Pfizer vaccine doesn’t have a 6% fatality rate

8 December 2021
What was claimed

The Pfizer vaccine has a one in 17 mortality rate.

Our verdict

False. Of those adverse event cases reported after vaccination with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine which ended in death or recovery, this figure is the proportion which were fatal.

Claims that the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has a one in 17 mortality rate have been spreading on social media.

This is false, and is due to a misreading of a report from Pfizer on adverse reactions.

In August 2021, a group called Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency (PHMPT) submitted a Freedom of Information request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety data on the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

The FDA said it would take considerable time to publish all the documentation, but agreed to release “The Reports of Postmarketing Experience from Section 5.3.6 of the [biologics licence application] file” by mid-November. The FDA confirmed to Full Fact that this is the report in circulation and hosted on the PHMPT website.

It details adverse events collected after the roll out of the Pfizer vaccine up to the end of February 2021. 

The document states that Pfizer identified 42,086 case reports of adverse events following vaccination, gathered from reports to Pfizer itself, to national health authorities across the world (not just in the United States) and collected in the course of scientific research.

Of these, in 21,325 cases the person had mainly recovered to some extent (21,002), or died (1,223). Of the remaining cases, 11,361 had not recovered by the time of the report, and the outcome was unknown for 9,400 people.

Dividing the 1,223 fatal outcomes by 21,325 is about 6% or one in 17.

But this doesn’t mean one in 17 people who received the Pfizer vaccines died shortly afterwards, as claimed. It means that one in 17 reports, where the outcome was not unknown or the illness was ongoing, was fatal.

Most vaccinations do not result in an adverse event report, either because no adverse reaction occurs or because it is not reported. 

In the UK, for example, up to 24 November 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency had received 395,049 reports of adverse events following any Covid-19 vaccination, of which 1,815 were fatal. Meanwhile over 50 million people have received at least one vaccine dose, and over 100 million doses have been administered. 

Even calculating the number of fatal events as a share of all vaccine doses would be flawed as adverse events which occur after vaccination are not necessarily caused by vaccination

Update 14 December 2021

This piece has been updated following correspondence from the FDA.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because 17% of adverse event reports which ended in death or recovery were fatal; that doesn’t mean the Pfizer vaccine has a 17% mortality rate.

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