Anti-vaccine mandate campaigner Graham Hood has claimed to his social media followers that official data confirms there have been 800 COVID-19 “vaccine deaths” in Australia.
But the claim is false and based a misrepresentation of information from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). While there had been 801 reported deaths among people who had received the vaccines at the time of the post, only 11 of these cases were causally linked to COVID vaccinations.
Mr Hood posted the video on March 29, telling his followers: “The TGA are publishing figures now – 800 dead, confirmed vaccine deaths.” (Video mark 7min 57sec)
The former Qantas pilot was a self-professed leader of the anti-vaccine mandate Convoy to Canberra protest in February. He has previously shared misinformation regarding COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
The TGA, the federal government’s medical regulator, publishes weekly COVID vaccine safety updates. The most recent at the time of Mr Hood’s recording was from March 24, which stated the agency had received and reviewed 801 reports of deaths among those who had received the vaccine.
Of these reports, 11 cases had been causally linked to the vaccines. Nearly 20 million people had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in Australia as of that date.
A TGA spokeswoman told AAP FactCheck in an email that while it had received more than 800 reports of deaths following the vaccinations, such reports did not mean that the adverse events were caused by the vaccines.
She said the regulator encouraged reporting of significant adverse events after vaccinations, “even if there is only a small chance that the vaccine caused the event”.
“If the TGA determines that a report of a significant adverse event or death may impact the benefit-risk balance for the vaccine, the report is referred to a Vaccine Safety Investigation Group, which is a panel of independent medical and vaccine experts who undertake a detailed causality assessment using a structured approach recommended by the World Health Organisation,” she said.
Of the 11 deaths, all were linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine: eight were related to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, two to Guillain-Barre syndrome and one a case of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP).
Professor Catherine Bennett, chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, told AAP FactCheck the public could be confident in the figures because of the stringent reporting and investigation processes used in cases of reported deaths.
“An expert clinical panel looks at each reported death,” she said, adding that these experts had access to doctors’ reports and medical records, and could request other tests.
“They also compare notes with those doing the same investigations all around the world.”
Prof Bennett noted that Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data confirmed the nation’s age-standardised death rate was lower in 2021, during the period covering the bulk of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, than in previous years.
The ABS said there was an age-standardised death rate of 431 in 2021, below the historical average of 459 during the five years pre-COVID. These figures are adjusted for age to allow for more accurate comparisons between years.
“If there were missed deaths that were vaccine-related, signals of this would appear in the deaths reports given the number of vaccines administered,” Prof Bennett said.
Another expert, Professor Louisa Jorm, the director of UNSW’s Centre for Big Data Research in Health, previously noted that more than 400 people died in Australia each day, on average. In this context, it was expected that some unrelated deaths occurred after vaccination due to the scale of the rollout.
Official data has not confirmed 800 COVID-19 “vaccine deaths” in Australia. Rather, drug regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration has investigated more than 800 reports of deaths following vaccination. Only 11 of these cases have been shown to be causally linked to the vaccines.
False – The claim is inaccurate.