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Jason Asenso
By Jason Asenso August 12, 2021

No evidence actor Mike Mitchell’s death was linked to his COVID-19 vaccine shot

If Your Time is short

  • A representative for Mike Mitchell told TMZ and People that the actor died of a heart attack.

  • Mitchell had a history of heart problems.

  • The CDC does not consider heart attacks an adverse event of interest for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Actor and former bodybuilder Mike Mitchell died July 23 from a heart attack in Turkey, a country that had begun offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots a month earlier to health care workers and people over 50. Mitchell, who got the booster, was 65 years old.

An Aug. 8 Instagram video suggests the third shot was to blame for Mitchell’s death. It highlights what appear to be Facebook posts Mitchell made following each of his three vaccine shots, dated Feb. 22, March 20 and July 16. The video then cuts to a July 24 headline announcing Mitchell’s death.

Screenshots of the comments under some of Mitchell’s posts have also circulated online. One of them appears to show Mitchell responding to a commenter’s question by saying he received two shots of Sinovac-CoronaVac, the Chinese vaccine which the World Health Organization approved for emergency use in June, followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

The Instagram 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.)

Mitchell’s Facebook page is now private, so we couldn’t verify whether the Facebook posts depicted in the video came from him.

What the post fails to mention is that Mitchell had a history of heart issues. In 2007, Mitchell said he was forced to quit bodybuilding after he had five major heart operations. In his hometown newspaper in Scotland, Mitchell was quoted as saying his doctor warned him never to train again after his heart stopped for almost 10 minutes during one of these procedures.

News reports from People and TMZ credited a representative for Mitchell as saying the cause of death was a heart attack. We reached out to his talent agency for details, but did not hear back.

The post mirrors other social media claims falsely tying the vaccines to the deaths of celebrities, including ​​rapper DMX, baseball legend Hank Aaron and boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Heart conditions and the vaccines

As of Aug. 11, the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, lists 1,434 reports of myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks, occurring after vaccination in the U.S. The agencies that run VAERS caution that these reports alone are not enough to determine whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event. Anyone can submit a report, and researchers use the reports to see whether an adverse event warrants further study.

The CDC doesn’t consider heart attacks a serious adverse event of interest for the COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. Other heart conditions like myocarditis and pericarditis, are being studied as possible side effects of some vaccines, including Pfizer’s. The CDC says they’re occurring mostly in male adolescents and young adults.

Featured Fact-check

Myocarditis and pericarditis are conditions that inflame the heart or the membrane surrounding it. Either of these conditions can result in a heart attack.

According to the CDC, most of the vaccinated patients with myocarditis and pericarditis who received care responded well to treatment and quickly recovered.

Without access to Mitchell’s autopsy results, we can’t say what caused his heart attack. But we found no evidence that it was related to the vaccine.

"It’s important to remember that heart attacks occur all the time, vaccine or no vaccine," said Dr. Ira Taub, a pediatric cardiologist at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. "With over 160 million vaccinated Americans, it is inevitable that some will have a heart attack after vaccination. However, that’s very different than saying that the heart attack is caused by vaccination."

The American Heart Association advises people with a history of cardiovascular risk factors, like heart attacks, to get vaccinated. This is because infection can be more severe for this population, and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks.

COVID-19 booster shots

Mitchell lived in Turkey, which began vaccinating people in January with the Sinovac-CoronaVac shot, a vaccine the WHO only recently validated for emergency use. According to the WHO, a large phase 3 trial in Brazil found that two weeks after the second dose, the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine was 51% effective against symptomatic infection, and 100% effective against both severe infection and hospitalization.

Turkey authorized the use of a third COVID-19 shot in June — and included Pfizer’s vaccine as an option — as the first people to get vaccinated got their shots roughly six months earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The CDC has not yet advised people in the U.S. on whether to receive a COVID-19 booster shot, but that may change soon.

Our ruling

An Instagram post suggests that Mitchell’s fatal heart attack was tied to his third COVID-19 shot.

But there is no evidence linking his heart attack to the vaccine, and the post failed to mention that he had a history of heart conditions and surgeries.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

TMZ, 'Gladiator' and 'Braveheart' Featured Actor Mike Mitchell Dead at 65 From Heart Attack, July 24, 2021

People, Mike Mitchell Dead at 65, July 24, 2021

Fethiye Times, Fethiye Times News – Week Ending 25 July 2021, July 26, 2021

Wall Street Journal, Turkey Offers Covid-19 Booster Shot After Early Use of Chinese Vaccine, July 1, 2021

Email interview with pediatric cardiologist Dr. Ira Taub, Aug. 10, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Myocarditis and Pericarditis Following mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination, June 23, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine After Reports of Myocarditis Among Vaccine Recipients: Update from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, June 2021 | MMWR, July 9, 2021

Financial Times, Coronavirus: Turkey begins offering third dose of Covid-19 vaccines - as it happened, June 30,2021

Reuters, U.S. CDC advisers to review data on COVID-19 vaccine boosters, Aug. 9, 2021

World Health Organization, The Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine: What you need to know 2 June 2021 - World Health Organization, June 2, 2021

World Health Organization, WHO validates Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and issues interim policy recommendations, June 1, 2021

PolitiFact, Federal VAERS database is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation, May 3, 2021

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), accessed Aug. 10, 2021

PolitiFact, 10 types of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation swirling online, fact-checked, July 26, 2021

American Heart Association,Questions About COVID-19 Vaccination, accessed Aug. 12, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination, accessed Aug. 12, 2021

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No evidence actor Mike Mitchell’s death was linked to his COVID-19 vaccine shot

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