Installing defibrillators in schools is not proof that Covid-19 vaccines are unsafe

31 January 2023
What was claimed

Installing defibrillators in all schools is proof that Covid-19 vaccines are not safe.

Our verdict

Defibrillators were being installed in schools prior to the pandemic. There is no evidence for a link between Covid-19 vaccines and cardiac arrest.

An Instagram post falsely suggests that a scheme to install defibrillators in all UK schools is evidence that Covid-19 vaccinations are not safe. 

The post features a screenshot of a tweet from the Department for Education announcing about the start of the roll-out of 20,000 defibrillators to schools across the country. 

A caption on the post says: “I wonder why they would need a defibrillator in every school up and down the country now? One, this is being normalised and Two, this is just more proof to an ever growing list as to why these jabs are NOT safe.”

Defibrillators deliver an electric shock to the heart of someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest in order to restore the heart’s normal rhythm. 

There is no evidence linking Covid-19 vaccinations to an increased risk of cardiac arrest and the campaign to have defibrillators installed in all UK schools started long before the Covid-19 pandemic in response to a separate medical issue.

Stay informed

Be first in line for the facts – get our free weekly email


Father’s campaign

In March 2011, 12-year-old Oliver King collapsed and died during a swimming lesson. He was subsequently found to have had an undiagnosed heart condition called sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) which kills around 500 people in the UK each year. 

SADS 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. The condition is most common in those under the age of 40, including children.

In the months following the death of his son, Mark King established a charity called the Oliver King Foundation with the aim of installing defibrillators in every school.

In 2014, the Department for Education announced a deal to enable schools to purchase defibrillators at a discounted price. On 20 January 2023, it announced that all state-funded schools that did not have one of the devices would receive one before the end of the academic year. 

Education secretary Gillian Keegan and schools minister Nick Gibb both praised the work of the Oliver King foundation, crediting its 10-year campaign with helping bring about the scheme. 

A study by the National Institute for Health and Care Research found that only 8% of people in England who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, and for whom resuscitation is attempted by emergency services, survive. 

However, when a defibrillator is used by bystanders before emergency service professionals may have arrived, the average survival rate was 32%.

Vaccine side effects

There is no evidence that deaths from SADS have increased since the pandemic. 

Analysis conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found no evidence of a change in the number of cardiac-related deaths, or deaths from any cause, in those aged between 12 and 29 following a Covid-19 vaccination. 

It said: ”This analysis therefore does not indicate any increased risk of cardiac-related deaths or deaths owing to any cause following vaccination.”

As we have written before, the latest data from England and Wales shows the number of deaths caused by SADS actually fell in 2021, the first year of the vaccine roll-out, compared to 2020. 

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

Some reports suggest that older children and young adults are at an increased risk of heart inflammation (not cardiac arrest) following vaccination with an mRNA vaccine (such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines). 

However, one large study  estimated the incidence to be low at 2 cases per 100,000 and the vast majority of these cases were mild or intermediate. 

According to the British Heart Foundation there is no evidence that people are at risk of cardiac arrest in the days or weeks following the vaccine. 

It said: “In the UK, no figures have been published for cardiac arrests in under-18s following the vaccine – which means there have been a tiny number too small to be published, or none at all. Catching Covid-19, on the other hand, can significantly increase your risk of cardiac arrest and death.”

A separate study found that the risk of death from Covid-19 induced heart inflammation is significantly higher than the risk of death for the same condition following a vaccination. 

Image courtesy of Richard Bell

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.