An Instagram post has claimed that the Covid-19 vaccines have killed 3,362 people in less than four months.
This is roughly the number of deaths reported in the US following Covid-19 vaccination between December 2020 and April 2021, but there’s no evidence that these deaths were caused by the vaccine.
The post doesn’t provide a source for the figure, but it is likely to have originated from remarks made by Fox News Host Tucker Carlson on 5 May 2021. He quoted the same number, claiming that it was taken from the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
The video is no longer available, but American fact checking organisation PolitiFact reported that the political commentator said: "Between late December of 2020 and last month, a total of 3,362 people apparently died after getting the Covid vaccine in the United States".
PolitiFact reported that Mr Carlson then went on to say that he was citing numbers from VAERS. This figure is roughly how many people died shortly after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, between December 2020 and April 2021.
Using the VAERS figures in the way that Mr Carlson did is incorrect, and misleading. The VAERS system, which operates in the US, allows individuals and clinicians to report any adverse event experienced after receiving a vaccination.
VAERS accepts “reports of any adverse event following vaccination, even if it is not clear the vaccine caused the problem”. Therefore, reports to VAERS of deaths following vaccination do not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the deaths, as they could have occurred naturally through other means.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 4,434 deaths around the time of vaccination with Covid-19 vaccines were reported to VAERS between 14 December 2020 to 10 May 2021. During this period, over 259 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered in the United States.
These deaths were investigated by the CDC, who said that: “A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines. However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.”
Up until 16 April, there had been six cases of blood clots and low platelets associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the US, and one case was fatal. The use of the vaccine was briefly paused, but has now resumed in America.
This vaccine is not currently available in the UK, although cases of blood clots and low platelets have been found in association with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is used in the UK. Because of the balance of risks from Covid-19 for young people, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation now advise that people under the age of 40 in the UK should be offered an alternative Covid-19 vaccine.
They have said that: “Adverse events following the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are extremely rare and, for the vast majority of people, the benefits of preventing serious illness and death far outweigh any risks.”
The UK uses a similar reporting system to VAERS called the Yellow Card Scheme. As of 5 May 2021, there had been 1,143 reports of suspected adverse reactions in which the patient died shortly after having a Covid-19 vaccination, out of almost 35 million first dose vaccines. The majority of these reports were in elderly people or people with underlying illness. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority have said that a “review of individual reports and patterns of reporting does not suggest the vaccine played a role in the death”.