Public health officials address misleading claims about deaths related to COVID-19 vaccines

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 7:17 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - COVID-19 vaccines have not caused any deaths in Alaska or the U.S. Alaska’s chief medical officer said on Thursday.

“The CDC has said that we’ve had no deaths and there’s no deaths in the country that’s associated with the vaccine,” said Dr. Anne Zink during a media briefing.

Misleading statements insinuating the deaths of five Alaskans were associated with COVID-19 vaccines began circulating online this week, prompting public health officials to set the record straight during multiple briefings with the public and members of the media.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System collects and publishes information about reactions to immunizations. Anyone can report reactions or events that occurred after receiving a vaccine, and that information is published and available to the public without verification and review.

“VAERS can be a collection of expected side effects and unusual things that happened after vaccination but they aren’t necessarily related to the vaccine,” Dr. Liz Ohlsen with Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services explained Thursday.

The website shows five Alaskans between the ages of 73 and 100 died after receiving COVID-19 vaccines, but public health officials say their deaths were not caused by the vaccine.

“We know that thousands and thousands of people die every day in the United States for a wide variety of reasons, but CDC says if you’ve been vaccinated, if you have any adverse reaction including death after the vaccine, to go ahead and report that into VAERS and then every case of every fatality that’s recorded into VAERS is investigated,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin explained.

Public health officials warned the data on VAERS can be difficult to interpret, incomplete, contain duplicate information and is not a reliable way to understand the effects of the vaccine.

Zink said there have been two anaphylaxis reactions to the vaccine in Alaska, incidents that were investigated and confirmed by the state and the CDC.

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