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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 5, 2021

No evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations caused deaths of senior citizens

If Your Time is short

  • The article suggests that Hank Aaron and elderly people in Gibraltar and Norway who died about two weeks after being vaccinated were killed by the vaccines. But there is no evidence the vaccines caused their deaths.

Suggesting that coronavirus vaccinations killed 86-year-old Hank Aaron and elderly people in Gibraltar and Norway, an article widely shared on Facebook claims that "seniors" around the world died soon after getting vaccinated, and that their cause of death was listed as natural.

"Seniors dying after COVID vaccine labeled as natural causes," reads the headline of the article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, a major funder of anti-vaccine efforts. Mercola’s work has come under criticism before from federal agencies and others within the medical community. 

The full article, which requires a registration to view, begins: "Around the world, reports are pouring in of people dying shortly after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. … Ironically, when seniors die before vaccination, it’s due to COVID-19 and something must be done to prevent it, but when they die after vaccination, they die of natural causes and no preventive action is necessary."

The article 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 article relies on evidentiary assertions that have been widely discredited before. Let’s look. 

Aaron’s death natural

The article says the death Jan. 22 of Aaron, the Hall of Fame baseball player, is notable because he died 17 days after he chose to be vaccinated publicly in hope that other Black people would get the shot. 

But the Fulton County (Ga.) Medical Examiner’s office said Aaron’s cause of death was natural and not linked to the vaccine. We rated as False a claim that said otherwise.

Health Feedback rated as "misleading" a separate assertion that Aaron’s death "is part of a wave of suspicious deaths among elderly closely following administration of COVID vaccines." The nonprofit fact-checker said there is no evidence to back the claim.

Article admits Gibraltar doesn’t back its claim

Mercola’s article said a surge in deaths in Gibraltar after COVID-19 vaccinations began "raises questions." 

The article said Gibraltar, the British overseas territory on the southern coast of Spain, had only 10 COVID-related deaths by Jan. 6. But vaccinations began Jan. 9 and by Jan. 17, the article claimed, "the total death toll had suddenly skyrocketed to 45," with most of the people who died during that period being in their 80s or 90s. 

A Reuters fact-check said a claim that coronavirus deaths in Gibraltar have been caused by the vaccine and not the virus is false, saying there is no evidence linking the deaths to the vaccine. Full Fact reached the same conclusion.

The government said in a statement Jan. 27 that 11,073 people had received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and none had died as a result of receiving it. Six people between the ages of 70 and 100 who died after receiving the vaccine apparently contracted COVID-19 before being vaccinated, but testing did not detect it, according to the statement.

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In a Feb. 1 announcement, the government encouraged people over age 60 to be vaccinated, noting that "we have offered the vaccine to almost everyone over the age of 60."

Norway finds no causal link

The article claimed the Norwegian Medicines Agency initially downplayed any connection between the deaths of 29 seniors citizens in the wake of Norway’s "vaccination push" — but that the agency is "now reconsidering."

We rated as Mostly False a claim on Facebook that the COVID-19 vaccine is dangerous because 23 people died in Norway "within hours" of receiving it. Those who died were very frail nursing home residents with serious underlying illnesses. The inoculation was not determined to be the cause of death.

Since then, in its latest weekly report on adverse reactions to the vaccinations, the agency said Feb. 2 that among the 112,000 people who have received the first dose and 22,000 who have received the second, there were 56 deaths "with a temporal link to vaccination." All occurred among nursing home residents over age 70 within 12 days of vaccination. 

"Many of these reports state that no link to vaccination is suspected. The fact that some nursing home residents die soon after being vaccinated does not mean that there is a causal relationship," the report said. 

"Every day, an average of 45 people die in Norwegian nursing homes or other similar institutions. It is therefore to be expected that deaths will occur soon after vaccination, without there necessarily being any causal link to the vaccine." 

The agency also said in the report: "The benefits of administering the vaccine are considered to outweigh any possible risks."

A COVID-19 subcommittee of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety, an advisory body to the World Health Organization, reviewed information on deaths reported in frail, elderly individuals in Europe who had received the Pfizer vaccine. 

In a statement Jan. 22, the subcommittee said, "The current reports do not suggest any unexpected or untoward increase in fatalities in frail, elderly individuals or any unusual characteristics of adverse events."

Our ruling

An article widely shared on Facebook claimed that seniors died soon after getting a COVID-19 vaccination and their cause of death was improperly listed as natural.

The article cited the deaths of 86-year-old Hank Aaron and several dozen elderly people in Gibraltar and Norway, all of whom died within a couple of weeks of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. 

There is no evidence that the vaccines caused any of the deaths. Aaron’s death was ruled natural, and authorities in Gibraltar and Norway said none of the deaths of elderly people they investigated were caused by the vaccines.

We rate the claim False.

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No evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations caused deaths of senior citizens

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