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Fact Check-COVID-19 vaccines are not increasing child mortality in England

Posts are circulating widely on social media suggesting that data from Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) show COVID-19 vaccination is increasing child mortality in England. However, the statement is “highly misleading”, the ONS told Reuters. There is no record of anyone under 35 dying because of COVID-19 vaccination, it said.

The claim appeared to surface after a website which frequently shares vaccine misinformation published a blog post saying vaccinated children and teenagers in Britain are “up to 52 times more likely to die” than unvaccinated youngsters (here).

Its authors said they compared mortality rates of those aged 10-14 and 15-19 using ONS data on deaths by vaccination status between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2021 (here, table 9).

One account sharing the blog post wrote (here “The Office for National Statistics has revealed without realising it that children are up to 52 times more likely to die following C-19 vaccination than children who have not had the C-19 jab.”

Several other users have shared similar claims (here, here, here, here).

However, it is false to suggest COVID-19 vaccines are causing children’s deaths.

“This data is highly misleading,” an ONS spokesperson told Reuters.

Firstly, no under-35s have died due to COVID-19 vaccination since the rollout began, according to the ONS in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on Feb. 3 (here). In age groups 35 and over, it said there were 15 deaths registered in England and Wales mentioning COVID-19 vaccination on the death certificate. Of these, 10 had COVID-19 vaccination listed as the underlying cause.

Secondly, vaccinated children have higher mortality rates than the unvaccinated due to the prioritisation of COVID-19 vaccination for clinically vulnerable children.

The ONS spokesperson said that for the bulk of the period shown in the “death by vaccination status” data (Jan-Oct. 2021), only clinically vulnerable children were eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Clinically vulnerable young people were vaccinated much earlier than those with no comorbidities.

England began to offer the vaccine to clinically vulnerable 12 to 15-year-olds and those living with immunocompromised people in Aug. 2021 (here). The vaccine wasn’t offered to all 12 to 15-year-olds in England until Sept. 2021 (here). COVID-19 shots weren’t available for vulnerable children aged five to 11 until Jan. 30, 2022 (here).

As a result, the number of vaccinated children is smaller than unvaccinated, with the vaccinated group largely made up of children with specific underlying health conditions.

“Clinically vulnerable children and young people have higher mortality rates than those with no comorbidities, and this explains why vaccinated teenagers have a higher rate of death than those who remained unvaccinated,” the ONS spokesperson told Reuters.

Due to the prioritisation of clinically vulnerable children, no under-12s would have been vaccinated between Jan. and Oct. 2021, so the vaccinated 10-14 age group is made up of those with underlying conditions, the spokesperson explained. Given this, they said, the group has a higher mortality rate than the unvaccinated group, who are healthier.

“Essentially mortality rates are not meaningful for children because of the way children at risk were prioritised in the vaccine roll out,” they added.

Reuters previously addressed claims that vaccines kill more children than they save, finding they are in fact safe for children, here.

Reuters has also addressed misleading conclusions drawn from mortality rates concerning vaccinated and unvaccinated age groups, here and here.

VERDICT

Misleading. Mortality rates are higher in vaccinated children because the vaccinated group is largely made up of clinically vulnerable children. No under-35s have died due to COVID-19 vaccination in England.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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