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• A claim that 45,000 people died from COVID-19 vaccines came from a woman who did not reveal her method for calculating the figure and who has not been publicly identified.
• The figure she calculated drew on data from the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which contains reports that can be submitted by anyone and are not verified.
• The claim was part of a lawsuit on behalf of America’s Frontline Doctors, whose members have a history of making unproven and conspiratorial medical claims.
America’s Frontline Doctors, a group known for its false and misleading claims about the pandemic, first made headlines in 2020 when its viral video about hydroxychloroquine got millions of views and was shared by President Donald Trump and Madonna.
Now the group is back in the news with a lawsuit that includes a new claim.
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.)
The number of deaths appears to have been fabricated by an unidentified woman, who did not reveal her method for calculating it.
The lawsuit says whistleblower Jane Doe — who it says is not identified by her real name because of concerns about personal safety and losing her job — is "a computer programmer with subject matter expertise in the healthcare data analytics field, and access to Medicare and Medicaid data maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services." The lawsuit and an addendum say that in order to calculate her estimate of deaths, Doe examined data from the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and compared it with medical claims related to vaccines and patient deaths from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The lawsuit says Doe determined that "the number of deaths occurring with (sic) 3 days of injection with the Vaccines exceeds those reported by VAERS by a factor of at least 5." It does not explain her method of calculation or how she arrived at that conclusion.
The lawsuit and the woman’s calculations do not acknowledge the fact that reporting a death in VAERS does not prove that a person died as a result of receiving a vaccine. VAERS is an open system that contains reports that can be submitted by anyone and are not verified.
The woman used the figure of 9,048 deaths as a starting point for her calculations, according to the lawsuit. That was how many deaths associated with the vaccine had been reported to VAERS as of July 9, the lawsuit asserts. The number appears to be inaccurate, though, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that through July 19, VAERS received 6,207 reports of death among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.
And even though the agency has received more than 6,000 reports of death to its database, "a review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines," according to the CDC.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of America’s Frontline Doctors. The group’s 2020 viral video falsely claimed that the coronavirus has a cure and also made misleading claims about state hydroxychloroquine restrictions, coronavirus case numbers and the impact of nationwide shutdown orders. Dr. Simone Gold, a founder of the group, has made other false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.
An Instagram post claimed, "45,000 confirmed dead from the COVID-19 shots within three days… and they’ve covered it up."
The number tracks back to a woman who did not reveal her method for calculating the figure and who has not been publicly identified. She based her calculations on reports of deaths in VAERS, according to a lawsuit. But the number does not align with data contained in VAERS — and even the reports of death entered into that system do not prove that those people died as a result of receiving a vaccine. VAERS is an open system that contains reports that can be submitted by anyone and are not verified.
Finally, the claim was part of a lawsuit by America’s Frontline Doctors, a group that has peddled many false and conspiratorial claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Addendum to lawsuit, Declaration of Jane Doe, July 19, 2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," updated July 19, 2021
Instagram post, July 20, 2021
Instagram post, July 21, 2021
Lawsuit, "America’s Frontline Doctors vs. Xavier Becerra," July 19, 2021
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a video of doctors talking about coronavirus, hydroxychloroquine," July 28, 2020
PolitiFact, "Federal VAERS database is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation," May 3, 2021
PolitiFact, "Receiving COVID-19 vaccine does not enroll you in a government tracking system or medical experiment," Feb. 26, 2021
PolitiFact, "Who are the doctors in the viral hydroxychloroquine video?," July 29, 2020
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