On Friday, March 12, Dr. Matt Pflieger, Huntington’s interim public health officer, shared a video explaining side effects and what to expect with COVID-19 vaccinations.
Pflieger offered three time frames to use during his model example of “Person A” and their vaccination side effects. The three time frames were one day after the vaccine had been administered (“X”), one month after the vaccine had been administered (“Y”) and one year after the vaccine had been administered (“Z”).
“We know that on day one that people may get fevers, chills, headaches . . . and that’s due to an immune response, not because you’re getting sick. We know that’s probably due to the vaccine,” Pflieger said.
Pflieger then moved on to the “Y” and “Z” event, asking folks to consider correlation vs. causation.
“What about when there’s something that happens a month later - there’s some kind of “Y” event, an unknown thing - can we attribute that to the vaccine? Or, what if something happens a year later? Can we attribute that to the vaccine?” Pflieger asked. “That is a very very tricky question to answer.”
Pflieger explained that the way to answer the question has to do with correlation vs. causation.
“This is really important for us to understand - especially the people watching the vaccines - these two things,” Pflieger said.
According to Pflieger, correlation relates to the time connection between receiving the vaccine and the health event that occurred. Causation relates to the vaccine and whether or not it caused the health event to occur.
“The reason determining causation is so difficult is because there are so many variables in life,” Pflieger said. “People are on so many different medicines. They have different medical conditions, people live in different environments than other people.”
Pflieger then went on to explain that the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is available for anyone to view and determine whether or not a pattern has occurred after vaccines had been received. Should a pattern start to form after a vaccine is administered, causation would be easier to establish.
One example that Pflieger shared of correlation was several cases of Bell’s Palsy - a medical condition that, according to the Mayo Clinic, affects nerves inside of the face and can cause temporary weakness in the face.
Pflieger explained that, although many feared that the vaccine would cause patients to get Bell’s Palsy, only seven study participants actually experienced this certain health event.
“So, there was a correlation with Bell’s Palsy, but not a causation,” Pflieger said. “And then, we’ve had 70 million people get the vaccine and we haven’t seen this outbreak of Bell’s Palsy. So, we can kind of say that, no, that’s not a thing, this isn’t attributable to the vaccine.”
Pflieger urges the community to keep correlation vs. causation in mind when hearing discussion of the COVID-19 vaccine and possible side effects.
“You have to think in your brain - is that correlation or causation? I just want you to understand that, as you make the decision to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine, think about correlation and causation. Talk to your health care provider, talk to people, but use it in that framework. I think it will help you come to a decision that you feel comfortable with about the vaccines.”