World Cup reporter’s fatal heart condition unrelated to COVID vaccine
CLAIM: Longtime sports journalist Grant Wahl, who died in Qatar last week, was killed by the COVID-19 vaccine.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Wahl died of a ruptured blood vessel in his heart — an injury unrelated to any vaccine, his wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, confirmed to The Associated Press. The COVID-19 vaccines have not been associated with the heart condition that killed Wahl, experts told the AP.
THE FACTS: Wahl, 49, was in Doha to cover the World Cup when he fell ill. He tested negative for COVID-19 and sought treatment for what he described at the time as “pressure and discomfort” in his chest. But on Friday, he collapsed during a soccer match between Argentina and the Netherlands, and died the following day.
Wahl’s sudden decline caught the attention of vaccine skeptics on social media, who shared posts falsely tying his death to COVID-19 vaccination.
“Let’s be frank,” wrote one Twitter user, in a post that had gained more than 2,000 likes by Wednesday night. “The Covid 19 vaccine killed Grant Wahl.”
Qatari authorities did not immediately announce his cause of death. But on Wednesday, Gounder, a physician and infectious disease expert, said an autopsy by the New York City medical examiner’s office found Wahl had died from a slow-growing aneurysm within his aorta, the body’s largest artery.
“His death was unrelated to COVID,” Gounder wrote in a newsletter entry on her husband’s site. “His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death.”
Reached Wednesday night, Gounder reiterated that “my husband’s death was unrelated to the COVID vaccine or any vaccine.”
Julie Bolcer, a spokesperson for the New York City medical examiner’s office, redirected the AP to a representative for Wahl’s family when asked for comment.
Dr. Roland Assi, a professor of cardiac surgery at Yale School of Medicine, told the AP that there is “no evidence or suggestion” of a link with COVID-19 vaccines.
“If anything, COVID infection is known to be linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events, and possibly acute aortic events,” Assi wrote in an email.
Similarly, Dr. Shinichi Fukuhara, an aortic surgeon at the University of Michigan’s medical school, wrote in an email that he didn’t know of any data tying the vaccines to the kind of aneurysm that killed Wahl. He added that he’d never seen or heard of a patient who’d developed the condition after vaccination.
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines have caused some cardiac side effects — namely myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. But cases of vaccine-induced myocarditis are exceedingly rare and the condition is often mild.
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 the AP.