< Vaccines

Why have a few elderly people died after being vaccinated?

Text updated on 2021-05-03

Vaccination against COVID-19 started a few months ago. Serious events (allergic reaction, death) following vaccination are scrutinized under a magnifying glass to determine whether or not they are due to the vaccine. The death of elderly people after vaccination has been widely reported in the media. But what is really happening? Analysis of the data is very reassuring and suggests that vaccination is not the cause of death of these elderly people.

A number of countries have reported the death of people who have been vaccinated, such as Norway, Denmark, Finland... In France, as of January 21, 2021, 9 cases of death have been described. They were people over 75 years old residing in EHPAD or in old-age homes, all of whom had chronic illnesses and required heavy treatment. It is questionable whether there is a causal link between this serious event and vaccination. To find out, one must compare the proportion of deaths among vaccinated persons with the proportion of deaths among unvaccinated persons of the same age. At the end of January 2020, in France, the total number of vaccinated people over 75 years of age is 11,533 with two doses and 861,925 with one dose (according to covidtracker, see question How many people have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 ?), therefore a total of 873,458 people. Among those over 75 years of age, there are approximately 35,000 deaths per month. Knowing that there are about 6,250,000 people over 75 years old in France, this means that 0.56% of people over 75 years old generally die every month in France. This figure is much higher than the proportion of people vaccinated against COVID-19 over 75 years of age who died on January 21, 2021 (9/873,458 = 0.001%). It is therefore very likely that over a period of one month, the death of 9 people after vaccination is a random effect and not of the vaccine!

Since bad news, fake news, and sensationalized facts circulate much faster than real information, their proliferation in the media and on the Internet will create a magnifying glass effect on this information. Since humans show a certain attraction to "scandalous facts", the emotional impact takes precedence over rational reasoning. In these times of sensational information flow, let's try to be careful to keep a step back so that we can analyze the situation properly!

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Mortality figures for France.

National Institute for Demographic Studies - Mortality data.

Update on the surveillance of COVID-19 in France. As of January 21, 2020, 9 cases of death have been reported. They were elderly people living in EHPAD or in old-age homes, all of whom presented chronic diseases and heavy treatment.

22/01/2021. National Medication Safety Agency (NMSA)

One of the reasons that can explain the mistrust towards vaccination is misinformation and the widespread and very rapid dissemination of fake news.

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), 1146-1151.

Further reading

Were COVID-19 vaccines developed in a hurry?

Who decides whether a vaccine can be marketed and how it should be administered?

How do you know if a vaccine is safe and protects against COVID-19 ?

How to discuss between pro and anti-vaccine?