Fact Check: 1 In 25 Clients Of Germany's Largest Health Insurer Were NOT Treated For COVID Vaccine Side Effects In 2021

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: 1 In 25 Clients Of Germany's Largest Health Insurer Were NOT Treated For COVID Vaccine Side Effects In 2021 Not All COVID

Were 1 in every 25 clients of Germany's largest health insurer, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), treated for side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021? No, that's not true: Only one of the four diagnosis codes (ICD) for billing health insurers used to come up with the ratio was specific to COVID vaccination. Two of the other three codes could pertain to the side effects of any vaccine given to someone. The fourth code doesn't have to involve a vaccine at all, but can. Plus, a TK spokesperson said the data don't indicate the severity or type of adverse reaction.

The claim appeared in an article published (archived here) by News Punch on August 11, 2022, titled "1 in 25 Clients Had Treatment For Side Effects Of Covid Jabs In 2021 Says Germany's Largest Health Insurer." It opened:

1 in 25 people received medical treatment for the side effects of covid vaccinations in 2021 Germany's largest public health insurance company Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) has revealed.

In 2019, among the 11 million insured, 13,777 medical treatments were required because of vaccine side effects. In 2020 the number needing treatment was 15,044.

In 2021 however the number shot up to 437,593..... an increase of more than 3,000 percent.

This is what the News Punch article looked like at the time of writing:

News Punch.png

(Source: News Punch screenshot taken on Fri Aug 12 14:24:59 2022 UTC)

It started with a request

The article is based on data gained through a German Freedom of Information Act request to TK on February 27, 2022. These are the opening lines of the petition (All translations are by Google):

Dear Sir or Madam!

Please send me the quarterly billing figures per person for the following ICD codes for the years 2019 to date:

T 88.1
T 88.0
U 12.9
Y 59.9

Germany's Federal Ministry of Health includes definitions for the four codes. Only one specifically pertains to COVID (coronavirus) vaccination:


Other complications following vaccination [immunization], not elsewhere classified

You have recently been vaccinated. You now have complaints.


Infection after vaccination [immunization]

You have recently been vaccinated. You now have complaints.


Unassigned key number U12.9

You experienced one or more undesirable side effects after vaccination against the corona virus SARS-CoV-2.


Complications from vaccines or biologically active substances

You have had an unexpected event related to treatment.

The German Press Agency (dpa) characterized these codes in an August 8, 2022, report:

The four ICD-10 codes ... represent both typical, comparatively harmless vaccination reactions - such as tiredness, redness or pain at the injection site - as well as rare side effects or the suspicion of them.

The following is TK's official response to the freedom of information request (above):

Result of the request
The numbers are remarkable. Despite roughly the same total billings (21-22 million per quarter), the billings for the requested codes shoot up from around 4000 per quarter by the end of 2020 to over 100,000 per quarter from 2021. This can partly be explained by the fact that there is much more vaccination. But that, in turn, is part of the problem, because the more that have to be vaccinated for a certain benefit, the worse the benefit-harm ratio becomes.

In an August 12, 2022, email to Lead Stories, TK spokesperson Michael Ihly said:

[N]o statements on severe vaccination side effects are possible with these data.

There is a difference between physician-coded diagnosis codes for billing health insurers (ICD codes) and reportable vaccination side effects that German physicians report to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI).

Our analysis reports physician-coded ICD codes such as U12.9 'Adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccine use, unspecified.' These data do not indicate the severity or type of adverse reaction. For example, if a patient would report during a visit at a medical office that he or she had been vaccinated and had pressure pain at the injection site or a headache, the office would record that with the code.

Unexpected, severe side effects - such as an allergic reaction - or suspicion of such must be reported by physicians to the PEI.

We were obliged to make this evaluation against the background of a request under the German Freedom of Information Act. It is now being used in relevant Internet forums to question the safety of COVID vaccines and to accuse the PEI of a cover-up. These conclusions are wrong and cannot be derived from the evaluated data.

COVID vaccination began in Germany in late December 2020, starting with the elderly and other medically compromised people.

About News Punch

NewsPunch (formerly YourNewsWire) has published several hoaxes and fake news articles in the past so anything they write or publish should be taken with a large grain of salt. Their Facebook page "The People's Voice" even lost its verification checkmark according to a 2018 report from Media Matters For America.

The Terms of Use of the site (archived here) also make it clear they don't really stand behind the accuracy of any of their reporting:


RationalWiki described it as:

YourNewsWire (styled as YourNewsWire.com) is an Los Angeles-based clickbait fake news website known for disseminating conspiracy theories and misleading information, contrary to its claimed motto ('News. Truth. Unfiltered').

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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.

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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