A preliminary report by three members of the Hospital of Barbastro (Huesca) entitled ‘Possible cause of the coronavirus pandemic: immunological interference between Polysorbate 80 of the adjuvanted influenza vaccine and SARS-CoV-2’ has been circulating for days on social networks . The article was hosted on Google Drive on June 15 by an account called ‘Anti-Mathematical Philosopher’ and was originally available to anyone with the link.

Many of the accounts or websites that shared the document did so accompanying it with anti-vaccine or conspiracy theories or, even, linking the appearance of this report with the decline in the de-escalation of several regions of Aragon.

One of its authors acknowledges that the document was “a draft for internal use”

At Newtral.es we have contacted one of the authors of the document, Juan Francisco Gastón Añaños, Head of Section of Hospital Pharmacy at the Hospital of Barbastro. Gastón says he is unaware that his report is being shared along with anti-vaccine arguments.

“What circulates it is a draft for internal use, a very primary version. And I would not like it to be used for what it was not. I am not anti-vaccines »says Gastón, who admits having shared the document with friends and colleagues, looking for collaboration.

The author believes that people are spreading their work without having read it before. “The title is too technical and the draft being shared is incomplete. If it is not read, the conclusions can be misinterpreted. It is a scientific work ”, she adds.

What the document says

The hypothesis of the report is based on the fact that the use of polysorbate 80 as an adjuvant in influenza vaccines —that is, as the substance that enhances their effect to produce the immune response in the body and generate antibodies against the virus— would produce a higher risk of death in COVID-19 patients older than 65 years.

Polysorbate 80 it is a food additive which is listed as E-433. Taking into account that the flu vaccination campaign begins in the autumn, the hypothesis held by these managers of the Barbastro Hospital would be based on the prevalence of this compound in the body for several months.

We have contacted Jaime Pérez, member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Association of Vaccines (AEV), who clarifies that in some of the Autonomous Communities with the highest death rate per population (Castilla-La Mancha, La Rioja or Navarra) , polysorbate was not part of the excipients of the flu vaccine. Pérez also adds that “there can be no polysorbate in the body after five months. It’s stupid”.

Asked about this prevalence, Gastón acknowledges that “he did not have that information and so it did not appear in the report. The researcher assures that he already has these data and that he will try to clarify it.

The chosen sample «it is very small»

The researchers have made their hypothesis after observing 20 deaths from COVID-19 registered at the Barbastro Hospital itself on April 30 (out of the 100,000 inhabitants of the health sector to which the hospital belongs). When they found that all were over 65 years old, they observed that 17 of them had been administered the flu vaccine during the 2019-2020 period. The result would indicate that 85% of the deceased older than 65 years had been vaccinated against the flu.

We still do not have the total number of deaths by age of the patient, so a sample has been chosen without knowing the statistical population about which the investigation is being carried out. According to data collected by Newtral.es from the different regional governments, the number of deaths from COVID-19 or symptoms compatible with the disease would approach 20,000 —only taking into account those who died in nursing homes.

Even assuming that only 20,000 people over the age of 65 had died, “The sample is very small”, as it assures Jaime Pérez, from AEV. “It is also that when they talk about vaccination coverage, what they do not take into account is that the covid has affected residences more, not because the vaccines contain polysorbate, but because it is a closed environment and the circumstances exist for the virus spreads more easily. “

To test their hypothesis, the researchers compared their results with the analysis of deaths in a specific residence located in the other health sector of the province. The document does not indicate which residence it is nor does it detail the reason for your choice for the analysis, only that it had 94 inmates. The researchers find that of the 25 killed by COVID-19, 24 had been vaccinated against the flu.

The report does not specify whether the other 69 inmates who remained alive – 56 of whom had also been vaccinated against influenza – had been infected. However, the result serves as “confirmation of the initial suspicion.”

The document is not a scientific paper

The CIB-CSIC researcher María Montoya, member of the Spanish Society of Immunology has criticized this report in a publication on the CSIC website: «The scientific method is based on hypotheses (…) Each hypothesis has to be checked later to know if It was true or it was not. In Gastón Añaños’ writing, there are a number of assumptions that are unproven. “

To publish a scientific article (commonly known as ‘paper’) it is not enough to write it and upload it to the network, but this It must be validated by the scientific community. To obtain this approval, it is usual to publish it in a scientific journal. A step that, in addition, can give access to research scholarships.

Once submitted to the journal, if the article has editorial approval, the text is sent to reviewers who are not part of the journal’s team. It is what is known as external or peer review (‘peer review’ in English). This review guarantees that the quality of the article conforms to the prestige of the journal; But it also values ​​that certain ethical aspects are met in the research, that it is original and that it is valid.

Montoya misses the statistical analysis of the data, the criteria for selecting study groups, the reference to the ethics committee that should have reviewed the study and authorized the use of patient data “and a long list of requirements for be considered a reliable scientific study ”.

The CSIC expert strongly criticizes a text that he considers «speculative”, since it does not provide any experimental data that shows the danger of polysorbate 80 (…) It could also have related the color of the label of the medicine with the Covid-19 disease, to give an example ».

Gastón Añaños, one of the authors of the document clarifies that his «It was not an outreach job, but a research one. In full alarm we all wanted to try to find out what was going on. The researcher, who has updated the report in which he says he has been working for two months, assures that he will continue working on his investigation and that he will not rectify: “My suspicion about polysorbate is still there.”

What the science says about the flu and coronavirus vaccine

In the report, the researchers acknowledge that they did a PCR on a flu vaccine. “If your thought is ‘I’m going to do a PCR on a flu vaccine because I think it is contaminated with the virus’ clearly your thinking is anti-vaccine thinking” adds the AEV specialist, who wonders if the researchers believed that the The virus infected the laboratories where the flu vaccines were developed more than six months before the virus began to circulate in Spain.

Anti-vaccine groups have spent months spreading hoaxes about the coronavirus, both about possible future vaccines and about the origin of the virus. A viral hoax attributes the expansion of the coronavirus to influenza vaccination when, in fact, other vaccinations tend to stimulate our defenses and, in some cases, offer some cross-immunity.

Barbastro coronavirus flu vaccineBarbastro coronavirus flu vaccine