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Fact check: Six people have not died from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

A social media post has claimed that six people have died from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This claim is false. Six people died during trials, but only two of these volunteers had received the vaccine and none of the deaths were assessed by the investigator as related to study intervention.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The post shows an image taken from a TV news broadcast, reporting that six people died during the Pfizer-BioNTech trials (here). This image is in turn captioned: “6 people dead so far from the covid vaccine, plus another 4 have developed Bells Palsy, a paralysis of the face......but hey, this vaccine is "safe"”.

Six participants did die during the 44,000 person Pfizer vaccine trial, two of whom were given the vaccine while the other four people received a placebo (here).

Of the vaccine recipients, one had a cardiac arrest 62 days after a second dose of the two-dose vaccination and died three days later, while the other died from arteriosclerosis three days after a first dose of the vaccination (here).

One of the placebo recipients died from myocardial infarction, another from haemorrhagic stroke and two others from unknown causes.

Briefing documents from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deemed the deaths to be unrelated to the vaccine: “None of these deaths were assessed by the investigator as related to study intervention” (here).

They explain: “All deaths represent events that occur in the general population of the age groups where they occurred, at a similar rate.” (here).

The documents also show that it is true that there were four cases of Bell’s Palsy among those who received the vaccine (here).

Bell’s Palsy is a sudden weakness or freezing of muscles on one side of the face, which in most cases is temporary (here).

The briefing says that the frequency of Bell’s Palsy in the vaccine group is “consistent with the expected background rate in the general population”, adding there is “no clear basis upon which to conclude a causal relationship at this time” (here).

The FDA said it would, however, recommend “surveillance” for cases of Bell’s Palsy as the vaccine is sent out to larger groups of people.

VERDICT

False. Six people did die during the 44,000 person Pfizer vaccine trials, but only two of them were given the vaccine, the other four were given a placebo of salt and water. None of the deaths were assessed by the investigator as being related to the trial. No causal relationship has been made between the four cases of Bell’s Palsy and the vaccine.

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

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