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Posts baselessly link Canadian doctors’ deaths to COVID shots

July 29, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Three doctors at one hospital system in Canada recently died from COVID-19 vaccine shots.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The hospital system for which the doctors worked called such claims “simply not true.” Public information about the deaths indicates that two died from cancer. The third was “seriously ill,” according to his office, though the exact cause of death hasn’t been publicly reported.

THE FACTS: Social media posts in recent days have without evidence linked the deaths of the three doctors to COVID-19 vaccines.

“THREE Trillium Health Partners-Mississauga Hospital doctors have DIED suddenly in 1 week, apparently after getting latest mandated booster,” one tweet declared.

Another tweet linking the doctors’ deaths to vaccines used hashtags such as “#StopTheShots” and “#VaccineDeaths.”

The three doctors worked for Trillium Health Partners, a hospital system in Ontario.

The health system confirmed the deaths of Drs. Jakub Sawicki, Stephen McKenzie and Lorne Segall but refuted suggestions that the deaths were linked to COVID-19 shots.

“The rumour circulating on social media is simply not true,” spokesperson Amit Shilton said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Their passings were not related to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

An obituary for Segall, who died on July 17 at 49, said the otolaryngologist died after a “ridiculously unfair and hard fought year-long battle with advanced lung cancer.”

Sawicki, meanwhile, died on July 19 and had stomach cancer, according to a GoFundMe page arranged by his wife, Iris, to raise money for a scholarship in his name for future medical students. Sawicki was a member of a surgical assisting team at Trillium, according to a hospital memorial notice provided to the AP.

McKenzie was a neurologist with the hospital system for nearly 40 years before he died on July 18, according to a similar notice also provided by Trillium to the AP. A voicemail for his office tells callers that McKenzie was “seriously ill” prior to his death and that his office is permanently closed.

Officials and experts have found the COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and effective at preventing severe illness and death from the virus. More than 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S. alone since December 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.