On October 13, the Falun-Gong-affiliated New Tang Dynasty Television ran a report on deaths among those vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The report insinuated that the vaccine was more harmful than COVID-19.
“In Taiwan, the number of people dying after their COVID-19 vaccination is exceeding the number of deaths from the virus itself,” said the reporter, Tiffany Meier.
“Taiwan’s health authorities say that as of Monday (October 11), deaths after vaccination reached 865. While deaths from the virus are 845.”
The report includes a screen capture from Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control, which it claims shows 652 COVID-19 deaths after the AstraZeneca vaccine; 184 after the Moderna vaccine; 26 after Taiwan’s domestically developed Medigen vaccine; and three after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The implication that vaccines might kill more people than COVID-19 is false. The report leaves out important context, is mathematically naïve and ignores abundant scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective.
With the exception of a spike in cases from late April, Taiwan has been a global leader in taking public health measures that largely contained the disease. The confirmed number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths is very low, especially when compared with the number of people who have been vaccinated.
For starters, the numbers cited in the New Tang report aren’t reliable. They come from a system set up by Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that merely gathers unverified reports of potential side effects caused by vaccines.
Taiwan’s Vaccine Adverse Event Notification System (VAERS), where the CDC data used in the report comes from, does not provide information on deaths related to vaccines. The CDC notes important caveats:
“The reported events occur after vaccination, but that does not indicate that they are caused by vaccination. … The number of adverse event notifications alone cannot explain or be used to draw conclusions on the existence, severity, frequency or incidence rate of vaccine-related problems, and they should be explained in the context of other scientific information.”
In short, the system’s self-selected reports make them suspect until someone can investigate whether there is a true link between vaccination and an adverse event.
The system does not report deaths that are proved to be from vaccination.
Autopsies have repeatedly shown those who died after vaccination were found to have succumbed to preexisting conditions or chronic diseases.
Next, the number of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Taiwan is significantly greater than the number with confirmed COVID-19 cases. If vaccination was in fact more dangerous than COVID-19, then the number of post-vaccination deaths reported in VAERS should far exceed the number of deaths from COVID-19.
According to Taiwan’s CDC, 16,343 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country as of October 19. Confirmed deaths stood at 846.
By contrast, 15.4 million of Taiwan’s 23.6 million citizens have received one vaccine dose, and nearly 6 million people have received both doses. Roughly 65 percent of Taiwan’s population is at least partially vaccinated, and 25 percent is fully vaccinated.
Nonetheless, Robert Malone, an infectious-disease researcher and prominent anti-vaccine advocate who claimed to have invented the vaccine technology used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs, has seized on the misleading reports about vaccination deaths in Taiwan to argue “[v]accinating low-death-rate countries (such as much of Africa) will elicit more deaths from the jab than from disease.”
Insinuating that the vaccines might be more dangerous for younger people than catching COVID-19, he suggests only vaccinating elders in Africa.
That tweet has been retweeted nearly 12,000 times since October 12.
Yet, data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people. Rates of infection and hospitalization were also shown to be significantly lower among the vaccinated.
Many other factors are at play when it comes to a country or region’s ability to put a cap on COVID-19 infections.
Taiwan’s relatively low infection rate and death count can be chalked up to its robust pandemic response and public health system. Taiwan’s single-payer, universal health care system has consistently ranked highly in global indices, with coverage provided to every citizen.
Writing in the monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Immunology, Taiwan’s health minister said the “Taiwan model” for battling COVID-19 came from experience battling the 2003 SARS outbreak.
He said that early implementation of quarantine for travelers, the wide availability (and acceptance of) face masks, and robust National Health Insurance (NHI) databases that aided contact tracing led to early success in containing the virus and helped avoid strenuous lockdowns seen elsewhere.
However, with the emergence of COVID-19 variants (including the delta strain) in late April, Taiwan saw a spike in cases, partly because of vaccine shortages.
Chunhuei Chi, director of the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University, noted that Taiwan had only 400,000 vaccine doses delivered before the April outbreak.
Chi argues that one “barrier in vaccine procurement” faced only by Taiwan — “the China factor” — played a significant role.
Infections spiked, pushing Taiwan into a semi-lockdown.
Still, following new curbs, increased testing and compliance with other measures including mask mandates, Taiwan got the surge under control, reporting no new COVID-19 infections on August 15. Since then, the situation has been stable.