Social media posts misleadingly link the Covid-19 vaccination to excess mortality in Australia

Social media users have shared a draft study to justify an unsubstantiated claim that vaccination has caused the excess deaths in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there is no evidence the paper was peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, and a wealth of experts and data have concluded that Covid-19 vaccines are safe.

“This is a bombshell and I quote… ‘There was no Covid pandemic prior to Vax, significant excess mortality was highly correlated (+74%) with COVID-19 mass injections five months prior,'” Rise Melbourne, an account that reported this previously shared coronavirus misinformation, tweeted on Feb. 17.

The post links to a study uploaded to ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists and researchers, in February. The paper was submitted by an author named Wilson Sy of Investment Analytics.

A line from the study states, “Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic only began with the advent of mass mRNA injections in 2021” and “the harm or risk identified has far outweighed any benefit of COVID injections.” “.

A screenshot of the misleading claim taken on March 2nd.

The paper has been shared more than 1,500 times on social media in Australia (including here and here) and the UK (here, here and here).

But the claim that vaccines are associated with excess mortality is unfounded. ResearchGate writes on its website that “preprints and early-stage research may not have been peer-reviewed.”

According to official and independent data sources, there is no evidence that vaccination programs in Australia resulted in a higher mortality rate.

Health officials in the UK, US and Australia say the benefits of vaccination outweigh any known or potential risks.

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Similar false claims that the pandemic is a hoax and that vaccines have caused many deaths around the world have been shared by conspiracy theorists over the past three years.

Vaccination deaths rare

Australia began phasing out Covid-19 vaccines in February 2021, prioritizing those in high-risk occupations such as healthcare.

The story goes on

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded 15 Covid vaccination-related deaths this year in a report published in October 2022. The number was compiled using certified medical reports and pathology reports from coroners.

An independent analysis by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has identified 14 vaccine-related deaths since February 2021, according to their latest safety report.

The slight discrepancy with the bureau’s figure is due to differences in how those two agencies categorize vaccine-related deaths, the bureau said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says on its website that vaccine-related deaths are extremely rare.

“Most of the deaths that occur after vaccination are not caused by the vaccine,” it said. “In large populations where a new vaccine is given, there are people with underlying diseases who can die from those diseases. When a vaccine is given in the same population, the association between the vaccine and death is usually fortuitous.”

zero covid

The World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic in March 2020. The virus has since spread worldwide, killing around 6.87 million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Australia followed a “zero Covid” strategy until the end of 2021, meaning case numbers have been kept relatively low up to that point.

“Statistically significant excess mortality was observed in Australia towards the end of 2021,” a Statistics Office spokesman told AFP.

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“Around this time, the Omicron variant was widespread in the community and deaths started to rise,” he said.

In 2022, Australia’s all-cause death rate was 15.1 percent higher than the historical average, data from the Bureau of Statistics shows.

Adrian Esterman, a professor of biostatistics at the University of South Australia, told AFP that the study shared on social media relies solely on correlations “which are known to be the basis of misleading claims”.

“Unfortunately, these claims of vaccine deaths have a scientific veneer and are widely believed,” Esterman said.

Deaths “misclassified”

For the small number of Covid deaths that occurred across Australia in 2020, ResearchGate’s study states that a “seasonality analysis” suggests they are “probable misclassifications of flu and pneumonia deaths”.

The Bureau of Statistics said that claim was also “not true”.

“All Covid tests were done by PCR, while influenza tests were different. This means that misclassification in Australia was highly unlikely,” the spokesman said.

Jamestraur, a professor of biostatistics at Monash University, told AFP it’s wrong to suggest deaths were misclassified because PCR tests are “very accurate”.

A number of experts referred AFP to reports from the Australian Actuarial Institute, which was examining the excess deaths based on preliminary mortality data from the Bureau of Statistics.

According to the Institute’s latest report, published on March 6, just over half of the 10,300 extra deaths across Australia in 2022 were due to Covid.

The other causes of excess deaths during this period were ischemic heart disease (2,020 deaths); diabetes (570 deaths); and some unspecified diseases (4,160 deaths).

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