Andrew Bridgen: What has suspended MP said about vaccines? – BBC

The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has been suspended by his party after comparing the side effects of Covid vaccines to the Holocaust.
In a tweet – which he has since deleted – he claimed that an unnamed cardiologist told him it was "the biggest crime since the Holocaust".
The North West Leicestershire MP began the pandemic raising concerns about lockdowns and later opposing the idea of mandatory vaccination, but he praised the UK's vaccine roll-out and tweeted encouraging others to get the jab after his first dose.
However in recent months, he has made increasingly misleading statements about vaccine safety.
In December 2022, Mr Bridgen called in Parliament for a "complete suspension" of Covid vaccines based on what he described as, "robust data of significant harms and little ongoing benefit".
This went against the overwhelming weight of evidence, from a number of different independent teams of researchers, that found that Covid vaccines' benefits far outweigh any known harms.
The latest figures suggest the vaccines are more than 90% effective at preventing deaths, falling to 50% after six months.
Older people still have around 60% protection against hospital admission, nine months after receiving a booster jab.
Serious side effects do exist but they are rare.
After more than 45 million people received at least two doses in England and Wales, 59 deaths involving the vaccines had been registered as of November 2022 – though more may be recorded as it takes time for such deaths to be investigated.
There were 15 reports of suspected heart inflammation or scarring (myocarditis or pericarditis) for every one million second doses of the Pfizer vaccine given in the UK up until the end of last November according to the UK Health Security Agency, and roughly 11 cases of an unusual type of blood clot linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine per one million doses.
A Danish study of four million people found no link between vaccination and risk of heart failure among people who developed myocarditis or pericarditis.
These risks vary by age and this has been taken into account by health bodies who have made decisions about the vaccines.
When it became clear the risk from blood clots was too close to the risk from Covid in younger age groups, the recommendations for younger people changed.
Also in December 2022, Mr Bridgen told MPs: "There have been more reported deaths and adverse reactions following mRNA vaccination [Pfizer and Moderna] in 18 months than there has been to every conventional vaccine administered worldwide for the last 50 years".
At the time, we asked Mr Bridgen for the evidence for this.
He referred us to information drawn from the UK Yellow Card scheme – set up by the medicines and vaccines regulator (MHRA) for people in the UK to report their concerns or symptoms after having the jab. But that data can't be used to back up his claim.
The scheme works by allowing anyone to make a report relating to anything that happens to them after having a vaccine – the figures on their own cannot be used to tell if the vaccine was responsible for this.
The scheme can't be used to accurately measure how vaccine side effects have changed over time.
At different points, there might have been over-reporting – where the symptoms people record aren't actually caused by the vaccine – and under-reporting – where people don't record genuine side effects.
The MHRA said the fact that more people were reporting to the scheme was expected,"given the scale of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, and publicity in the context of the pandemic," rather than indicating a real rise in side effects.
It is also UK data and Mr Bridgen did not provide evidence to compare this with all conventional vaccines worldwide for the last 50 years.
A better way of understanding the level of vaccine side effects is to look at clinical trials.
These have helped us learn about genuine but rare side effects like blood clots and myocarditis. They have concluded that these are significantly outweighed by the deaths and illness that the Covid vaccines have prevented.
In December, Mr Bridgen claimed in Parliament that the head of a cardiology research department, who he did not name, with a "leadership role with the British Heart Foundation…sent out non-disclosure agreements to his research team to ensure that this important data [on vaccine harms] never sees the light of day".
When asked by The Times newspaper to provide evidence, Mr Bridgen failed to do so.
The British Heart Foundation said in a statement: "Scientific evidence shows that Covid-19 itself is much more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccine is, and people who are vaccinated have a much lower risk of getting other serious complications caused by Covid-19.
"We employ a small leadership team of senior scientists and cardiologists to oversee and administer our research funding programmes, who also continue to undertake some of their own research. We can categorically say that nobody within this leadership team has acted in the way claimed by Mr Bridgen."
Since then, Mr Bridgen has also referred to Covid vaccines as "experimental gene therapy" – a term used by those who spread anti-vaccine conspiracies online. The vaccines do not affect DNA and therefore the NHS does not define them as gene therapy.
The BBC has approached Mr Bridgen for comment.
Update 13 February – Mr Bridgen has subsequently released a video statement, saying: "There are very reasonable questions to be asked about the safety and effectiveness of the experimental mRNA vaccines and the risks and benefits of these treatments."
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