CDC studies: Booster shots needed against omicron
Three studies released Friday offered more evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are standing up to the omicron variant, at least among people who received booster shots. (Jan. 21)
The claim: CDC confirmed at least 118,000 have died suddenly since the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines
“CDC quietly confirms at least 118k Children & Young Adults have ‘Died Suddenly’ in the USA since the roll-out of the COVID Vaccines,” reads the headline from the The Expose, a website that has previously published misinformation.
The Instagram post is a screenshot of a Dec. 10, 2022, tweet that was retweeted more than 1,000 times in a month. The Instagram version generated over 4,000 likes in less than a month.
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Our rating: False
The CDC has not confirmed at least 118,000 people have died suddenly since 2020, and officials say that’s not an accurate description of what happened. While there have been over 100,000 excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say a majority of these deaths are related to COVID-19 infections. There is no evidence these deaths were “sudden” or linked to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Article misinterprets CDC data
The Expose article bases its claim on data collected by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development from publicly available CDC reports. The reports calculate estimated excess deaths potentially related to the COVID-19 virus by comparing death data in pre-pandemic years to during the pandemic.
The Nov. 30, 2022, Expose article claims that data shows six-figure tallies of sudden deaths, but those are not at all the same thing as excess deaths.
The CDC defines excess deaths as “the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.” Sudden deaths are unexpected, fatal and sudden events that occur in individuals whose symptoms were not predictable.
There is no way to determine from the excess death data whether people counted as excess deaths died suddenly or not, Bert Kelly, a CDC spokesperson, told USA TODAY in an email.
The article claims there were 118,000 more deaths in the 0-44 age range from December 2020 to October 2022 than there were on average from 2015 to 2019. It then asserts without proof that these deaths were “most likely due to the COVID-19 injections.”
It is unclear whether the 118,000 figure is accurate as CDC data is constantly being updated, Miguel Gorman, a spokesperson for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, told USA TODAY. But as of Jan. 4, there were nearly 124,000 excess deaths in the 0-44 age range between December 2020 and October 2022, he said.
The article’s analysis linking the deaths to the vaccine, however, is wrong, Kelly said.
“The excess deaths are largely explained by increases in COVID-19 mortality and other leading causes of death associated either directly or indirectly with the pandemic,” Kelly said. “Other leading causes of death for which we see excess deaths include influenza and pneumonia, circulatory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia and diabetes.”
Nicholas Jewell, a biostatistics professor at the University of California, agreed.
“Even if the 118K figure is estimated effectively, it is likely that a significant fraction of these deaths can be directly attributed to COVID-19 infections,” Jewell said. “In addition, 2022, for example, has been a particularly bad year for other respiratory infections in young people such as influenza and RSV. Perhaps some other deaths are due to strain on health care systems caused by the burden of Covid-19 infections.”
“Death as an adverse event attributed to the vaccine is not common or even occurring with such frequency” that it would be mentioned to patients as a potential outcome, Dr. Richard Martinello, an infectious disease specialist at Yale University, told USA TODAY in an email.
USA TODAY previously debunked a similar claim that COVID-19 vaccines were responsible for 1.1 million excess deaths in the US.
USA TODAY reached out to The Expose and the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Our fact-check sources:
- Bert Kelly, Jan. 4-9, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Miguel Gorman, Jan. 4-11, Email exchange and phone call with USA TODAY
- Nicholas Jewell, Dec. 22, 2022, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Sarah Caul, Jan. 6, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Dr. Richard Martinello, Dec. 27, 2022, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- CDC, accessed Jan. 6, Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19
- Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, accessed Jan. 6, Mortality (by week): Excess deaths by week, 2020-2022 (Age 0-44, all countries)
- Office for National Statistics, July 6, 2022, Deaths by vaccination status, England
- USA TODAY, Dec. 23, Fact check: False claim COVID-19 vaccines caused 1.1 million deaths
- Associated Press, Dec. 15, Article misrepresents CDC data, falsely links deaths to COVID vaccines
- Reuters, Dec. 20, Fact Check-No evidence the CDC ‘quietly’ confirmed 118,000 people ‘died suddenly’ due to COVID-19 vaccines
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