Syringes with vaccines against COVID-19 being prepared
Claims linking vaccines and an excess mortality paper aren't based on any evidence. Image by AP PHOTO

Experts say 35m deaths from flawed extrapolation, not COVID-19 vaccines

Meghan Williams July 10, 2024
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Dutch scientists say COVID-19 vaccines caused 35 million deaths.

OUR VERDICT

False. Dutch researchers found that three million excess deaths occurred, but they did not provide evidence of a link to vaccines.

AAP FACTCHECK – Social media users are pointing out a Dutch study that they say shows the global death toll from COVID-19 vaccines was at least 35 million.

This is false. The study found about 3.1 million excess deaths occurred in 47 nations between 2020 and 2022, and exports told AAP FactCheck didn’t provide any evidence that any were caused by vaccines.

The claim appears in an article published by The People’s Voice, which AAP FactCheck has debunked numerous times, that has also been shared on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).

The article headline reads: “Dutch Scientists Say at Least 35 Million Deaths Have Been Caused by COVID Jabs.”

Crossed out Facebook post making claim about COVID excess deaths
 Facebook users have been sharing a link to a controversial study. 

The article cites a Dutch study on excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic published in the British Medical Journal Public Health on June 3, 2024.

“Dutch scientists have warned that at least 35 million people have died as a direct result of the experimental mRNA Covid jabs,” The People’s Voice article claims.

However, the study does not mention “35 million” deaths, nor does it say vaccines directly caused any deaths.

Instead, it presents Our World in Data statistics showing about 3.1 million excess deaths across 47 countries between January 1, 2020, and December 21, 2022.

The People’s Voice article also cites The Expose’s article, which correctly states that the Dutch study found about three million excess deaths in 47 nations, but claims: “covid vaccines may have helped fuel the rise”.

The Expose article says that a Substack user has used the excess death figure to estimate that there were about 35 million excess deaths globally.

health care worker fills a syringe with Pfizer vaccine
 The study doesn’t provide evidence of a link between excess deaths and COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, a University of Wollongong epidemiologist, described it as “a series of bizarre disconnected claims”.

“The 35 million number is not related at all to vaccines,” Dr Meyerowitz-Katz told AAP FactCheck.

“That’s just a bad extrapolation from the total number of excess deaths that may have occurred worldwide, done by converting the three million excess noted in the original Dutch study to the worldwide population.”

He added that the study didn’t show any evidence excess deaths were linked to vaccines.

Professor Jeffrey Morris, a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania, says the Dutch study simply presents excess deaths in the World Mortality Dataset and “speculates about potential causal factors”.

“Trying to claim vaccines were a major factor but providing zero evidence and downplaying the established major factor — Covid deaths,” Prof Morris told AAP FactCheck.

Vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination in a plastic container
 Experts say the evidence strongly suggests the excess deaths were caused by COVID-19. 

Stuart McDonald, deputy chair of the Continuous Mortality Investigation at Britain’s Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, says the study authors should have clarified they were only examining the years 2020 to 2022.

He says the timing of the excess deaths strongly suggests they were caused by COVID-19 itself.

“They should also have made it clear that the countries experiencing the highest excess deaths were the countries with the lowest vaccine uptake, and vice versa,” Mr McDonald told AAP FactCheck.

“There is nothing in the article that links excess deaths to vaccine harms, so any attempts to extrapolate the finding to the rest of the world are obviously fundamentally flawed.”

The BMJ has issued an expression of concern, noting the study “does not establish any such link” between COVID-19 vaccination and mortality.

The Princess Maxima Center, the Dutch hospital where three of the four authors practise, “emphatically” distanced itself from the study.

“The study in no way demonstrates a link between vaccinations and excess mortality; that is explicitly not the researchers’ finding,” the hospital said in a statement on its website.

“We therefore regret that this impression has been created.”

The Verdict

The claim that Dutch scientists say COVID-19 vaccines caused 35 million deaths is false.

The Dutch study found about 3.1 million excess deaths occurred in 47 Western nations, but experts told AAP FactCheck it did not provide any evidence they were caused by vaccines.

The medical journal that published the study has also expressed concerns about it.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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