Fact Check: New Zealand Health Data Does NOT Prove 20 Percent Of Vaccinated Died After COVID-19 Immunization

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: New Zealand Health Data Does NOT Prove 20 Percent Of Vaccinated Died After COVID-19 Immunization Analysis Flaws

Does New Zealand health data prove that 20 percent of vaccinated citizens died after COVID-19 vaccination? No, that's not true: The agency wrote, "We assure people there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand and that they can continue to have confidence in vaccines." Two experts that Lead Stories spoke with independently confirmed that the information in an article represented an "erroneous conclusion" based on flawed data that was not analyzed in a methodologically sound manner.

The claim originated in an article published by Slay News on December 2, 2023, titled "Whistleblower: 20% of New Zealand's Vaxxed Population Have Died - Slay News" (archived here) which opened:

A New Zealand government whistleblower has come forward with explosive official data that shows more than 20% of the nation's citizens have now died after receiving their Covid mRNA shots.

Users on social media saw this title, description, and thumbnail:

Whistleblower: 20% of New Zealand's Vaxxed Population Have Died - Slay News

A New Zealand government whistleblower has come forward with explosive official data that shows more than 20% of the nation's citizens have now died after receiving their Covid mRNA shots.

The above article cited a post shared to X (archive) on November 30, 2023, that included a link to a video shared on Rumble published that same day (archive). The video was said to interview a "statistician and data administrator for the Ministry of Health in New Zealand."

In response to our inquiries, Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand, a public health agency in the country, referred Lead Stories to a December 1, 2023, press statement (archive) that addressed the claims made in the video above.

"We are aware that a health agency staff member, with no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge, is trying to spread misinformation," said Margie Apa, chief executive of Te Whatu Ora, in the statement. "What he is claiming is completely wrong and ill-informed and his comments demonstrate this."

Math doesn't add up

As of the most recently available data current through December 17, 2023, (archive) 90.1 percent of the New Zealand population aged 12 and older had completed their primary COVID vaccine course. With a total population of 5.1 million residents as of July 1, 2023, that means an estimated 3.8 million people have been vaccinated; 20 percent of which would be approximately 750,000.

Michael Imperiale, a molecular biologist at the University of Michigan Medical School confirmed as much to Lead Stories in an email received on December 30, 3022, adding that if more than 20 percent of a "very large population anywhere were dying of anything, including from a vaccine, there's no way that could be hidden."

But just over 106,000 New Zealanders have died in the last three years of all causes, a slight historical increase due to the pandemic and an aging population. The total number of deaths in 2020 was 32,613, 34,997 deaths in 2021, and 38,574 deaths in 2022, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year which was impacted by the COVID pandemic, according to data compiled by Te Whatu Ora and Statistics New Zealand Tatauranga Aotearoa, New Zealand's official data agency.

The health agency addressed these statistics in its December 1, 2023, release, writing that:

Publicly available data shows that four deaths in New Zealand are possibly linked to adverse reactions following COVID-19 vaccination. This is in the context of 3,361 people whose deaths have to date been directly attributed to COVID-19 in New Zealand, with more than 12.6 million vaccines administered to eligible New Zealanders as of 2 October 2023.

By chance and separate to a prior COVID-19 vaccination event, some people will experience new illnesses or die from a pre-existing condition shortly after vaccination, especially if they are elderly.

The Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) in conjunction with Medsafe and the Independent Safety Monitoring Board (ISMB) reviewed all reports of death to determine if the person experienced any events that may have been linked to vaccination and had the potential to cause death.

In addition to this, the COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) has reviewed data published in safety reports of compare natural death rates to observed death rates following vaccination.

In the monitoring period for the Pfizer/ BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (19 February 2021 to 30 September 2022), the observed number of deaths was less than the expected number of natural deaths.

Supposed data analysis was methodologically flawed

In a January 2, 2024, phone interview with Lead Stories, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, called the supposed findings an "erroneous conclusion."

"I'm afraid the person has made a fatal flaw and that is when you try to distinguish coincidence from causation you have to use certain epidemiological techniques. It is not sufficient to just examine the people who have had the outcome of interest that, in this case, would be deaths," said Schaffner.

To be considered methodologically sound, the research would have needed to distinguish causation from causality by comparing deaths between two populations, both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, who are comparable in age, sex, race, and underlying illness.

"Unless you compare two comparable populations, you cannot simply examine the events and then draw a conclusion," said Schaffner. "We all know that the rooster crows before the dawn, but not many of us think the rooster makes the sun come up. How to distinguish causality from coincidence is a great challenge and it is not easily done."

Additionally, the clustering of deaths "happens all the time" because "clustering can be a random phenomenon," noted Schaffner.

"Considering that millions of people have now received this vaccine often in multiple doses, this increase in deaths, particularly if they were associated with the vaccine, would have been noticed everywhere in the world instantly and should have been evident in the clinical trials. None of that has been seen anywhere else," said Schaffner.

Covid vaccines still deemed to be safe

COVID vaccines are still recommended by New Zealand health officials for those aged five and over.

"It is extremely disappointing to see a staff member trying to misuse our data to spread misinformation. He is no longer at work and an employment investigation is underway," wrote Whatu Ora Health New Zealand.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about COVID-19 can be found 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.

  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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