A medical worker receives a Covid-19 vaccine in New Taipei City. ( AFP / SAM YEH)

Taiwan's vaccine stats misrepresented by US-based television network

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A misleading video report from a US-based television network has been viewed thousands of times in Twitter and Facebook posts sharing its claim that "more people die from vaccines than from [Covid-19]" in Taiwan. The report wrongly claims deaths reported to the island’s vaccine adverse events database were found to have been directly caused by Covid-19 jabs. Taiwanese health authorities told AFP they were still investigating the causes of deaths reported to the database, and have yet to conclude whether any of them were directly related to the vaccine.

The video from US-based television network NTD was shared in this Twitter post on October 15, 2021.

It has been viewed more than 17,000 times.

In the clip, the news presenter can be heard saying: “Taiwan’s health authorities say that, as of Monday, deaths after vaccination reached 865 while deaths from the virus are at 845."

The chyron on the news report reads: "MORE DIE AFTER VAX THAN FROM VIRUS IN TAIWAN".

The post's simplified Chinese-language caption translates in part as: "In Taiwan, more people die from vaccines than from the virus, this is a fact that is now being discussed by reporters."

Screenshot taken on December 23, 2021, of the misleading Twitter post

At the time the video was posted in October 2021, there had been 846 deaths from Covid-19 in Taiwan since the beginning of the pandemic.

The figure can be found on the official site of Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare as the “cumulative death toll” of Covid-19.

As of December 22, Taiwan has reported 850 death cases. Official data also shows that some 66% of people in Taiwan have been fully vaccinated, while around 80% have received their first vaccine dose.

The self-ruled island won global praise early on in the pandemic for the speed with which it sounded the alarm over the emerging deadly disease and managed to stamp it out locally. AFP reported here.

The same video claiming that more people die of vaccines than Covid-19 was shared alongside a similar claim here, here and here on Twitter; and here, here and here on Facebook.

But the data has been presented in a misleading context.

Neither the NTD report nor the posts that share it mention that deaths reported to the database following vaccination do not equate to deaths directly caused by vaccination.

Vaccine data

The video report was originally uploaded here to the official Facebook page of NTD News.

The media company describes itself as a “New York-based, global television network founded in 2001 by Chinese-Americans who fled communism".

The network, funded largely by donations, was founded by practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Reuters reported.

The NTD video is based on a document about adverse events reported after vaccination published by Taiwan's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 11 October 2021.

The number “865” can be seen in the chart in a column that numbers deaths “suspected after vaccination” between March 22 and October 11, 2021.

Below is a screenshot of the chart with the number "865" circled in red by AFP:

Screenshot of the chart

The first paragraph of the same Taiwanese CDC document reads: "A vaccine adverse event report refers to any event, at any time after vaccination, which people suspect or feel might possibly relate to the vaccination. These reported events occurred after vaccination but it does not mean they were caused by vaccination."

It continues: "The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a passive monitoring system. The number of adverse event reports themselves cannot explain or be used to draw conclusions on the existence, severity, frequency or incidence of vaccine-related problems, and should be explained in the context of other scientific information."

In an email to AFP on December 17, a spokesperson from the Taiwanese CDC said no data has been published so far about deaths in Taiwan found to have been caused by Covid-19 vaccines.

"'Adverse events' after vaccination refer to any events that have a negative impact on health after vaccination. These adverse events occur after vaccination in time sequence, but do not necessarily have a causal relationship with vaccination. It needs enough time to determine whether they may be caused by vaccination based on empirical evidence after investigation or data analysis. And according to Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, there has been no 'death directly caused by vaccination' case found in the evaluated cases so far," the spokesperson said.

Health authorities of various countries -- including the US and Australia -- have repeatedly warned that further investigation is needed to establish any link between reported deaths after vaccination and the vaccine itself.

It remains very rare for investigators to establish a firm causal link between Covid-19 vaccination and death.

As of December 16, 2021, Australia has just 11 deaths linked to vaccination after more than 40 million vaccine doses, according to this report from the country's drug regulator.

As of December 22, there have been 276,488,165 confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide, including 5,374,296 deaths, according to an AFP tally.

AFP has debunked several similar claims here, here; and here.

The same video was previously debunked by AFP in Serbian language here.