‘Sudden death’ spikes in tweets about COVID vaccines

The results of the autopsy on Anastasia Weaver, 6, could take weeks. But online anti-vaccination activists need only hours after her funeral this week to baselessly place the blame on the COVID-19 vaccine.

fullness Twitter The account posted Anastasia’s name and a smiling portrait dancing in a tweet with a syringe emoji. ONE Facebook The user texted her mother, Jessica Day-Weaver, calling her a “murderer” for vaccinating her child.

In fact, Ohio preschoolers have experienced lifelong health problems since being born prematurely, including epilepsy, asthma, and frequent hospitalizations from respiratory viruses. “The doctors did not give us any information other than that it was due to all her chronic illnesses. … Never thought it could be the vaccine,” Day-Weaver said of her daughter’s death.

But those facts don’t matter online, where Anastasia is quickly being added to a growing list of hundreds of children, teenagers, athletes and celebrities whose unexpected deaths and injuries have killed them. wrongly blamed for the COVID-19 shots. Using the hashtag #diesuddenly, online conspiracy theorists have flooded social media with news bulletins, obituaries and GoFundMe in recent months, leaving grieving families struggling with lies.

There was a 37-year-old Brazilian TV presenter who collapsed during a live broadcast due to a congenital heart condition. The unvaccinated 18-year-old bull rider died of a rare disease. The 32-year-old actress died of bacterial complications.

Media intelligence firm Zignal Labs found in an analysis done for The Associated Press. The phrase’s boom began with the late November launch of an online “documentary” of the same name, giving power to what experts call a new and disastrous acronym.

“It’s a sort of group language, a kind of wink, wink, nudge,” said Renee DiResta, director of technical research at the Stanford Internet Observatory. “They’re treating something as a relatively conventional way of describing something – people die suddenly, in fact – and then by assigning a hashtag to it, they aggregate all of these incidents into one place.”

Epidemiologist Dr Katelyn Jetelina said the campaign was not only harming the internet.

“The real danger is that it eventually leads to real-world actions, such as not vaccinating,” says Jetelina, who tracks and analyzes COVID data for her blog, “Epidemiologist.” your local.”

Rigorous research and real evidence from hundreds of millions of injections have proven that Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Death from vaccination is extremely rare, and the risks associated with not being vaccinated are much higher than the risks associated with vaccination. But that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from making many false accusations about vaccines.

The movie “Sudden Death” has a title clip found on Google to falsely suggest that they demonstrate that sudden deaths “never happened like this until now.” The film has garnered more than 20 million views on an alternative video-sharing website, and its companion Twitter account posts more deaths and injuries daily.

An AP review of more than 100 tweets from this account in December and January found that claims of vaccine-related cases were largely unfounded and, in some cases, contradicted public information. Some of the referrals died from genetic disorders, drug overdoses, flu complications, or suicide. One person died in a surfing accident.

The filmmakers did not respond to specific questions from the AP but instead released a statement referring to the “sudden increase in deaths” and the “PROVED excess mortality rate” ” without providing data.

The total number of deaths in the US is higher than what was expected since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, partly due to virus, overdose and other causes. Vaccines against covid-19 prevented the deaths of nearly 2 million Americans only in the first year of use.

Some of the deaths exploited in the film predated the pandemic. California writer Dolores Cruz published an essay in 2022 about grief for her son, who died in a car crash in 2017. “Sudden Death” used screenshots of the title. theme in the film, describing the boy’s death as related to vaccines.

Cruz said in an interview: “Without my permission, someone took his story to show a side and I don’t appreciate that. “His legacy and memory are being tarnished.”

Others who appear in the film survive — but are forced to watch videos of their medical emergencies being misrepresented around the world. For Brazilian TV presenter Rafael Silva, who collapsed during broadcast due to an anomalous congenital heart condition, online misinformation has caused a wave of harassment even before the movie “Sudden Death” uses footage.

Silva said: “I have received messages saying that I should have died to set an example for others who are still thinking about getting vaccinated.

According to Jetelina, many online posts cite no evidence other than that the deceased had been vaccinated at some point in the past, using a common misinformation strategy known as pseudoscience. post-hoc measures.

“People assume that one thing causes another just because the first comes before the other,” she said.

Some claims about people with heart problems also weaponize the nukes of the truth – that the COVID-19 vaccine may cause rare inflammatory heart problems, myocarditis, or pericarditis, especially in young men. Medical experts say these cases are often light and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

Narrative is also available take advantage of premium moments like the collapse of the safety of Buffalo Bills Damar Hamlin as he suffered cardiac arrest in a game last month after a violent blow to his chest. But sudden cardiac arrest has long been a prominent cause of death in the US — and medical experts agree that the vaccine did not cause Hamlin’s injury.

For some families, misinformation represents a sideshow to their real focus: understanding why their loved ones died and preventing similar tragedies.

Clint Erickson’s son, Tyler, died in September just before his 18th birthday while playing golf near their home in Florida. The family knew his heart stopped beating but still don’t know exactly why. Tyler wasn’t vaccinated, but his story still pops up in the movie “Sudden Death.”

Erickson said: “It bothers me that he’s been taken advantage of in that way. But “the biggest personal problem I have is trying to find an answer or a way to close what is causing this.”

Day-Weaver said it was upsetting to see people exploiting her daughter’s death when they knew nothing about her. They don’t know that she loves people so much that she will hug strangers at WalmartOr she just learned how to shoot.

However, Day-Weaver said, “I don’t want anyone to lose a child. Even them.”


Natália Scarabotto of Río de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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