Team: Avinash Dhondoo, Yeshikha Doobaree, Owen Lim Chin Fa
Fact-checking article published as part of an assignment for the Digital Journalism module at the University of Mauritius
Article to be analysed for fact checking :
(“Saignements menstruels post-vaccination : Une vraie pharmacovigilance peut sauver des vies”) published by Mauritius Times
On the 9th of July, Mauritius Times published an article in which it is mentioned that studies have shown that abnormal menstrual bleeding following vaccination can be life-threatening for women and yet, they are trivialized by medical authorities. According to the article, this demonstrates the importance of pharmacovigilance with a human face, with real medical monitoring of vaccinated people.
Catherine Boudet, the author of the article is a political analyst specialized in Mauritian democracy. She is regularly invited by the Mauritian media to provide her analyses on Mauritian politics. Unfortunately, the article that she has written in the Mauritius Times does not contain factual information. The very first line of the article is a proof that whatever she is saying is not a fact.
« Les témoignages se multiplient : des femmes se plaignant de douleurs au ventre, de retards de leurs menstruations et de saignements anormaux suite à la vaccination anti-covid. A tel point que la presse s’est fait écho de ces cris d’alerte. »
Which can be translated as :
“The testimonies are multiplying: women complaining of stomach pains, delayed menstruation and abnormal bleeding following the anti-covid vaccination such that the press had to put forward this “cry of alarm”.
But where is the “cry of alarm”?
Piece of article to be fact-checked:
“ Studies have shown that abnormal menstrual bleeding post vaccination can be life threatening for women “.
This claim by Catherine Boudet is not totally true. It is a fact that an individual can have side effects post-vaccination which are fever, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, nausea, sore throat, diarrhea, and vomiting and nowhere it is mentioned that the vaccine is life-threatening for women.
Catherine Boudet has also cited the statements given by Doctor Catherine Gaud, epidemiologist and Senior Adviser on Public Health Matters, using subtle formulations which clearly seek to undermine the latter’s credibility. We feel like she is trying to prove Dr Catherine Gaud wrong despite the fact that she herself is not a doctor and is not medically qualified. For example, she writes:
“… elle allait même jusqu’à déclarer…” [which can be translated as: “… she even went so far as to state …”]
“Se montrant même catégorique …” [which can be translated as: “She even went so far as to be categorical…]
It should be noted that one of the statements by Dr Catherine Gaud which was published in L’express of the 9th June 2021, an article mentioned here, is as follows:
Dr Catherine Gaud, adviser to the Ministry of Health affirms: “Even if we trained doctors when they are administered Covaxin, they spoke a lot about their reservations to their patients, whereas at present, the vaccine does nothing to women who wish to get pregnant in the future”. (Our translation).
To be noted that even in an article from the BBC, it has been mentioned that vaccination does not really affect the menstrual cycle: “During the consultation about the Covid vaccine, you will likely be warned of possible side effects like fever, headache, and sore arm for a day or two after the vaccination. However, menstrual cycle changes are not in the list.“
The World Health Organization on its website answered a few questions related to the COVID vaccine in which one question is about the side effects that women may have after the jab.
Below is a screenshot of the answer concerning the side effects about Covid vaccine for women from WHO.
The claim that the “vaccine is life-threatening for women” is very misleading especially when it is stated just on the first line of the article. Many Mauritians are still in a dilemma of whether they should get vaccinated or not, and when such an article is published, it is obvious that this will create more fear in an individual’s mind which is not correct. Somehow by using words like “danger”, “cry of alarm”, Catherine Boudet is misleading people by making them think that vaccination is not something that we can rely on and women doing it may die. This is quite a powerful statement as this has not been proven yet. Of course, some may have some side effects but to go to the extent of “dying” is quite exaggerated. Or maybe, she made use of wrong words by trying to explain the side effects of vaccines on women. It is surprising to see that a woman who usually comes forward with very precise information and powerful and pertinent views about certain subjects made a statement like this without getting more involved in the research part.
Catherine Boudet is considered to have a very good reputation as political analyst.
Below are two links to her articles and debates on politics which have nothing much to do with the related subject about the Covid pandemic. They have been taken as references to put forward how she is usually pertinent on politics and this is why it is weird how she came up with such an article about Covid vaccines.
Hamid Merchant’s rapid response is used as only reference
More importantly, in the article of the Mauritius Times, the author says that the British Medical Journal published an article entitled “CoViD-19 post-vaccine menorrhagia, metrorrhagia or postmenopausal bleeding and potential risk of vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia in women” written by Hamid Merchant. Below a screenshot of the paragraph can be found.
“Yet, international specialist medical publications are sounding the alarm about post-vaccination menstrual bleeding. In particular the British Medical Journal which published on April 18, a pharmacy researcher’s article entitled ‘Covid-19 post-vaccine menorrhagia, metrorrhagia or postmenopausal bleeding and potential risk of vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia in women’.
Its author, Hamid Merchant, of the English University of Huddersfield, specifies that many women around the world have complained of menstrual disturbances and even vaginal bleeding after receiving a vaccine against Covid-19. “Some experience heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), others bleeding before their periods or frequent bleeding (metrorrhagia / polymenorrhea), while still others have complained of postmenopausal bleeding,” the author continues.”
While it is true that Hamid Merchant wrote this, the article is not really an article which we can refer to put forward analysis, but rather a rapid response to an actual research article entitled “Thrombosis after covid-19 vaccination” by Paul R Hunter, a Professor in Medicine in the UK. Below you can find the rapid response of Hamid Merchant which has erroneously been presented as a proper research article by Catherine Boudet.
We see that Catherine Boudet made an error when referencing her sources. She cited a rapid response, instead of the original article. A rapid response is not the same as an original research article; the claims are not of the same importance. A research article in a research journal is generally peer-reviewed to check for validity of the paper presented. But, in her article, Catherine Boudet continues to emphasize on what Hamid Merchant said, as if he is the only person that can give the best opinions on this subject.
Admittedly, Hamid Merchant is a Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics but he did not state that he had conducted any study on the subject when he wrote his rapid response. Conversely, Paul R. Hunter is a Professor in Medicine. The UK’s National Institute for Health Research states that he “was the first professor of health protection to be appointed in the UK and is a specialist in Medical Microbiology. He works on outbreak response, emerging infectious diseases and infection in complex emergencies.”
Below you can find the original article by Paul R Hunter published in the British Medical Journal, on 14th April, which Catherine Boudet should have used for her article in the Mauritian Times.
The research article clearly stated that there were rare cases of thrombosis post-vaccination but that these “rare events should not derail vaccination efforts”.
At the end if we take consideration a lot of the factors analysed above, it can be seen that:
- The author of the article, Catherine Boudet, gave us the impression that she is referencing a lot of articles and other authors while she ended up taking only Hamid Merchant who only gave his opinion as a reader in reaction to a proper research article.
- Her words were quite exaggerated, unnecessarily trying to create chaos and panic in the minds of individuals especially women. The menstrual phase for a woman is a very sensitive subject in itself and coming with such articles can create anxiety.
- Catherine Boudet gave us the impression that Dr Catherine Gaud’s experiences and opinions do not count at all and that the latter is completely wrong in all the things that she said on this subject while Catherine Boudet herself took only Dr Hamid Merchant as reference rather than Prof Paul R. Hunter.
Real PDF of Paul R Hunter – https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/373/bmj.n958.full.pdf
Rapid Response Of Hamid Merchant – https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n958/rr-2
Reference to these articles:
https://ionnews.mu/coronavirus-les-vaccins-ont-ils-un-effet- Coronavirus : Les vaccins ont-ils un effet sur les règles ?
https://www.lexpress.mu/article/394942/covid-19-vaccins- Covid-19 – vaccins: quels effets sur les règles ?