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Health Impact News claims that many people are dying of COVID-19 vaccine injuries.

Side by side comparison of 15 years of recorded vaccine injuries and deaths vs. 4 months of recorded COVID vaccine injuries and deaths.[...] enter image description here

It says that more deaths have happened after COVID-19 vaccinations, as reported to VAERS, compared to either the last 15 years combined.

I understand that these adverse effects reports are correlations but don't imply causation but I wonder if the core of this statement is true. Is there is a caveat not presented? For example have there been more vaccines administered in the last months compared to the last 15 years? What is the best explanation for this or is the information wrong?

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    Welcome to the first time visitors. Please remember: We don't accept pseudo-answers in comments. If you have a fully-referenced answer, use the answer box. If you have a speculation to share about what the answer might be or want to call other people names, please don't. [Lot of comments deleted.]
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 28 at 15:52
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    On a side note, the right table lists 3,186 deaths, whereas the title above the table says 3,486.
    – pat3d3r
    Apr 29 at 9:47
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    "Injury", to me, means physical damage, such as the needle tip breaking off in the arm. I believe the correct medical terminology is "adverse event". Apr 29 at 22:12
  • In the recent FDA public hearing Jessica Rose presents a 1000% increase in deaths. "And we're not done yet with 2021!" youtube.com/watch?v=WFph7-6t34M&t=14990s yesterday
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I think the explanation for "oddity" in those numbers (besides the fact that they don't capture causality) is that in usual circumstances vaccines are mostly administered to children, so most deaths are in that group. From a paper that looked at a similar (albeit not exactly the same VAERS year range):

Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997–2013

VAERS received 2149 death reports, most (n = 1469 [68.4%]) in children. Median age was 0.5 years (range, 0–100 years). [...] Most common causes of death among 1244 child reports with available death certificates/autopsy reports included sudden infant death syndrome (n = 544 [44%]), asphyxia (n = 74 [6.0%]), [...]

Because SIDS peaks at a time when children are receiving many recommended vaccinations, it would not be unexpected to observe a coincidental close temporal relationship between vaccination and SIDS.

[...] VAERS generally cannot assess if a vaccine caused an adverse event. VAERS does not collect data on the number of individuals vaccinated; therefore, with no denominator data, it is not possible to calculate rates of adverse events. Likewise, VAERS does not collect data on the total number of vaccinated individuals who died; therefore, it is not possible to calculate death rates following vaccination.

Because a large number of vaccines are given to young children (often simultaneously) at scheduled well-child visits, especially during the first year of life, deaths occurring in close temporal association following vaccination are likely to occur by chance alone.

Clearly Covid-19 vaccines have a different demographic profile. In an April 2 Reuters fact-checking article it's been pointed out for instance that

According to the latest data (here), 1,985 U.S. deaths of individuals who died after receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines have been reported to VAERS. Of these, 1,016 are listed as receiving doses from Moderna, 946 as Pfizer-BioNTech, 16 as Janssen, and seven as “unknown manufacturer.” In total, 1,579, or nearly early 80%, of these individuals were over the age of 65. [...]

In a WebMD interview here , Dr. Joël Belmin, head of geriatrics and vaccination coordinator at l’hôpital Charles-Foix in Paris, said, “In older people, due to their great frailty, a significant amount of spontaneous mortality is expected. In a retirement home, one in five people die each year. It’s therefore difficult to directly attribute these deaths to the fact that these people were vaccinated.”

So it's apples-to-oranges to compare deaths that predominantly occurred in such an 65+ age group to deaths that mostly occurred in children under one year (as in previous years' VAERS data).


One theory that sometimes explains a higher number of reports for some vaccines is mentioned (with some empirical support) in the 1st paper--the Weber effect, which is generally applicable to new procedures:

We noted that death reports appear to follow the Weber effect, a tendency for new medical products or products perceived to be new to have higher reporting rates for adverse events initially, which then decline despite steadily increasing prescribing rates. For example, the peak in number of death reports during 2001 appears to coincide with an increase in PCV7 use following its licensure and recommendation for use in 2000. RV5 was licensed and recommended in 2006, and the peak in the number of death reports after RV5 occurred in 2008. DTaP-HepB-IPV was first licensed and recommended in 2002 and the first death reports in VAERS were observed in 2003 with the highest number of reports in 2007, which was followed by a decline in subsequent years.

The Weber effect has been correlated with the degree of media coverage as well.

It also has been suggested as such (albeit without naming it) in re Covid-19 vaccines:

experts said it’s not surprising that more death reports would be submitted to VAERS after COVID-19 immunizations compared with flu, given the increased attention on the vaccine.

“The difference in deaths reported following COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine administration is likely due to the enhanced reporting of all events occurring after COVID vaccination compared to after influenza vaccination,” Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine who also evaluates vaccines, told us.

As there's not much longitudinal data with Covid-19 vaccines, it's probably not yet possible to show a clear trend of over time (with purpose of sense some Weber effect).

A couple of extra points (based on question-comments below):

  • Although influenza vaccines are administered to the elderly in large numbers in the US, unlike for Covid-19 vaccines, there's no mandatory reporting by healthcare provides of all deaths (to VAERS) after an influenza vaccine; CJR's answer below has more details on that. One could say this is a "forced Weber" effect...

  • The numbers on both sides of the comparison look plausible insofar as actually being from VAERS as they roughly correspond to figures from other reports/news (which did not attempt such a cross-temporal comparison though). This doesn't make the comparison attempted in the OP's source any more sound though.

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    I would use 'pure' instead of 'kind of'. If my understanding of Fizz' post is correct, Norway's actual claim should be that the COVID vaccine is more dangerous to elderly people than the MMR/diptheria/tetanus/polio etc vaccines are to infants.
    – mcalex
    Apr 28 at 8:24
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    Each year over a 100 million flu vaccine doses are administered, a significant portion of which to senior citizens. If the majority of the deaths reported after receiving a covid vaccine are simply to be associated with "natural death", should a similar number have shown up for flu vaccines? (I suspect there may be further differences in how these are reported.)
    – mmeent
    Apr 28 at 12:12
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    @user1721135 There is more than one vaccine. The alternative is likely not between "vaccine now" vs. "vaccine never", but "vaccine A now" and "vaccine B in two months". If you have a claim from "Norway" you'd like to assess critically, please open a new question.
    – gerrit
    Apr 28 at 12:32
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    So, are the numbers in the claim correct?
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 28 at 15:53
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    @Oddthinking: it depends what one means by "after". If "after" means "someone logs into VARS and also reports the death", then "yes", otherwise "we don't know". Also, the OP's final (which I assumed is the real) question is "What is the best explanation for this?"
    – Fizz
    Apr 28 at 15:57
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CDC, updated Apr 27, 2021:

Over 230 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through April 26, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 3,848 reports of death (0.0017%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. CDC and FDA physicians review each case report of death as soon as notified and CDC requests medical records to further assess reports. A review of available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records revealed no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths. CDC and FDA will continue to investigate reports of adverse events, including deaths, reported to VAERS.

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    @Fizz - In large part it's just a comment, where the text is too long. But the (recently) bolded text is basically saying that the death rate is unrelated to the vaccine. Apr 28 at 0:26
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    This needs a bit more context since it looks like CDC is tracking deaths that are directly attributable to the vaccination. However, for frail individuals (i.e., very old or terminally ill) the vaccination may accelerate death due to the extra stress on the body and immune system. However, that would likely be logged as death due to the underlying condition (e.g., old age) as opposed to the vaccine itself.
    – rjzii
    Apr 28 at 3:21
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    The question was not about causality. Apr 28 at 7:53
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    @user1721135 "Is there is a caveat not presented? What is the best explanation for this or is the information wrong?" This answer provides that caveat and explanation, particularly given the context of the original table to claim "many people are dying of COVID-19 vaccine injuries". The CDC says "a report to VAERS does not mean that a vaccine caused an adverse event.". It's reported and then the cause is investigated.
    – Schwern
    Apr 28 at 19:53
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    At the bottom of the link schwerm offers "It is not possible to use VAERS data to calculate how often an adverse event occurs in a population." The chart in the question implicitly does this. As does the Q itself. VAERS is an anecdata used for surveillance it is not data.
    – Yorik
    Apr 28 at 20:01
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Those numbers might be true but are not comparable.

First, VAERS is a self-reporting system, but it's predominantly used by health care professionals who report things that meet certain criteria.

https://vaers.hhs.gov/faq.html

VAERS accepts reports from anyone. Patients, parents, caregivers and healthcare providers (HCP) are encouraged to report adverse events after vaccination to VAERS even if it is not clear that the vaccine caused the adverse event. In addition, HCP are required to report certain adverse events after vaccination.

It's principally intended to allow reporting of acute adverse events that occur immediately proximal to administering a vaccine. The adverse events that are considered reportable vary by vaccine.

https://vaers.hhs.gov/docs/VAERS_Table_of_Reportable_Events_Following_Vaccination.pdf

For example, the seasonal flu vaccine doesn't consider proximal death to be an adverse event because we give it to old people all the time. We can't call dying at 85 after getting a vaccine an adverse event or it would fill the database. It only has to be reported if the death is believed to be linked to something that the vaccine did.

Seasonal influenza--trivalent inactivated influenza, quadrivalent inactivated influenza, live attenuated influenza-IIV, IIV3, IIV4, RIV3, ccIIV3, LAIV4

A. Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock (7 days)

B. Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (7 days)

C. Vasovagal syncope (7 days)

D. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (42 days)

E. Any acute complication or sequelae (including death) of above events (interval - not applicable)

F. Events described in manufacturer’s package insert as contraindications to additional doses of vaccine (interval - see package insert)

The COVID-19 vaccines are not currently reported under the same standard. If the standard for other vaccines was the same as the standard for submitting COVID-19 VAERS reports, we would have a much larger number of reports for other vaccines.

https://vaers.hhs.gov/faq.html

What adverse events should healthcare providers report to VAERS after COVID-19 vaccination?

Healthcare providers are required to report to VAERS the following adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination [under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)], and other adverse events if later revised by CDC:

Serious AEs regardless of causality.

Serious AEs per FDA are defined as:

Death;

A life-threatening AE;

Inpatient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization;

A persistent or significant incapacity or substantial disruption of the ability to conduct normal life functions;

A congenital anomaly/birth defect;

An important medical event that based on appropriate medical judgement may jeopardize the individual and may require medical or surgical intervention to prevent one of the outcomes listed above.

That regardless of causality phrase is doing a lot of work here, and it means that the numbers for other vaccines and the numbers for COVID-19 are not comparable.

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    Nice dig; I suspected that there was a difference in reporting standards vis-a-vis influenza vaccines, but none of the many secondary fact-checking sources on the Covid-19 VAERS emphasized it, alas. I'd be curious how the HHS justifies this difference in reporting requirements (might have something to do with the provisional/emergency approval that Covid vaccines got), but that's a question for elsewhere.
    – Fizz
    Apr 30 at 0:59
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    It's a reasonable precaution given the abbreviated testing period and wide-scale deployment. If we don't know what the adverse events linked to the vaccine are we can't make a list of reportable events.
    – CJR
    Apr 30 at 13:24
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I think you've answered your own question in your comments.

As you said, what's reported in VAERS is adverse events (hence the "AE"). This just means that stuff happened to some people who received the vaccines in question.

So, basically by definition, it doesn't report on genuine "vaccine injuries". At most, it means something happened to someone who received the vaccine, and that, if there's sufficient data, someone could investigate (or already has investigated) whether the something that happened is related to the vaccine the patient received.

Unfortunately, every single day there are some bad things which happen to some people. Some people have cardiovascular events. Some people receive cancer diagnoses. Some people have accidents. And, some people die. And -- especially given that a huge portion of the general population is receiving COVID vaccines in such a very short time -- for each of these categories of people who have had an adverse event happen, many of them have received a vaccine, even very recently.

So, those are the numbers you are seeing.

And, that graphic you posted (the one that says "vaccine injuries" in it) seems to be implying that it was produced by CDC, but I don't think it actually was; I'd be interested to see if anyone can find otherwise.

Oh, and one further thought -- when adverse events come up, they don't just sit in a database so that these numbers just hang out there for all of us to start worrying about. Adverse events do get reviewed by qualified researchers. If there is truly a legitimate problem, someone will notice and it will be acted upon.

Edits: after writing the answer, I came upon Reuters succint thoughts on this, which might be useful: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-vaers/fact-check-reports-of-adverse-effects-in-us-database-arent-confirmed-to-be-linked-to-vaccination-idUSKBN2AE0QQ

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  • Adverse effects and injuries are used interchangeably. Apr 30 at 19:42
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    @user1721135 That is interesting. It looks like some confusion may relate to varying definitions of an adverse event; for example, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_adverse_event says "an adverse event caused by vaccination", while cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/… says "Reports of adverse events ... do not mean that the reported problem was caused by a vaccine". So those two sources appear to contradict each other. Anytime I had previously heard "adverse event" I had always understood it to mean correlated rather than caused
    – MarkR
    May 3 at 16:06
  • @MarkR Wikipedia: A vaccine adverse event (VAE), sometimes referred to as a vaccine injury, is an adverse event caused by vaccination.[1] While they say "caused" it is generally correlated. In my country you can get money from the government in these situations, if it can't be proven, that the vaccine didn't cause the correlated event. So its basically reversed burden of proof, erring on the safe side. Anti vaxers use this to point out how deadly vaccines are, but fail to account for causality. May 4 at 17:16
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    In the UK, every year about 550,000 people die. If everyone in the UK gets vaccinated, then about 550,000 people will die within one year of vaccination. And 1,100,000 will die within two years of vaccination. And 5 1/2 million will die within ten years of vaccination.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 30 at 22:47

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