Fact Check: Taiwan's COVID-19 Vaccine Deaths NOT Higher Than All Virus Fatalities

Fact Check

  • by: Jennifer Dobner
Fact Check: Taiwan's COVID-19 Vaccine Deaths NOT Higher Than All Virus Fatalities  Fake Data

Did the number of COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths in Taiwan eclipse the cumulative death toll from the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself? No, that's not true: There is no data to support the contention that the vaccines are more deadly than COVID. Cumulative deaths did rise after the country launched a vaccination program, but Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control has not investigated nor confirmed whether the fatalities can be definitively tied to adverse reactions to vaccines. Cumulative data reflects every known COVID-related death since the pandemic began in 2020, the agency's web page shows.

The claims that the vaccine-caused deaths had surpassed the cumulative death toll began circulating on the internet on news pages and social sites in early October 2021. An example is this article (archived here) published online by the Irish Sentinel on October 15, 2021, with the headline "Deaths Following Vaccination Reported in Taiwan Exceed Nation's Covid Death Total." The article showed a chart, then opened with:

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, few nations have been lauded as much for their management of the disease as Taiwan has. Since the first cases of COVID-19 in the country were reported in February 2020, only 16,313 infections and 846 deaths have been recorded.

This is how the article looked on January 25, 2022:

Screen Shot 2022-01-27 at 3.58.23 PM.png

(Source: theirishsentinel.com screenshot taken Thur Jan 27 at 21:00:10 2022 UTC)

The article continued:

Despite how successfully the nation had managed the outbreak, it still enrolled itself in the World Health Organization-led COVAX exchange program and began its first wave of vaccinations on March 22, 2021. While the nation hadn't had even a dozen deaths attributed to COVID-19 by the time the first vaccine was administered, 836 of the 846 deaths attributed to COVID-19 have occurred since the vaccination program began. In an even more dubious display concerning the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines administered in Taiwan, the nation's Central Epidemic Command Center ('CECC') has stated that 850 deaths have been reported as adverse events following vaccinations. That total eclipses the number of fatalities attributed to the virus itself.

This is false and misuses data about both cumulative death totals and adverse vaccine reaction reports from Taiwan's CDC and that agency's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). The claim also fails to clarify that adverse reactions data represents only notifications of cases suspected to be linked to the virus, not events confirmed by investigation to have been caused by vaccination. This claim was similar to a story that was posted and shared on social media on October 13, 2021, by New Tang Dynasty (NTD), which describes itself as "a New York-based, global television network founded in 2001 by Chinese-Americans who fled communism."

Taiwan began to roll out its vaccine program on March 22, 2021. It is accurate to say more deaths occurred following the start of the program, because previously cumulative deaths totaled 10, according to the country's CDC.

Taiwan's CDC generates a daily report of new cases and deaths, noting the total number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and whether their source is residents or has been "imported" by visitors.

In its October 15, 2021, report, Taiwan's CDC said there were 16,325 confirmed COVID-19 cases country-wide. The cumulative death toll was reported as 846.

A review of daily bulletins by Lead Stories found that Taiwan did not reach 850 cumulative deaths until December 19, 2021. None of the daily bulletins cite a number of fatal adverse reactions to the vaccines, and no official documents reference 850 post-vaccine deaths.

Claims that there have been 850 post-vaccine deaths have been repeatedly linked to or show screenshots of a Vaccines Adverse Event Notification System (VAERS) report from Taiwan's CDC. The report includes the names of all four vaccines used in Taiwan -- AstraZeneca, Moderna, BioNTech and the Taiwan-produced Medigen -- and the number of alleged associated deaths.

This is misleading for two reasons: First, the cited links or screenshots show the document only in Chinese, not translated for an audience of English speakers, despite being used in English-based media reports. And second, a loosely translated version of the document as viewed by Lead Stories through Google document translator shows the report is titled, "Post-COVID-19 Vaccination Adverse Event Notification," and notes that these are suspected vaccine-related reports, not proven conclusions.

"These notification events occurred chronologically after vaccination, but it does not mean that it is due to vaccination," the translation of the report states. "The Vaccine Adverse Event Notification System (VAERS) is a passive surveillance system. Adverse event notification numbers cannot, by themselves, explain or be used to derive the presence, severity, conclusions about frequency or incidence and should be interpreted in the context of other scientific information."

For example, a June 18, 2021, Taiwan CDC bulletin said Taiwan's VAERS had received 25 reports of fatalities among individuals who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine; most were aged 75 and older and suffering from chronic diseases:

Postmortem examinations and autopsies by the judicial authority showed that the cause of death in some of the cases was preliminarily determined to be linked to cardiovascular diseases or chronic conditions. However, as of now, no cases of death have been confirmed to be linked to the vaccine.

In the United States, the web page for VAERS, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, makes a similar disclaimer that its compiled data should not be viewed as confirmed explanations.

Lead Stories has debunked numerous claims falsely based on VAERS data. You can read those stories here.

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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.

  Jennifer Dobner

Jennifer Dobner is a Salt Lake City-based journalist with more than two decades of reporting experience. Jennifer has worked as a staffer for The Associated Press, The Salt Lake Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune and Idaho Falls Post-Register. As a freelancer her work has been published by The New York Times, Outside Magazine Online, Reuters, Cannabis Wire and others. Jennifer’s documentary film work includes the international award-winning 2018 film Church & State and 2021’s award-winning Anchor Point.

Read more about or contact Jennifer Dobner

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