A government system links 32 deaths in North Carolina to the COVID-19 vaccine...but here's why that may be misleading.
SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Very good evening. If you've already had the vaccine, you've probably had a sore arm, maybe a fever or a headache. These are all common symptoms that health experts say prove the vaccine is working. However, more alarming side effects are surfacing. But health experts I spoke with say these reports need to be taken with a grain of salt.
More than 800 adverse events from the COVID-19 vaccine reported in North Carolina. Symptoms range from UTIs to loss of consciousness to heart and head injuries. These reactions listed in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS. It's a database run by the FDA and CDC for years. It allows providers and patients to submit reactions to any vaccine.
DAVID KIRK: VAERS is there as a big net to catch any event around the vaccination, but not necessarily related to the vaccination. So if a patient comes in with a heart attack, and had a vaccine a day or two ago, we'll go ahead and report that.
SAMANTHA KUMMERER: Kirk says he can count on one hand how many adverse reactions Wake Med has seen of the more than 100,000 vaccines handed out.
So when we're seeing 30 plus deaths from the COVID-19 vaccine linked to North Carolina, is that telling a full picture, that the vaccine led to these deaths?
DAVID KIRK: I would say absolutely not. People have medical events every day. So there's a number of heart attacks, and there's a number of deaths every day. If one of those heart attacks or deaths comes near a vaccine, that's going to get reported in that system. It doesn't mean that the vaccine caused that heart attack or caused that death or caused that other complication, but we want to catch all these events, absolutely, to make sure.
SAMANTHA KUMMERER: The CDC is currently reporting zero deaths linked with any COVID-19 vaccine. The reports in VAERS are often voluntary, meaning they contain inaccurate and incomplete information, but health experts say this information does have a use.
JASON WITTES: We are still in this ongoing trial, still tracking, so yeah, there is information that we need to track, look into, dig deeper, but the vaccine itself is not causing these. At this point in time, it's not showing any data directly linked to the vaccines, or any medications associated with the vaccines.
SAMANTHA KUMMERER: This information is investigated by officials, and used as an early warning sign if any unsafe trends do emerge. And if you do have symptoms that last longer than 72 hours, experts are advising you, call your primary care doctor. Reporting for I-Team, Samantha Kummerer, ABC 11 Eyewitness News.