There are dead people

Fact check: No evidence of deaths from corona vaccinations

As vaccines against the coronavirus are gradually being given around the world, many people ask themselves one question: how are those who have already received the vaccination? Not everyone knows someone who could be asked, because in many countries the percentage of people who have been vaccinated is still very low. So many search for answers online and hit headlines like these:

"15 deaths after coronavirus vaccination"

"Elderly woman dies after corona vaccination"

"Volunteer in vaccine study dies after COVID-19 vaccination"

The cases reported in the reports raise questions and doubts: Are the corona vaccines not the solution, but another problem? And are the vaccines themselves dangerous? All the data from the clinical tests before approval and the controls after the market launch point in one direction: the vaccines approved in the EU are highly effective and have few, mostly uncritical side effects. Nevertheless, a survey by the University of Erfurt in Germany shows that only 56 percent of those surveyed want to be vaccinated - and 44 percent are (rather) skeptical. Quite a few people currently state in surveys that they will first wait until it is clear how the vaccinations work for others. The headlines about deaths unsettle some.

But are the doubts about the vaccines justified? DW has researched reported cases in several countries. The result: So far, the health authorities have not found any causal links between the vaccination and the deaths. When this article was last updated, Bloomberg's global vaccine tracker reported that more than 380 million vaccinations were given for the coronavirus in more than 120 countries, a good nine million doses a day. Were there any deaths from the vaccinations? Reports from nine countries in the DW fact check:

Italy: "Soldier and teacher die after AstraZeneca vaccination"

Northern Italy's Piedmont region has ordered the suspension of a batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine while a teacher's death is being investigated a day after receiving his AstraZeneca vaccine.

The news comes days after Italy suspended another batch of AstraZeneca vaccine for suspicious deaths of two men in Sicily after their vaccinations.

Piedmont's regional government said it was a precautionary measure. One would wait to see what the studies would reveal about a connection between the deaths and the vaccinations.

Austria: "Nurse dies after corona vaccination"?

Two cases made headlines in Austria: the death of a 49-year-old nurse as a result of severe coagulation disorders and the pulmonary embolism of another woman after a corona vaccination. As a precaution, the Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) ordered the disposal of the remaining stocks of the affected AstraZeneca batch on March 7, even if, according to BASG information, there was "no indication of a causal connection with the vaccination".

The preliminary view of the PRAC Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) also found "no evidence that vaccination caused these conditions that are not listed as side effects for this vaccine". According to the PRAC, the information available so far shows that the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than in the general population. As of March 10, 2021, 30 cases of thromboembolic events have been reported in nearly 5 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in the European Economic Area.

PRAC continues to investigate potential problems with the batch vaccinated in Austria and to review thromboembolic events and the associated conditions.

South Korea: "As soon as the vaccinations start, there are deaths"?

This headline of the Austrian medium "Report24" is based on a report from the Korean epidemic protection authority KDCA. Just a few days after the start of the vaccination campaign in South Korea (February 26), it announced that there had been two deaths after the COVID-19 vaccination. The agency opened an investigation. In the meantime, the number of deaths after a corona vaccination in South Korea rose to 15 (as of March 12). All of the deceased were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca preparation, which in Korea is only vaccinated in people under 65 years of age. Almost all of the deceased patients had previous illnesses.

The vaccination campaign in South Korea didn't start until February 26th - with AstraZeneca

According to the KDCA, eight deaths have been investigated so far, which were reported as of March 6. "For now, we have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to establish any connection between the side effects after the vaccination and the death of the eight patients," Seung-ho Choi, deputy director of the KDCA's risk communication team, told DW.

According to the KDCA, it examined both the possible problems and abnormalities of the vaccine given to the eight patients, as well as the possibility of an overlooked allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after vaccination. Both could be ruled out as causes of death. At the same time, it was found that most of the eight patients had underlying conditions such as cerebrovascular disease and cardiovascular disease. These underlying diseases, according to the KDCA, contributed to the death of the patients. Nevertheless, the investigation is not yet over. An autopsy is done in four of the eight deaths. Investigations are still ongoing in collaboration with local authorities on the other reported deaths.

Germany: "dead after corona vaccination"?

So far, there is no known case in Germany in which a person died from the corona vaccines. But it is worth taking a closer look at the numbers: 113 deaths among vaccinated persons aged 46 to 100 (71 women, 38 men, in four cases the gender was not specified) were reported to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI).

As the federal authority, the PEI is responsible for vaccine approvals and drug safety. The deceased were an average of 84 years old and death occurred between an hour and 19 days after the vaccination, the PEI said in a report that examined cases by January 31.

Of the 113 people, 20 died of COVID-19 (19 of them did not have full vaccination protection, for one person this is unclear), another 43 died of previous illnesses or another infectious disease.

"All other people had multiple previous illnesses (...) which were presumably the cause of death," writes the PEI, which, however, has requested further information in these cases. In 50 cases, the cause of death was given as unknown.

The bottom line is that the PEI found that the observed number of deaths after vaccination is even below the statistically expected number of deaths without vaccination. "If you compare that, then it is even the case that fewer died after the vaccination than one would expect," said the virologist Ulrike Protzer from the Technical University of Munich to the ARD magazine Panorama.

"It is certainly not an increased death rate, which is why you can also say that it has nothing to do with the vaccine." The head of the PEI, Klaus Cichutek, emphasized in a DW interview in mid-January that the vaccines from BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna that have so far been used in Germany are "very safe".

The public prosecutor's office is currently investigating another case of three deceased people in Cologne. Three elderly people had died after being vaccinated against the corona virus, all three suffered from significant previous illnesses, as Markus Rothschild, director of Cologne's forensic medicine, emphasized.

There was "no initial suspicion against doctors or staff," said Chief Public Prosecutor Ulrich Bremer when asked by DW, who pointed out that the autopsy protocols and forensic medical reports were still in progress.

Spain: Did "at least seven people die after vaccination from Pfizer"?

Spanish media reports that nine people died in a Spanish nursing home after receiving the first dose of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine. All residents had previous illnesses.

The reported deaths in a Spanish nursing home were attributed to complications from corona infections.

The director of El Salvador retirement home in Lagartera said symptoms "such as headache or occasional diarrhea" appeared in residents after five days. A doctor told him that this could be due to side effects of the vaccinations.

All nine deaths were officially attributed to complications with the COVID-19 infection as a result of an outbreak that occurred during the vaccination program. Because even after vaccination, it is possible to develop the disease if the vaccination took place during the coronavirus incubation period (five to six days). Infection is also possible after the vaccination because, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI), the vaccination usually only takes effect ten to 14 days after the first dose. Both the Russian and Chinese state media reported extensively on this case, with the Chinese citing the Russian state media. Despite the lurid headline, the original article in the Russian state media clearly states: "There is currently no evidence that the vaccine played a role in the deaths."

The article also referred to a fact check that said, "It is statistically inevitable that some people will get sick and die after receiving the vaccine for reasons unrelated to their body's response to the vaccine." However, this disclaimer is missing in the other articles.

US: Government database shows "181 deaths after COVID-19 vaccination"?

This message spread particularly in India. The claim is based on a press release by the Children's Health Defense, an advocacy group for anti-vaccination campaigns, led by the prominent anti-vaccination opponent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The latter recently attracted attention with anti-vaccination propaganda and participated in demonstrations by corona deniers in Germany.

Although the headline of the press release claims that the data came from a "government database", the linked numbers are on the website of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a non-profit organization unrelated to the US government . Renowned science and health journalist Michael Specter describes the organization as "the most powerful anti-vaccination organization in America".

A closer look shows that the database is questionable. National Vaccine Information Center states that the data came from the US government's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). However, it specifically states that "anyone can report to VAERS, including parents and patients," and that "VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine whether a vaccine is causing or contributing to an adverse event or disease Has." In addition, VAERS encourages vaccine providers to report significant health problems "whether or not they believe the vaccine was the cause". In addition, VAERS advises that its data "cannot be interpreted or used to infer the existence, severity, frequency or odds of vaccine-related problems" and "should be interpreted in the context of other scientific information."

As early as 2015, a study evaluating reports of deaths related to vaccinations highlighted that the VAERS system data are biased, as it is a system that "accepts any report submitted about an adverse event without recognizing its clinical significance assess or whether it was caused by vaccination. " The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warn of distorted reports and inconsistent data quality in the VAERS system.

However, the NVIC also requests reports on possible vaccine damage via its own website in the same basic format as the VAERS report. It also does not indicate whether the two records are combined in the database or kept separate. In any case, the alleged 181 deaths cannot be causally attributed to the corona vaccination.

Norway: "30 nursing home residents died after coronavirus vaccination"?

The Norwegian Medicines Agency Statens Legemiddelverk examined a total of 33 reports of deaths in nursing homes after vaccinating residents (as of January 26, 2021).

In an ex post analysis, the agency writes: "Many of the nursing home residents who have been vaccinated to date are very frail or terminally ill. An average of 45 people die every day in Norwegian nursing homes or other similar facilities. Hence, deaths are close to the time of the Vaccination occur to be expected, but they do not imply a causal relationship with the vaccine. "

There is no proven link between the deaths and the vaccinations in Norway.

The Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency also investigated the cases and stated in a report that "the review did not reveal any safety concerns" adding that "(several) pre-existing diseases are a plausible explanation for which appeared to be deaths. Some people had been given palliative care prior to vaccination. "

In evaluating the cases, an article in the British Medical Association's medical journal quoted the Norwegian Medicines Agency's medical director Steinar Madsen: "There is no definite link between these deaths and the vaccine." Instead, Madsen said that "common side effects, which are not dangerous in fitter, younger patients and are not uncommon with vaccines, can make the underlying disease worse in older people."

He went on to say, "We are not alarmed or concerned about this because these are very rare occurrences and they have occurred in very frail patients with very serious illnesses."

Belgium: "14 deaths after coronavirus vaccination"?

In Belgium, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) reported that 14 people died after being vaccinated against the coronavirus. However, no causality was established. All patients were over 70, five of them over 90, reported the Brussels Times. Further details about the deceased were not disclosed.

"The fact that the reported deaths did not share a common clinical picture is a rather reassuring element, as is the fact that the deaths occurred after a variable length of time," the FAMHP told the Brussels Times, adding that, to date, no causal one Connection with the COVID-19 vaccine had been formally found.

As a result, the FAMHP publishes weekly reports examining the side effects of the vaccine. The February 4 report stated, "To date, no formal causal link has been established with the COVID-19 vaccine." Belgium is currently using BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. The Belgian authority did not explain which vaccines were used in the case of the 14 deceased.

Peru: "Vaccine Study Volunteer Died of COVID-19 Pneumonia"?

Cayetano Heredia University, which was conducting a study on the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, had to suspend a local Peruvian study after a participant died of COVID-19-related pneumonia, Reuters reported.

A volunteer (not shown in the picture) died of corona pneumonia after being vaccinated in a Peruvian study by a Chinese vaccine manufacturer. The subject was given a placebo, not the vaccine.

After the study was unblinded - i.e. the group membership was disclosed, which participants received the active ingredient and which received a placebo - it turned out that the deceased test person was not vaccinated with the vaccine, but was in the placebo group. In a statement, the university said, "It is important to note that the participant's death is unrelated to the vaccine as she received the placebo."

Note: This post was last updated on March 16.

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