Poisoned by a Vaccine– and Assaulted by a Turtle

Recently, this list has been making the rounds in anti-vaccine circles, as proof that vaccine-related deaths are real. ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes are part of a standardized system used to facilitate communication between medical experts, researchers, and insurance companies. Anti-vaxxers believe that, because they include poisoning by vaccines, that must mean that vaccine poisoning is a real and common thing.

At first glance, it certainly looks suspicious. Why would insurance companies even have the option of billing for vaccine poisoning, unless it’s something that actually happens with some degree of regularity?

In short, the answer is that there are ICD-9 codes for everything. And I mean everything. Not only can you also find poisoning entries for every conceivable medical substance that exists, but the ICD-9 list, which has over 68,000 entries, also includes some pretty bizarre and even inconceivable injuries. Here are a few of my favorites from both ICD-9 and its follow-up version, ICD-10.

974.1: Poisoning by purine derivative diuretics including theobromine

Literally, actually death by chocolate.

V91.07XA: Burn due to water skis on fire, initial encounter

Distinct from its counterpart entry for people who have had subsequent encounters with burning water skis.

T62.0X3: Toxic effects of ingested mushrooms, assault

Not just poisoning from mushrooms, but, y’know… those times when you’re assaulted with mushrooms. Or by mushrooms. I’m not sure.

W59.22XD: Struck by a turtle, subsequent encounter

This person hasn’t just been hit by a turtle– not bitten, but struck by a turtle– but it’s happened more than once.

V97.33XD: Sucked into a jet engine, subsequent encounter

The only person in the world with worse luck than the victim of a serial attack-turtle… was apparently sucked into a jet engine and survived long enough to be sucked into another jet engine later on.

W55.29XA: Other contact with a cow, subsequent encounter

“Other” contact with a cow. My brain goes to some strange and disturbing places trying to imagine what gets this entry.

V00.01XD: Pedestrian on foot injured in collision with roller skater, subsequent encounter.

I hate it when I get hit by a roller skater more than once.

X52.XXXA: Prolonged stay in weightless environment.

Well, astronauts need medical care too, right?

V95.45: Spacecraft explosion injuring occupant

Because when a rocket ship explodes, the occupants are definitely going to survive long enough to be treated and billed for their injuries.

W22.0XD: Walked into a lamppost, subsequent encounter

Okay, guys, we all do things when we’re drunk or texting, but I think this is something you get a pass for exactly one time. If you’re having subsequent collisions with lamp posts, you need help.

Bottom line? Yes, there are insurance code entries for poisoning by vaccines. But that doesn’t mean that vaccine poisoning is an epidemic, or even that it has necessarily ever happened. Unless you’re also willing to use the ICD-9 and ICD-10 as evidence that our Reptilian Overlords are covering up an epidemic of turtle attacks, it’s patently nonsense to use it as evidence of an epidemic of vaccine-related poisoning.