A child receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine from a pharmacist in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on May 13, 2021 ( AFP / Jeff Kowalsky)

CDC did not say shots are riskier for children than Covid-19

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Social media posts claim US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows children are 107 times more likely to die from Covid-19 shots than from the disease itself. But the CDC says the claim is false, and that it has not found any instances of Covid-19 vaccines causing or contributing to deaths in children.

"According to CDC data, children are 107 times more likely to die from the vaccine, than from Covid," says text in an image featured in an October 24, 2021 Instagram post that attributes the statement to Robert F Kennedy Jr, who runs the anti-vaccine organization Children’s Health Defense.

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken on October 27, 2021

The post, shared to almost 70,000 followers, came days before the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds, paving the way for younger children to get their shots within weeks.

An online search for the text from the image leads to a web page soliciting money for Children's Health Defense that contains the claim about the CDC data. Kennedy's name appears at the bottom.

"Can you make a donation today to help us win the high-stakes war to mandate COVID vaccines for children?" it says.

More examples of the claim appeared on Facebook here and here.

But CDC spokeswoman Martha Sharan told AFP that it is false.

"We have not released any such statement," she said. "We continue to recommend that everyone who is eligible for vaccination be vaccinated."

"To date, CDC has not detected any unusual or unexpected patterns for deaths following immunization that would indicate that Covid vaccines are causing or contributing to deaths of adults or children, outside of the five confirmed deaths following the Janssen vaccine," Sharan said.

"The deaths were the result of complications from thrombosis with thrombocytopenia in adults ranging in age from 29-52 following Janssen Covid-19 vaccination," she added.

While the posts do not state how or where the alleged data was obtained, Children's Health Defense has previously cited information from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) -- which is jointly run by the CDC and the FDA -- to make a similar unfounded claim.

Anyone can submit reports on deaths or other “adverse events” to VAERS, which are available to the public even though it has not yet been established that a vaccine was responsible for the problem. Information from the system is regularly exploited by Covid-19 vaccine critics who present it as proof that a vaccine caused harm.

A disclaimer about VAERS -- which users must acknowledge they have read and understood before accessing its data -- makes its limitations clear.

"VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable," the disclaimer says.

AFP Fact Check has debunked other false or misleading claims about vaccines here.

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