The Perfect Enemy | Fact check: No tie between COVID-19 vaccine and Toronto doctor deaths
August 11, 2022

Fact check: No tie between COVID-19 vaccine and Toronto doctor deaths

Fact check: No tie between COVID-19 vaccine and Toronto doctor deaths  USA TODAYView Full Coverage on Google News

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The claim: Post implies three Toronto doctors passed away in the same week because of the COVID-19 booster

As of July 22, 293,000 people in Toronto had received their fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Toronto’s official website. Healthcare workers are one of the groups currently eligible.

Some social media users are blaming the recent deaths of three Toronto doctors on the fourth dose of the vaccine. One July 22 post features screenshots of various staff memos announcing the deaths of Drs. Jakub Sawicki, Stephen McKenzie and Lorne Segall, implying their deaths were caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Please share- three physicians at the Mississauga hospitals have died this week,” the post’s text says. “Cause of death wasn’t shared in the memo, but how many times have 3 doctors died in 1 week, days after the hospital started administering the 4th shot to staff… These shots need to be pulled.”

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The post garnered more than 500 shares in its first week. Similar posts have spread on Facebook and Twitter

But the doctors did not die from the COVID-19 booster. Their deaths were related to separate illnesses, according to a hospital official, obituaries and other memorials.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the claim for comment.

Deaths had nothing to do with COVID-19 boosters

Sawicki, McKenzie and Segall passed away within the same week in Toronto, Canada. Following their deaths, Trillium Health Partners, a hospital network located in Western Toronto where the men worked, published a statement on Twitter announcing the doctors’ deaths.

“It is with deep sadness that THP mourns the loss of three of our physicians who recently passed away,” the July 27 tweet reads.

A second tweet adds, “The rumour circulating on social media is simply not true. Their passings were not related to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Amit Shilton, a Trillium spokesperson, relayed the same message to USA TODAY via email. Along with this, Shilton sent copies of Sawicki’s and McKenzie’s memorial memos, which were shared amongst staff at the hospital. Neither memo mentions the COVID-19 vaccine. 

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Segall’s obituary states he passed away on July 17 “after a ridiculously unfair and hard fought year-long battle with advanced lung cancer.” 

Though USA TODAY was unable to find the obituaries for McKenzie and Sawicki, CTV News Toronto reported McKenzie’s office had been permanently closed due to his serious illness leading up to his death. 

Sawicki’s wife, Iris, created a GoFundMe after her husband’s death in order to fund the Dr. Jakub Sawicki Scholarship at Queen’s University. The GoFundMe states, “Last August, my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Gastric Cancer Signet Ring Adenocarcinoma.”

There is no evidence the three doctors’ deaths had any relation to the COVID-19 booster. Reuters has also debunked the claim. 

Our rating: Missing context

Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the implication that three Toronto doctors passed away in the same week because of the COVID-19 booster. The hospital that employed the doctors told USA TODAY the vaccine had nothing to do with their deaths. Their obituaries and memorials also said they passed away from separate illnesses.

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