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Home » COVID-19 vaccines did not cause an increase in cancer deaths

COVID-19 vaccines did not cause an increase in cancer deaths

A new report from the CDC shows that the number of deaths from COVID-19 dropped from 2021 to 2022, but there has been an increase in deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer — of course, anti-vaxxers blame the COVID-19 vaccines for this.

This article will explain why deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease showed a one-year increase and why it’s not related to COVID-19 vaccines. Of course, this article will only use scientific explanations, not massive conspiracy theories and logical fallacies. Like I usually do.

vaccine bottles on blue background
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on

The CDC report on US deaths from 2021 to 2022

In a report published on 5 May 2023 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Farida B. Ahmad, MPH, and colleagues described the highest mortality risks for Americans and changes from 2021 to 2022.

Here are their key findings;

  • The overall age-adjusted death rate also decreased by 5.3%, from 879.7 to 832.8 per 100,000 from 2021 to 2022.
  • The leading cause of death in the US in 2022 was heart disease, followed by cancer, unintentional injury (such as accidents, drug overdose, and others), and COVID-19.
  • In 2022, deaths from COVID-19 dropped to fourth on the list of causes of death, falling by 47% over 2021.
  • Heart disease and cancer deaths increased in 2022 compared with 2021 (accounting for 695,547 and 605,213, deaths respectively).

The last bit of data is what anti-vaxxers have pounced on. They believe that heart disease and cancer deaths have increased because of COVID-19 vaccines. But is there any evidence to support this? Let’s take a look

Cancer deaths and COVID-19 vaccines

Anti-vaxxers have tried to blame deaths on COVID-19 vaccines almost since the day the vaccines were approved by the FDA. However, there appears to be no direct evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause heart disease or cancer deaths.

The anti-vaxxer squad has even claimed that “turbo cancer” has caused a huge increase in cancer deaths in young people because of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The wonderful Orac (you all know that they are a cancer surgeon, right?) published a takedown of this cancer link. Of course, there was no science to support such a link, as Orac says:

The forms of evidence used generally consist of anecdotes and a claim that there has been a huge increase in excess mortality from cancer since the vaccines rolled out. 

This is typical in the anti-vaccine world — invent claims using anecdotes rather than science, because as any good scientist knows anecdotes do not equal data. In other words, the basis of this “turbo cancer” is not science but pseudoscience.

Of course, without actual controls, this is nothing more than the anecdotal claimed experience of two pathologists, who claim to have found a huge increase in cancer in their practices and decided that correlation (which was not shown) must equal causation because to antivaxxers it has to be the vaccines that explain any increase in a disease. It’s not good evidence of even an association between the vaccines and subsequent development or progression of cancer.

Orac concludes his takedown:

Unsurprisingly, “turbo cancer” isn’t a thing. Oncologists don’t recognize it as a phenomenon, nor do cancer biologists, and if you search for it on PubMed, you won’t find a reference to it. Basically, it’s a clever term coined by antivaxxers to scare you into thinking that COVID-19 vaccines will give you cancer, or at least greatly increase your risk of developing cancer. The “evidence” marshaled to support the concept consists of the usual misinformation techniques used by antivaxxers: citing anecdotes, wild speculation about biological mechanisms without a firm basis in biology, and conflating correlation with causation, no matter how much one must squint to see it.

There is just no correlation, let alone causation, between COVID-19 vaccines and cancer. These claims are based on convoluted logic that has no basis in real science. You need to read Orac’s full article to understand the lack of connection between these vaccines and cancer.

Of course, the anti-vaxxers will try to explain the increase in cancer and cardiovascular deaths from 2021 to 2022 by going to COVID-19 vaccines as the cause. However, this kind of ecological study tries to use population-level data to try to show a correlation. No legitimate epidemiologist would ever use that kind of data.

The basic point is that those who claim that the vaccines caused this increase have no evidence to support their claims. None.

Importantly, IF there was some magical reason that COVID-19 vaccines contributed to deaths from cancer or cardiovascular disease, it would take years, even decades, before we would see such an increase. It is implausible that we’d see a massive increase in deaths so soon.

So why was there an increase?

The CDC report does not speculate as to why they observed an increase in deaths. But there may be good reasons for it:

  1. During the height of the pandemic, many people delayed seeing their physicians for basic healthcare, delaying treatments or diagnoses.
  2. Cardiovascular issues can become acute without quick medical intervention. If someone doesn’t treat high blood pressure or chest pains quickly, it can lead to death faster than someone who has been in treatment for years.
  3. Cancer diagnosis and treatment also may have been delayed.
  4. The population has increased.
  5. COVID-19 itself could increase the mortality rate of at-risk individuals, especially those with underlying cancer or cardiovascular issues.
  6. Some unknown environmental factors that occurred years ago may have increased the risks of diseases like cancer.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are linked to these increases in deaths. It’s nothing more than a coincidence that the deaths from these diseases happened at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccines.

Furthermore, there are no biologically plausible explanations for why the COVID-19 vaccines are linked to these diseases. The anti-vaxxers have an oversimplistic understanding of vaccines and of causes of cancer that betray their lack of scientific support for their claims.

This is just another ploy by the anti-vaccine activists to push fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines.


Michael Simpson

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