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US has not reported any deaths caused by the COVID-19 vaccines

A viral tweet following the pause recommendation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine mischaracterizes whether deaths have been caused by the COVID-19 vaccines.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Thursday, March 18, 2021 file photo, syringes are filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop up site in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

UPDATE: On Friday, April 23, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to resume use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. for individuals over the age of 18 under the FDA'S Emergency Use Authorization. 

Original report published on April 15, 2021: 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint recommendation April 13 that providers temporarily stop giving the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine following reports of six women, out of 6.8 million people who received the vaccine, suffering from blood clots after getting the vaccine. The acting commissioner of the FDA, Janet Woodcock, said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution.

The recommendation, which the CDC and FDA called a pause, led to many reactions on social media. One person tweeted, saying, “There are over 2200 deaths related to Moderna and Pfizer on the VAERS website, yet they are halting the J&J vax over 6 blood clots. Feel free to fact check this yourself.” The post has been retweeted more than 2,000 times.

THE QUESTION

Have there been any officially reported deaths caused by the COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.? 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

As of April 15, the U.S. has reported zero deaths caused by the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

WHAT WE FOUND

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) was created in 1990 with the goal of detecting possible safety issues with vaccines licensed in the U.S. It is co-managed by the CDC and FDA.

Health care professionals must report certain adverse effects, such as death, hospitalization or a congenital anomaly, and vaccine manufacturers must report all known adverse events. Any individual can report an adverse health effect to VAERS. Reports made by people may be unverifiable and may not be accurate.

“The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable,” according to the VAERS website. “In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically.”

The limitations of the reporting system means VAERS doesn’t determine if a vaccine caused a health problem. That’s where the CDC comes in.

The CDC said the FDA requires vaccine providers to report anyone who died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine to VAERS. Just because a death is reported doesn’t mean the vaccine caused the death, the CDC notes. The CDC said it then investigates the report “to determine whether the death was a result of the vaccine or unrelated.”

From Dec. 14, 2020, through April 12, 2021, there were 3,005 reports of people who had died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. The CDC says it has found no evidence the COVID-19 vaccines contributed to those deaths.

“A review of available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records revealed no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths,” the CDC said.

The CDC and FDA will continue to investigate reports of adverse effects, including the six women who suffered a rare type of blood clot after getting the J&J vaccine. Of the six women, one died and another was in critical condition as of April 13. The CDC and FDA have not yet determined what role, if any, the vaccine played in the woman’s death.

More from VERIFY: COVID-19 poses higher risk of blood clots than Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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