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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone October 5, 2022

Instagram post misleads on U.K. defibrillators and COVID-19 vaccines

If Your Time is short

  • An 18-year-old man died of sudden cardiac arrest Jan. 1, and his family blamed his death on the lack of access to a defibrillator and a long wait for an ambulance. 

  • The man’s family raised money to have 20 outdoor defibrillators installed in Rugby, England. There’s no widespread effort to install defibrillators across the United Kingdom, but there are efforts to show people where they are located.

  • The U.K. has not stopped giving COVID-19 vaccines to all children ages 5 to 11. There are eligibility restrictions, however.

A young man in England died of sudden cardiac arrest on New Year’s Day. His grieving family members have since made it their mission to install in his hometown publicly accessible defibrillators — which they say could have saved his life.

Now a social media user is attempting to tie his death to COVID-19 vaccines.

"Defibrillators are being installed all over the United Kingdom. This initiative has in part been headed by the parent of a young child who recently experienced heart failure and died," read the caption of a Sept. 9 Instagram post. "I wonder if this initiative has anything to do with why the UK suddenly stopped jabs for (children) under eleven years old."

Defibrillators are devices used to send a shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat, and can be used to treat someone with sudden cardiac arrest, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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 Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The post features a video of a man talking about something he calls "quite concerning." He shows a photo of a defibrillator kiosk, then points to a map that he said shows "10,000 of them all over England." 

"I’m sure it’s nothing nefarious at all," he said, seemingly sarcastically.

The good news: It is nothing nefarious. The Instagram post is wrong on three counts: it wasn’t a young child who died; there is no U.K.-wide effort to install defibrillators, but there is one to show where they’re located; and some children under 11 can still receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The post said that the effort stemmed from a parent of a "young child" who died of sudden cardiac arrest. It links to an article in the Mirror, a U.K. publication, that details tefforts by a mother in Rugby, England, to have 20 outdoor defibrillators (not 10,000) installed in her city (not across England) after the death of her 18-year-old son. 

Jamie Rees collapsed on New Year’s Day and died in a hospital four days later, his family said. They said he might have survived had there been access to a defibrillator during a long wait for an ambulance. Rees’ family did not mention the COVID-19 vaccine in the Mirror article, in multiple news interviews, or on websites set up to raise money for the defibrillator plan.

The Instagram video shows a map of locations where defibrillators are stationed across England. That map appears to originate from a private company called HeartSafe. 

The company sells defibrillators, accessories and cabinets. Anyone who owns a defibrillator can register the device on the company's website. The company has a map that shows people the publicly accessible defibrillators closest to them. 

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We found a version of this map dating back to at least April 2015. 

A similar database called The Circuit, funded by the British Heart Foundation, makes registered devices visible to National Health Service ambulances and emergency dispatchers who can direct callers to the nearest location. 

The defibrillator kiosk shown in the Instagram post is from Manchester, England, according to the caption provided on the stock photo website Alamy. The city has a program run by the nonprofit group CityCo and the North West Ambulance Service to ensure that people there have easy access to the lifesaving devices. The program predates the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the British Office for National Statistics said in July there is "no evidence of a change in the number of cardiac-related deaths or death occurring from any cause after a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination in young people aged 12 to 29 years in England."

The U.K. has not stopped giving all COVID-19 vaccines to children younger than 11, as the Instagram post claimed. It recently limited which children in that age group can receive them, however.

All U.K. children ages 5 to 11 had been declared eligible for COVID-19 vaccines earlier this year. But the U.K. Health Security Agency in September began limiting vaccination among some children in that age group, the Guardian reported.

The National Health Service updated its website in September to say that for children in the 5 to 11 age group, those who turned 5 years old on or before this past Aug. 31 can still get a first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

However, children who turned 5 years old after that date can get the vaccines only if they are "at high risk due to a health condition or because of a weakened immune system," or if they live with someone with a weakened immune system.

The Health Security Agency told the Guardian and the fact-checking organization Full Fact that this was the plan all along, though the National Health Service did not initially make that distinction on its website. 

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that thousands of defibrillators are being installed across the U.K. after the sudden death of a young child, and linked this to changes in COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for children in the U.K.

The death referred to in the post was that of an 18-year-old man, not a child. There’s no evidence his death is linked to COVID-19 vaccines. The map of defibrillator locations shown in the video comes from a public-access database that predates COVID-19. There’s no widespread effort to install defibrillators across the U.K., but there are efforts to show people where to find them.

Finally, the U.K. has not stopped giving COVID-19 vaccines to all children ages 5 to 11, though there are eligibility restrictions. 

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, Sept. 9, 2022

Heart Safe, "AED locations," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

Heart Safe, "About Heart Safe," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

CityCo, "Manchester City Centre: Defibrillator Scheme," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

CityCo, "CityCo & Manchester BID: About Us," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

Proper Mcr, "There’s now more than 120 defibrillators in Manchester city centre as part of new scheme," Oct. 19, 2021

Alamy, photo of Manchester kiosk station, June 9, 2022

The Mirror, "Mum wants 20 defibrillators in hometown after son went into cardiac arrest and died," Aug. 18, 2022

BBC, "Jamie Rees: Defibrillators funded in memory of Warwickshire teenager," Sept, 7, 2022

BBC, "Warwickshire mother calls for action on ambulance delays after son dies," May 23, 2022

Warwickshire World, "Family launches fundraiser to bring scores of defibrillators to Rugby after tragic death of much-loved teenager," Feb. 9, 2022

Just Giving, "Weʼre raising £1,500 to purchase a defibrillator and vandal proof casing in memory of our son/brother ‘Jay’, who suffered a cardiac arrest New Year’s Day 2022,’ accessed Oct. 4, 2022

OurJay Fundraising, "Facebook page," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

Coventry Live, "Devastated mum's tribute to son, 18, who died after cardiac arrest," Feb. 4,. 2022

Coventry Live, "Mum of tragic teen Jamie Rees buoyed in fight for return of A&E services in Rugby," June 8, 2022

Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK, "Defib maps," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

The Circuit, "About the Circuit," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

U.K. Office for National Statistics, "COVID-19 vaccination and mortality in young people during the coronavirus pandemic," July 2022, latest release as of Oct. 5, 2022

Full Fact, "UK children under 12 aren’t ‘banned’ from having the Covid-19 vaccine," Sept, 16, 2022

U.K. National Health Service, "Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for children aged 5 to 15," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

U.K. National Health Service, "Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for children aged 5 to 15," archived Sept. 8, 2022

The Guardian, "Anger at plans to roll back Covid vaccines to under-11s in England," Sept. 6, 2022

Gov.UK, "COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a," accessed Oct. 4, 2022

The Associated Press, "UK to offer COVID vaccine to all children 5-11," Feb. 16, 2022

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Instagram post misleads on U.K. defibrillators and COVID-19 vaccines

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