No evidence linking deaths among children to vaccine rollout

4 November 2021
What was claimed

More children have died since Covid-19 vaccines were given to 12 to 15-year-olds, compared with the five year average of mortality stats from 2015 to 2019.

Our verdict

While statistics show the deaths of children, sadly, did increase compared to the five year average, there is no evidence that these deaths are linked to Covid-19 vaccines.

What was claimed

Deaths among children between September to October may have been caused by myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammatory heart conditions which have been reported as a side effect of vaccination).

Our verdict

There is no evidence of this. The MHRA says it has not identified an increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis among under 18s. Incidences of myocarditis and pericarditis have been rare and “typically mild”.

An article shared on Facebook claims deaths among boys are “83% higher than the 5-year-average since they were given Covid-19 vaccine”. 

The article, published by The Exposé, suggests that since children over the age of 12 began being vaccinated in September, more children in that age group (and boys in particular) have, sadly, died when compared to the average figures between 2015 to 2019.

The article claims the deaths may have been caused by the inflammatory heart conditions myocarditis and pericarditis. 

While the article accurately reports these mortality figures, there’s no evidence that links any of these deaths to myocarditis, pericarditis or vaccines. 

Are the vaccines linked to heart conditions in children?

Myocarditis relates to inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis describes inflamed heart muscle and pericardium, the fibrous sac around the heart. Both can be caused by a number of different things, and although myocarditis in young people is rare, it’s not unheard of in children

While the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there have been a “small number of reports” of these conditions, in the UK and internationally, it also said that there is “currently no indication of an increased risk” of myocarditis or pericarditis among under-18s in the UK. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in July 2021 that of the 8.9 million children aged between 12 to 17 who had received the Pfizer vaccine in America, 397 reports for myocarditis or myopericarditis had been sent to its Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). However, the CDC has separately noted that that “reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination….do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”

The CDC has also said: “Among the serious reports, myocarditis and other conditions that might be associated with myocarditis were among the most common terms reported; however, these terms did not account for a large proportion of VAERS reports overall. 

“No reports of death to VAERS were determined to be the result of myocarditis.”

Much like the MHRA’s Yellow Card reporting scheme, VAERS also “reports of any adverse event following vaccination, even if it is not clear the vaccine caused the problem”. So reports to VAERS of conditions like myocarditis following vaccination do not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the deaths, as they could have occurred naturally through other means.

Although it is true that acute myocarditis can lead to cardiac arrest, as the article claims, the MHRA said that reports of both myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination “are extremely rare, and the events are typically mild with individuals usually recovering within a short time with standard treatment and rest.”

As of 20 October, the MHRA has received 561 reports of myocarditis, 504 reports of pericarditis and 31 reports of similar conditions following vaccination (although this does not necessarily mean they were caused by vaccination). Five people have died in total. The ages of these people are not disclosed. 

As we have written before, new research shows you are more likely to develop myocarditis following a Covid-19 infection than following vaccination.  

Are deaths in boys 83% higher?

The Exposé article claims: “Since the Covid-19 vaccines began being given to kids over the age of 12, deaths among male children have increased by 83% against the five-year-average, whereas deaths among female children have still increased, but at a much lower rate of 33%.”

These figures are accurate but the way in which they are used is misleading.

The Exposé compares weekly Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on deaths among 10 to 14 year olds (registered in England and Wales) from the week ending 24 September to 15 October 2021, with the average number of deaths registered around that same time between 2015 to 2019. 

These figures show the five-year-average for all child deaths in this period was 21, while there were sadly 34 deaths between 24 September to 15 October 2021. For boys the increase was from 12 to 22 (an increase of 83%) and for girls it was from nine to 12 (a 33% increase).

However, there is no evidence to suggest that heart inflammation or vaccination played a role in these deaths. The ONS data does not specify if the children had been vaccinated when they died, or provide cause of death.

As we wrote above, there have only been five deaths associated with myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination. Even if we assumed that all of these deaths were amongst children, this would still account for less than half of the 13 additional deaths for all children which the ONS reported between 24 September to 15 October 2021.

Additionally, the deaths recorded by the ONS were for 10 to 14-year-olds (which is mentioned twice in a table in the article) meaning the statistics the article used may have included children who were too young to be vaccinated, while it did not include any 15-year-olds. 

The ONS told Full Fact these mortality figures “can’t be assumed to have occurred within the week in which they are registered.” And in the data release, it states: “Deaths in England and Wales are normally registered within five days, but there can be a considerably longer delay in some circumstances, particularly when the death is referred to a coroner.”  

So although there was an increase in deaths, they may not have actually taken place in the weeks when vaccinations began. 

The percentages quoted in The Exposé article (including the headline) may also be misleading as the actual increase in deaths amounts to single digit differences. For example, it states that in the week ending 15 October 2021 there was a 200% increase in the number of deaths among boys. This equates to an increase of four, rising from two to six people. So while the percentages themselves are accurate, without additional context a reader might wrongly infer the data trend is much stronger than it actually is.   

What about 999 calls?

The article also makes another dubious claim. It states that “serious myocarditis can lead to cardiac arrest” (which is true) before presenting a Public Health England (PHE) graph of 999 calls “related to cardiac/respiratory arrest”. It claims the graph shows a spike in these calls around the vaccine rollout dates for older teens and young adults. 

The Exposé suggests myocarditis or pericarditis caused by the vaccine is the reason for the increase in calls, which it says is now “confirmed” by the deaths among younger children.  

However, this data doesn’t show the ages of anyone who made these calls. It also states on the first page of the PHE report that the trend in 999 calls for cardiac/respiratory arrest had in fact been decreasing around this time. And, as we’ve explained, there is no evidence that the sad deaths of children are linked to the vaccine. 

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 partly false because the article does not provide evidence of a link between deaths in children and Covid-19 vaccines.

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