Fact Check: Statistic Does NOT Paint Complete Picture Of Risks Associated With COVID-19, Vaccines

Fact Check

  • by: Dana Ford
Fact Check: Statistic Does NOT Paint Complete Picture Of Risks Associated With COVID-19, Vaccines Very Low Risk

Does the claim that one in 100 vaccinated individuals were admitted to the hospital or died with heart issues tell the whole story? No, that's not true: The claim is based on a study that concluded the absolute risk of myocarditis -- inflammation of the heart muscle -- following COVID-19 vaccination is very low in the general population. By contrast, COVID itself is associated with a marked increase in the risk of hospitalization or death from various heart conditions.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by The Gateway Pundit on December 20, 2021. Titled "OXFORD STUDY SHOCKER: 1 in 100 Vaccinated Individuals Were Admitted to Hospital or Died with Arrhythmia During Study Period," the article opened:

On December 14th, 2021, Nature Medicine released a study based on a broad population data set analyzed by researchers at Oxford University. The researchers examined the risks of myocarditis, pericarditis, and cardiac arrhythmias associated with COVID-19 vaccination and infection.

This is what users on social media saw at the time of writing:

The article is referencing this study in Nature Medicine. It included the following quote from the study:

Of the 38,615,491 vaccinated individuals included in our study, 385,508 (1.0%) were admitted to hospital with or died from cardiac arrhythmia at any time in the study period (either before or after vaccination); 86,754 (0.2%) of these occurred in the 1-28  days after any dose of vaccine. Of those who were admitted or died 39,897 (10.3%) had a SARS-CoV-2 positive test, with 29,694 (7.7%) having a positive test before vaccination. There were 7,795 deaths with cardiac arrhythmia recorded as the cause of death (1,108 had a SARS-CoV-2 positive test).

Although the article implies that COVID vaccines cause cardiac arrhythmia, also known as an irregular heartbeat, the actual quote notes that the 1% were admitted to the hospital with or died from cardiac arrhythmia at any time in the study period, either before or after vaccination.

Elsewhere in the study, the authors are clear about what they found. The study concludes:

In summary, this population-based study quantifies for the first time the risk of several rare cardiac adverse events associated with three COVID-19 vaccines as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection. Vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 in adults was associated with a small increase in the risk of myocarditis within a week of receiving the first dose of both adenovirus and mRNA vaccines, and after the second dose of both mRNA vaccines. By contrast, SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with a substantial increase in the risk of hospitalization or death from myocarditis, pericarditis and cardiac arrhythmia.

Lead Stories reached out to one of the study's authors, Winnie Mei, a research fellow in medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, to ask about the research and how it was represented in The Gateway Pundit article. In an email dated December 22, 2021, she wrote that the article's claims are "absolutely untrue." She stressed that her group's study has two main conclusions: One, the absolute risk of myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination is very low in the general population; and, two, the risk of myocarditis is much higher from COVID-19 itself, and that vaccination is an effective way of protecting people from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Her thoughts were echoed by Peter English, a former consultant in communicable disease control at Public Health England. He praised the paper's authors as having a strong track record in analyzing adverse reactions to vaccination. He wrote:

The observation that the risk of myo- and pericarditis is much greater following Covid-19 disease than it is after Covid-19 vaccination is not new information. We already know this. But this solid, scientifically robust paper supports and confirms this.

English concluded:

The take-home: if you don't want to get myocarditis or pericarditis, get vaccinated! If you don't get vaccinated, with ever more transmissible forms of SARS-CoV-2 virus spreading widely, it is only a matter of time before you get Covid-19; and the risks if you do massively outweigh the risks of vaccination.

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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.

  Dana Ford

Dana Ford is an Atlanta-based reporter and editor. She previously worked as a senior editor at Atlanta Magazine Custom Media and as a writer/ editor for CNN Digital. Ford has more than a decade of news experience, including several years spent working in Latin America.

Read more about or contact Dana Ford

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