Amid reported deaths following COVID-19 vaccinations, experts allay fears, discourage alarm

Experts caution against linking deaths with injection.

Published: January 30, 2021 3:27pm

Updated: February 2, 2021 8:04am

As questions have begun to swirl around numerous deaths that have been reported after individuals received a COVID-19 vaccine, experts are urging the public not to leap to the conclusion that those fatalities were caused by the vaccine itself. 

The deaths that have been reported worldwide following an injection of the vaccine include: nearly three dozen elderly patients in Norway, the baseball legend Hank Aaron, a Florida physician, another Florida medical worker, an individual in Placer County, Calif., and numerous others. 

Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that in a Wednesday meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices the agency identified just under 200 deaths "following COVID-19 vaccination" in the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a database run by the CDC. As of Monday evening, that number had risen to a little over 230.

Nordlund cautioned that the deaths in VAERS should not be assumed to have been caused by the vaccine. 

"It's important to be aware that we can describe how many reports VAERS has received after a given vaccine," she told Just the News. "We cannot tell you how many are associated with the vaccine. VAERS data generally don't allow determination of causality."

The VAERS website itself notes that "VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness," inasmuch as "reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically."

Nevertheless, many details of the deaths listed in VAERS indicate that negative reactions to the vaccine began occurring quickly after receiving it. 

"Vaccine received at about 0900 on 01/04/2021," reads one note. "About one hour after receiving the vaccine [the patient] experienced a hot flash, nausea, and feeling like she was going to pass out after she had bent down. Later at about 1500 hours she appeared tired and lethargic, then a short time later, at about 1600 hours, upon arrival to a friends home she complained of feeling hot and having difficulty breathing. She then collapsed, then when medics arrived, she was still breathing slowly then went into cardiac arrest and was unable to be revived."

"Patient died within 12 hours of receiving vaccine," another reads, while another claims a patient "was found deceased at home about 24 hours after immunization."

Around 30 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the U.S. so far. 

Bernice Hausman, the chair of the humanities department at Penn State College of Medicine and an expert in vaccine controversy, said health officials anticipated that such controversies might arise when the vaccine entered into wider distribution. 

"When the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was discussing the allocation to long-term care facilities and other congregate settings with older adults," Hausman told Just the News, "committee members knew that there would be deaths following vaccination because some very frail people would die for other reasons but that the deaths would be linked temporally to the vaccines." 

"They were worried that it would seem as if the vaccine would cause these deaths," she added. "This is a problem with all mass vaccination campaigns, and is particularly true for very elderly populations."

Hausman compared the elderly deaths out of Norway to those observed during periodic heat waves, in which "frail people died a little earlier than they might have because they were exposed to excess heat." 

"This appears to be what is being reported out of Norway — that very frail elderly people are susceptible to the Covid vaccine adverse reactions, and some may pass away close to vaccination," she said. 

Public health authorities have disputed allegations that the deaths should  be attributed to the effects of the vaccine. The World Health Organization last week released a statement about the post-vaccine deaths described by Norweigan officials, claiming investigators were unable to find "any unexpected or untoward increase in fatalities in frail, elderly individuals or any unusual characteristics of adverse events following administration of" Pfizer's version of the vaccine. 

"Reports are in line with the expected, all-cause mortality rates and causes of death in the sub-population of frail, elderly individuals," the group said, "and the available information does not confirm a contributory role for the vaccine in the reported fatal events."

Nevertheless, Norweigian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said this week that the country would be tweaking its approach to vaccinating elderly and more vulnerable populations. 

While claiming that the country "[didn't] believe there's any problem with the safety of the vaccines," Solberg nevertheless said that Norway "will maybe not give them to the most vulnerable of the elderly, because that might speed up a process where they were what we would say at the end of life phase anyway."

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