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Fact check: False claim that sudden arrhythmic death syndrome is linked to vaccine

The claim: Vaccines are linked to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome and the unvaccinated aren't dying

Amid the summer surge of COVID-19 cases, some social media posts are falsely claiming that a new syndrome is linked to the COVID-19 vaccine and that the unvaccinated do not die.

A Facebook post shared June 15 shows an elephant with text overlaying it that says "the unvaccinated aren't dying."

"All of a sudden there's 'SADS' Sudden Adult Death Syndrome and the medical community is somehow baffled by this. Hmm...," reads the post.

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The post generated more than 250 interactions and 150 shares in less than a week. A June 8 Gateway Pundit article shared to Facebook also details healthy young people dying of "sudden adult death syndrome," citing deaths in Australia. Similar posts have amassed hundreds of interactions on Facebook and Twitter.

But the claim is false.

The acronym SADS refers to sudden arrhythmic (not adult) death syndrome, which occurs when an adolescent or adult dies suddenly from a cardiac arrest due to electrical abnormalities in the heart. Experts told USA TODAY this syndrome is not new has no link to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Numerous reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the unvaccinated are dying from COVID-19 – and at a much higher rate than those who are vaccinated.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome not linked to COVID-19 vaccine

To date, the CDC has detected "no unusual or unexpected" patterns of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome following immunization that would indicate COVID-19 vaccines are "causing or contributing to this condition," Belsie Gonzalez, a CDC spokesperson, told USA TODAY in an emailed statement.

This syndrome occurs when the electrical system of the heart does not work properly, leading the heart to beat with an abnormal rhythm, Alice Lara, President & CEO of the SADS Foundation, told USA TODAY in an email. This irregular heartbeat is called an arrhythymia, according to Mayo Clinic

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The electrical abnormality in the heart can be attributed to various factors such as environmental triggers or spontaneous mutation, experts said. But the most common identifiers of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome are genetic conditions in the heart, according to Dr. Christopher Kramer, chief of the cardiovascular division at the University of Virginia.

These conditions include long QT syndrome and brugada syndrome, both of which affect the way electrical signals process in the heart causing dangerously fast heartbeats.

One heart-related condition patients have reported after COVID-19 vaccination is myocarditis, or the inflammation of the heart which can cause arrhthymias, Dr. William Petri, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Virginia, told USA TODAY. But there have been no links between sudden arrhythmic death syndrome and myocarditis from the vaccine, he said.

"Myocarditis also happens (in) about one out of 100,000 people who get one of the mRNA vaccines so it's very rare," Petri said.

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Contrary to the Facebook post's claim, sudden arrhythmic death syndrome is nothing new. It was first reported in 1977 in the U.S., according to Dr. Ayman Hussein, director of cardiac electrophysiological outcomes research at Cleveland Clinic.

Unvaccinated are dying from COVID-19

Data shows the unvaccinated are dying from COVID-19, and at a far higher rate than the vaccinated.

USA TODAY reported in February that "for every 100,000 people, 9.7 of those who were unvaccinated were killed by the coronavirus, compared to 0.7 of those fully vaccinated and 0.1 of the boosted."

In April, unvaccinated people ages 5 and older were six times more likely to die of COVID-19 than their vaccinated peers, and unvaccinated people 50 years and older were 42 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to their vaccinated peers, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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And a CDC report published in January shows that protection against COVID-19 infection and death were higher among those were boosted.

USA TODAY has debunked claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is linked to deaths in children and that the COVID-19 vaccine doesn't stop a person from getting or spreading the virus.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that vaccines are linked to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome and the unvaccinated aren't dying. Numerous experts told USA TODAY sudden arrhythmic death syndrome is not linked to the vaccine. And data shows the unvaccinated are dying from COVID-19, and at a far higher rate than the vaccinated.

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