Re-published study lacks evidence linking Covid-19 shots to death

Nearly a year after censorship claims first surfaced online over a pulled preprint study, social media posts allege the researchers were recently vindicated as a new version linking Covid-19 vaccines to widespread death was published in a journal. But medical experts continue to question the methodology, saying the paper's sample does not provide enough context to support the conclusion of mass mortality.

"In 2023, The LANCET censored & CANCELLED a ground-breaking COVID-19 Vaccine Injury & Autopsy paper," says Alberta physician William Makis in a June 19, 2024 Facebook post.

"74% of sudden deaths due to COVID-19 Vaccine!"

Similar posts have spread elsewhere on Facebook, Instagram and X. Claims about the dangers of Covid-19 shots have also appeared in French.

<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken June 28, 2024
<span>Screenshot of an Instagram post taken June 28, 2024</span>
Screenshot of an Instagram post taken June 28, 2024

The narrative is the latest misinformation about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, which researchers estimate have saved millions of lives worldwide. Makis and co-authors Roger Hodkinson and Peter McCullough have previously spread misinformation or conspiracy theories about the pandemic.

The allegations of censorship trace back to July 2023, when some social media users said the same researchers' paper had been pulled from the scientific journal The Lancet.

The Lancet Group previously told AFP the study was a preview of research, known as a "preprint," that was removed because its methodology did not support its conclusion. Experts echoed The Lancet's concerns and said the study had not yet received peer review.

AFP asked other researchers to examine the version of the paper published June 21, 2024 in the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Science International (archived here). They said it still does not prove high rates of vaccine-caused death.

Results lack context

The study authors looked at 325 autopsy cases and one necropsy case of people who had received Covid-19 vaccines. They found 73.9 percent of deaths "were directly due to or significantly contributed to by" the shots.

"The cardiovascular system was by far the most implicated organ system in death," the researchers said.

Public health officials have recognized myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle (archived here), as a rare side effect of Covid-19 shots.

However, cardiologist Florian Zores (archived here) questioned the findings since the paper focused on autopsy reports already connected to Covid-19 vaccination.

"So they find 100 percent of what they are looking for, but that does not mean, as some claim on social networks, that 75 percent of vaccinated people die suddenly," he told AFP on June 21.

Zores said other studies investigating post-vaccine death have not come to the same conclusion about causality.

An April 2024 study, for example, looked at death certificates for 1,292 young people in the US state of Oregon who died suddenly or from cardiac failure. It found none of the deaths were attributable to vaccination, while one person in the sample died without a determinable cause 45 days after being vaccinated (archived here).

Brian Ward, a professor of experimental medicine who studies the adverse effects of vaccines at McGill University (archived here), agreed with Zores, saying the authors of the recent Forensic Science International paper did not place the results in context.

"What would the death toll have been like without vaccines since almost all of the kinds of fatal outcomes they believe to have been 'caused' by vaccines are also associated with Covid-19 infection?" he said in a June 27 email.

Side effects uncommon

Ward said a small number of people have suffered adverse effects and even died after receiving Covid-19 vaccines -- but he emphasized that many of the conditions are also associated with infection.

An April 2022 study found the risk of heart complications is higher among young people after Covid-19 infection than after vaccination (archived here).

Canadian public health data show that as of January 5, 2024, 488 deaths were reported after vaccination -- but only four were found to have a causal association with the shots (archived here).

Mahmoud Zureik, director of the Epi-phare epidemiological agency in France (archived here), told AFP on June 24 that vaccines lower the chances of serious illness from infection, outweighing the risks of rare side effects.

Read more of AFP's reporting on vaccine and health misinformation here.