The Perfect Enemy | Fact check: No connection between COVID-19 vaccine, death of red panda in Toronto
December 1, 2022

Fact check: No connection between COVID-19 vaccine, death of red panda in Toronto

Fact check: No connection between COVID-19 vaccine, death of red panda in Toronto  USA TODAY

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The claim: A red panda at the Toronto Zoo died from the COVID-19 vaccine

The Toronto Zoo announced the death of one of its 3-month-old red pandas on Oct. 24. Social media users are claiming the panda’s death was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

One Oct. 31 Instagram post features a screenshot of a press release from the zoo titled, “Your Toronto Zoo is Administering Vaccines to COVID-19 Susceptible Animals.” Beneath this, the post includes a screenshot of a headline that reads, “Red panda cub dies suddenly at Toronto Zoo.”

“Even zoo animals injected the with (sic) Covid shots are ‘dying suddenly,'” reads the text written between the two screenshots.

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Similar iterations of the post have been shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The claim is false. A spokesperson for the zoo said the panda had not yet received the vaccine, and red panda cubs have high mortality rates.

USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

Panda’s death not caused by the vaccine

The zoo announced its COVID-19 vaccination initiative in April, and the red panda, named Dash, was born several months later in July. In an Oct. 25 Twitter statement, the zoo said the panda had not been vaccinated prior to its death.

Amy Naylor, a spokesperson for the zoo, reiterated this in an email to USA TODAY.

“Dash did not receive the Covid vaccine,” Naylor said. “A post-mortem was conducted to collect samples for additional testing which will be required to better understand the possible cause of the rapid decline of this animal. Until the results are available to us, we are unable to definitively state the cause of death.”

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Naylor explained that red panda cubs are born in an underdeveloped state, making them “highly susceptible to infectious diseases and other environmental stressors.”

“Wild red panda cubs face similar mortality rates due to their vulnerable state at birth and the ongoing anthropogenic pressures,” Naylor said.

In its original Oct. 24 announcement, the zoo said 40% of red panda cubs die within one year of birth.

The claim has been debunked by Reuters and AP News as well.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a red panda at the Toronto Zoo died from the COVID-19 vaccine. A spokesperson for the zoo said the panda had not yet received the vaccine, and red panda cubs have high mortality rates.

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