April 5, 2021

As states across the U.S. expand the eligibility for getting a COVID-19 shot, a conservative website blasted out a warning from Europe.

The Gateway Pundit claimed two of the vaccines being used in the United States are behind thousands of deaths and injuries in Europe.

“From Europe: 3,964 people have died from adverse drug reactions for COVID-19 ‘vaccines’ – 162,610 injuries,” said the headline of the March 28 story, which was shared on Facebook.

The Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The Gateway Pundit cites information from Global Research, a Canadian website run by the Centre for Research on Globalization, which was accused by NATO of posting conspiracy theories, spreading Russian disinformation and undermining Western media.

The post specifically looks at vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, offering a breakdown of the different injuries and deaths purportedly associated with each vaccine using numbers from a European Union-maintained database called EudraVigilance.

The implication is the COVID-19 vaccines are harmful and could result in injury or death.

However, the numbers are taken out of context to exaggerate the risk of vaccines.

The EudraVigilance database itself cautions the information it collects is for “suspected side effects … but which are not necessarily related to our caused by the medicine.”

“Information on suspected side effects should not be interpreted as meaning that the medicine or the active substance causes the observed effect or is unsafe to use,” EudraVigilance’s website says. “Only a detailed evaluation and scientific assessment of all available data allows for robust conclusions to be drawn on the benefits and risks of a medicine.”

Taking the raw data of possible COVID-19 vaccination reactions at face value and using them without context is an oft-used tactic by people attempting to undermine public confidence in the vaccines, according to the New York Times. They frequently interpret the numbers from EudraVigilance or from its United States counterpart, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, as evidence of the vaccines’ dangers.

Since VAERS doesn’t show whether an adverse event was caused by the vaccine or occurred coincidentally, it’s generally not useful on its own for assessing whether a vaccine poses a risk to human health, Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, previously told PolitiFact.

The numbers shared by both the European and American databases have also not been thoroughly vetted independently by scientists. In some cases, the reactions are self-reported.

A doctor once successfully reported to VAERS the flu vaccine had turned him into The Hulk, a Marvel Comics character, in an effort to show the possible dangers of blindly relying on the data.

It’s too early to tell if the reactions that are being reported are merely coincidental. Regardless, health agencies in the United States and abroad continue to monitor the vaccines’ safety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been able to confirm extremely rare cases of people developing a severe allergic reaction to their vaccinations. Those reactions occur in about two to five people per 1 million who are vaccinated and can be treated quickly.

There hasn’t been any definitive proof that a COVID-19 vaccination led to someone’s death.

So far, U.S. regulators have granted emergency use authorization to three vaccines — they come from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The CDC says the vaccines in use in the U.S. are safe and effective.

AstraZeneca has not yet asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.

A possible blood clotting issue, reported in Germany in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine is currently under study and is said to be extremely rare. While several countries suspended the vaccine’s use for certain groups, a definitive link has not yet been found.

Our ruling

A post claimed that in Europe “3,964 people have died from adverse drug reactions for COVID-19 ‘vaccines’ – 162,610 injuries.”

That’s a misrepresentation of information in a European database that tracks suspected reactions to medicines, including COVID-19 vaccines. The agency behind the database cautions that the information is only of suspected side effects, and that it should not be interpreted as meaning that the medicine caused the effects or that it’s unsafe.

A detailed evaluation and scientific assessment of all available data are needed before drawing conclusions, the agency said.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to millions of people across Europe and the United States, and health agencies have vouched for their safety and effectiveness. We found no definitive proof that a COVID-19 vaccine caused someone’s death.

We rate this claim False.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for these fact checks here and more of their fact checks here.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Andy Nguyen is a contributor to PolitiFact based in Los Angeles. He also writes for Patch covering local and national news. Nguyen previously wrote for…
Andy Nguyen

More News

Back to News