New COVID Mystery? Those 'Excess Deaths'

Study reignites debate over COVID vaccines
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2024 5:15 PM CDT
New COVID Mystery? Those 'Excess Deaths'
A dose of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is prepared, Nov. 4, 2021, in Barboursville, W.Va.   (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP, File)

The rate of "excess death" held steady for much of the COVID pandemic, despite vaccines, masks, and social distancing—but why? A new study on the topic is reigniting debate over pandemic measures and calling for a deeper investigation into COVID deaths, the Straits Times reports. Looking at data from 47 Western nations, researchers found more than 3 million reported "excess deaths"—that is, more than expected before the pandemic—between January 2020 and December 2022, with the annual number hovering just north of 1 million in the first two years and dipping to about 800,000 in the last. "This raises serious concerns" about the possible downsides of COVID measures like containment and vaccines, per the study:

  • Governments reacted to COVID with quick restrictions like business closures and stay-at-home orders—but these "had adverse indirect effects," the study says, such as lack of access to healthcare and education, economic damage, and food insecurity. With hospitals swamped at the same time, excess deaths spiked considerably from causes including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
  • COVID vaccines "were provided to guard civilians," but didn't always work as advertised. Clinical trials showed that Pfizer and Moderna vaccine risk could be serious—causing death, hospitalization, and disability—for a small percentage of people, while doctors and citizens reported post-vaccination death and injury to Western databases. In 2021, the FDA said Pfizer vaccines should be investigated for adverse effects including pulmonary embolism and acute myocardial infarction.
  • The Telegraph and Times of India are among those highlighting the vaccine argument, but others are pushing back. The Straits Times notes that most excess deaths were caused by COVID, not other ailments, while countries with the worst excess mortality seemed to have the lowest vaccination rates. Indeed, the Conversation points to a UK finding that death rates from all causes were highest among the unvaccinated.
  • The study authors "present their findings in an unbalanced way," says Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital in Singapore. "The restrictions and vaccines saved millions of lives and allowed the world to exit the pandemic earlier and more safely."

Study authors admit their limitations, like gaining access to accurate death rates and clear causes of death. But "every COVID-19 death mattered," they say—which is why they're calling for government investigations, possible new health crisis policies, and even postmortems on those who lost their lives during the pandemic. (More COVID-19 stories.)

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