By: Ankita Kulkarni
March 17 2023
Official numbers published by the government are presented out of context to spread an anti-vaccine narrative.
A weekly vaccine surveillance report published by the U.K. government in March 2022 has become a significant source of misinformation and anti-COVID-19 vaccine narratives. A post on Facebook claims, "92% of Covid Deaths are 'Fully vaccinated,' the Government Study finds." However, we found that the data from the government is being misinterpreted in this post.
The image in the post contains a screenshot of an article by 'Slay News,' which cites an article published by The Expose, a conspiracist website known for spreading COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. The article draws data from the 'COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report week-13,' published by the U.K. Health Security Agency (HSA), on March 31, 2022. Directing us to data on deaths, an official replied, "Put simply when most of the population is vaccinated, most deaths are among vaccinated people. People die all the time, of various causes, regardless of vaccination status."
The office also directed us to data on COVID-19 death rates which was statistically interpreted by vaccination status. The data quotes a senior statistician at ONS, Vahé Nafilyan, saying, "People who had received at least a third dose, or booster, of a COVID-19 vaccine have been less likely to die from COVID-19 since September 2021 compared with people who are unvaccinated (sic)." He also adds, "Today's data are not as a measure of vaccine effectiveness as many other factors can affect mortality rates (sic)."
Although the government data quoted in the Expose article is not inaccurate, it has been presented out of context and omits important information. The report released by the government specifically states, "This raw data should not be used to estimate vaccine effectiveness as the data does not take into account inherent biases present such as differences in risk, behavior, and testing in the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations."
The note at the foot of every data table from Page 41 explains that since a large part of the population is vaccinated, the number of vaccinated people among those who die that year will also increase. However, this cannot be used to assume that the vaccine caused all the deaths. Also, the note adds that the vaccination campaign prioritized individuals who were more susceptible to the risk of severe disease death or hospitalization from COVID-19 or due to other contributing factors, regardless of their vaccination status.
Further, page 45 of the report notes the unadjusted rates of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 vaccinated individuals. A comparison proves that more deaths were recorded among the unvaccinated than vaccinated individuals. Similarly, the vaccine efficacy analyzed in the report on page 47 notes that the impact of vaccination was positive, and COVID-19 antibody levels were also high.
A BBC report published on March 4, 2022, states that according to government data, 92 percent of the population in England was vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine. This also corroborates that the number of individuals vaccinated was high, and so was the number of deaths among the vaccinated.
Logically has previously debunked misleading reports that claimed a link between COVID-19 vaccines and post-vaccination deaths.
The study cited by The Expose does not prove that COVID-19 vaccines are causing more people to die from the virus. Raw data of death rate estimates published on the government website has been misinterpreted and presented without context. Therefore, we have marked the claim as misleading.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.