Covid vaccines may have driven up excess deaths due to 'adverse events', damning new study suggests

Person getting vaccinated

Covid vaccines may be partly responsible for the rise in excess death rates since the start of the pandemic

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 04/06/2024

- 13:59

Updated: 04/06/2024

- 14:47

Researchers are calling on governments and policymakers to thoroughly investigate the underlying causes

Covid vaccines may have contributed to the rise in excess death rates since the start of the pandemic, a damning new study suggests.

Excess death rates have remained high in the West for three years running since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, finds a data analysis of 47 countries published in the open access journalBMJ Public Health.

This is despite the implementation of various containment measures and the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, giving rise to “serious cause for concern", say the researchers who are calling on governments and policymakers to thoroughly investigate the link further.

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, said: “Although COVID-19 vaccines were provided to guard civilians from suffering morbidity and mortality by the covid-19 virus, suspected adverse events have been documented as well."

Person getting vaccinated

Researchers cite multiple studies on the 'suspected adverse events' from vaccination

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Context matters 

It must be stressed that adverse events following Covid vaccination remain vanishingly rare and the benefits must be weighed against the risks.

More than 13.5 billion doses of Covid vaccines have been administered globally over the past three years, saving over one million lives in Europe alone.

The largest study of its kind ever carried out in the UK found that 7,180 of the 40,393 hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 could have been avoided had the population been fully vaccinated.

The safety of the vaccines has been extensively reviewed in both adults and children by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

And, given the vital protection that they offer against successive variants, NHS England is urging at-risk groups to get vaccinated against COVID-19 this spring.

However, both medical professionals and citizens have reported serious injuries and deaths following vaccination to various official databases in the Western World.

The authors of the new BMJ study cite numerous studies reporting that COVID-19 vaccination may induce myocarditis, pericarditis and autoimmune diseases.

However, they note that it's not clear how many of the excess deaths seen within the last three years reflect the impact of COVID-19 infection, or the indirect effects of containment measures and vaccination programmes.

While it’s likely that the indirect effects of containment measures and vaccination did change the scale and nature of disease for numerous causes of death following the pandemic, those caused by restricted healthcare use and socioeconomic upheaval are difficult to prove, they add.

People queuing to get vaccinated

How the researchers gathered their findings

The researchers wanted to gauge the effectiveness of the response to the health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as reflected in excess deaths.

These refer to the numbers of people who died from any cause above and beyond what would normally be expected for any given week/month between January 2020 and December 2022 in 47 countries in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

The researchers applied a statistical method called Karlinsky and Kobak’s estimate model. This uses historical death data in a particular country from 2015 until 2019 and accounts for seasonal variation and annual trends in deaths due to changes in population structure.

The total number of excess deaths in the countries included in the analysis was 3,098,456. Excess deaths were reported by 41 countries (87 percent) in 2020, by 42 (89 percent) in 2021, and by 43 (91 percent) in 2022.

In 2020, the year in which the COVID-19 pandemic started and containment measures, such as lock-downs, social distancing, school closures and quarantines, were implemented, 1,033,122 excess deaths (11.5 percent higher than expected) were recorded.

In 2021, the year in which both COVID-19 containment measures and COVID-19 vaccines were used to curb SARS-CoV-2 virus spread and infection, a total of 1,256,942 excess deaths (just under 14 percent higher than expected) were reported.

And in 2022, the year in which most containment measures were lifted, but COVID-19 vaccines were continued, preliminary data indicate that 808,392 excess deaths were recorded.

Greenland was the only country out of the 47 reporting no excess deaths between 2020 and 2022. Among the others, the percentage difference between the reported and projected number of deaths was highest in 13 countries (28 percent) during 2020, in 21 (46 percent) during 2021, and in 12 (26 percent) during 2022.

The percentage difference between the documented and projected number of deaths was highest in 28% of countries during 2020, in 46 percent during 2021, and in 26 percent during 2022.

The researchers acknowledge various limitations to their findings, including the incompleteness of some data, particularly for 2022, because it can take months or even years before a death is registered in certain countries, they explain.

And the way in which these data are compiled differs among nations, highlight the researchers, who also point out that the data they used provided no detailed stratification of key characteristics, such as age or sex.

Nevertheless, they conclude: “Excess mortality has remained high in the Western World for three consecutive years, despite the implementation of COVID-19 containment measures and COVID-19 vaccines. This is unprecedented and raises serious concerns.

“Government leaders and policy makers need to thoroughly investigate underlying causes of persistent excess mortality and evaluate their health crisis policies.”

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