Has Anyone Died After Receiving The COVID-19 Vaccine?
What are your questions about the coronavirus vaccine?
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A listener. Marc, submitted a question during a recent Sound of Ideas Reporters' Roundtable program. He said: "Did the speaker on the show really just make the declarative statement that no one has died from the vaccine? Not looking for any sense of false equivalency or anything else, but has anybody looked at the online open VAERS data?"
Marc was referring to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, which has been around long before COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) operate the site that allows anyone to report an adverse event at any time.
As of August 30, 2021, there have been more than 369 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the U.S. During this time, VAERS received 7,218 reports of death (0.0020%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine but a causal link to the vaccine has not been established, according to the CDC. "However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets- which has caused death," according to the CDC website.
When a death is reported on the site after a person received the vaccine, it doesn't mean the vaccine caused it, said Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease doctor with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.
"It is absolutely 100 percent true that there are deaths reported on the VAERS site," Edwards said. "Just because something is on VAERS, it's not necessarily true," she said.
Deaths happen naturally within the population, especially considering the elderly and most vulnerable populations received the vaccine first, Dr. Edwards said.
Healthcare providers are also required to report any deaths that occur after a person receives a COVID-19, regardless of whether they think death is connected to receiving the vaccine.
There have been no deaths directly caused by the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Dr. Edwards said. Three people died from blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"Depending on how you attribute mortality, I think you could at least put the vaccine as possibly a secondary cause, because the vaccine led to an increased risk of clotting and the clotting happened and then they died," Edwards said. "But those events have been incredibly rare and rarer now that we've advised people with clotting risks not to get those vaccines."
Adverse events are extremely rare, said Dr. Amy Ray, an infectious disease specialist from MetroHealth.
"It's important to not confuse reported rates of something with verified rates of adverse events," she said.
While myocarditis and pericarditis are listed as potential rare side effects after receiving the vaccine, Ray said a person is more likely to have inflammation of the heart after getting infected with COVID-19, not from receiving the vaccine.
"The risk of pericarditis and myocarditis in the population and at large is higher after COVID, the actual infection than the risk following COVID immunization," she said. "These things happen at a frequency in the population, and they happen specifically with regard to viral infection."
Ray said the VAERS data is a way for misinformation to spread.
"The VAERS data has been ripe for those who want to promote misinformation about COVID vaccines. It's just not interpreted in context," she said.
She said there will naturally be deaths within a population, and it can't necessarily be attributed to the COVID-19 vaccine.