Fact Check: COVID-19 Vaccine Program Has NOT Killed More Active-Duty Military Than The Virus

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: COVID-19 Vaccine Program Has NOT Killed More Active-Duty Military Than The Virus Doomsday

Has the COVID-19 vaccine program killed more active-duty military than the virus? No, that's not true: There had not been any deaths from the vaccine as of September 14, 2021, and no fully vaccinated service members had died from COVID-19 , the Department of Defense told Lead Stories. There had been 43 deaths from COVID-19 among active military members as of September 8, 2021.

A doctor who is not an infectious disease expert makes the false claim, also claiming that one of the possible side effects of the vaccine, myocarditis, has a five-year fatality rate of 66% and she speculates that in five years the military members who have received the vaccine and develop myocarditis will die at that rate. There is no evidence that this will occur. The doctor's statement that "we have killed more of our young active duty than COVID did," is making a hypothetical doomsday prediction but it is not supported by facts. Nor is evidence provided to support the 66% rate assertion.

The claim appeared as an article published by Health Impact News on August 27, 2021, titled "Military Doctor: "The COVID Vaccine Program has Killed More Young Active Duty People Than COVID Did"" (archived here) which opened:

Dr. Lee Merritt completed an Orthopaedic Surgery Residency in the United States Navy and served 9 years as a Navy physician and surgeon where she also studied bioweapons before returning to Rochester, where she was the only woman to be appointed as the Louis A. Goldstein Fellow of Spinal Surgery.

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Military Doctor: "The COVID Vaccine Program has Killed More Young Active Duty People Than COVID Did"

Dr. Lee Merritt completed an Orthopaedic Surgery Residency in the United States Navy and served 9 years as a Navy physician and surgeon where she also studied bioweapons before returning to Rochester, where she was the only woman to be appointed as the Louis A. Goldstein Fellow of Spinal Surgery.

According to the Department of Defense website, there have been 43 deaths of active duty military members from COVID-19 as of September 8, 2021 (see DoD chart below). A DOD spokesperson told Lead Stories via email on September 14, 2021, "no fully-vaccinated service members have died from COVID-19 at this time." More than 1.1 million service members had been fully vaccinated as of September 8, 2021, according to the DoD.

Screen Shot 2021-09-09 at 2.49.10 PM.png

There have been no deaths in service members from the vaccine, nor have there been any deaths in those service members who have been diagnosed with myocarditis -- inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall -- after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Lead Stories asked the DoD two questions regarding myocarditis in service members and the department responded via email on September 14, 2021:

Q: How many active duty members of the military have been diagnosed with myocarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: 69 beneficiaries (which include both Service members but also retirees and dependents) are being evaluated for myocarditis or pericarditis following COVID-19 vaccination. Please note that 'evaluated' does not mean 'diagnosed', as the myocarditis/pericarditis may be attributable to other causes, such as infection.

Q: Have any of them died since being diagnosed with myocarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: None.

The person who makes the claim, Lee Merritt, is an orthopedic surgeon, not an infectious disease specialist, and is not a current doctor in the military. She is also a member of "America's Frontline Doctors," an anti-vaccine activist organization.

Video of Merritt making the claim appears on Rumble and in a WeLoveTrump.com article titled, Military Doctor States Experimental COVID-19 Jabs Have Killed More Active Duty Military Than the Virus. She claims:

There were only 20 deaths of all the active duty in 2020 for COVID. Twenty in all of the services put together...they have a big epidemiologic base and they can find out exactly what is going on. There were only 20 deaths. We are vaccinating everybody. And we've already had tumors and we've had 80 cases of myocarditis, which I'm going to get to. Myocarditis has a significant five-year mortality rate, I think it is is 66%. So, with the vaccine program we have ostensibly killed more of our young active duty people than COVID did."

Merritt's hypothetical death rate for active military members who have myocarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not supported by facts.

An article published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information in April 2021 titled, "Persistent Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging Features of Myocarditis Detected Months After COVID-19 Infection," details the mortality rate of myocarditis:

Acute myocarditis is a rare disease, with a reported annual global incidence of 22 cases per 100,000 population and a mortality rate of 25-56% within 3-10 years."

There have been cases of myocarditis in members of the military as a June 2021 JAMA study reported, however, the findings noted that the risk of contracting COVID-19 outweighed the risk of myocarditis:

Should myocarditis be considered a potential adverse event following immunization with messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines?

Findings In this case series of 23 male patients, including 22 previously healthy military members, myocarditis was identified within 4 days of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine. For most patients (n = 20), the diagnosis was made after the second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine; these episodes occurred against the backdrop of 2.8 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered.
Meaning Vigilance for rare adverse events, including myocarditis, after COVID-19 vaccination is warranted but should not diminish overall confidence in vaccination during the current pandemic."

Merritt gives no evidence to support her speculation that more members of the military will die from myocarditis in five years than will have died from COVID-19.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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