An article claiming that twice as many people have died from the Covid-19 vaccines in six months than have died from the virus itself throughout the entire pandemic has been reshared by a number of websites.
This is not true. The “official data” the articles cite has been misleadingly presented to reach an incorrect conclusion.
Honesty in public debate matters
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As we have written before, it’s impossible to compare the number of Covid-19 deaths and deaths reported after a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as they are counted completely differently. The articles not only ignore this context, they also draw false conclusions about the data itself.
The articles are based on the premise that the only true Covid-19 deaths are ones where those people who died had no underlying conditions. From the start of the pandemic to 9 June there had been 3,591 such deaths in England.
This is an extremely misleading way of interpreting the data. “Underlying conditions” covers a broad range of health conditions, such as asthma, kidney disease and dementia, and doesn’t indicate whether or not Covid-19 was the leading cause of death.
We do have data on whether or not Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death, or whether someone died with Covid, but not from it. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that over the course of 2021 so far 58,757 people in England and Wales have had Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate, of those people 51,243 (87%) had it listed as the underlying cause of death.
In order to ascertain how many deaths have been reported after the Covid-19 vaccines, the author adds together the fatal adverse reactions across the UK reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) Yellow Card scheme up to 30 June. This came to 1,440.
As we have written before, the Yellow Card scheme relies on voluntary reporting from medics and members of the public, and is intended to provide an early warning of any previously unknown risks from medicines or medical devices.
However, an adverse event that occurs after vaccination did not necessarily occur because of it.
As the MHRA explains: “The nature of Yellow Card reporting means that reported events are not always proven side effects. Some events may have happened anyway, regardless of vaccination.
“This is particularly the case when millions of people are vaccinated, and especially when most vaccines are being given to the most elderly people and people who have underlying illness.”
With vaccines given to the most elderly and vulnerable first, it’s to be expected that a number of people would have coincidentally died in the period after being given their first dose.
The article also claims that, between 8 December 2020 and 11 June 2021, a total of 5,522 people in Scotland died within 28 days of having a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
This is based on data released by Public Health Scotland (PHS) and is true, but the articles misinterpret these deaths as deaths due to the vaccine.
As the PHS report clearly states: “The analysis includes all recorded deaths due to any cause and does not refer to deaths caused by the vaccine itself.”
It also adds that “the observed number of deaths is lower than expected compared with mortality rates for the same time period in previous years”.
The articles then add the figure of 5,522 deaths within 28 days of a Covid-19 vaccine dose from Scotland to the number of deaths reported through the Yellow Card scheme to say that “there have been 6,962 deaths in the past 6 months due to the Covid-19 vaccines”, and claim this is “almost double the number of people who have died of Covid-19 in England in the past 15 months”.
As we have set out above, this miscalculation rests entirely on an inaccurate understanding of Covid-19 death figures and deaths reported after a Covid-19 vaccine.
It also makes a false comparison between Covid-19 deaths with no underlying conditions in England alone, Yellow Card reports covering the entire UK and additional data from Scotland—which means some reported deaths could be double-counted.
The articles also make misleading claims about PCR tests used to detect Covid-19 in patients, stating: “The test used is the PCR test, which cannot detect infection and can find anything it wants to find if conducted at a high cycle rate, producing false positives.”
This is untrue, and we have written about similar claims before. At higher cycles, PCR tests are more likely to detect low levels of virus. This could, for example, indicate someone is at the start or end of their infection. It doesn’t mean they are “false positives”.