Fact Check-No evidence COVID-19 vaccines have a “174 times higher” mortality rate in children than the virus

Correcting spacing in paragraph 1

A claim circulating online that COVID-19 vaccines  cause  a “174 times higher” mortality  rate in children  compared to  contracting the virus itself is based on unsupported figures that have not been  confirmed  by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  or vaccine manufacturers.  

Most posts share a screenshot of a tweet from Oct. 4, viewable  here   .  “CDC numbers reported that among children 5-17 who had COVID-19, there was 1 death per 174,803 cases. Pfizer & Moderna trials w/ children showed 1 death per 1,000 vaccinated. So, California is actually mandating a vaccine w/ a mortality rate 174x higher than the virus,” it reads.  

California has announced it will  require school children to be immunized against COVID-19 here.

Instagram posts  featuring the  image  have garnered  more than 3,660 likes ( here ,  here , here ,   here,  here ). It is also viewable on Facebook ( here ,  here ,  here ). Another iteration  with  a similar  claim  can be seen   here  .  

Posts appear to be replicating figures from a document (see page 5 ), attributed to Alan Palmer, who is listed as an “author” of the anti-vaccine campaign group Children’s Health Defense ( here).


In the document, the author claims there were “1 in 1,000 deaths” among 12–15-year-olds in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna trials, but Reuters found no evidence of this.

Keanna  Ghazvini, Pfizer’s Senior Associate of Global Media Relations, told Reuters via email “We have not seen any deaths in our child or adolescent trials.” No deaths were reported in their study of children aged 12-15, which involved 2260 participants (not 1,000 as claimed by Palmer) ( here ).

Neither were any deaths reported in the Moderna trial in adolescents aged 12-17, which had 3,732 participants ( here).  Moderna did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

As evidence for the “1 in 1,000 deaths” claim, Palmer referred Reuters via email to two reports from the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event System (VAERS), also viewable on, an unofficial search engine of VAERS data, provided by the National Vaccine Information Center (described as an “anti-vaccine advocacy group” by the Washington Post, here ).

Both reports  were  made  prior to  March 31  and May 25, the dates  Pfizer and Moderna announced the results of their teen trials  respectively ( here,  here).  

As previously explained by Reuters ( here ), anyone can  add adverse event reports into  VAERS ( ) and the website includes clear disclaimers from the CDC that reports  in the system do not prove causality until they are investigated further. 


It is true children are at lower risk of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and deaths compared to adults, as noted by the CDC ( here ). However, the mortality rate of COVID-19 in children cited in these social media posts and Palmer’s document is actually significantly lower than that shown by current CDC data.

Palmer pointed Reuters to a CDC Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices document from May 12, 2021 ( viewable here ) when asked about the source of the figures he used in his calculation that there was “1 death in 174,803 cases” in children, which he also lays out on page 1 of his document.

On his document he wrote “22.2 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 had contracted COVID-19. And, of those cases there were 127 fatalities. That is 1 death in 174,803 cases”, this gives an apparent mortality rate of “0.00057%”.

The numbers are visible on the CDC presentation in question but account for two different age groups.

The 22.2 million figure, ( see slide 14 here ) did not reflect the actual case incidence reported at the time, but an “estimate” presented by CDC “once adjusting for under-reporting” for ages 5-17.

The 127 COVID-19 deaths (see slide 24 here) were registered among 12-17-year-olds, between January 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021.

What’s more, Palmer’s calculation of a “0.00057%” mortality rate in children doesn’t match CDC data.

According to COVID-19 CDC available data on cases and deaths per age group ( here), the mortality rate among children aged 5-17 was 0.0105% (4,321,895 total cases and 457 deaths) on Oct. 15. This data, however, only has information about a fraction of total incidences in the U.S. ( here).

This mortality rate coincides with data presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Oct. 7, which reported that between 0.00% to 0.03% of COVID-19 cases in children result in death ( . The AAP reported a cumulative more than 6 million cases in children (see page 5), the age definition of “children” varies across states, from 0 to 20 years old (see page 3).

More information about Pfizer and Moderna efforts on getting FDA approval for their vaccines for children under 12 is viewable ( here, here )


False. According to the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are associated with a lower risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death. However, figures used online to claim the COVID-19 vaccine has a mortality rate “174 times higher” than viral infection in children are unsupported.

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