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Covid 19: Two million deaths, so what went wrong?

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 11 February 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n393

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Rapid Response:

Deep concern over vaccination safety

Dear Editor

At the same time as Fiona Godlee refers to “the phenomenal success of the vaccine programme” [1] deaths on the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) for the two Covid vaccines currently in use in the US, manufactured by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna, are off the scale. As of 4 February there were 653 reported deaths [2]. This was at a time when approximately 35.2 million doses had been administered [3]. It compares with 75 reported deaths associated with influenza vaccine for the current season [4] from 193.6 million doses: this is approximately 48 times the rate. Deaths are also a much higher proportion of total reports for Covid vaccines as compared with Influenza vaccines [6,7]: approximately 5% as compared with about 0.8%. Although none of these cases is confirmed VAERS is a passive reporting system which was said in 2010 to pick up less than 1% of cases [8].

On top of this the New York Times reports [9]:

“ More than 34 million Americans have received Covid vaccines, but the much-touted system that the government designed to monitor any dangerous reactions won’t be capable of analyzing safety data for weeks or months, according to numerous federal health officials.”

All this is deeply concerning to say the least.

[1] Fiona Godlee, ‘Covid 19: Two million deaths, so what went wrong?’, BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 11 February 2021)


[3] 7:12 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021, Roughly 35.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the US, according to CDC
From CNN's Deidre McPhillips,


[5] Table of 2020-21 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine — Total Doses Distributed,

[6] Found 12,697 cases where Vaccine targets COVID-19 (COVID19). ,

[7] Found 9,077 cases where Vaccine targets Influenza (FLU(H1N1) or FLU3 or FLU4 or FLUA3 or FLUC3 or FLUC4 or FLUN(H1N1) or FLUN3 or FLUN4 or FLUR3 or FLUR4 or FLUX or FLUX(H1N1) or H5N1 or FLUA4) and Appearance Date on/after '2020-09-01'. ,

[8] Lazarus et al, ‘Electronic Support for Public Health - Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, Results, p.6,

[9] Sheila Kaplan, ‘ The F.D.A. is struggling to start up its comprehensive monitoring system for vaccinations.’, 12 February 2021

Competing interests:, an on-line daily journal, concerns itself with the potential environmental sources for the proliferation of autism, neurological impairment, immune dysfunction and chronic disease. I receive no payment as UK Editor. I also moderate comments for the on-line journal ‘The Defender’ for which I am paid.

17 February 2021
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22