Fact check: COVID-19 outbreak at NY nursing home started before vaccinations

Camille Caldera, USA TODAY
·4 min read

The claim: After it administered vaccines, a nursing home had dozens of coronavirus deaths and infections

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorizations for coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Since then, over 10 million individuals in the U.S. have received a first dose of the shot. About 540,000 have received a first and second dose, per the New York Times.

But some have expressed skepticism about coronavirus vaccines, which were developed far more quickly than most immunizations.

On Jan. 10, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity published a story casting doubt on their effectiveness, headlined, "A Nursing Home had Zero Coronavirus Deaths. Then, It Vaccinates Residents for Coronavirus and the Deaths Begin."

"Things seem to be working backwards at The Commons on St. Anthony nursing home in Auburn, New York. Vaccinating people is supposed to reduce or end coronavirus deaths. Right? But, at The Commons, such deaths are reported to have occurred only after residents began receiving coronavirus vaccinations," the story reads.

Multiple other websites — including Health Impact News, Vaccine Impact, and Medical Kidnap — republished the story under the headline, "24 Dead and 137 Infected at NY Nursing Home After Experimental COVID Injections."

On the latter three sites, the story has racked up a combined 100,000 views. None of the sites has responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.

COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 30, 2020, in Delray Beach, Florida.
COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 30, 2020, in Delray Beach, Florida.

Outbreak began on Dec. 21, vaccinations began on Dec. 22

The information comes from an article on Syracuse.com about an outbreak of COVID-19 at The Commons on St. Anthony.

The outbreak at the the 300-bed nursing home infected 137 residents, 24 of whom died. Prior to the outbreak, the facility had not reported any deaths from COVID-19.

However, the link drawn between deaths and vaccinations is misleading.

The Jan. 9 article on Syracuse.com specifies that the outbreak began on Dec. 21, and notes that The Commons began vaccinating its residents on Dec. 22. The first deaths occurred on Dec. 29.

In a Jan. 13 follow-up story, Julie Sheedy of Loretto, which operates the facility, told Syracuse.com the first resident tested positive on Dec. 16, with another outbreak confirmed five days later.

Sheedy also criticized the article by the Ron Paul Institute, saying it included “false and dangerously misleading information.”

She said "the claims and the timelines on this website are dangerously speculative and factually incorrect.”

Not possible for a COVID-19 shot in the US to infect recipient

A COVID-19 immunization will not infect its recipient.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19."

Our rating: Missing context

Based on our research, the claim that a nursing home had dozens of coronavirus deaths after it administered vaccines is MISSING CONTEXT because it is misleading. The outbreak at The Commons on St. Anthony began on Dec. 21, at which time there were already dozens of positive cases of coronavirus. The nursing home began vaccinating on Dec. 22. The first deaths as a result of the outbreak occurred on Dec. 29 and are unrelated to vaccinations.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: COVID-19 vaccinations, deaths at NY nursing home unrelated