No evidence for a rise in sudden deaths or that Covid-19 vaccines are the cause

3 August 2022
What was claimed

If you connect the dots, vaccines are causing unexplained sudden deaths.

Our verdict

There is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are responsible for a rise in “unexplained” or “sudden” deaths. SADS deaths did not increase in England and Wales in 2021.

A post on Facebook with hundreds of comments says “With all these unexplained ‘Sudden Deaths’ just wondering has anyone played ‘Connect The Dots’?” alongside a dot-to-dot picture of a syringe.

Although it doesn’t mention Covid-19 vaccines specifically, we have seen similar claims being made before, falsely connecting sudden adult deaths to the Covid-19 vaccines.

What are the sudden deaths the post refers to?

In Alberta, Canada, where the user who uploaded the image appears to be based, there have been reports of increased cases of “ill-defined and unknown causes of death” in 2021, which may be what the post refers to.

However, the government there has since clarified that some of those deaths were still under investigation and the cause of death would eventually be updated. 

The Alberta department in charge of registries told CTV News Calgary: “The ‘other ill-defined and unknown cause of death' classification is given when a cause of death cannot be determined, or when a death is still under investigation with a medical examiner. Some deaths originally coded in this way are updated as final determination of cause of death are determined.

“The data on Alberta’s Open Government portal reflects the coding information provided by Statistics Canada up to June 2, 2022 – this number will continue to be refined as final medical causes of death are determined.”

So there is evidence that at least some of these deaths were categorised as such, simply because they hadn’t been fully investigated. Meanwhile, Alberta Health also said in the article that there is no evidence they are being caused by Covid-19 vaccines.

SADS

There have also been claims of increased numbers of deaths due to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS), also known as Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome. According to the British Heart Foundation, the term is used to describe deaths from cardiac arrest where the cause cannot be determined. 

SADS is something of an umbrella term, and is believed to be the result of a range of rare genetic conditions that predispose individuals to suffer cardiac arrests, even if they have had no symptoms and have previously been fit and healthy and even taking part in competitive sports. 

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which is also known as cot death, is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby. The exact cause is unknown, despite recent headlines to the contrary.

No evidence deaths caused by Covid-19 vaccines are SADS deaths

There is no evidence to suggest that deaths caused by the Covid-19 vaccines are being misreported as SADS deaths. 

The Canadian government’s department for national health policy told AFP Fact Check that it had seen no increase in SADS reports since the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out began.

This also appears to be the case in the UK.

There has been no increase in these types of deaths since the vaccine roll-out (although there are delays in registering deaths involving inquests so these numbers may increase). In England and Wales, there were a total of 276 deaths of these types in 2021. That’s slightly down on 2020 (the vaccination roll-out began in December), when it was 292. In 2019, 287 deaths were registered.

For deaths from Covid-19 vaccines, the Office for National Statistics does publish more timely monthly data. As of the end of June 2022, there have been 45 deaths registered in England and Wales where the Covid-19 vaccine was mentioned on the death certificate. It is possible that the total may rise, if there’s been a delay in registering some deaths due to the vaccines. In that same period, over 47 million people in England and Wales had received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recorded 80 deaths from a type of blood clot in the UK that it has said may be linked with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Seven fatal suspected cases of myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle or the surrounding tissue respectively) have been “reported associated with” the Pfizer vaccine and six with AstraZeneca, according to the MHRA. On the myocarditis deaths, it also notes: “The majority of fatal reports describe underlying illnesses in these patients that could provide alternative explanations for the events reported.”

The US charity the SADS Foundation has said it “recommends that all SADS patients receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Although those with a genetic disposition to SADS and other cardiac issues are likely to be unaware that they do, the British Heart Foundation says Covid-19 vaccines are safe for people with heart conditions and notes: “No vaccine is approved unless it is considered safe for people with long-term conditions, including heart and circulatory conditions, and including older people.”

In the case of SIDS, the number of cases registered in England and Wales has generally fallen since 2013. There were 83 cases registered in 2021, down from 88 the year before. There were 83 cases the year before the pandemic, in 2019. Only children over five are able to get a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK.

Image courtesy of Kaja Reichardt

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