Dr. Richard Pan Responds to News Reports that Mislead People by Wrongly Linking COVID-19 Vaccine to Incident of Death in Placer County

January 26, 2021

SACRAMENTO – As myths and misinformation about vaccines swirl online that fuel vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator responded to news reports about an individual that received the coronavirus vaccine and died several hours later.

“Anti-vaccine extremists exaggerate and amplify serious events that occur after vaccination, falsely implicating vaccines when no causal evidence has been found, to increase anxiety about vaccination. Recently, anti-vaccine extremist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. falsely blamed the COVID vaccine for the death of baseball great Hank Aaron who died of natural causes eighteen days after receiving the vaccine.

Last weekend, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office announced that a person, who previously was infected with COVID, died hours after receiving the COVID vaccine, an announcement that was amplified by numerous headlines. However, the cause of death is under investigation and there is no reason that the vaccine is the likely cause of death. Unfortunately, because many news outlets decided to lead with a headline that a person died after receiving the COVID vaccine, this announcement will increase vaccine hesitancy and make it more difficult to achieve vaccination rates necessary to stop the pandemic.

As COVID vaccines are being administered to high-risk individuals during a deadly pandemic, some of those high-risk individuals will die or become ill shortly after receiving the vaccine in the normal course of events and when the vaccine is not at fault. A high-risk individual is more prone to disease or death, and therefore the receipt of the vaccine is oftentimes coincidental to these events. A headline or speculative report can be misconstrued, intentionally by some, as a reason to frighten people from vaccinating.

Vaccine safety is very high priority for public health leaders. When a small cluster of allergic reactions was reported in people receiving the Moderna vaccine in San Diego, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) suspended use of that lot of vaccines until an investigation indicated that the “higher than usual” reactions were a chance occurrence. It is the responsibility of our public health leaders to investigate serious events that occur temporally to a vaccination to monitor for safety, and it is also incumbent on government officials and journalists to put these events and investigations in context as likely chance events and normal safety procedures that should not be reason for concern unless there is a finding of a causal link with the vaccine.

Every death is tragic, and the same day the Placer County Sheriff’s Office posted the person’s death last Saturday, CDPH reported another 429 Californians died of COVID. We can best remember the over thirty-seven thousand Californians who died of COVID by pledging to get the COVID vaccine when it is available so we can stop this deadly coronavirus and by not amplifying unwarranted anxiety about the vaccine.”


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