No evidence that COVID-19 vaccines reduces the life expectancy of vaccinated people; COVID-19 vaccines don’t increase mortality rate
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe disease. Large clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance didn’t find evidence that all-cause mortality increases in vaccinated people. Studies suggest that COVID-19 vaccines have helped save lives instead, by preventing millions of COVID-19 deaths globally.
Inadequate support: The claim relies on the assumption that every dose of COVID-19 vaccine is associated with a 7% increase in all-cause mortality risks. However, this assumption itself is highly flawed, because the analysis that produced it is riddled with risks of bias.
Flawed reasoning: The claim asserted that a vaccinated person’s mortality risk would increase by 7% every year. However, the analysis that produced this estimate only investigated a change in mortality between 2021 and 2022 and didn’t say that it could be extrapolated to the following years.
Ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines offer a clear health benefit compared to their possible risks is of paramount importance for the population and health authorities. Large clinical trials as well as post-marketing monitoring showed that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective against severe disease and helped prevent millions of deaths globally.
Nevertheless, the narrative that COVID-19 vaccines are responsible for a surge in deaths has become a popular disinformation narrative; Health Feedback covered several claims within this narrative, explaining why they were baseless and misleading.
Another claim that has emerged to support this narrative is that vaccinated people will increase their risk of mortality by 7% for every dose received and so “those who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 with mRNA shots will lose 25 years of their life”, which appeared in early April 2023 on websites like The Exposé and Slay News. However, this claim is inaccurate. We explain why below.
Firstly, the claim that vaccinated people will experience a 25-year loss in life expectancy is an extrapolation of a previous claim by insurance analyst Josh Stirling that “each additional vaccine dose increased mortality by 7%”. Health Feedback previously debunked Stirling’s claim in detail here.
Stirling arrived at this figure by comparing the change in mortality from 2021 to 2022 in U.S. metro areas and correlating it with the number of vaccine doses distributed in each area. He observed that the increase in all-cause mortality was higher in metro areas with higher vaccination coverage. From this, he postulated a 7% increase in mortality risk from 2021 to 2022 for every vaccine dose administered.
However, there are several issues with Stirling’s analysis. The U.S. metro areas that he compared differed greatly in terms of demographics, policies, and economy. All these factors can affect how likely a person is to get vaccinated and how likely they are to die. As such, these factors can lead to biased results if they aren’t unaccounted for, as was the case with Stirling’s analysis.
In addition, Stirling’s analysis was performed at the population level. The data he used didn’t contain information about the vaccination status of the people who died in 2021 and 2022, meaning that we cannot tell whether the increased mortality occurred mostly in vaccinated or unvaccinated people (ecological fallacy).
There are also other critical flaws. For example, Stirling’s comparison was effectively a measurement of an area’s change in mortality from one year to the next, making it a relative metric. However, what’s missing from this equation is the absolute all-cause mortality in that area.
For instance, an area suffering from an exceptionally high mortality rate but with slightly fewer people dying in 2022 compared to 2021 would show a decrease in mortality. Conversely, a state with a much lower mortality rate, but in which slightly more people died in 2022 than in 2021 would show an increase in mortality. In reality, however, the latter state is faring much better than the former. Solely measuring a change in mortality rate will fail to account for this possibility.
And finally, the conclusions of Stirling’s analysis relied on a correlation alone to draw a causal association between COVID-19 vaccines and increased mortality, even though this isn’t sufficient evidence.
Secondly, the claim made by The Exposé and Slay News assumed that Stirling’s analysis provided enough information for determining how the risk of mortality would fluctuate in the years to come. However, the analysis only compared changes in mortality between 2021 and 2022, which isn’t sufficient for establishing long-term patterns.
Overall, the foundation of this claim—that there is a 7% mortality increase due to COVID-19 vaccination—isn’t actually supported by data and any reasoning built on that estimate is fallacious. The claim that vaccinated people have their life expectancy reduced by 25 years takes Stirling’s erroneous 7% figure and further compounds it with an invalid extrapolation to stoke fear over COVID-19 vaccines.
- 1 – Watson et al. (2022) Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases.