Misleading: The U.K. data cited in the article carries a few caveats. Notably, the mortality rate among the partially vaccinated is unreliable due to a small number of deaths in this group, and mortality rates between groups of different vaccination status can be influenced by factors such as preexisting medical conditions and socioeconomic status. These weren’t acknowledged by The Exposé.
FULL CLAIM: “Secret CDC Report confirms nearly 120k Youngsters ‘Died Suddenly’ in the USA by Oct. 2022 following roll-out of COVID Vaccines”
On 17 January 2023, the website The Exposé published an article, proclaiming in the headline that “Secret CDC Report confirms nearly 120k Youngsters ‘Died Suddenly’ in the USA by Oct. 2022 following roll-out of COVID Vaccines”. Citing excess death statistics in the U.S. and non-COVID death statistics in the U.K., the article alleged that these were due to COVID-19 vaccination. No author was listed in the article’s byline, as is typically the case for articles by the Exposé, but an investigation by the organization Logically found that the website was owned by an individual named Jonathan Allen-Walker.
It’s not the first time that The Exposé made such allegations. In fact, the website carries a whole series of articles along the same theme, using largely the same tactic of citing official statistics, possibly an attempt to give its claims a veneer of credibility. But as previous reviews by Health Feedback demonstrate, the claims by The Exposé generally involve cherry-picking datasets and ignoring explicitly stated caveats about the official data that limit the conclusions one can make with the data.
As we will show below, the same is true of this article.
The majority of excess deaths in the U.S. so far were the result of COVID-19
Although the article described the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on excess deaths as “secret”, this is far from the case, since the data is publicly accessible on the CDC’s website. The dashboard on excess deaths enables us to distinguish between excess deaths that are related (blue) and unrelated to COVID-19 (green). As we can see in Figure 1, the vast majority of excess deaths in the U.S. were the result of COVID-19, as the overwhelmingly blue bars above the orange line denoting the average expected number of deaths show.
This data strongly suggests that the excess deaths in those aged 0 to 44 were related to COVID-19, and is inconsistent with the Exposé’s claim that these are “mysterious” deaths related to COVID-19 vaccination.
Figure 1. Graph showing excess deaths in the U.S. Bars above the orange line indicate excess deaths. Bars colored in green are non-COVID-19 deaths. Bars colored in blue are deaths related to COVID-19. Source: U.S. CDC. Data retrieved on 24 January 2023.
Moreover, CDC data shows that unvaccinated people are the ones getting COVID-19 and dying from it at a higher rate than vaccinated people (Figures 2 and 3).
Figure 2. The rate of COVID-19 cases based on vaccination status. Source: U.S. CDC. Data retrieved on 24 January 2023.
Figure 3. The rate of COVID-19 deaths, based on vaccination status. Source: U.S. CDC. Data retrieved on 24 January 2023.
None of those datasets were included by The Exposé, which then ascribed excess deaths in the U.S. to COVID-19 vaccination by citing data from the U.K. Office of National Statistics (ONS) instead, specifically the report titled “Deaths by Vaccination Status, England, 1 January 2021 to 31 May 2022”. Showing a graph of non-COVID deaths in people aged 18 to 39 in England for January to May 2022, the article highlighted the spikes in deaths in those who received one dose of vaccine compared to unvaccinated people.
Except that looking at the ONS data in full shows that the data corresponding to the spikes are marked with a “u”, for “unreliable”, as Snopes pointed out in a fact-check of an earlier iteration of this Exposé article. The Notes tab in the ONS data table explained the reason for this: “Rates marked with u in ‘Noted as Unreliable’ column are unreliable due to small numbers of deaths. Otherwise, column left blank.”
Figure 4. The graph by The Exposé, modified by Health Feedback to provide additional context regarding the unreliability of the data points highlighted in the article, due to small numbers of deaths in these groups.
Moreover, Note 9 states that comparing mortality rates between groups of different vaccination status must be done with caution, “as the characteristics of people in the different vaccination status groups, such as health, may differ, particularly due to the prioritisation of the vaccine to more clinically vulnerable people. While differences in the ages of people in the vaccination status groups are accounted for, other differences, such as ethnicity or level of deprivation, may remain, which can affect the mortality rates and counts”.
Therefore, even if we exclude the unreliable data points and directly compare the unvaccinated and fully vaccinated groups, these caveats mean that such comparisons don’t provide meaningful information about the relationship between mortality rate and vaccination status.
None of these caveats were taken into account or even acknowledged in the Exposé article. Health Feedback reached out to The Exposé for comment and will update this review if new information becomes available.
Vaccinated people aren’t dying at a higher rate compared to unvaccinated people
The key problem with the Exposé’s claim is that in order to ascribe excess deaths to COVID-19 vaccines, one would have to show that such deaths occur primarily in vaccinated people and not in unvaccinated people. We do have data about mortality rate based on vaccination status, and these don’t show that vaccinated people are dying at a higher rate than unvaccinated people.
For starters, this analysis by ABC News correlated the percentage of fully vaccinated people in each U.S. state or territory with death rates, using CDC data. The chart shows clearly that, by and large, death rates are lower in states with a greater proportion of fully vaccinated people compared to those with a smaller proportion. This is inconsistent with the claim that the COVID-19 vaccines are causing people to die at an unusually high rate.
Figure 5. A chart showing the death rates per 100,000 people in U.S states and territories, based on the proportion of fully vaccinated people. Also shown are the candidates for whom the state/territory voted for in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. Source: ABC News.
That said, this analysis comes with some limitations. For example, there may be significant differences in terms of access to healthcare from one state to another that may impact mortality rates. Therefore, some may argue that the difference in mortality rate may not necessarily reflect differences in vaccination status.
To address such criticism, we can turn to published studies on excess mortality that account for demographic differences. These also showed that the mortality rate in vaccinated people isn’t higher compared to unvaccinated people. A CDC study examining the period between December 2020 and July 2021 found no difference in mortality rate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Another study, published in the journal JAMA Network, looked at excess mortality in the U.S. and other peer countries between June 2021 and March 2022. It reported that excess all-cause mortality was greater in the ten least-vaccinated states as compared to the ten most-vaccinated states.
A study in Indiana, which involved more than 520,000 people, compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated, previously infected people. The study found that all-cause mortality was 37% lower in the vaccinated group. Further reinforcing this finding, the researchers reported that the unvaccinated group had a 24 and 37% higher rate of all-cause emergency department visits and hospitalization compared to the vaccinated group, respectively, underscoring the benefits of vaccination.
Overall, these observations are inconsistent with the claim that COVID-19 vaccines are responsible for excess deaths in the young. Instead, the evidence points to COVID-19 as the main cause of excess deaths in the U.S. Rather than contributing to excess deaths, COVID-19 vaccines can instead help to minimize such deaths, given that they are highly effective at reducing a person’s risk of severe disease.