Utah health authorities released a statement on Thursday saying an investigation into reports of people dying after getting a COVID-19 shot shows no links between the vaccine and the deaths.
“The OME has determined there have been NO DEATHS caused by the COVID-19 vaccines to date in Utah. The OME is committed to investigating any deaths that fall under its jurisdiction where decedents had recently received the COVID-19 vaccine,” said the statement, jointly issued by Utah Department of Health and the Office of Medical Examiner.
The statement comes after reports that a Utah woman with no known underlying medical conditions died four days after receiving a Moderna vaccine on Feb. 1. While her family suspected a link between the vaccine and the death of Kassidi Kurill, a 39-year-old mother of one from Ogden, medical experts cautioned about jumping to conclusions.
Dr. Erik Christensen, Chief Medical Examiner for the Utah Department of Health, told Fox News that Kurill’s second dose of the vaccine and her death were only “temporally related.”
“We don’t have any evidence that there are connections between the vaccines and deaths at this point,” he said. “We don’t have any indication of that.”
Christensen added that while cases involving death after the vaccine are worth investigating, until health officials know all the results, it’s just “speculation.”
In an obituary for Kurill, her family had attributed her death to “apparent complications due to the 2nd COVID-19 vaccination,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
While the joint statement by Utah health authorities did not specifically reference Kurill’s death, it took aim more generally at the speculative nature of some media coverage of potentially COVID-19-related deaths.
“We call on members of the media to wait for all the facts to be known prior to reporting information that could lead to undue diminished confidence in these life-saving vaccines,” the statement said, adding, “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They are how we will end this pandemic.”
At the same, the health authorities vowed to continue to investigate reports of serious side effects.
“Public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine is critical, and providing absolute transparency on the vaccine’s side effects is our goal,” the joint statement said.
The Food and Drug Administration requires that vaccination providers report any deaths after COVID-19 vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Event Report System (VAERS), which was put in place in 1990 to capture unforeseen reactions from vaccines.
The VAERS system is a way to collect data and reports of adverse events logged on the system don’t necessarily prove a connection between a vaccine and a negative outcome. An investigation would be needed to confirm a positive link between a vaccine and adverse event, such as a death.
On the VAERS database, there are four deaths reported involving Utah residents. One of those four deaths matches the age description of Kurill, while the other three were all in their 80s.
“To date, VAERS has not detected patterns in cause of death that would indicate a safety problem with COVID-19 vaccines,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website.
As of March 18, more than 714,000 people in Utah have been partially vaccinated, while 394,000 have been fully vaccinated, according to figures from coronavirus.utah.gov. Utah’s population is roughly 3.3 million people.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.