PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - COVID-19 vaccines carry risks and there have been deaths, but anti-vaccination groups are misrepresenting information found on a government website, inflating the numbers. One antivaccination group tried to get claims trending on social media that vaccines have killed 45,000 people.
A lawyer for the group announced he was filing a federal lawsuit containing information from a woman, identified only as Jane Doe, who claimed she found the deaths in a government database.
The database referenced appears to be the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) run by the CDC and FDA. In VAERS, members of the public can report health problems, reactions, or deaths following vaccination. Health care professionals are required to report 'any' death after a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it doesn't appear the vaccine was the cause.
The CDC website states, "Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem."
Investigative reporter Kris Pickel with Arizona's Family went through thousands of death reports on the VAERS website and found apparent causes of death that included gunshots, falls, preexisting medical conditions, age, COVID-19 infections, and statements by health care providers that the deaths were not related to the vaccine but the reports were required because of timing.
Pickel also found reports of unexplained deaths that happened sometimes within hours of a shot, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and reports from family members who say their loved ones were healthy but passed away within weeks, days, or sometimes hours of getting a vaccine.
Martha Sharan, a spokesperson with the CDC, says there are currently 6,631 death reports in VAERS.
Sharan could not provide details on how many of those deaths have been reviewed to establish whether the vaccines were a factor citing, "reports are in different stages of assessment."
At the time of this article, three deaths have been linked to COVID-19 vaccines. All three were the result of blood clots following the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The CDC provides weekly updates on adverse effects reported in connection to the vaccines.
At the time of this article, of the more than 351 million doses administered to Americans:
- Allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis) occurs in 2 to 5 people per million.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has 39 confirmed reports of TTS (Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome), the formation of blood clots with a low blood platelet count. Women under 50 are most at risk.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also has 155 reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which can cause nerve damage and paralysis. Men, 50 and older, are most at risk.
- Pfizer and Moderna have 1,253 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, and lining of the heart. Most cases have been reported in teenage boys and young men.
Because VAERS relies on the public and health care professionals to report issues, there are concerns health problems possibly associated with vaccines are being underreported.