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Fact-Check: Is the COVID Vaccine Killing One Person for Every 1,000 Doses?
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Fact-Check: Is the COVID Vaccine Killing One Person for Every 1,000 Doses?

A new article relies on data that is self-reported and unverified.

(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/Boston Globe/ Getty Images.)

A recent viral article claims that COVID-19 vaccines are “killing people, for months and years after the shot.”

“The statistics I’ve been able to collect estimate that the COVID vaccines kill 1 person per 1,000 doses,” writes Steve Kirsch, a tech entrepreneur, in the article. “They are clearly unsafe and nobody should be taking them,” he wrote. 

Kirsch, however, is relying on data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is maintained jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration. The database is self-reported, submissions are not verified, and its reports are not necessarily causally connected to the vaccines.

When accessing the database, the system prompts a disclaimer: “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.” The disclaimer further warns the database “may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.”

VAERS allows for health experts and researchers to monitor adverse reactions that have thus far remained undetected. The database relies on a self-reporting model, in which individuals who received vaccine inoculation can report an adverse event, whether they occur days or years after the shot. 

As we noted in a previous fact check: “Side effects reported through VAERS can, of course, be real, but given the public submission process, VAERS is also littered with health issues that aren’t actually linked to vaccines and even completely fabricated submissions.”

Even valid submissions do not imply causality. Health care providers are required by law to report certain adverse events, including death. According to the CDC, health care providers must “report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS (even if it is unclear whether the vaccine was the cause).”

Kirsch is misleading readers when he estimates “COVID vaccines kill 1 person per 1,000 doses,” because his calculations include all deaths reported to VAERS that occurred after taking a COVID-19 vaccine. By assuming correlation indicates causation, Kirsch incorrectly concludes the COVID-19 vaccines kill.

In one of Kirsch’s estimates, he identifies 17,729 deaths reported in VAERS and then subtracts “500 ‘coincidental’ deaths.” This assumes 97.2 percent of COVID-19 vaccine recipients died because of the vaccine, not because of any coinciding circumstances. Kirsch does not provide an explanation for this assumption or offer a rationale for estimating that only 500 deaths occurring after COVID vaccination were “coincidental.”

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Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.