May 27, 2021

Two weeks after Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was cleared for use in adolescents, newly reported clinical trial results show Moderna’s vaccine is also highly effective for 12- to 17-year-olds, a hopeful sign for parents who are eager to get their kids vaccinated before school starts in the fall.

But an Instagram post suggests that parents ought to be worried about the safety of the vaccines in children.

The post includes a graphic that reads, “The latest CDC data show reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines surpass 220,000, including 943 among 12-17 year olds.”

The user who posted the image wrote in the caption, “I can’t help but to focus on the fact that 943 innocent kids whose parents believed that they were doing the right thing to protect their children — thanks to the propaganda packaged as science — are now injured or dead.”

The 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.)

So far, there’s no hard proof of anyone in the U.S. — adults or children — having died as a result of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Three people have died from a rare blood clotting issue that health officials have said could be linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which hasn’t been approved for children.

This graphic attributes adverse-event data to the CDC, apparently referring to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, a public data collection tool run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The agencies and other medical researchers use the system to monitor adverse events — or possible side effects — following a vaccine that may warrant further study. For example, the CDC is currently investigating 18 cases of heart inflammation in teens and young adults, out of 164 million people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

VAERS is designed so that any person can report an adverse event, and anyone can scour the reports.

But VAERS accepts reports without verifying whether a vaccine actually caused that incident. That makes VAERS a dangerous breeding ground for misinformation that spreads quickly on social media and elsewhere. For more than 30 years, VAERS data has been misused to justify broad conclusions that vaccines are harmful.

The agencies that run VAERS warn that its reports cannot be used on their own to show whether a vaccine caused certain adverse events. So the events cited in the Instagram post are not evidence that anyone died or was injured because of the vaccine.

We took a look at the numbers given in the claim, and checked them against what’s in VAERS.

As of the last weekly update on May 21, VAERS shows 227,612 total reported events for all age groups for the COVID-19 vaccines.

We then ran a narrower search for the 6-to-17 age group, which would include the 12- to 17-year-olds now eligible for vaccination. VAERS turned up 2,207 reported events, not 943.

But that number does not represent the number of people who died or were injured, as the Instagram post claims. It is just the number of reports entered into the database.

Under the symptoms listed in those event reports, for example, “No Adverse Event” occurs 400 times. Many of the reports detail people experiencing the known side effects of the vaccine: headache, soreness, fever and fatigue, which are temporary and treatable with recommended over-the-counter medication.

A search that included just serious adverse events — a category that includes death, life-threatening events, and events that involve hospitalization — turned up 46 reports of events for the 6-to-17 age group. Three reported events cited a death. Each of these reports requires investigation and doesn’t signify a confirmed event related to the vaccine.

So the numbers in the claim don’t align with what’s in VAERS. But more than that, VAERS reports don’t indicate whether any deaths or injuries are caused by the vaccines. Researchers would need more studies and data to determine that.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claims that 943 children and teens have been injured or killed because of the COVID-19 vaccine. The post cites data from the government’s VAERS tool to back up this claim.

For the 6-to-17 age group, a search of the VAERS tool turns up 46 reports of serious adverse events after a COVID-19 vaccination. But the agencies that maintain VAERS warn that the reports should not be used to draw conclusions about whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event.

There is no hard proof so far of anyone in the U.S. having died as a result of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

We rate this post 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.

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Gabrielle Settles is a reporter covering misinformation for PolitiFact. Previously, she was a staff writer for The Weekly Challenger and staff member and reporter for…
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