Co-Author Retracting COVID Vaccines Linked to Miscarriage Paper

Retraction Watch Staff

November 17, 2021

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A pair of researchers in New Zealand have asked for the retraction of a controversial article on the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women who receive a vaccination against Covid-19, according to one of the co-authors.

Simon Thornley, of the University of Auckland — and an outspoken critic of New Zealand's efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic — and Aleisha Brock, of Whanganui, N.Z., published a reanalysis of a study in which they claimed to have found that as many as 91% of pregnant women miscarry after receiving a Covid jab. 

But after an onslaught of criticism — including a scathing email from an official at the University of Auckland — Thornley tells us he and Brock have decided to retract their paper, although he declined to tell us why. 

The article, which appears in  Public Health Policy & the Law, was a reanalysis of data published in April 2021 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which showed no reason for concern about the safety of mRNA vaccines in pregnant women. 

However, according to Thornley and Brock:

The [NEJM] study presents falsely reassuring statistics related to the risk of spontaneous abortion in early pregnancy, since the majority of women in the calculation were exposed to the mRNA product after the outcome period was defined (20 weeks' gestation).
In this article, we draw attention to these errors and recalculate the risk of this outcome based on the cohort that was exposed to the vaccine before 20 weeks' gestation. Our re-analysis indicates a cumulative incidence of spontaneous abortion 7 to 8 times higher than the original authors' results (p < 0.001) and the typical average for pregnancy loss during this time period. In light of these findings, key policy decisions have been made using unreliable and questionable data. We conclude that the claims made using these data on the safety of exposure of women in early pregnancy to mRNA-based vaccines to prevent COVID-19 are unwarranted and recommend that those policy decisions be revisited.

The report, which was press-released by the editor of the journal, was harshly criticized by experts in epidemiology.  According to the website Stuff:

Many of its promoters focused on one specific aspect. The paper recalculated the reported miscarriage rate to only include people who were pregnant in their first or second trimester when they were vaccinated. Doing so increased the miscarriage rate to between 82 and 91 percent, a shockingly high figure.
Because the study lasted three months, the only way for a person to complete pregnancy in that timeframe is to have a miscarriage (unless they were late in their second trimester).
Thornley and Brock told Stuff they calculated and included that figure to highlight what they believed was an error in the original study – that it was wrong to make any miscarriage rate calculation based only on those who had completed their pregnancies in three months.

According to Stuff:

In remarks quoted in The Epoch Times, Thornley himself said his reanalysis showed vaccination early in pregnancy "indicates a substantially increased risk from background", without noting that such a calculation is, by his own reasoning, useless. The Epoch Times also quoted the researcher who first raised questions about the CDC study in June, who said he did not agree with Thornley and Brock's paper, and had been satisfied with follow-up data released after the original paper.

The NEJM paper that Thornley and Brock were re-analyzing earned a correction on October 14, which was after the new paper was written but before it was published, according to Stuff. This week, Robert Scragg, the head of the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, where Thornley is employed, took the unusual step of demanding the retraction of the Thornely and Brock paper.

In an email to the institution, which was posted on Twitter, Scragg wrote that the article — in a "low ranking non-indexed journal" — includes a "major error" and called on them to:

immediately publicly retract their article because of the anxiety it is creating for expectant parents and those planning to have a child.

The journal in question, Public Health Policy & the Law, recently republished a paper that had been retracted from an MDPI journal claiming multiple deaths due to COVID vaccination for every death from COVID.

Thornley told Retraction Watch that he and Brock had prepared a correction for their paper but opted instead to retract the work. Why's that? "No further comment," he replied.

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