increase.
In summary, while it is accurate that the CDC report showed an increase in infant mortality in 2022, no evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccines contributed to it. Instead, inequities in maternal healthcare and the surge of respiratory infections following the pandemic are much more likely culprits.
Claim 5 (Inaccurate):
“My Cycle Story proves there’s a shedding event”
My Cycle Story, to which Thorp is a contributor, is an online survey that aimed to evaluate the alleged effect of “exposure” to the spike protein on women’s reproductive health.
One of the analyses involved responses on menstrual cycle data from almost 3,500 unvaccinated women with no prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Based on these data, the authors reported that 70% of the respondents had irregular periods after being “in close proximity” with a vaccinated individual, allegedly suggesting a shedding effect.
In an earlier review covering this analysis, Health Feedback explained that this survey isn’t equipped to determine the cause of the observed effects, as the authors acknowledged. Therefore, the analysis alone can’t demonstrate that the menstrual irregularities reported are due to shedding from vaccinated individuals and not from other factors.
Newman not only left Thorp’s claim unchallenged but gave it added emphasis by citing a study by researchers at the University of Colorado, published in ImmunoHorizons in May 2023. This study found that vaccinated people have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in their nose and mouth that can spread to unvaccinated, uninfected children within the household, likely through respiratory droplets.
Newman misrepresented these results as evidence of vaccine shedding. But Ross Kedl, lead author of the study, told AFP that this phenomenon is unrelated to shedding and that the study was “being manipulated for something so far off base”.
Indeed, Thorp and Newman’s claims are both inaccurate because shedding is a phenomenon that can only occur with vaccines that use live, weakened viruses to generate immunity. Some of these vaccine-derived viruses may still retain the ability to multiply and potentially pass from the vaccinated person to others.
But COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain live viruses, only small parts of it that have no capacity to replicate. Therefore, there is no biological mechanism by which COVID-19 vaccines could plausibly cause shedding, as Health Feedback explained in earlier reviews. On the other hand, if confirmed, antibody transfer “would prove useful to the recipient host”, Kedl said. It is worth noting that the study suggested antibody transfer not only from vaccinated individuals, but also from individuals who had a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Thorp’s claims linking COVID-19 vaccines with death, infertility, pregnancy complications, and infant survival are based on speculation and flawed analyses. All available evidence continues to show that COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness and don’t increase the risk of death or cause infertility. COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes but instead they help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications due to COVID-19 infection for both the mother and the baby. Therefore, vaccination is safe and recommended for pregnant women.
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