Fact check: There is no evidence 45,000 people died from vaccine-related complications
The claim: Almost 45,000 people who got the COVID-19 vaccinations died in 72 hours
As America’s vaccination efforts push on, some opponents continue to spread unsubstantiated stories of vaccine dangers.
Recent confusion has been fueled by claims made in a discredited lawsuit.
On July 19, attorney Thomas Renz filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of America’s Frontline Doctors – an organization known for spreading misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19 treatments.
In the complaint, Renz described an analysis from an unnamed whistleblower that claimed to find evidence there were actually 45,000 deaths related to COVID-19 vaccines. This finding is based on the whistleblower's alleged expert analysis of unverified data.
One July 20 Instagram post referenced "those 45,000 deaths in 3 days that were covered up.” The post contains a TikTok video from an account that has since been removed from the app.
Despite the claim’s persistence, there is still no evidence thousands people died from the vaccine.
The Instagram user, @iamkatielove, told USA TODAY she stood by the statements in the video and believed illnesses related to vaccination complications were being falsely reported as COVID cases among the unvaccinated. This is not supported by evidence.
USA TODAY reached out to Renz for comment.
CDC says claims have no merit
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency tasked with tracking and preventing outbreaks, has not reported 45,000 vaccine-related deaths on any of its reporting systems.
Martha Sharan, a spokesperson for the agency’s vaccine task force, told USA TODAY the claim that 45,000 died has no merit.
“To date, CDC has not detected any unusual or unexpected patterns for deaths following immunization that would indicate that COVID vaccines are causing or contributing to deaths, outside of the 3 confirmed deaths following the Janssen vaccine," she wrote in an email.
In April the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration halted the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine after a rare blood-clotting issue linked to the vaccine led to three deaths. The FDA lifted that pause less than two weeks later when the agencies determined the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks.
The CDC has several vaccine safety monitoring systems:
- Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System
- Vaccine Safety Datalink
- Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment project
According to Sharan, none of these systems have found evidence that 45,000 people died from complications from the vaccines.
“Statements that imply that deaths following vaccination equate to deaths caused by vaccination are scientifically inaccurate, misleading, and simply irresponsible,” Sharan said. “Vaccines are one of the tools that are going to help the US get back to normal life.”
Our rating: False
We rate FALSE the claim that almost 45,000 people who got the COVID-19 vaccinations died in 72 hours, based on our research. A CDC spokesperson confirmed there have been no reputable reports of widespread deaths tied to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Our fact-check sources:
- TIME, May 19, How 'America's Frontline Doctors' Sold Access to Bogus COVID-19 Treatments—and Left Patients in the Lurch
- First Draft, July 21, Conspiracy theory claims Biden covered up 45,000 vaccine deaths
- Lead Stories, July 20, Fact Check: Anonymous 'Whistleblower' Did NOT Document 45,000 Deaths From COVID Vaccine: She Guesstimated That Number
- Martha Sharan, Sept. 8, email correspondence with USA TODAY
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed Sept. 9, Global Health - CDC and the Global Health Security Agenda
- USA TODAY, April 13, FDA, CDC recommend pausing use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of rare but severe blood clots
- USA TODAY, April 23, Pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine in US lifted by FDA, use to resume
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed Sept. 9, Vaccine Safety Monitoring
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed Sept. 9, V-safe
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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.