COVID-19 vaccines did not cause excess deaths among millennials
CLAIM: There were more than 61,000 excess deaths among the millennial age group in the U.S. in the second half of 2021 because of COVID-19 vaccines.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There was an increase in excess deaths — which is the difference between the observed numbers of deaths and expected numbers of deaths in a specific period — among millennials at that time, but health experts say there is no evidence vaccines played a role. Instead, contagious variants of the coronavirus were a major contributor to the toll.
THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a video claiming there was a large number of excess deaths among the “millennial” age group, or people ages 25-44, due to the vaccine in late 2021. The video is a clip from Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” program and was first posted online on March 11.
“Starting in the summer into the fall, with the mandates and the boosters, there were 61,000 excess millennial deaths. Basically, millennials experienced a Vietnam War in the second half of 2021,” Edward Dowd claims in the clip. Dowd is identified in the video as an equity investment executive and former BlackRock portfolio manager. He did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
In the video, which has over 1.1 million views and over 18,000 likes on Twitter, Dowd cites a graph that claims to show data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It features spikes in excess deaths throughout 2020 and 2021, with the largest in fall 2021, each labeled with supposed causes like “mandates” and “boosters.”
Deaths were indeed up in 2021 — provisional mortality data from the CDC shows 63,141 more deaths among millenials in 2021 compared to 2019, according to Brian Tsai, a spokesperson for the agency’s National Center for Health Statistics. He added that the graph in the video wasn’t produced by the CDC, though anyone can download CDC data to make their own.
But experts told the AP that COVID-19 itself is the obvious culprit for the deaths, as the rise coincided with the spread of the highly contagious delta and omicron variants, while there is no evidence to show that vaccines were the cause.
“I don’t disagree with the fact that the pandemic has been responsible for an enormous number of excess deaths in the US and that adults age 25-44 were deeply affected. But it’s ridiculous to attribute this catastrophe to vaccine mandates and boosters,” Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in an email to the AP. Woolf noted that only 65% of the U.S. population was vaccinated at the time.
CDC data from December indicated that 2021 was on track to be America’s deadliest year on record, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AP reporting. COVID-19 has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer. Experts have said drug overdoses also contributed to higher-than-expected death rates in 2021.
“If you compare the excess deaths numbers to the total COVID reported death numbers, most of those excess deaths are going to be from COVID itself. They’re not there’s not some mysterious thing happening that’s causing these excess deaths,” Spencer Fox, associate director for the University of Texas’ COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told the AP.
To show vaccines had caused the deaths, the data would have to show spikes in excess deaths specifically among vaccinated people, while the unvaccinated population would have been spared, added Woolf. “But absent such evidence, their assertion is as ridiculous as saying that water causes house fires because you are more likely to see house fires when firemen are spraying water on them,” he said.
Reports of death due to the COVID-19 vaccine are extremely rare. The CDC has recorded nine deaths associated with rare blood clots that were caused by the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. Currently, 217.2 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.
“To date, CDC has not detected any unusual or unexpected patterns for deaths following immunization that would indicate that COVID vaccines are causing or contributing to deaths, outside of the nine confirmed deaths following the Janssen vaccine,” said Martha Sharan, a spokesperson for the CDC.
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.