When someone dies, there is a death certificate that is filled out for official/legal purposes. Death certificates contain a lot of information (some states include more than others), including the causes of death (CoD).
Causes of death refer to the medical conditions that ultimately played some role in the demise of the decedent. To qualify as a CoD, a condition only needs to contribute to the medical decline of the decedent in some way, but doesn’t have to be directly responsible for whatever ultimately killed the person. If someone had high blood pressure, and subsequently suffered a heart attack that led to cardiac arrest which killed them, all three conditions qualify as CoD. On the other hand, this unfortunate fellow’s ingrown toenail is not a cause of death, because it in no way contributed to their demise.
This is from the CDC’s own guidance explaining how to properly fill out CoD’s on a death certificate (you don’t need to understand the difference between Cause A, B, etc for this article):
The critical thing to keep in mind is that the person filling out the death certificate writes a text description of the CoD’s, but doesn’t assign the ICD 10 codes for the CoD’s.
That’s the CDC’s job.
ICD 10 Coding System for CoD’s
There is a fancy coding system that is used to classify the many thousands of medical conditions that can play a role in death known as the International Classification of Diseases. Every few years, it is updated/revised to keep up with new medical (or bureaucratic) developments, as new conditions are discovered and old conditions are reorganized or reclassified.
The current iteration of the ICD that was used for the deaths we’re looking at is the ICD 10 (that’s the 10th version). It is basically a hierarchical classification system:
There are codes for practically every random weird thing you can think of:
These are categories themselves – a code can go as 7 characters long:
ICD 10 Codes for Covid Vaccine Side Effects
There are two ICD 10 codes for vaccine side effects that can be broadly used for the covid vaccines – T88.1 and Y59.0:
T88.1 – Other complications following immunization, not elsewhere classified.