Talk-radio host and professional blowhard Dennis Prager once again demonstrates his failure to understand anything about public health or medicine.

In his latest 72-square-inch waste of column space in the Lewiston Tribune (Nov. 14), Prager reports that based on numbers from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, “more than 17,000 otherwise unexpected deaths [are] temporally associated with COVID-19 vaccines.” The claim of temporal association is correct because all adverse events that might be connected to a COVID-19 vaccination are supposed to be reported through VAERS. The key is that Prager predicates his statement with the clause “To its everlasting shame … ” because he thinks these deaths are due to COVID-19 vaccinations and this fact is being shamefully ignored by the medical community.

Let’s start with temporarily accepting the completely inaccurate assumption that all temporally associated deaths reported through VAERS are in fact due to vaccination. According to the CDC adverse events website, between Dec. 14, 2020, and Nov. 8, 2021,, COVID-19 vaccinations were administered more than 432 million times with 9,549 temporally associated deaths. If these deaths were truly due to vaccination, the death rate from vaccination would be 2.2 per 100,000 immunizations. Compare this to the mortality rate from COVID-19 illness, which is 217 deaths per 100,000 infections for unvaccinated Americans.

Prager is, of course, completely wrong about how to interpret reports in the VAERS database. This database was established in 1990 as a tool to identify associations between adverse events (including death) and any kind of vaccination. Think of this as the crudest form of data collection where details from an adverse event are entered into the database. Detailed case records are then reviewed by medical scientists to determine if there are any patterns of association between multiple reports of adverse events and vaccination. To date, the only pattern of death has been associated to the early use of the J&J vaccine, which very rarely causes blood clots. To date, five deaths have been attributed to this condition. Notably, now that this is a known adverse event, there is a simple test and treatment to prevent further deaths.

In short, even if you choose willful ignorance about how to interpret VAERS events, the risk of death from vaccination would be 100-times lower compared to the risk of death from infection. Fortunately, the news is far better for COVID-19 vaccinations because review of VAERS data shows death from vaccination is incredibly rare.

Prager also presents a lengthy diatribe about the CDC obfuscating the relative efficacy of natural immunity versus vaccine immunity. Apparently, his complaint comes from what he considers unsatisfactory statements to the press by various spokespeople. If you visit the CDC website and search for the Science Brief on infection-induced versus vaccine-induced immunity, you will find a lengthy but very readable discussion of the nuances of these questions and challenges when interpreting different studies, including a discussion about the uncertainty of drawing a conclusion that natural immunity “trumps” vaccine immunity as Prager claims.

It is possible that natural infection can confer equal or more effective immunity if only because your body is mounting an immune response to more than one component of the virus. Furthermore, there is good evidence that getting vaccinated after natural infection provides a considerable boost in immunity. Of course, you should consider that during the delta wave that started in the summer of 2021, six times as many unvaccinated individuals got COVID-19 and 12 times as many died compared to vaccinated individuals. That is, getting to the point where you have natural immunity, even if just as effective as vaccine immunity, comes with considerable risk.

But have no fear because Prager is convinced that prophylactic treatment with ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, zinc and “megadoses” of vitamins C and D and selenium will protect him from COVID-19 infection. It is more likely that this regimen will result in kidney stones and hair loss, but at least he won’t get head lice. Fortunately for him, when Prager was diagnosed with COVID-19 he willingly accepted infusion of foreign proteins into his body in the form of monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. I guess when the rubber meets the road, even Prager passes on his own hyperbole.

Call (he/him) is a microbiologist. This column occupies approximately 39-square-inches of space on this page.

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