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Claim about resuscitation in breakthrough COVID-19 patients is false

August 3, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Resuscitation is not possible for many vaccinated people who become seriously ill from COVID-19. In some cases, their hearts are too “stiff” to respond to paddles used to deliver an electric shock. Microclots in surrounding tissue may be the reason.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Emergency room physicians say they have heard of no such issues involving people vaccinated for COVID-19 who become sick, and the claim, which circulated on Twitter, was not supported by evidence.

THE FACTS: Emergency medical officials contacted by The Associated Press called the Twitter post baseless.

“This post makes zero sense,” said Dr. Howard Mell, an emergency medical physician in St. Louis, Missouri, and a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians. “It is flat out wrong.”

Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency physician in Lexington, Kentucky, said he has only admitted one vaccinated person with COVID-19 at his hospital. The majority of his patients suffering from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S. are up to 95 percent effective. In cases where those inoculated against the disease become infected, the illness is far less severe than if they had not received the vaccine. Experts warn that those who are unvaccinated are more at risk for being hospitalized.

“The vaccine has no regard whatsoever on my efforts of resuscitation,” Stanton said. “It makes it less likely that they will need resuscitation.”

Mell said the claim being shared online is also off base because people who die of COVID-19 are more likely to experience respiratory arrest and defibrillation is not used to resuscitate those patients.

Furthermore, Mell said that the post misrepresented what defibrillation is.

“We don’t use the paddles to put electricity back into the heart,” he said. “When we shock somebody, we are actually stopping their heart, that is the goal of defibrillation.”

Asked about the issue of microclots, experts said that clots are more likely to occur in people with COVID-19, not those who have been vaccinated.

“For the most part, the people we are resuscitating who have had COVID-19, especially with the rising cases of delta, are by far not vaccinated individuals,” Dr. Mark Conroy, emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said.

Dr. David Hamer, an infectious disease expert at Boston University School of Medicine, said those who receive the vaccine and experience a breakthrough case will see typically mild symptoms. Serious breakthrough cases may occur in those who are immunocompromised, but Hamer said he has seen no deaths of his patients who are vaccinated.

Hamer added there is no evidence that people who experience breakthrough cases do not respond to treatment, including resuscitation.

In fact, he said, in the cases he has seen they did not become that sick.

“They were nowhere near needing to be resuscitated or end up in an ICU,” he said.

Concern has been rising around the delta variant, which has been found to be more transmissible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that vaccinated individuals return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the delta variant is leading to new infections. The CDC’s decision came after a study found that vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections carried the same amount of the virus as those who were unvaccinated.


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.