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Health experts said the report included no evidence to back its claim, relying instead on "loose correlations and incorrect assumptions."
There have been more than 1.3 million excess deaths in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the majority were because of the virus. Most of the remainder can be attributed to pandemic-related disruptions, such as delayed medical treatment, experts say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nine deaths have been causally linked to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, but none to the more widely used Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Social media users are sharing a recent report that aimed to calculate what it called the adverse economic and human impacts of COVID-19 vaccines.
"How bad was COVID vax damage in 2022? This bad," read text overlaid on a screenshot shared March 31 on Instagram.
The screenshot showed a March 28 tweet by Edward Dowd sharing statistics from an "estimated 2022 US Vaccine Damage Report." Under "estimated human cost," it listed 300,000 excess deaths.
Dowd is a founding partner of Phinance Technologies, the global investment firm behind the March report. He also wrote the book "Cause Unknown: The Epidemic of Sudden Deaths in 2021 and 2022." His tweet included numbers of supposed injuries and disabilities caused by COVID-19 vaccines and the projected economic cost of the excess deaths, injuries and disabilities.
The posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Health experts said the report included no evidence to back its claim.
The report used excess death rates — which it called "an alternative way of computing excess deaths" — along with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and United Nations population estimates to conclude that there were 310,000 excess deaths because of COVID-19 vaccines in U.S. adults ages 25 to 64 in 2021 and 2022 combined.
The CDC describes excess deaths as the observed number of deaths that exceed the expected number of deaths in a specific period. The number can be calculated in a variety of ways and may vary depending on methodology, the agency says.
The Phinance report said deaths from vaccinations "are not easily distinguished" from deaths from other causes. But the report said that with mass vaccinations, increased natural immunity to COVID-19 and the emergence of the milder omicron variant, it’s difficult to argue that COVID-19 played a large role in excess deaths in 2021 and 2022. "Therefore, we can use the total excess mortality in 2021 and 2022 as an estimate for vaccine-related deaths," the report said.
We reached out to Phinance Technologies, but didn’t receive a response.
Spencer Fox, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia’s Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Institute of Bioinformatics, said the report presents no evidence to prove COVID-19 vaccines caused the excess deaths. He said the vaccines’ safety is best measured by randomized, controlled trials, which have consistently found that the vaccines are safe and effective.
The Phinance report’s conclusions "are based on loose correlations and incorrect assumptions," Fox said.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agreed.
"Excess mortality data is presented (in the report) and asserted to be caused by the vaccine but in reality could be caused by any number of things — increased gun violence, drug overdoses, and COVID itself, as high-risk individuals exist in all age cohorts," Adalja said. "Assertions like this, as a whole, suffer from why the excess deaths they find and attribute to the vaccine don’t seem to be reported in places with higher vaccination rates than the U.S. or U.K."
Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, said the report was wrong to speculate that because of high levels of COVID-19 immunity in the U.S., the excess deaths were caused by the vaccine. The nation did worse than other countries at getting its population vaccinated, he said, leaving a "large pool of unvaccinated individuals susceptible to COVID-19."
Woolf said past studies have shown that about 80% of excess U.S. deaths since the pandemic’s onset were because of the COVID-19 virus. The remainder were attributed to pandemic-related disruptions, such as delayed medical treatment because of an overwhelmed health care system.
"Other countries experienced lower rates of excess deaths than the U.S., largely because they vaccinated more of their populations and more quickly," he said.
"Put simply, vaccine skeptics discouraged vaccination and then used the resulting deaths in the unvaccinated population as evidence that the vaccine is to blame."
Mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows there have been 1,345,469 excess deaths in the U.S. among all age groups since the pandemic’s 2020 start through March 18, 2023. Experts say the majority are from COVID-19, which has killed 1,125,366 people in the U.S.
The data shows more than 400,000 of the 1.3 million excess deaths occurred in categories such as hypertensive diseases (110,842) and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (104,924).
Weekly excess deaths in the U.S. have been elevated since the pandemic began, and the timing of spikes in excess deaths have been consistent with the rise of the COVID-19 delta variant in summer 2021 and omicron in late 2021 and early 2022.
"The most coherent explanation is that COVID-19 is the primary cause of excess deaths during this time period," said Fox. "One can clearly see in the weekly trends that spikes in excess deaths are strongly correlated with the COVID-19 surges that occurred across the United States over these years."
The CDC said nine deaths have been causally linked to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Those deaths were because of a rare blood clotting disorder. That led the FDA in May 2022 to limit the use of the vaccine.
The CDC has not causally linked any deaths to the more widely used Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
More than 672 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the U.S. through March 1, 2023, and 19,476 preliminary reports of death to VAERS, a vaccine safety monitoring system, according to the CDC. But VAERS is designed as an open system, in which anyone can submit a report, and the reports are widely accessible. The reports are not verified, and incomplete VAERS data is often used in conjunction with false claims about vaccine safety.
Instagram posts said a report proves that COVID-19 vaccines caused 300,000 excess deaths in 2022.
Experts said the report lacks evidence and that its conclusions are based on "loose correlations and incorrect assumptions."
A majority of the excess deaths in the U.S. since the pandemic began can be attributed to the virus itself.
We rate the claim False.
Instagram post, March 31, 2023
Phinance Technologies, "The Vaccine Damage Project," March 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," accessed April 4, 2023
CDC, "COVID-19 mortality overview," accessed April 4, 2023
CDC, "COVID data tracker," accessed April 4, 2023
Email interview, Lisa George, spokesperson for CDC, April 3, 2023
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, "COVID-19 Vaccination Associated with Reductions in COVID-19 Mortality and Morbidity in the United States, and an Approach to Valuing these Benefits," Dec. 15, 2021
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Limits Use of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to Certain Individuals," May 5, 2022
Email interview, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, April 4, 2023
Email interview, Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus and senior advisor at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, April 3, 2023
Email interview, Spencer Fox, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Institute of Bioinformatics at the University of Georgia, April 3, 2023
Email interview, Daniel Salmon, vaccinologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, April 3, 2023
Health Feedback, "What can explain the excess mortality in the U.S. and Europe in 2022?"
The Associated Press, "COVID-19 vaccines did not cause excess deaths among millennials," March 26, 2022
The Washington Post, "U.S. ‘excess deaths’ during pandemic surpassed 1 million, with covid killing most but other diseases adding to the toll, CDC says," Feb. 15, 2022
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