In connection with the corona vaccination, reports of side effects unsettle many people. Data from the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians is said to show many more of these side effects than previously recorded. The fact check shows: The data is misinterpreted.
What is the expected vaccination reaction, what are the serious side effects? In the debate about corona vaccines, some actors keep getting tangled up in this question. It is sometimes claimed that side effects occur much more frequently than previously known. In a current application, the AfD parliamentary group, for example, writes with reference to new data from the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) of around 2.5 million patients with side effects from vaccinations who were treated by their contract doctors in 2021. But the KBV classifies the numbers - the data does not distinguish between usual vaccination reactions and reportable side effects, for example.
Claim: Numbers from the KBV show that the side effects of the corona vaccination are much higher than expected. Almost 2.5 million patients therefore had to receive medical treatment in 2021.
Facts: The effectiveness of the Covid vaccines has been scientifically proven. It is also known that there are often temporary reactions such as the "vaccination arm" or headaches, but extremely rarely serious side effects. The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians had compiled the latest data on vaccination side effects at the request of the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag. This was confirmed by the KBV of the dpa. The analysis speaks of almost 2.5 million patients who presented themselves to panel doctors in 2021 after a vaccination. Their symptoms included both "usual and therefore non-notifiable vaccination reactions as well as notifiable vaccination side effects," as the KBV writes.
On Wednesday, the plenum referred an AfD Bundestag application created from this data, which calls for the clarification of vaccination side effects, to the health committee. It states that the extent and risk of vaccination side effects have been "marginalized and trivialized" in the past. The health policy spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Martin Sichert, called the KBV numbers "scary" at the end of June.
The umbrella organization of the 17 associations of statutory health insurance physicians in Germany reacted with outrage: the board "dissociates itself in the strongest possible way from the statements and interpretations" of Sichert, the KBV said. The number of around 2.5 million patients with vaccination side effects is "by no means unexpected and dramatic". The KBV also understands vaccination side effects to mean typical, harmless vaccination reactions that last for one to three days: such as a skin rash, redness and pain at the injection site, fever or tiredness. "They form by far the largest proportion of the registered intolerances and complications." By no means only serious side effects were reported.
The KBV evaluated billing data using four diagnostic codes, only one of which is specifically applied to corona vaccinations. The other three can also be awarded for vaccination reactions after a tetanus or hepatitis injection. Doctors must state these so-called ICD codes on their bills. For example, anyone who feels too weak to go to work after a vaccination consults the doctor for a sick note. The patients do not necessarily have to be treated for this, as the KBV reports. However, an ICD key will still be issued.
Depending on the situation, such a code can describe a normal and harmless vaccination reaction or a side effect that goes beyond the normal level and must also be reported to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). The PEI assesses the benefits and risks of vaccines. A total of 244,576 suspected cases of a side effect after a corona vaccination were reported to the institute by the end of 2021. "Serious adverse reactions were reported in 29,786 suspected cases," according to the PEI.
"The difference between the vaccination reactions documented by doctors and those reported to the PEI is therefore understandable and was to be expected," says the KBV. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the total number of corona vaccinations in Germany in 2021 was around 150 million. The almost 2.5 million patients with side effects documented by the KBV do not have to have come to the doctor's office exclusively because of symptoms after a vaccination: "Patients will also have gone to the doctor because of other complaints such as a chronic underlying disease and mentioned the side effects of the vaccination, which the doctor then coded," according to the KBV.
The comparison of the number of reported side effects of the Covid vaccination in the KBV with that of previous vaccinations also lags behind, which the KBV also points out: Experts have repeatedly emphasized that the high level of public attention during the pandemic also led to more reports of possible vaccination reactions and -side effects. In the past there have been several attempts to prove an allegedly unrecognized high number of corona vaccination side effects. So far, however, there is no evidence of this.
Supposed analyzes showed serious shortcomings: The study by an endowed professor at the Berlin Charité turned out to be an open Internet survey, the database of which even the Charité did not consider suitable. An evaluation by the health insurance company BKK Provita did not differentiate between temporary vaccination reactions and persistent side effects.
(This article was first published on Friday, July 08, 2022.)