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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of March 30, 2023

COVID vaccine boosters and deaths in the UK

The Claim:

A platform claims the UK government data confirms 1 in every 310 people died within 48 days after receiving the first COVID vaccine booster.

The Facts:

A close look at the data on which this assertion is based reveals the fatal flaws in this claim.

The platform cites an analysis by the Office for National Statistics in determining the rate of COVID-related death among those that received at least 3 doses of COVID vaccine by Dec 31, 2021.

The first factor to note is the average age of the population analyzed. The study’s “population included adults aged between 18 and 100 years, with a mean of 60.8 years and a standard deviation of 16 years.” This tells us that the study didn’t analyze deaths in the general population (where the median age is 40.7 years). Instead, it was looking at a significantly older population (60.8 years), where many factors unrelated to vaccination could contribute to non-COVID vulnerability.

In addition, the same Office for National Statistics stated in 2022 that “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.”

This claim attempts to imply vaccine-related risks by using a dataset that was heavily biased towards an older population more vulnerable to COVID, and that was compiled by an organization that publicly supported the life-saving value of COVID vaccination.

Do mRNA vaccinations make you more vulnerable to the virus?

The Claim:

An Australian senator claims that the Australian people were deceived into believing that mRNA vaccinations would protect them from COVID-19, and claims that data now shows that vaccinated Australians are more vulnerable to the virus than unvaccinated Australians.

The Facts:

As we’ve pointed out, it’s important to look closely at the data used to support claims like this one. In this case, the data doesn’t show what this senator thinks that it shows. Our senator’s claims fall into the base-rate fallacy. In this case, the base-rate fallacy occurs when you ignore the probability that someone is vaccinated in the first place. For example, in Australia, over 97.5% of people 16+ have had at least one dose of COVID vaccine.

The senator is comparing raw numbers of COVID cases rather than looking at the rate of COVID infection by vaccine status. If you look at the raw infection numbers, it does appear that there are more cases in the vaccinated population than in the unvaccinated population. But if you look at the data showing the rate of infection, it is quite clear that you are much more likely to get COVID if you are unvaccinated. This page shows the number of cases and hospitalizations in Australia by vaccine status. The top half of the page tracks the rate of COVID infection relative to the number of vaccine doses received, showing that the more vaccine doses received, the less likely an Australian was to be infected with COVID.

Has COVID killed more people than all world wars?

The Claim:

A tweet links to a video interview to claim that the number of U.S. people killed in world wars is less than the number of people killed by COVID, vaccine deaths, and early treatment denial.

The Facts:

This isn’t the first tweet we’ve addressed from this self-described equity investment executive with no medical or public health background. In this particular claim, he states the obvious. Throughout history, plagues and pandemics have killed hundreds of millions of people, and there’s no question that the COVID pandemic caused far more deaths in our country than world wars. The number of United States deaths for all foreign wars is just over 680,000, compared to over 1.1 million deaths in our country due to COVID.

Of course, our tweeter does not stop at the obvious. He blames vaccines as well as the virus for the U.S. COVID death toll, but this claim is easily disproved. If vaccines were responsible for deaths during the pandemic, the communities with the highest vaccination rates would have a higher rate of deaths. However, data shows that the opposite is true. The communities with the highest vaccination rates had lower death rates than the communities with low vaccination rates.

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