A shattered family who lost their teen son last weekend have been subjected to vile abuse after a tweet falsely linked his death to a Covid vaccine.
Backlash is growing after a former journalist shockingly – and completely inaccurately – claimed a Sydney teen’s tragic death was connected to a Covid vaccine.
Last Saturday, 17-year-old Tom Van Dijk died suddenly after suffering a cardiac arrest while swimming with his family.
He was rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital, but was unable to be saved.
The Year 12 student’s death was random – but within hours, an social media user had posted a flase claim about his death, sparking a conspiracy theory that ended in his shattered family being subjected to horrendous abuse by the anti-vax community.
The night after the St Pius X College student’s death, former ABC reporter and ex-pharmaceuticals executive Virginia Nicholls took to Twitter to claim the death was linked to the Pfizer vaccine.
“A Year 12 student from a Sydney Catholic College has reportedly died of a heart attack shortly after receiving the Pfizer jab at the mass vaccination clinic at Homebush,” Ms Nicholls tweeted on Sunday evening.
“Unconfirmed reports of two other teen deaths.”
That was all it took for the rumour to spread like wildfire, and within hours, anti-vaxxers were hounding Tom’s family, friends and school, with some incorrectly claiming a “suppression order” had prevented the teen from being identified, and Pfizer being mentioned.
Others seized on the chance to claim vaccinated teens were being roped into a so-called “experiment”.
But the claim regarding Tom’s death was completely inaccurate, and there has also been no other confirmation of any teen deaths linked to the Covid vaccine.
In an extraordinary public statement, St Pius X College principal John Couani hit out at the “many insensitive and grossly inaccurate reports on social media” and demanded respect be shown to the devastated Van Dijk family.
“The College and Tom’s family wish to make it very clear that: Tom was not vaccinated. He was not eligible for vaccination due to his age. St Pius X College is not located in one of the Sydney metropolitan LGAs of concern and there has not been any vaccination program offered to our Year 12 students by the NSW Government at this point.”
He added that Tom had tested negative to Covid-19 and that there were “no mental health and wellbeing concerns”.
“It is very disappointing that a statement such as this needs to be made and the College now asks that respect is shown to allow for the family and community to grieve the loss of this brilliant and talented young man,” he concluded.
Ms Nicholls later deleted the tweet and apologised for her false claim and the distress it had caused, but it continues to circulate among certain anti-vax communities.
“I’ve received messages from friends of the Sydney boy who died of a heart attack, claiming he didn’t have the vaccine. I removed the post within minutes of being contacted & have sincerely apologised to the school principal & parents,” she posted on Facebook after the backlash grew.
“This was a genuine & terrible error of judgment, for which I am dreadfully sorry & deeply regret. While I did not identify either him or the school, I would never intentionally mislead or cause pain to others. My entire reason for being is to help, not harm.
“I received the information from a highly credible doctor & checked before posting. I am scrupulous in my research & always reference. I will also immediately correct if there are mistakes. I always strive for accuracy but I’m human.
“I hope that my family is not judged. It was solely my appalling mistake, which I will spend my life regretting for the unintended pain caused. I pray in time I’m forgiven.”
Ms Nicholls told the Daily Mail she had received “death threats” in the wake of the scandal and claimed she was not “anti-vaccination”, despite regularly posting anti-Covid vaccination propaganda on her social media profiles.
Originally published as Outrage over false claims Sydney teen’s tragic death linked to Pfizer jab
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