Health

No, athletes are not dying from COVID vaccines

Sen Ron Johnson, R-Wis, spread the
falsehood in an appearance on the conservative podcast “The Charlie Kirk Show.”

“We’ve heard story after story. I mean,
all these athletes dropping dead on the field, but we’re supposed to ignore
that,” Johnson said.

A similar claim was also made by John
Stockton, the Hall of Fame basketball player, who said Sunday that “over 100
professional athletes” had dropped dead after receiving the vaccine. He
provided no evidence for the claim.

Health officials say the links between
vaccines and athlete deaths are baseless, and there is no evidence to suggest
the vaccine is causing more deaths or injuries among athletes. Professional
leagues have not reported any rise in such cases. A representative from the NFL
said there were no vaccine-related deaths or hospitalisations among roughly
3,000 players in the NFL. Ninety-five percent of the league’s players have been
vaccinated.

A spokesperson for Johnson said the
senator was referring to deaths worldwide and had talked about them because he
believed they should be investigated by federal health agencies. Stockton could
not be reached for comment.

Stories about professional athletes
dying during soccer matches and basketball games after getting the jab have
been a recurring conspiracy theory since COVID-19 vaccines were introduced.

On social media, users share links to
local news reports about amateur athletes who died during games or while
jogging. The articles rarely state whether someone was vaccinated or not and
are usually published before the cause of death is determined. But these
deaths, among otherwise healthy people, have gripped anti-vaccine communities
and raised concerns about vaccine risks.

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It’s rare for athletes to suffer cardiac
arrest during games, but it does happen. While athletes tend to be healthier
than the general population, people with underlying heart conditions are more
likely to experience complications when exercising.

In a 2015 study of NCAA players,
researchers showed that risks varied by sport and gender. Male Division I
basketball players faced up to 10 times the risk of sudden cardiac death
compared with all NCAA athletes. Male athletes faced a higher risk than women,
and Black men faced a higher risk than men overall, the study found.

“Folks who maintain good amounts of
exercise throughout their life span, they end up at lower risk of having these
sudden events,” said Dr Meagan Wasfy, a sports cardiologist at Massachusetts
General Hospital, who published a review of the study. “But for that small
period of time where you’re exercising, that risk goes up.”

One list circulating about the claim
included 543 unconfirmed reports of athletes around the world who have died or
faced “serious issues” since 2021. It was published by the anti-vaccine website
Good Sciencing.

The list was based on a mix of news
reports and entries on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS,
which relies on self-reported cases from patients and doctors. Most news
reports did not mention whether the deceased had been vaccinated. Health
officials warn against using VAERS to make determinations about vaccine risks.

There is a known and uncommon vaccine
side effect, called myocarditis, that involves an inflammation of the heart
muscle. Men and boys who receive the COVID-19 vaccine are at higher risk of
developing the condition, which can lead to chest pain and shortness of breath.
In very rare cases, it can lead to more severe complications, including death.

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Doctors say the risk of developing
myocarditis after getting vaccinated appears low and most people afflicted with
the condition quickly recover. One study found that boys and young men infected
with COVID-19 are up to six times more likely to develop myocarditis than
people who received the vaccine.

As of Jan 20, VAERS had received 2,132
preliminary reports of myocarditis or pericarditis (an inflammation of the
outer lining of the heart) among vaccinated people 30 or younger, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 48 million people
ages 5 to 24 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Health care providers are required to
report any death after vaccination, even if there is no sign it was caused by
the vaccine. VAERS has received 11,657 reports of someone dying at some point
after receiving the vaccine, representing 0.002% of all vaccinated people.

© 2022 The New York Times Company

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