The editorial board of BMC Infectious Diseases recently made a decision to retract the following article:
Skidmore, M. The role of social circle COVID-19 illness and vaccination experiences in COVID-19 vaccination decisions: an online survey of the United States population. BMC Infect Dis 23, 51 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-023-07998-3
The summary results from the article are provided below where the finding highlighted in bold sparked controversy:
“A total of 2840 participants completed the survey between December 18 and 23, 2021. 51% (1383 of 2840) of the participants were female and the mean age was 47 (95% CI 46.36–47.64) years. Those who knew someone who experienced a health problem from COVID-19 were more likely to be vaccinated (OR: 1.309, 95% CI 1.094–1.566), while those who knew someone who experienced a health problem following vaccination were less likely to be vaccinated (OR: 0.567, 95% CI 0.461–0.698). 34% (959 of 2840) reported that they knew at least one person who had experienced a significant health problem due to the COVID-19 illness. Similarly, 22% (612 of 2840) of respondents indicated that they knew at least one person who had experienced a severe health problem following COVID-19 vaccination. With these survey data, the total number of fatalities due to COVID-19 inoculation may be as high as 278,000 (95% CI 217,330–332,608) when fatalities that may have occurred regardless of inoculation are removed.”
When the article was published on January 24, 2023, several notable scientists and medical professionals tweeted about it. News of the article went viral on social media, reaching up to 17 million Twitter followers. Of interest, news of the article had near zero exposure on Facebook. Altmetric ranks this article at #1 in the history of BMC Infectious Diseases, and #850 of 23,485,953 of all research articles ever tracked by Altmetric. The exposure is due to two factors. First, the finding resonated with many who have loved ones who they believe experienced harm from the COVID-19 vaccine. Second, for a variety of reasons many were angered by the study. Some of these people approached the Editor of BMC Infectious Diseases and my university with their criticisms. As a result, the Editorial Board conducted a re-review of the manuscript, which ended with the retraction decision. While BMC Infectious Diseases has a policy of making referee comments and author responses of published manuscripts available to the public, it does not provide any documents relating the re-review process. Thus, the only thing readers will see on the BMC Infectious Diseases website is the following retraction notice:
“The editors have retracted this article as concerns were raised regarding the validity of the conclusions drawn after publication. Post-publication peer review concluded that the methodology was inappropriate as it does not prove causal inference of mortality, and limitations of the study were not adequately described. Furthermore, there was no attempt to validate reported fatalities, and there are critical issues in the representativeness of the study population and the accuracy of data collection. Lastly, contrary to the statement in the article, the documentation provided by the author confirms that the study was exempt from ethics approval and therefore was not approved by the IRB of the Michigan State University Human Research Protection Program. The author disagrees with this retraction.“
With the goal of greater transparency, I am making public my responses to the re-review questions as well as my reaction to the retraction notice. Interested readers can then decide for themselves whether the retraction is warranted. This document can be found here.
In addition, Stephanie Lee, a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, contacted me about the retraction. I answered her questions via e-mail and she wrote a completely imbalanced article, which can be found here. Please have a read and let her know what you think of it. In the interests of transparency, I also include her questions and my responses so you can see what she chose to include and leave out of her article. That document can be found here.
The federal government has paid out $0 claims to those who have been vaccine-injured and their families. The BMC Infectious Diseases Editorial Board and Ms. Lee dishonor all those in need of medical and financial assistance.