Fact vs. Fiction: Are people really dying from the COVID-19 vaccine?

PITTSBURGH — As the race to vaccinate continues, stories about people dying shortly after getting the vaccine are spreading like wildfire on social media.

What exactly is happening, and how true are those claims?

11 Investigates reporter Angie Moreschi broke down what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine causing people to die?

There are reports of some people dying after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but the question is whether the vaccine is causing those deaths.

Social media posts about a Miami doctor, seniors around the world and, most recently, an elderly man in New York dying after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine have led to speculation that the vaccine is causing the deaths.

Those claims really accelerated when National Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron died after being publicly vaccinated, hoping it would encourage other African Americans to get the shot. The 86-year-old’s death was ruled as due to natural causes -- not the vaccine.

Medical professionals say that in most cases, people are making a false connection.

“For example, if you’re vaccinating nursing home patients, there are some nursing home patients that are going to die within the week after vaccination, irrespective of whether they got that vaccine. So, just because there’s a temporal association, meaning a time association … got a vaccine and you died, doesn’t mean that there’s a causal association that the vaccine was the reason that you died,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Johns Hopkins infectious disease expert, said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigates when a death occurs after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Rare, fatal allergic reactions are possible, but, so far, none are being directly attributed to the vaccine.

So, it’s false to assume recent deaths were caused by the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is it true you don’t have to wear a mask if you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

“It is fiction now. It may become fact, eventually, when more and more people are vaccinated. When we get closer to herd immunity, you likely will see the public health authorities relax those mass mask restrictions,” Adalja said.

The big issue here for why scientists still want you to wear a mask has to do with research.

Initial vaccine studies only looked at whether patients got COVID-19 symptoms, not whether they got asymptomatic cases. So, studies are now underway on people who got the vaccine to determine if some are getting mild cases of COVID-19 and don’t have symptoms.

“Most of us in the field believe this is a very unlikely possibility, that the vaccine is likely to provide an ability to decrease spread as well as decreased symptomatic disease. So, we will likely see these types of recommendations change over time as we get more data,” Adalja said.

At least for now, even if you get the vaccine, medical professionals still want you to keep wearing masks.