The Perfect Enemy | CDC didn’t say it gave out deadly COVID-19 shots in red states - The Associated Press
February 16, 2024

CDC didn’t say it gave out deadly COVID-19 shots in red states – The Associated Press

CDC didn’t say it gave out deadly COVID-19 shots in red states  The Associated Press

CLAIM: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has admitted it purposely distributed lethal batches of COVID-19 vaccinations to states with conservative-leaning populations.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The CDC has made no such admission and no reports of deadly batches of COVID-19 vaccines have been reported. Social media posts spreading the erroneous information are relying on a flawed analysis published by a website known to spread false information.

THE FACTS: Social media users are falsely claiming some batches of COVID-19 vaccines are lethal and that federal authorities are knowingly handing them out in Republican-leaning areas.

A number are sharing a screenshot of awebsite article with the headline, “CDC Admits Red States Got ‘Rapid Kill’ COVID Vaccine Batches,” along with an image of CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

The article is from The People’s Voice, a website owned and operated by NewsPunch, which routinely publishes false news.

“The CDC intentionally targeted people in conservative red states with fast-acting deadly batches of Covid-19 vaccines, according to CDC data which confirms many people’s worst suspicions about the depopulation agenda at the heart of the US government,” the text below the image reads.

But the article offers no proof that the CDC made such a statement, nor that there are any “bad batches” of COVID-19 vaccine.

Ann Hardie, a spokesperson for the CDC, said in an email that the assertions are not only false but “dangerous and irresponsible.”

As of last month, she noted, the agency has confirmed just nine deaths from the vaccine, out of more than 672 million doses so far administered in the country.

Those deaths, Hardie added, were all linked to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which federal regulators have strictly limited, due to the ongoing risk of rare but serious blood clots.

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to undergo the most intense safety monitoring program in U.S. history,” she wrote in an email.

The article being widely shared focuses on an analysis published by The Exposé, another website known for publishing false news, which claims the states with the highest death rate from COVID vaccines are all Republican-controlled.

Using publicly available data from the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, the analysis breaks down the number of potential but unverified vaccine-related deaths by state and then calculates each state’s death rate by taking into account the number of people vaccinated in each state.

But medical experts caution against relying on any analysis solely focused on the VAERS data since it’s essentially a repository for vaccine-related health complaints submitted by the general public. They are not confirmed.

Indeed, claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines based on data from VAERS, which is run jointly by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have been debunked by The Associated Press on multiple occasions.

“Anyone can report anything to VAERS and it gets into the database,” Susan Ellenberg, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, agreed in an email. “Someone can get a vaccine, die of a stroke a year later, and a family member or friend can report it to VAERS—and it will be in the database. There are tons of reports like that.”

Matthew Motta, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health who studies health misinformation, agreed, noting the database simply helps health officials monitor potential problems with vaccines that might warrant further investigation.

“There’s really no proof that VAERS reports are indicative of actual COVID-19 vaccine related fatalities,” he wrote in an email.

Jennifer Reich, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado in Denver who studies vaccine hesitancy, also noted that there have been relatively few reported vaccine-related deaths, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions, including about any possible regional patterns.

Based on the VAERS data, there are roughly 19,000 unconfirmed reports of vaccine-linked deaths out of the more than 670 million doses administered _ or less than 0.003% of all shots, she said in an email.

The correlation between red states and reports of vaccine-related injuries and deaths could also be explained by what’s known as “reporting bias,” said David Gorski, a professor of surgery at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit who has written frequently about vaccine misinformation.

“In other words, we already know from a number of surveys that political orientation greatly affects suspicion versus acceptance of COVID vaccines,” he wrote in an email. “As a result, one potential confounder that might produce a result like this would be simply that people in states with higher rates of anti vaccine sentiment and vaccine hesitancy would be more likely to report a suspected vaccine injury (whether the vaccine caused it or not).”

To be sure, recent studies have found conservative areas tend to have more deaths from the COVID-19 virus than more liberal ones.

An article published last June in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed academic journal, found Republican-majority counties had a greater share of COVID deaths compared to counties that were majority Democrat.

But that and other studies conclude that lower vaccination levels _ not higher _ played a role in the increased deaths.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.