A widely shared article on the Daily Sceptic website, which was also published by TCW (formerly The Conservative Woman) says that between weeks 23 and 37 of 2021 (5 June 2021 to 17 September 2021) there were 252 deaths amongst 15 to 19-year-olds in England and Wales. They compare this to 162 deaths in this age group over the same period in 2020, a 56% increase.
The Daily Sceptic article states that the increased number of deaths corresponded with the timing of the roll out of Covid-19 vaccinations among this age group and asks if this is “real-world evidence that over the summer the vaccines killed nine times as many 15-19 year-olds as Covid did?”.
There have been similar claims, using a slightly different time period, made in an article from the website The Exposé, that have been shared via posts on Facebook.
Overall, there has been a difference in the number of deaths in this age group between the two years, but 2020 saw an unusually low number of teen deaths so isn’t a “normal” year to compare to. Adjusting for this, we can see that although the number of deaths is slightly higher than normal in this time period, it isn’t as high as the articles on Facebook suggest.
There is also no evidence that this is caused by Covid-19 vaccines.
Not all teenagers could get a vaccine in this period
As regards to the timing, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), advised that over-16s with underlying health conditions were included in the initial vaccine roll-out from late 2020.
Children aged 12 to 15 at severe risk from Covid-19 were advised to receive a vaccine on 15 July, alongside those aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunocompromised person. A broader roll out came later.
The JCVI advised that all 16 and 17-year-olds should receive a first dose of vaccine on 4 August 2021, and the vaccine was recommended for use by all 12 to 15-year-olds by the chief medical officers on 13 September 2021.
The figures are accurate, but that doesn’t mean vaccines caused these deaths
As for the figures on deaths, a recent release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirms these are correct.
But the ONS told us: “There are various factors that could have caused a rise in deaths in this age group between summer 2020 and summer 2021. There is no evidence in the ONS mortality data to suggest a link with the COVID-19 vaccines.”
The ONS added that 2020 is not a “normal” year to compare with, because there was a lower than normal number of deaths in this age group at that time. It said that this was expected given that various lockdown restrictions were in place (a leading cause of adolescent deaths in the UK are due to accidents which may have fallen during the lockdowns), and there would have been delays to coroners’ investigations, reducing how many deaths could be registered.
The data on weekly deaths for a whole year doesn’t separate out this age group prior to 2020 so we can’t compare the figures to the previous, more “normal” years.
However, the ONS has now produced the figures for this age group for a particular (and slightly different period) between weeks 19 and 38, rather than weeks 23 and 37 as outlined in the Daily Sceptic piece.
During this period, the average number of deaths of 15 to 19-year-olds registered between 2015 and 2019 was 283. By comparison, 313 deaths were registered over the same period in 2021, a 10.6% increase.
So deaths registered in 2021 are still higher compared to an average year, but the gap is far smaller than between 2021 and 2020.