Fox News host Tucker Carlson continued his reckless mission to mainstream vaccine skepticism on Wednesday night by dangerously speculating that thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19 vaccinations, citing a faulty open-sourced database that has become a haven for misinformation.
Over the past few months, the Fox News star has repeatedly used his top-rated primetime show to cast doubt on both the efficacy and safety of the coronavirus vaccines. Despite the fact that countless clinical trials and real-time studies have found the shots to be overwhelmingly safe, Carlson has told his viewers not to trust the vaccines while questioning if they even work.
Carlson ramped up his vaccine fear-mongering on Wednesday night, kicking off his program by asking his audience the following questions: “How many Americans have died after taking the COVID vaccine? That’s not Americans that will be killed by the virus, that is a huge number. It’s how many Americans have died after getting the vaccine designed to prevent the virus? Do you know the answer to that question?”
Making sure to point out that he has “been completely in favor of vulnerable people taking the vaccine”—a disclaimer he regularly tosses out in these vaccine skeptical segments—Carlson pointed to the Center for Disease Control’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System to insinuate that dozens of people a day are dropping dead from the vaccines.
“Between late December of 2020 and last month, a total of 3,362 people apparently died after getting the COVID vaccine in the United States,” Carlson exclaimed. “That is an average of roughly 30 people every day. So, what does that add up to? By the way, that reporting period ended on April 23, and we don’t have numbers past that.”
“Not quite up to date, but we can assume another 360 people at that rate have died in the 12 days since,” he continued. “You put it all together, that is a total of 3,722 deaths, almost 4,000 people who died after getting the COVID vaccine. The actual number is almost certainly higher than that, perhaps vastly higher than that.”
Claiming that “fewer than 1 percent of vaccine adverse events are reported by the VAERS system,” Carlson then pondered that the actual number of deaths from the vaccines must be severely underreported.
“So what is the real number of people who apparently have been killed or injured by the vaccine? We don’t know that number,” Carlson said, incorporating his standard “just asking questions” tactic. “Nobody does and we are not going to speculate about it on the show. But it is clear that what is happening now, for whatever reason, is not even close to normal. It’s not even close to what we see in previous years with previous vaccines. Most vaccines are not accused of killing large numbers of people.”
After repeatedly suggesting that the vaccines are responsible for thousands of deaths by pointing to the VAERS system, Carlson then brought on Harvard Medical School professor Martin Kulldorf to discuss the database and the accuracy of the numbers.
“I know there is a vigorous debate over what the VAERS numbers mean. They are dismissed by many. They are embraced by others,” Carlson declared. “But it seems to me, if the system of reporting adverse effects in vaccines, this or any other, is flawed, and it’s been that way for a long time, why hasn’t it been fixed? And critically, why isn’t there an independent panel of vaccine safety experts assessing what is going on and calling everyone down?”
Kulldorf, for his part, explained that VAERS is “not a good system for looking at adverse events after vaccines,” adding that it is “only useful for things that happen within an hour or so after vaccinations.” Additionally, as Kulldorf pointed out, it doesn’t take into account “what is expected by chance.” (At this point, over 245 million vaccines have been administered, with over half the U.S. population having received at least one shot.)
VAERS, as PolitiFact noted, has been a “breeding ground for misinformation” among the anti-vax community, largely due to the fact that it can be easily manipulated and misinterpreted.
“VAERS is designed as an open system, where anyone can submit a report, and the reports are widely accessible,” the fact-checking site wrote this week. “The reports are not verified, and incomplete VAERS data is often used in conjunction with false claims about vaccine safety.”
PolitiFact also noted that the “CDC cautions that VAERS results are not enough to determine whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event,” adding that the system has “received a flood of reports and become especially potent fuel for misinformation.”
Back in February, meanwhile, VICE reported that the database was being “abused by people trying to sow fear,” claiming that COVID vaccines have “roughly 50 times the rate of adverse events from the flu vaccines” by relying solely on the VAERS data.
Yet, as VICE noted, there are a number of disclaimers when you search the VAERS database. One reads: “Reports may include incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental and unverified information.” Another disclaimer warns, “The number of reports alone cannot be interpreted or used to reach conclusions about the existence, severity, frequency, or rates of problems associated with vaccines.”
Furthermore, as The Daily Beast reported last month, “[a]nyone can file a report to the system, which opens it to secondhand or hearsay, repetitious, or even clearly spurious accounts of adverse reactions.” In addition, health-care providers are required to report any deaths they are aware of that occur after a patient has received a vaccine, which tends to result in a number of coincidental and unrelated deaths.
Finally, the CDC itself notes that even taking the number of deaths reported among people who have received the coronavirus vaccine at face value, that only amounts to 0.0017 percent of those who have gotten a shot.
“A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines,” the CDC wrote of all the deaths reported after vaccinations since last December.