Tucker Carlson overstates risk of dying from anti-covid vaccines

In his opening monologue last night, Tucker Carlson stated that approximately 4,000 Americans, at a minimum, have died after being vaccinated against the Wuhan coronravirus. He cited data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Carlson also suggested that VAERS is underestimating deaths among the vaccinated. The actual number might be considerably higher than 4,000, he said.

The number of deaths caused by vaccinations might also be considerably lower, and probably is. Just because someone died after being vaccinated doesn’t mean he or she died because of the vaccine.

Almost 150 million Americans have been vaccinated. You would expect a small fraction of that number to die during the course of a few months, whether vaccinated or not.

The Washington Post tries to quantify this:

According to CDC data, an estimated 8,000 Americans die every day of all causes. That’s 1 in every 41,000 people, every day. If you apply that number to 135 million people who are vaccinated, you’d expect that more than 3,000 people who were vaccinated would be dying every day right now — again, of something.

That’s significantly more than the 30 per day Carlson suggests is alarming. Even if you account for the gradual increase in vaccinations, the idea that we’d be seeing hundreds and then thousands of vaccinated people dying per day is completely expected.

Does this mean that no one has died because of being vaccinated? The CDC says that “a review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.”

I would be very surprised, though, if coronavirus vaccines haven’t killed a few of the nearly 150 million to whom they have been administered. But even if one accepts Carlson’s figure of 4,000, that’s still only a little more than one death per 40,000 vaccinations, if I did the math correctly. (Carlson did not discuss the number of alleged deaths from the vaccine in relation to the number of vaccinations.)

It seems irrational to decline being vaccinated against the virus out of fear of dying from the vaccine.

This doesn’t mean that Americans should be punished for declining to be vaccinated. The vaccine can have side effects, some of them serious. A young, healthy person might rationally decide that the risk of being sick for a little while is outweighed by the risk of longer-term side effects (known and unknown), like the seriously adverse effect on hearing one of our neighbors experienced for the first time after being vaccinated.

In any event, it should be up to individuals, not the government, to weigh whatever risks vaccines might carry against the risk to them associated with becoming infected.

But what about the risk the unvaccinated pose to those with whom they come into contact who aren’t vaccinated? For now, that risk is real, though probably small.

However, we’ll soon reach the point where virtually everyone who wants to be vaccinated (and certainly everyone at serious risk from the virus who wants this) is vaccinated. At that point, the risk of infection of the unvaccinated will be only to those who have chosen to assume that risk.

I think it’s right that the government is encouraging people to take the vaccine. I think it’s irresponsible for Tucker Carlson to serve up an analysis that seems to overstate the risk of dying from it.

However, I think Carlson is right that the government shouldn’t punish people (e.g., restrict their right to travel) for declining the vaccine.

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