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Fact Check: Is There No Proof That the Moderna COVID Vaccine Works?

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The Mississippi State Health Department (MSHD) came under fire on Tuesday after a Twitter user claimed her father was told by an employee there is “no documented proof the Moderna vaccine works” when he tried to book an appointment via its hotline.

The MSHD later apologized, said there had been a “miscommunication,” and scrapped the offending section of its telephone hotline script it believed to be behind the confusion.

The original tweet highlighting the issue has gone viral on Twitter, where it has more than 40,000 likes and about 6,600 retweets.

The Claim

On March 23, Elizabeth Wayne, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, tweeted: “So I was talking to my Dad. Apparently when trying to schedule his vaccine appt, the caller said ‘there is no documented proof that the Moderna vaccine works. would you still like to take the vaccine?’ This is the Mississippi Health Department. I’m in disbelief.”

So I was talking to my Dad. Apparently when trying to schedule his vaccine appt, the caller said there is “there is no documented proof that the Moderna vaccine works. would you still like to take the vaccine?”

This is the Mississippi Health Department. I’m in disbelief.

— Elizabeth Wayne (@LizWaynePhD) March 23, 2021

Users responded with claims of their own. One said: “My friend getting the vaccine in Alabama had a similar experience. The people administering the doses turned around and chatted with each other about how they don’t trust the vaccine for their families, or something.” Others said they had positive experiences.

The tweet was picked up by Mississippi Free Press journalist Nick Judin, who contacted the MSDH for clarification.

Elizabeth Wayne’s father, Bobby Wayne, told the Mississippi Free Press: “The lady told me, ‘I want you to know that there’s no documentation that the Moderna vaccine is effective.’ She asked if I still wanted to take it.” Mr. Wayne confirmed he did want to take it.

The Facts

Documented evidence on the effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine exists and is widely recognized, including by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Moderna vaccine was shown to have 94.1 percent efficacy at preventing illness from COVID-19 in a phase 3 trial, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The trial involved 30,420 people, half of which were given a placebo and half given the vaccine at random.

The results showed that 185 of the participants who received the placebo later developed symptomatic COVID-19. Of the people who received the vaccine, only 11 ended up getting ill with COVID-19.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to the Moderna vaccine on December 18 partly on the basis of this effectiveness.

The FDA stated: “Based on the totality of scientific evidence available to FDA, it is reasonable to believe that [the] Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine may be effective in preventing COVID-19, and that, when used under the conditions described in this authorization, the known and potential benefits of Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine when used to prevent COVID-19 outweigh its known and potential risks.”

Regarding the Twitter claim, Mississippi state Health Officer Thomas Dobbs shared the study results publicly and said an investigation would be launched.

“The mRNA-1273 vaccine showed 94.1% efficacy at preventing Covid-19 illness, including severe disease. Aside from transient local and systemic reactions, no safety concerns were identified.” from the world’s preeminent medical journal https://t.co/WvLnyLdpgW

We will investigate!

— thomas dobbs (@TCBPubHealth) March 23, 2021

MSDH Communications Director Liz Sharlot told the Mississippi Free Press on Tuesday: “The miscommunication was related to a script that when read out of context in scheduling appointments can be confusing.”

The script reads, according to Mississippi Free Press: “If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or immunocompromised and are part of a group that is recommended to receive COVID-19 vaccine, you may choose to be vaccinated. You may want to consult with your physician, but it is not required prior to vaccination.

“Do you still want to be vaccinated with an understanding there are currently no available data on the safety or effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, in pregnant people, lactating people, or immunocompromised people?”

Sharlot apologized and said the offending section had been removed from the vaccine appointment script.

The Ruling

False.

There is documented evidence, based on a large-scale phase 3 vaccine trial involving more than 30,000 participants, that the Moderna vaccine is effective at preventing illness from COVID-19. This evidence is recognized by the CDC and the FDA.

The Liberty Buzz, in partnership with NewsGuard, is dedicated to providing accurate and verifiable vaccine and health information. With NewsGuard’s HealthGuard browser extension, users can verify if a website is a trustworthy source of health information. Visit the The Liberty Buzz VaxFacts website to learn more and to download the HealthGuard browser extension.

A doctor prepares a Moderna vaccine in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on January 14, 2021. The vaccine was granted FDA approval in the U.S. on December 18, 2020.
Radek Mica/AFP/Getty

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