Betcha Didn’t Know RIDOH Maintains, “A (Covid-19) vaccine surveillance team within the COVID-19 ‘Epidemiological Operations Unit’ to maintain and review VAERS reports following COVID-19 immunization”

During a 6/29/22 to 7/1/22 email exchange with the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (RIDOH’s) spokesman, Joseph Wendelken, I pointed to a 6/9/22 published report of 14 RI cases of post-covid-19 vaccine myopericarditis in young men, and the May, 2021 newspaper account of how Connecticut’s Department of Health (DOH) had responded to similar cases in Connecticut. Over a year ago, already, Connecticut’s DOH tabulated 18 such cases in 16 to 34 year old men, noting further that the “number and severity of cases is being tracked…by the state of Connecticut to gain more information.” Mr. Wendelken’s brief, disinterested response to my queries about whether RIDOH had “1) issued any similar statements, in 2021 or 2022, and 2) is RIDOH in fact compiling and tracking such cases?”, was, “As you know, CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and HHS (Health and Human Services) maintain a reporting and tracking system for vaccine adverse eventsThe State (RI) does not maintain a separate system. We have not issued any statements on myopericarditis post-COVID-19 vaccination.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Wendelken’s claims, the following was published in the September 2021 issue of the Rhode Island Medical Society Journal: “Monitoring Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) Reports Related to COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts in Rhode Island.” R I Med J. 2021 Sep 1;104(7):64-66. PMID: 34437669. Karayeva E, Kim HW, Bandy U [=current acting RIDOH Director], Clyne A, Marak TP.

The RI Med J report describes how a RIDOH “vaccine surveillance team” meets regularly (i.e., each week) to review CDC VAERS data from RI residents categorizing the severity, and updating the frequency, of adverse events associated with covid 19 vaccination. These efforts are geared, allegedly, toward identifying, “cases of significant interest and respond to media and data requests in a timely manner.”

“The CDC sends Rhode Island VAERS reports in an excel format to the RIDOH. The vac­cine surveillance team at RIDOH maintains an internal cumulative spreadsheet of all the VAERS reports pertaining to RI residents. The clinical staff on the team review the VAERS report details and classify the reported event. Clas­sification of VAERS reports into specific categories helps the team summarize adverse events following AEFIs to identify cases of significant interest and respond to media and data requests in a timely manner…Due to the nature of a passive surveillance system, not all VAERS reports received will have complete information and may be missing individual patient identifiers, vaccine and dose information, or have incomplete descriptions of the reaction. The epidemiologist and nurses on the team utilize additional data sources and outreach to the patient or adverse event reporter to obtain more detailed informa­tion when appropriate. For example, the team can leverage resources like the state’s immunization registry to confirm vaccine date and dose information if the patient identifiers are shared in the VAERS report. Other reports may require additional follow-up with the reporting physician or hospi­tal for medical records to gain a clearer understanding of the significance of the event. These types of outreach efforts are focused on reported cases of deaths and other events of inter­est. The cumulative list is analyzed to produce a weekly VAERS report describing the outcomes and trends seen in the VAERS data. The COVID-19 vaccine surveillance team meets weekly to review new reports and trends in the volume and types of reports received.”

VAERS and the RIDOH “vaccine surveillance team” included myocarditis/pericarditis, specifically, as a serious adverse event of (particular) interest:

“Events of interest include reports of anaphylaxis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, immediate allergic reactions, thromboembolic events, myocarditis/pericarditis, and select others.”

With rather limited follow-up (given VAERS reporting delays), through mid-July, 2021, the RI Med J report (see table below) included 89 covid-19-vaccine-associated hospitalizations, and 16 deaths. Pathognomonic of local RI journalistic shunning of any coverage that might cast the covid-19 vaccines in an unfavorable light, no local Rhode Island media has reported these findings, since they were first published over a year ago.

Download full pdf of  VAERS RIDOH paper here: RIMS vaers pdf

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