On Dec. 14, Dr. Céline Gounder, wife of the late sportswriter Grant Wahl, announced in a post that Wahl died from a burst blood vessel.
The New York Times reported that Wahl “died suddenly” early Dec. 10 while covering the World Cup in Qatar. This is true, but in some circles the phrase connotes something more sinister: a death caused by a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Died Suddenly” is the title of an anti-vaccine movie that promotes debunked claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines, framing some deaths that were unrelated to COVID-19 as the result of vaccines.
News of Wahl’s death was posted on a Facebook page called “Died Suddenly/Unwanted Effect,” which describes itself as “sharing stories about people who’ve died suddenly or experienced unwanted effects potentially from c” — an apparent reference to COVID-19 vaccines.
The post about Wahl includes images of two tweets about COVID-19 vaccines, including one from April 7, 2021, saying he was thrilled to get his first dose.
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Gounder, who served on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said in her post that an autopsy was performed by the New York City medical examiner’s office after Wahl’s body was repatriated to the United States. It found that he died from “the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm,” she said.
“The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms,” Gounder wrote. “No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him.”
She then seemed to address several theories about his death.
“His death was unrelated to COVID,” she wrote. “His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death.” (Wahl’s brother had initially speculated that the journalist was murdered, but he told The New York Times he no longer suspects foul play.)
We rate claims that Wahl’s death was caused by a COVID-19 vaccine False.