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An anti-vaccine activist whose claims have been repeatedly debunked falsely stated that federal data shows that COVID-19 vaccines killed 676,000 people in the U.S.
The data, which comes from a reporting system that includes unverified reports and can include information that is incomplete or inaccurate, cannot be used to conclude that the vaccines caused death, officials say.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed nine deaths linked to a COVID-19 vaccine that is no longer available in the U.S.
A blog post shared on Facebook claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have killed some 676,000 people in the U.S.
Kirsch’s Aug. 6 post referred to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a federal database.
"VAERS data is crystal clear," the headline read. "The COVID vaccines are killing an estimated 1 person per 1,000 doses (676,000 dead Americans)."
The blog post was shared on social media and flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The data Kirsch used is from an anti-vaccine group’s alternative gateway to VAERS. VAERS, which includes unverified reports, cannot be used to determine whether a vaccine caused death. Kirsch did not reply to our request for information.
"Statements that imply that reports of deaths to VAERS following vaccination equate to deaths caused by vaccination are scientifically inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible," the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told PolitiFact.
The CDC added that it "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 nine confirmed" thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, deaths following the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, which is longer offered in the U.S.
TTS, which causes blood clots, has occurred in approximately four cases per 1 million doses administered, according to the CDC.
VAERS is run by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. It helps researchers collect data on vaccine aftereffects and to detect patterns that may warrant a closer look.
The CDC cautions that VAERS results, which come from unverified reports that anyone can make, are not enough to determine whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event.
For the COVID-19 vaccines, VAERS has received a flood of reports, and they have become especially potent fuel for misinformation.
Kirsch made his claim not using VAERS directly, but with an alternative gateway to VAERS from the anti-vaccine National Vaccine Information Center.
That website draws on raw and limited VAERS reports, which can include information that is incomplete or inaccurate. These reports do not provide enough information to determine whether a vaccine caused a particular adverse event.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have killed people in the U.S. in large numbers, let alone 676,000. We rate the claim Pants on Fire!
Steve Kirsch’s Newsletter, "VAERS data is crystal clear: The COVID vaccines are killing an estimated 1 person per 1,000 doses (676,000 dead Americans)," Aug. 6, 2023
Facebook, post, Aug. 8, 2023
PolitiFact, "How an alternative gateway to VAERS data helps fuel vaccine misinformation," Feb. 28, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," July 13, 2023
Email, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Aug. 10, 2023
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