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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are administered at Providence Edwards Lifesciences vaccination site in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 21, 2021. (AP/Hong) Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are administered at Providence Edwards Lifesciences vaccination site in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 21, 2021. (AP/Hong)

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are administered at Providence Edwards Lifesciences vaccination site in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 21, 2021. (AP/Hong)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 28, 2021

Reports to the CDC’s vaccine early warning system are not ‘vaccine deaths’

If Your Time is short

  • Anyone can report the occurrence of an “adverse event” following vaccination to a government database known as VAERS. But these reports themselves are not verified and do not indicate whether the reported adverse event is linked to or caused by a vaccine.

  • There hasn’t been any definitive proof that a COVID-19 vaccination led to someone’s death.

  • The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did make an error on its website in reporting deaths that occur after vaccinations, but corrected it the same day.

With typical alarm, a website known for false claims about the coronavirus pandemic declared that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced its count of deaths from COVID-19 vaccines by more than half, from more than 12,000 to more than 6,000.

The headline on a July 22 Gateway Pundit article read:

"CDC Quietly Deletes 6,000 COVID Vaccine Deaths From Its CDC Website Total in One Day — Caught by Internet Sleuths."

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.)

First, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have caused any deaths. Second, while the CDC did experience a clerical error that was quickly corrected, the error did not amount to a "quiet deletion of vaccine deaths." 

The claim

Gateway Pundit claims that on July 21, the CDC posted 12,313 reported deaths from COVID-19 vaccines on its website but hours later changed the figure to 6,079. 

The article alludes to figures from Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), which is run by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  

Anyone can report "adverse events" to a vaccine to VAERS — and they do. The reports submitted to the database range from minor side-effects to death.

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However, these reports do not indicate whether an adverse event is linked to or caused by a vaccine; rather, the reports, which are not verified, are intended as an early warning system to detect possible safety problems. 

Nearly 341 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the U.S. from Dec. 14, 2020, through July 19, according to the CDC. During that period, VAERS received 6,207 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause," the CDC says. "Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. 

"A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines."

As for the change in numbers, CDC spokesperson Martha Sharan told PolitiFact that while data was being updated to a page on the CDC website, reports of foreign deaths were accidentally added to the total. The page was later corrected to show the 6,207 reports of death in the U.S.

Our ruling

The Gateway Pundit headline said, "CDC Quietly Deletes 6,000 COVID Vaccine Deaths From Its CDC Website Total in One Day — Caught by Internet Sleuths."

What the website deems a sneaky revelation of twice the amount of vaccine-related deaths in the U.S. was actually a clerical error, the CDC told us. Further, there is no proof that a COVID-19 vaccine played a role in the deaths reported to VAERS following an injection.

We rate the post Mostly False.

CORRECTION, Aug. 12, 2021: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the U.S. from Dec. 14, 2020, through July 19, 2021. The rating is not changed.

Our Sources

Gateway Pundit, "CDC Quietly Deletes 6,000 COVID Vaccine Deaths From Its CDC Website Total in One Day — Caught by Internet Sleuths (VIDEO)," July 22, 2021

Reuters, "Fact Check-VAERS data does not prove COVID-19 vaccine deaths exceeded 12,000," July 26, 2021

PolitiFact, "No, reports to the CDC’s vaccine early warning system are not ‘vaccine deaths,’" April 6, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," July 21, 2021

Email, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Curtis Gill, July 27, 2021

Interview, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Martha Sharan, July 28, 2021

The Defender, "CDC ‘Corrects’ Number of Reported Deaths After COVID Vaccines by Dumping Foreign Reports," July 22, 2021

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More by Tom Kertscher

Reports to the CDC’s vaccine early warning system are not ‘vaccine deaths’

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