Fact Check: Flyer Listing 'Sudden Death' As Side Effect Is NOT An Authentic Government COVID-19 Vaccine Placard

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Flyer Listing 'Sudden Death' As Side Effect Is NOT An Authentic Government COVID-19 Vaccine Placard Faux Notice

Does a government health poster list "heart attacks," "strokes" and "sudden death" as side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, as shown in an Instagram post? No, that's not true: It is counterfeit. Though it was made to look like official Irish government health circulars, the Irish government never published a poster listing those as side effects. Additionally, there is no credible evidence to support the assertion that any of these three conditions are side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) published on Instagram on February 2, 2024, under the title "👇👇NOW they're telling you!! 👇👇" The poster pictured in the post reads:

Coronavirus COVID-19 ALERT

Vaccination Recipients

To all who have come forward to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, thank you for playing your part in keeping our community safe. Rare side effects have now come to our attention.

Vaccine side effects include

> Headaches

> Menstrual irregularities

> Bell's palsy

> Blood clots

> Heart Attacks and Strokes

> Sudden death

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Mon Feb 5 18:26:43 2024 UTC)

The poster

While the cropped image included in the social media post does not specifically show anything to link it to the government of Ireland, it's produced in a similar style as other posters issued by the country's Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE), the publicly funded healthcare system in Ireland. Lead Stories found multiple examples of them on a government web page called "COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Posters for Public Use" (archived here). One of them is included below:


(Source: Ireland's Department of Health download on Mon Feb 5 19:01:38 2024 UTC)

The Irish government's coronavirus poster page does not include links to any banners on the topic of COVID-19 vaccine side effects. Additionally, the "Side effects and safety of COVID-19 vaccines" web page (archived here) on the HSE website makes no mention of the conditions -- heart attacks, strokes and sudden death -- from the Instagram post. Authorized vaccines undergo rigorous testing in clinical trials to ensure their safety and efficacy.

Another government health agency, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), said in a warning on its website that it does not generate any such posters. The statement (archived here), which the HPRA also forwarded in a February 6, 2024, email to Lead Stories, said:

Beware of misleading vaccine information

The HPRA does not produce COVID-19 vaccination leaflets or posters. Any COVID-19 vaccination leaflets or posters circulating - whether in print or via social media - that are portrayed as being from the HPRA are likely to be fabricated and to contain false or misleading information.

The HPRA recommends that members of the public always refer to a vaccine's approved product information for an evidence-based list of known side effects. Links to the product information for COVID-19 vaccines, including package leaflets, are available on our website.

We also continue to publish summary information of the national reporting experience for COVID-19 vaccines. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also publishes helpful information relating to the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Whilst not experienced by everyone, all vaccines have some side effects, the vast majority of which are mild to moderate in nature. Side effects need to be continuously balanced against the established benefits in preventing COVID-19 illness. Those vaccinated are also much less likely to get seriously ill or need to go to hospital in the event they do get COVID-19.

Misleading health information is a big problem and it is really important to only use reliable information sources. Further information on Ireland's COVID-19 vaccination programme is available from the Department of Health and HSE websites.

Google search

A Google Lens search (archived here) turned up dozens of matches for the image, showing that the fake Irish government poster has been circulating since at least 2021. Additionally, a Google News search (archived here), using the words "fake, covid, poster, Ireland and 'side effects," turned up multiple stories debunking the mocked up poster as it appeared in social media posts.

Read more

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims about COVID-19 vaccines 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.

  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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