Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 6, 2021

Report that teen died 2 days after a COVID shot was unverified, isn’t confirmed

If Your Time is short

  • A report was made to a federal database that a 15-year-old in Colorado died two days after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Reports can be made by anyone and are not verified before being entered into the database, which is intended as an early warning system for possible side effects to vaccines.

  • Authorities say they investigate all reports classified as serious, including deaths, and they have not commented on the investigation of the Colorado report.

A healthy Colorado teen died two days after receiving a coronavirus vaccine, according to a number of websites, including the conspiracy oriented InfoWars. This was the headline on WeLoveTrump.com, which a reader asked us to check: 

"15-Year Old Boy Passes Away from Heart Attack Two Days After Pfizer COVID-19 Experimental Jab."

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.)

There has been no confirmation that the death occurred. And none of the COVID-19 vaccines had been approved to be administered to 15-year-olds in the U.S. at the time this incident was said to have happened.

The websites referred to an unverified report made to a federal database that is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation.

The unverified report

The articles were based on a May 1 article by the National File website about a report made April 22 to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, or VAERS. 

The federal database, used for reporting and monitoring adverse reactions after vaccines, is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The report says a 15-year-old male in Colorado received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine on April 18, was not hospitalized and died April 20 from what is listed as heart failure. Under the category of "History/Allergies" is listed: "No,Nothing"; and for "Current illness," the response is: "No."

Jesscia Bralish, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the CDC "has confirmed that they are investigating this report," but that she couldn’t provide more information.

The CDC said in a statement that there are no circumstances under which a 15-year-old would have been eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but that it investigates all reports in VAERS that are classified as serious, including death, life-threatening illness or hospitalization. "If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly assess whether it is a true safety concern," the statement said.

Featured Fact-check

KDVR-TV, a Fox affiliate in Denver, did a news story on the VAERS report being made, noting that anyone can make a VAERS report. We didn’t find any other mainstream media news stories about the report.

VAERS — vital but vulnerable

The CDC and the FDA warn that reports of adverse events — in other words, possible side effects — made to the VAERS database do not indicate whether an adverse event is linked to, or caused by a vaccine. The reports, which can be made by anyone and are not verified, are intended as an early warning system to detect possible safety problems.

Incomplete VAERS data is often used in conjunction with false claims about vaccine safety.

More than 245 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020, through May 3, 2021, and VAERS received 4,178 reports of death (0.0017%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. 

"CDC and FDA physicians review each case report of death as soon as notified and CDC requests medical records to further assess reports," the CDC says on its website. "A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines."

The vaccines are available to people age 16 and older. The Associated Press reported May 4 that the FDA was expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters ages 12 to 15 within the next week, according to a federal official and a person familiar with the process, setting up shots for many adolescents before the beginning of the next school year.

National File calling the Pfizer vaccine "experimental" is apparently a reference to the fact that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA, rather than having been given final FDA approval. The clinical trial results and other requirements for emergency use are little different from what is required for final approval. To qualify for emergency use, the new drugs must be fully tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants.

Our ruling

A widely circulated headline claimed: "15-year-old boy passes away from heart attack two days after Pfizer COVID-19 experimental jab."

There has not been any confirmation that such a death occurred. 

The headline comes from a report made to what is known as the federal VAERS database. Reports can be made by anyone and are not verified before being entered into the database, which is intended as an early warning system for possible side effects to vaccines. Authorities say they investigate all reports classified as serious, including deaths, and they have not commented on the investigation of the Colorado report.

With no evidence that the statement is accurate, we rate it False.

Our Sources

WeLoveTrump.com, "15-Year Old Boy Passes Away from Heart Attack Two Days After Pfizer COVID-19 Experimental Jab," May 4, 2021

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

KDVR-TV, "Report of 15-year-old’s death after getting vaccinated raises concerns about VAERS," posted May 3, 2021, updated: May 4, 2021 

The National File, "15-Year-Old Boy Dies Of Heart Attack Two Days After Taking Pfizer Vaccine, Had No History Of Allergic Reactions," May 1, 2021

VAERS database, "Details for VAERS ID: 1242573-1," accessed May 5, 2021

Email, U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention spokesperson Martha Sharan, May 5, 2021

U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," accessed May 5, 2021

Email, Jesscia Bralish, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, May 5, 2021

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Report that teen died 2 days after a COVID shot was unverified, isn’t confirmed

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up