In early June 2022, social media personality Candace Owens published a Facebook post in which she misleadingly linked vaccines to a phenomenon in which young people suddenly die. In a follow-up comment, Owens falsely stated that the phenomenon is "new" and a "mystery illness."
"Just wanted to publicly state that my children are and will remain completely unvaccinated and that I truly wish my parents had made different decisions for me," Owens wrote in the June 8, 2022, post. "In other news — have you read about how young adults are dying suddenly and it’s a complete mystery to doctors as to why that’s happening?"
In the post, Owens linked to a story published by the British tabloid Daily Mail headlined, "Healthy young people are dying suddenly and unexpectedly from a mysterious syndrome - as doctors seek answers through a new national register."
If you read Owens' anti-vaccine comments and saw the Daily Mail headline, you might assume that the Daily Mail story contained reportage linking vaccines and the "sudden deaths of young people" mentioned in the headline. It does not.
The Daily Mail story makes no mention of vaccines. It is instead about a phenomenon often called sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (or SADS, sometimes referred to as "sudden adult death syndrome") that is neither new, nor is it necessarily mysterious. Young people do, on rare occasions, die suddenly with no obvious explanation, and the underlying cause is often a heart condition that causes a fatal onset of cardiac arrhythmias. According to the Daily Mail, a registry of such deaths is being developed by the Baker Hearth and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, to track the phenomenon.
Here's how the British Heart Foundation explained the phenomenon:
The rhythm of your heart (which controls your heartbeat) is controlled by electrical impulses. If the electrical impulses go wrong, it can cause an abnormal heart rhythm known as an arrhythmia. Some arrhythmias can be dangerous if they’re left untreated, they can cause a cardiac arrest. Your heart’s rhythm and electrical impulses are no longer there after death, this means an abnormal heart rhythm can’t be found and the heart’s structure will appear normal. This is why the cause of the cardiac arrest can’t be found and SADS might be diagnosed.
There is no evidence supporting the claim that vaccinations heighten the risk for SADS. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common cause among young people is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle grows too thick, which is a genetic condition. Other risk factors affecting the heart structure or the electrical impulses that stimulate the heartbeat are congenital, or present at birth. Another potential cause could be blunt force trauma to the chest.
In a follow-up comment defending her post, Owens stated, "I did not say the vaccines were linked to SADS. I said there was a new 'mystery' illness."
Despite her protestations, some of Owens' followers seemed to infer a different message. "A mystery for doctors maybe but not a mystery for vaccine manufacturers. The poison is doing it's job," wrote one.
As we stated above, SADS is not new. It has been documented by researchers for decades.
Koplan, Bruce A., and William G. Stevenson. “Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.” Heart, vol. 93, no. 5, May 2007, pp. 547–48. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1136/hrt.2006.108134.
“Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.” British Heart Foundation, https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/sads. Accessed 15 June 2022.
“What to Know about Sudden Death in Young People.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-cardiac-arrest/in-depth/sudden-death/art-20047571. Accessed 15 June 2022.