The Charité has removed the controversial “ImpfSurv” survey on reactions to and side effects of corona vaccinations and symptoms of Covid 19 diseases from its website and will examine the project internally. Berlin’s Science Senator Ulrike Gote (Greens) said this on Monday in the Science Committee of the House of Representatives in response to a question from Tobias Schulze (Die Linke).
There are “justified doubts about the quality of the survey,” said Gote in the current hour. “ImpfSurv” is managed by Harald Matthes, the medical director of the anthroposophic community hospital Havelhöhe. Matthes also has a temporary endowed professorship at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at the Charité University Medical Center.
To speak of a “Charité study” is incorrect, said Gote. In fact, it is a two-year survey of, according to Matthes, 40,000 people so far, for whom volunteers have been sought since July 2021. At the Charité, an “external best practice test” is also being considered, Gote added.
With such procedures, the question arises as to whether scientific standards were complied with or violated in the survey design, in the methods, or in the evaluation. “The Charité positions itself clearly in the sense of quality assurance and not in the sense of prejudice,” says Gote.
Matthes had given information about the interim results of the survey to various media. According to this, the occurrence of “severe side effects” of vaccinations against Covid-19 is around 40 times more common than previously stated by the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), which is responsible for recording side effects and vaccination complications in Germany.
According to the last safety report published by the PEI at the end of March, the reporting rate of suspected cases in Germany is 1.7 reports per 1000 vaccine doses for all vaccines, and 0.2 reports per 1000 vaccine doses for serious reactions. Matthes had stated that the vaccinations had a side effect rate of 0.8 percent.
This statement cannot be verified, since the results and the description of the underlying methodology have not been published. Critics from specialist circles criticize Matthes’ use of the term “severe side effects”. It is not possible to understand which side effects there are and whether they are related to the vaccination based on the information provided.
In an interview, Matthes named neurological disorders, nerve paralysis, muscle and headaches and cardiovascular problems as examples. His statements are based on symptoms that the respondents observed in themselves. In studies on the safety of vaccines, however, a distinction must be made between “adverse events” and “adverse drug effects”, Leif Erik Sander, head of infectiology at the Charité, told the Tagesspiegel communicated request.
Adverse events also occur in clinical studies among subjects who receive an ineffective placebo. There is no placebo group for comparison in the survey. According to Sander, only speaking of “severe side effects” suggests a causal connection with the vaccination, which does not exist in all cases. Further criticism concerns the non-representative recruitment of the respondents. Calls for participation were made at vaccination centers, via mail and messenger service and via a website. People with acute symptoms are probably overrepresented.
A spokesman for the Charité had informed the German Press Agency: “This database is not suitable for drawing concrete conclusions about frequencies in the general population and for generalizing interpretation.”