Internet & Tacos

Imagined COVID Vaccine Study, Real Obesity Clickbait

When it comes to clickbait, enough is too much. The CNN headline on the right proclaims both truth and fiction. It’s true enough that obesity increases the risk of complications from COVID-19. But suggesting that a “study finds” obesity damages the efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine is false and misleading. This is nothing but obesity clickbait.

No Studies Yet of
COVID Vaccines in Obesity

We’ve been down this road before. Kaiser Health News published speculation about this a few weeks ago. A new a review paper on obesity and COVID-19 with a pooled analysis of outcomes by Barry Popkin et al is stirring the pot once more. The pooled analysis is interesting and helpful. It’s now pretty clear that obesity is a risk factor for worse outcomes in COVID-19, especially for younger patients.

But these authors also threw in a commentary on vaccine responses in people with obesity. True enough, responses to flu vaccination is different for people with obesity. It’s also different for older people. However, the flu is not the same thing as COVID-19. Vaccines for COVID-19 will be very different from influenza vaccines.

Thus, we have no data on COVID-19 vaccine responses in people with obesity, or people of different ages. None.

Confusing Speculation and Facts

To be honest, we are fed up with people blurring the line between speculation and facts. Popkin et al write:

A major concern is that vaccines will be less effective for the individuals with obesity.

This is speculation, pure and simple. Speculation about vaccines is abundant. Will a COVID-19 vaccine work at all? We hope so. Some people speculate that we will have one in time for the election. Russia speculated that its vaccine might work well enough even without rigorous clinical trials. So they released it for use after having given it to only 76 people. Other people speculate that a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be safe and effective. Thus, one third of Americans say they’ll skip it.

So, you see, all kinds speculation about obesity, COVID-19, and vaccines are possible. And in our opinion, all of it is irresponsible. Facts matter.

Click here for the paper by Popkin et al and here for the misreporting by CNN.

Internet & Tacos, photograph © lecates / flickr

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August 27, 2020