Top 10 COVID Events of the Year: Revealing the Facts Unspoken and Unknown
Top 10 COVID Events of the Year: Revealing the Facts Unspoken and Unknown

By Marina Zhang

COVID-19 in 2023 has been full of revelations and controversy.

Most health leaders involved in the U.S. pandemic response have resigned or been replaced, with one leaving his agency with a study that received much fanfare for a somewhat controversial take on vaccines.

Compared to 2022, the science on the effectiveness and risks of masking and vaccinations has become increasingly clear with the release of highly authoritative studies this year.

Let us review the top 10 major events that took place in relation to COVID in 2023.

1. FDA and CDC Find More COVID Vaccine Adverse Events, Including Stroke

Beginning in January, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) found that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected hundreds of safety signals for Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. This included adverse reactions of myocarditis, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), ventricle dysfunctions in the heart, and many more.

On Jan. 13, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC released a joint statement declaring they detected stroke as a new safety signal in older people who took the Pfizer bivalent boosters. Researchers from Kaiser Permanente also reported in October that people who took the COVID boosters with the influenza vaccine were at a greater risk of stroke.

The FDA and the CDC released a joint statement declaring they detected stroke as a new safety signal in older people who took the Pfizer bivalent boosters. They later said the current evidence is insufficient. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times, Daniel Chetroni/Shutterstock)

Days later, researchers affiliated with the FDA published a preprint finding that older people who received the Pfizer booster shot had a higher rate of Bell’s palsy, a type of facial paralysis.

In a statement released in May, the FDA determined that “the current evidence does not support the existence of a safety issue,” as findings of stroke among the elderly decreased. They added that agencies will continue to evaluate new data as they become available.

2. Vaccines Cannot ‘Effectively’ Control COVID: Fauci After Resigning

The resignation of Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was noteworthy given his role in leading the United States pandemic response and his actions soon after resigning.

Dr. Fauci was very vocal in encouraging vaccine uptake and regularly appeared on television programs motivating people to get vaccinated.

“It’s as simple as black and white. You’re vaccinated, you’re safe. You’re unvaccinated, you’re at risk. Simple as that,” Dr. Fauci said on an MSNBC program during the Delta wave.

Before the Delta wave in the United States, Dr. Fauci compared vaccinated people to “dead ends” for the virus on CBS’s Face the Nation.

However, on Jan. 11, weeks after his resignation at the end of 2022, Dr. Fauci and two other researchers published a paper in Cell Host & Microbe that gained traction due to their comments on the effectiveness of vaccines in controlling respiratory viruses.

“SARS-CoV-2, endemic coronaviruses, RSV, and many other ‘common cold’ viruses … have not to date been effectively controlled by licensed or experimental vaccines,” the authors wrote in their introduction.

Dr. Fauci and two other researchers published a paper in Cell Host and Microbe. In the paper, they wrote, “SARS-CoV-2 [and other ‘common cold’ viruses] … have not to date been effectively controlled by licensed or experimental vaccines.” (Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images, The Epoch Times)

They then addressed some basic immune principles, expressing that the current vaccines induce immunity in the body but not in the airways, yet current respiratory viruses primarily infect the airways.

“The vaccines for these two very different viruses (influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses) … have common characteristics: they elicit incomplete and short-lived protection against evolving virus variants that escape population immunity,” the authors wrote.

While some fact-checkers argue that the study does not contradict Dr. Fauci’s stance during the pandemic, others interpret this as his “coming clean.”

3. Gold Standard Review Finds Evidence of Masking ‘Uncertain’

The Cochrane Library, widely considered the gold standard for systematic reviews, published a review on Jan. 30 stating there was “uncertainty about the effects of face masks.”

“The low to moderate certainty of evidence means our confidence in the effect estimate is limited, and that the true effect may be different from the observed estimate of the effect,” the authors concluded, adding that “pooled results of [randomized controlled trials] did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks.”

The Cochrane Library, widely considered the gold standard for systematic reviews, published a review on Jan. 30 stating there was “uncertainty about the effects of face masks.” (FranciscoMarques/Shutterstock, screenshot via The Epoch Times)

The review’s findings drew widespread criticism from mainstream media. Several articles soon followed, highlighting the effectiveness of masking. The Cochrane editor-in-chief, Dr. Karla Soares-Weiser, also released a statement in March claiming that the review did not show masks don’t work.

“Many commentators have claimed that a recently-updated Cochrane Review shows that ‘masks don’t work’, which is an inaccurate and misleading interpretation,” Dr. Soares-Weiser wrote.

“It would be accurate to say that … the results were inconclusive.”

Currently, the CDC still recommends masking.

“Masks have become political,” said an author of the review on CNN. “I can only tell you what the science is….I can’t tell you whether they work or don’t work. But it’s more likely than not that they don’t work.”

4. Repeated Vaccination Weakens the Immune System, Studies Suggest

Multiple doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines lead to higher levels of antibodies called IgG4. A growing body of research suggests that these antibodies can make the immune system less reactive to COVID-19 spike proteins and more susceptible to potential spike protein damage and infections.

The first of these studies was published in the January issue of Science Immunology. The authors found that a third dose of the mRNA vaccine was linked to an increase in IgG4 subtypes in mice. IgG4 antibodies are responsible for tuning down the immune system to prevent immune overactivation.

However, in the context of COVID-19 and its vaccines, where the immune system must be ready to fight, this may promote “unopposed SARS-CoV2 infection and replication by suppressing natural antiviral responses,” another study published in May reported.

These findings align with other studies that found repeat vaccinations to be associated with increased risks of infections, as reported by a study by the Cleveland Clinic. The team’s earlier study also showed that the more doses a person receives, the more likely they are to get infected.

A medical assistant holds a tray of syringes filled with doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Los Angeles on Feb. 16, 2021. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

5. DNA Contamination Detected in mRNA Vaccines, and FDA’s Response

In the spring of 2023, researchers found that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contain DNA fragments, including controversial SV40 genes, previously undisclosed to the public.

Genetic scientist Kevin McKernan initially discovered that DNA fragments were packaged into lipid nanoparticles with the mRNA vaccine segments so that the DNA could enter cells. However, this means the fragments pose a risk of being integrated into the cell’s genome.

In a preprint published in April, Mr. McKernan and his team found DNA fragments in both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that exceeded the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) 330 nanograms (ng) per milligram requirement and the FDA’s 10 ng/dose requirements.

Furthermore, Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines contained genes from the simian vacuolating virus 40, also known as SV40. The full SV40 virus had a controversial link to cancer stemming from the time when early polio vaccines were accidentally contaminated with the SV40 virus.

“Pfizer never disclosed the SV40 information to the EMA. They gave them a plasmid map of what the plasmid consisted of, with all of the features labeled, with the exception of the SV40 site,” Mr. McKernan said on EpochTV’s American Thought Leaders program.

Mr. McKernan on EpochTV’s American Thought Leaders program. He initially discovered that DNA fragments were packaged into lipid nanoparticles with the mRNA vaccine segments. (The Epoch Times)

Apart from being a safety concern, the DNA fragments also indicated potential problems with drug regulation, Mr. McKernan said.

Initially, Pfizer intended to make its vaccines using a PCR machine, which would have been more expensive and time-consuming. However, the company later switched to using bacteria, likely because that method is faster and more efficient.

Pfizer never tested for the safety implications this change would have.

“They never ran the clinical trials on that material [bacteria]. Clinical trials were run on this PCR process, and then they switched to a new process after the clinical trials,” Mr. McKernan said.

Health practitioners, researchers, and journalists have expressed concern about the unknown risks that DNA contamination may present to the public. Some have called for the recall of Pfizer vaccines.

However, in the FDA’s response to investigative journalist Maryanne Demasi, the agency did not indicate that it intended to recall the vaccines.

Health Canada confirmed its knowledge of the SV40 contamination in the Pfizer vaccines but added that “the sponsor did not specifically identify the SV40 sequence.”

The EMA echoed the statement with a similar response.

In the spring of 2023, researchers found that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contain DNA fragments, including controversial SV40 genes. (Roman Yanushevsky/Shutterstock, Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

6. COVID Vaccine-Injured People Compensated

In April, the U.S. government compensated people injured by the COVID-19 vaccines for the first time.

Three people received compensation for their injuries through the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), run by an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, officials said in a statement.

Two developed myocarditis, while one suffered from a severe allergic reaction. The total compensation added up to over $4,600.

Under the CICP, people who survive their vaccine-induced injury can receive money for unreimbursed medical expenses and lost employment income.

As of Dec. 1, 10 people have been compensated for their injuries from the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Around $37,000 has been paid.

7. Doctors Can Prescribe Ivermectin: FDA Lawyer

Two years after health authorities criticized the use of ivermectin for treating COVID-19, with some doctors’ medical licenses suspended for prescribing it, a lawsuit revealed that doctors actually could prescribe ivermectin as a therapeutic for COVID.

“FDA explicitly recognizes that doctors do have the authority to prescribe ivermectin to treat COVID,” Ashley Cheung Honold, a Department of Justice lawyer representing the FDA, said during oral arguments on Aug. 8 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Ivermectin tablets for human use. (Natasha Holt/The Epoch Times)

The court case against the FDA was brought by physicians who alleged the FDA’s social media posts in 2021 discouraging ivermectin use interfered with their ability to practice medicine. The plaintiffs are Drs. Paul Marik, Mary Bowden, and Robert Apter. They claimed they were professionally harmed by the FDA’s statements, including being terminated over efforts to prescribe ivermectin to patients.

Dr. Marik also noted that a number of studies support using ivermectin against COVID-19, as the FDA itself has acknowledged. Some other studies show little to no effect.

8. Mask Mandates Return in August, New COVID Vaccines Approved

While no federal agencies have reinstated masking mandates, some workplaces, schools, and hospitals started bringing back mask mandates in August due to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.

This prompted a renewed discussion on the effectiveness of masking, with some people pushing back against the mandates.

Some of these workplaces, like Lionsgate and some hospitals, later reversed their mandates.

Mask mandates were reinstated in certain places in August due to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. (Realography/Shutterstock)

Soon after, on Sept. 11, the FDA approved the new COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. These vaccines contained mRNA sequences of the omicron variant XBB.1.5, which was no longer the active variant by the time of approval.

Despite the CDC’s advisory board recommending the vaccine for children and adults, in a report posted on Sept. 27, it acknowledged that certainty about the vaccine’s ability to prevent severe COVID, hospitalization, and death from COVID was “low” for adults and “very low” for children and infants.

The risks of specified severe adverse reactions and reactogenicity were also low.

A month later, the FDA approved the Novavax protein-based COVID vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

9. Final Batch of Pfizer Vaccine Documents Released by the FDA

Under FOIA, the FDA released the final 51,000 pages of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine document.

In 2021, a FOIA was filed against the FDA for all of its documents related to the licensing of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. This then progressed into a lawsuit, as the FDA proposed to release 500 pages per month, meaning it would take 75 years for all of the Pfizer documents to be released. 

In 2021, a nonprofit group composed of medical practitioners and officers called Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency filed a lawsuit against the FDA due to this request. The judge ordered the FDA to produce 55,000 pages per month instead.

As of November 2023, all of the FDA’s documents in relation to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines for ages 16 and up have been released.

The FDA released the final 51,000+ pages of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine document in November 2023. (The Epoch Times)

The following several things came to light with the release of these 51,893 pages:

  • The FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) Sentinel Program is insufficient to assess the serious risks of myocarditis, pericarditis, and subclinical myocarditis associated with the Pfizer vaccine. When the vaccine was approved, the program lacked sufficient power to assess the magnitude of risk. Also, it was insufficient for following up on cases of long-term symptoms and recovery.
  • Emails from the FDA CBER Review Team in August 2021 reveal that the FDA was aware that the vaccines may have contained endotoxins. In the email, the FDA asked Pfizer questions about its process for measuring endotoxins in the vaccines. It is not revealed why the vaccines would contain endotoxins. However, E. coli bacteria—which Pfizer used to make DNA for its mRNA vaccines—produce endotoxins, so this is a possible explanation.
  • Pfizer’s COVID vaccines may have several manufacturing problems. One of the documents seems to be Pfizer’s written response to multiple manufacturing problems identified by the FDA. Several batches of COVID-19 vaccines were flagged for deviating from product quality standards, yet the affected batches were released to the public in various lots, the numbers of which were redacted.
  • The FDA’s memo on pharmacovigilance noted that “there are VAERS reports of deaths due to COVID-19 in patients reported to be fully vaccinated. It is expected there may be some cases of vaccination failure, especially in elderly or immunocompromised subjects.” The FDA added that the VAERS system cannot be used to conclude vaccine effectiveness.
  • The FDA’s memo on the licensing application for Pfizer contains comments wherein FDA clinical reviewers stated that Pfizer’s data “exceed FDA’s expectations.” It also mentioned that the cardiac events reported during the trial were “unlikely to be related to vaccination,” even though cardiac events and/or heart failures were almost double the cases in the placebo arm (10 versus six).

10. Not Messenger RNA but Modified RNA, Vaccines Form Aberrant Proteins

While the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines on the market were advertised as messenger RNA, meaning naturally occurring RNA in the body, documents from Pfizer and studies on Moderna vaccines showed that the actual mRNA used is modified RNA, or modRNA.

Naturally occurring mRNA is primarily composed of uridine, while the modRNA in vaccines has had most of the uridine switched to pseudouridine to make the vaccines hardier and more resistant to immune degradation. An article by Epoch Times guest columnist and molecular scientist Klaus Steger provided a detailed explanation.

The sequences have also been changed to induce faster reading of the mRNA, which can affect the final protein produced. Prior research found that an altered reading speed would affect how the final protein folds, which could lead to the formation of new, non-spike, aberrant proteins.

A recent Cambridge study found that 8 percent of the time, Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are mistranslated, leading to the formation of aberrant proteins. (The Epoch Times)

This has been confirmed in a recent Cambridge study that found around 8 percent of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines to be misread and to generate aberrant proteins. Researchers determined that the pseudouridine change to the mRNA sequences makes the vaccine particularly “error-prone.”

This unique, aberrant protein formation can cause unintended immune responses among Pfizer vaccinees. Study authors only tested the effects of the proteins in Pfizer vaccinees, though it should be noted that Moderna also used pseudouridine in its mRNA sequences.

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