The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant people, and the World Health Organization says the vaccines are safe for them. Yet online articles cite a Canadian doctor who falsely claims that the vaccines have caused an unusually high number of stillbirths in Canadian hospitals. A hospital representative told us there was “no truth to this claim.”
Pregnant people have an increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reports that among delivery hospitalizations from March 2020 to September 2021, women with COVID-19 were at increased risk for stillbirth.
The CDC says that implementing COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy, is critical to reducing the impact of COVID-19 on stillbirths.
But Dr. Daniel Nagase, a Canadian family physician, has falsely claimed that the vaccines are the cause of an “increase in stillbirths” across Canada, with one birthing center in Vancouver having “13 stillbirths in a 24-hour period.”
Conservative outlets are spreading Nagase’s unfounded claim. The Gateway Pundit, a website that has repeatedly spread misinformation, carried a headline on Dec. 11 that said: “Doctor Warns Stillbirths Are Rampant Among Fully Vaccinated Mothers, Launches Investigation.”
Trending Politics, another conservative website, borrowed content from the Gateway Pundit story and ran a similar headline: “SHOCK REPORT: Rampant Stillbirths Among Fully Vaccinated Mothers Concerning.”
But Canadian health officials have refuted Nagase’s claim.
‘No Truth’ to Claim About Stillbirth Data
In a video shared in the Gateway Pundit article, Nagase named Dr. Mel Bruchet — a former family doctor from Vancouver who has also advocated for the use of ivermectin on COVID-19 patients — as the individual who shared the information about the Vancouver stillbirths with him.
“That is what I heard, but the thing is I also heard a similar story out in Waterloo, Ontario. So, in Waterloo, Ontario, I have a more reliable statistic that there was 86 stillbirths between January and July,” Nagase said. “Normally, it’s only five or six stillbirths every year. So, about one stillbirth every two months is the usual rate. So, to suddenly get to 86 stillbirths in six months, that’s highly unusual. But, the most important confirmation that we have from the Waterloo, Ontario report was that all of the 86 stillbirths were fully vaccinated.”
Nagase nodded his head “yes” when asked in the video if he meant all the stillbirths involved fully vaccinated mothers.
But Celso Pereira, a spokesperson for the regional health authority Vancouver Coastal Health, told us in an email that VCH was “aware of disinformation spreading on social media regarding stillbirths at Lions Gate Hospital (LGH) as a result of mothers having been vaccinated against COVID-19.”
“There is no truth to this claim and the individuals spreading this false information have no affiliation to either Lions Gate Hospital or Vancouver Coastal Health,” Pereira said.
“There has been no notable change to the incidence of stillbirths in the VCH region throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This type of disinformation adds unnecessary stress to expecting parents who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, on health-care staff who must reassure their patients, and on the health-care system, as resources are stretched further during the ongoing pandemic response,” Pereira said.
“COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for pregnant women and safe for both mother and fetus,” Pereira also said.
Dr. Peter Potts, joint chief of staff at Grand River Hospital in the Waterloo region of Ontario, told the Canadian news site CityNews that 12 stillbirths occurred in the last fiscal year between both Grand River Hospital and Cambridge Memorial Hospital in Cambridge, Ontario.
“This year, we have had 982 deliveries in Cambridge and four still-births,” Kristin Wadsworth, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, said in the CityNews article. “That is a still-birth rate of 0.41%, which is our average.”
Potts also said, “we feel COVID vaccinations during pregnancy are a normal part to prenatal care and the obstetricians and midwives in the community strongly support the vaccination during pregnancy. There is a growing body of evidence that the vaccination is safe.”
On its website, the CDC says “the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.” In fact, the CDC says, “people who have COVID-19 during pregnancy are at increased risk of preterm birth and stillbirth.”
This isn’t the first time that he has attracted the attention of Canadian health officials. Nagase triggered a public health warning from the Alberta Health Service in October, after he claimed online to have treated COVID-19 patients with the unapproved drug ivermectin while he acted as a fill-in doctor at AHS.
“Neither the veterinary nor human drug versions of ivermectin has been deemed safe or effective for use in treating or preventing COVID-19,” AHS said in its statement on Twitter. “It is extremely disappointing that someone would spread misinformation about COVID-19 treatment in this way,” the health service’s statement said.
The CBC reported that, following the incident, Nagase wasn’t scheduled to work as a fill-in physician at AHS and that the health service would conduct a review.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Risk for Stillbirth Among Women with and Without COVID-19 at Delivery Hospitalization — United States, March 2020 — September 2021.” Updated 26 Nov 2021.
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“Nagase, Daniel Yoshio” webpage. College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia. Accessed 13 Dec 2021.
Parks, Gord. “Dr. Nagase Files Conflicts of Interest Complaints Against B.C. Top Docs.” Brightlight News. 23 Nov 2021.
Powe, Alicia. “(VIDEO) Doctor Warns Stillbirths Are Rampant Among Fully Vaccinated Mothers, Launches Investigation.” Gateway Pundit. 11 Dec 2021
Risdon, Melanie. “WATCH: Emergency doctor says authorities are ‘standing in the way of life-saving medications’.” Western Standard. 6 Oct 2021
Salvatore, Johnny. “SHOCK REPORT: Rampant Stillbirths Among Fully Vaccinated Mothers Concerning.” Trending Politics. 11 Dec 2021.
Snowdon, Wallis. “Doctor who says he gave ivermectin to rural Alberta COVID-19 patients prompts warning from health authority.” CBC News. 8 Oct 2021.
Spencere, Saranac Hale. “Evidence Points to Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines for Pregnant People.” FactCheck.org. Updated 16 Aug 2021.
Van Beusekom, Mary. “COVID-19 tied to higher risk of stillbirth, maternal death.” Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. 22 Nov 2021.
Vancouver Coastal Health (@VCHhealthcare). “Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is aware of rumours and disinformation spreading on social media regarding stillbirths at Lions Gate Hospital (LGH) as a result of mothers having been vaccinated against COVID-19.” Twitter. 24 Nov 2021.
This article was written by Brea Jones during her time as an NABJ/Facebook Fact-Checking Fellow at the University of Pennslyvania’s publication Factcheck.org.