FULL CLAIM: “Poster Boy for Vaccination Campaign Dies Suddenly at Just 4 Years Old”; "the CDC needs to stop telling parents to vaccinate their children"
On 13 November 2022, the website the Western Journal published an article with the headline “Poster Boy for Vaccination Campaign Dies Suddenly at Just 4 Years Old”. Posts sharing screenshots of this headline and the photo of a child went viral on Facebook and Instagram, receiving more than 14,000 interactions, according to social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.
Some posts explicitly cited COVID-19 vaccines as the cause of death and blamed public health authorities and vaccine manufacturers for the child’s death. For example, one post claimed, “jab manufacturers have admitted they lied about it being safe and hundreds of thousands of people have already died from it, or are permanently maimed”.
And another post on Instagram stated that “the CDC needs to stop telling parents to vaccinate their children”. These posts sometimes juxtaposed the child’s photo with a promotional image of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, implying that the boy’s death was linked to COVID-19 vaccination.
However, other posts were more subtle. These posts didn’t mention COVID-19 vaccines but hinted at or cited arguments that commonly go hand-in-hand with COVID-19 vaccine skepticism, such as the Nuremberg trials or that young people are suddenly dying in huge numbers. One example is this Instagram post that claimed, “Your weekly reminder that way too many young/healthy people are dying”. Other posts contained hashtags such as #nuremberg, #childsacrifices, #crimesagainsthumanity, and #faucifraud (examples here and here).
Earlier reviews by Health Feedback reported on the inaccurate and unsupported claims that the COVID-19 vaccines violate the Nuremberg code and are associated with sudden deaths in young, healthy people. In addition, the term “dies suddenly” mentioned in the headline of the Western Journal article has been used widely to convey the message that certain unexpected deaths are linked to COVID-19 vaccination, akin to dog whistling.
Because the headline of the Western Journal article didn’t provide further context, such posts can mislead readers into believing that the COVID-19 vaccine had caused the child’s death. Health Feedback and others reviewed similar claims linking a person’s death with COVID-19 vaccination in the past and found them to be unsupported and misleading.
Similarly, this child’s death is unrelated to vaccination. As we explain below, an autopsy determined that the child died from a lung infection. The vaccination campaign in which the boy participated was also unrelated to COVID-19 vaccines.
Several Argentinian news outlets identified the boy who appears in the photo as Santino Godoy Blanco. The boy was featured with other children in a 2022 national vaccination campaign by the Argentinian Ministry of Health.
Contrary to the impression given by some posts, this campaign wasn’t for COVID-19 vaccination but for vaccination against measles, rubella, mumps, and polio. These vaccines are part of the national childhood immunization schedule, and the Ministry of Health carries out a national monitoring campaign approximately every four years, encouraging the population to vaccinate.
According to local news outlets, an autopsy revealed that the four-year-old child died on 3 November 2022 of double pneumonia, a lung inflammation of the air sacs affecting both lungs. This condition can be caused by infection with various microorganisms, including fungi, bacteria, and viruses. However, the microorganism that caused the child’s infection “has not yet been identified”, according to the local newspaper La Nacion.
The article in the Western Journal acknowledged that pneumonia was the cause of the child’s death. Yet, many users who shared the article still suggested that the boy’s death was linked to COVID-19 vaccines. Although local media didn’t report the child’s COVID-19 vaccination status, this is irrelevant because the cause of the death was a lung infection, an event that has no relation with the COVID-19 vaccines or any other vaccine.
The child’s mother told La Nacion that she took her child to a hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the day before his death, when the child had fever and vomiting. However, healthcare personnel sent them home on two occasions. The child received different diagnoses on these two occasions, including laryngitis and gastroenteritis.
The mother also explained that Godoy Blanco was undergoing treatment for bronchospasms. A bronchospasm is a sudden tightening of the muscles that line the airways in your lungs. Although anyone can develop bronchospasm, this condition is most common in children and adults older than 65 and in people with lung conditions such as allergies and asthma.
In none of the local news reports did the child’s mother mention vaccines. Speaking to the local newspaper Clarin, she criticized unjustified delays by the hospital staff in providing medical attention and treatment. Clarin reported that, for this reason, the mother filed a complaint for malpractice and abandonment of a person at the Functional Investigation Unit (UFI) of Flagrancy and Judgment No. 22 of Malvinas Argentinas.
In summary, social media posts implying that a four-year-old child, who was the poster child for a childhood vaccination campaign in Argentina, died because of COVID-19 vaccination or vaccination in general are inaccurate and misleading. The child died of pneumonia caused by an as-yet-unidentified microorganism
UPDATE (21 November 2022):
Following this review’s publication, the Western Journal corrected its article’s headline, removing the expression “dies suddenly” (see archive of the corrected article) and also updated its Instagram post to clarify that the boy didn’t die because of COVID-19 vaccination (see archive of the corrected Instagram post). The review was updated to explain why the expression “dies suddenly” was potentially misleading.