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No, ‘sudden death’ not a Covid vaccine ‘side effect’ – and fake poster not by Irish government

A photo of a yellow poster headed “Coronavirus COVID-19 ALERT” that lists “rare” vaccine “side effects” has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, including in South Africa.

The list starts with “headache”, increasing in severity to “sudden death”.

The poster carries the logo of Ireland’s government, and tells people to report vaccine side effects to the country’s Health Products Regulatory Authority, or HPRA.

It has a similar layout to Covid-19 information posters produced by the Health Service Executive (HSE), Ireland’s health department.

But is it genuine? And, now that there are more than a dozen approved Covid-19 vaccines, could at least one of them cause “sudden death”?


Poster one of many fakes

Several irregularities reveal that the poster is fake.

It doesn’t completely match the style of real HSE posters. These are headed “Public Health Advice” – not “ALERT”.

And HSE posters use the service’s logo, not the logo of the Irish government. More than this, the Government of Ireland logo on the poster has been altered to read “People of Ireland” instead.

When AP News fact-checked the poster, a HPRA spokesperson said “this is not an HPRA produced poster – or indeed a piece of communication produced by the Health Service Executive”.

It’s also been fact-checked by Bolivia Verifica, based in the South American country of Bolivia. And the Journal, an Irish media house, has previously fact-checked another fake poster that used HSE branding to spread false information.

But could a “side effect” of Covid-19 vaccines be “sudden death”?

Vaccines safe, and prevent Covid-19

A total of 23 Covid-19 vaccines have so far been approved for use by country authorities across the world. 

They have all gone through strict processes to ensure that they are safe, and help prevent the disease. (See Africa Check’s factsheets on how drugs and vaccines are approved in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.)

The processes include large-scale clinical trials. After vaccines have been approved, they are continually monitored to make sure they are safe.

Any side effects are recorded. Sudden death has not been found to be a side effect of any Covid-19 vaccine.

And the real side effects of each vaccine may be different. 

“Most Covid-19 vaccines cause mild fever or pain or redness at the injection site,” says South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). “Other side effects include high fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, rash at the injection site, chills, and mild diarrhoea.”

These side effects are typically mild and last no more than a few days. The NICD has warned that severe side effects – including allergic reactions that could be triggered by any vaccine – have been reported. But these are extremely rare.

In a genuine booklet on the website of Ireland’s HSE, the service says: “Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild to moderate, short-term, and not everyone gets them.”

The HSE – and health authorities across the world – strongly recommends vaccination as the best way for people to protect themselves against Covid-19.

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