Claim on COVID-19 in UK ignores data showing death more likely for unvaccinated – PolitiFact

PolitiFact | Claim on COVID-19 in UK ignores data showing death more likely for unvaccinated

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In the United Kingdom, “81% of COVID-19 deaths are among the vaccinated.”

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Claim on COVID-19 in UK ignores data showing death more likely for unvaccinated

If Your Time is short

  • The statistic cited by the claim applies to Scotland, not the entire United Kingdom, and it gives a misleading impression of what an official report says.

  • The report says the rate of COVID-19 death in Scotland is much higher among unvaccinated people.

A long headline on a United Kingdom website painted an apocalyptic picture of the pandemic there, starting with this claim:

“The UK has Fallen — 81% of Covid-19 deaths are among the Vaccinated.”

The article was from The Exposé, which says it was “set up due to a lack of alternatives to the lying mainstream media.” 

The article was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

There are two things wrong. 

The claim refers to the UK, which comprises England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. But it cites statistics only for Scotland.

A full reading of the statistics shows that the unvaccinated in Scotland die at a rate much higher than the fully vaccinated.

Putting the statistic in context

The article makes its claim by adding up figures in Table 18 from a Public Health Scotland report about COVID-19 deaths in Scotland from Aug. 21 to Sept. 17.

Adding the columns of numbers in the table shows 302 deaths during the period and that 243, or nearly 81%, of the people were fully or partially vaccinated.

The table itself tells a different story, however. It reports on the weekly death rates per 100,000 people during the period.

For each of the four weeks, the death rate was lowest among people who had received two doses of the vaccine.

In the final week of the period — Sept. 11-17 — the rate of death among the unvaccinated was calculated to be 8.38 per 100,000 people. That’s more than four times higher than the rate for the fully vaccinated (1.93) and higher than the rate for people who had received one dose of vaccine (4.93).

Text below the table states:

“Age-standardized mortality rates for COVID-19 deaths shown in Table 18 are lower for people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine compared to individuals that are unvaccinated or have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is comparable with data published by the Office for National Statistics which showed the risk of death involving COVID-19 was consistently lower for people who had received two vaccinations compared to one or no vaccination, as shown by the weekly age standardized mortality rates for deaths involving COVID-19.”

The claim also ignores two other important points about vaccinations in Scotland that help explain why the raw number of deaths is higher among the vaccinated:

  • The vast majority of residents are vaccinated. Of Scotland’s population age 12 and over, 80.9% had received two vaccination doses as of Oct. 12, according to the UK Health Security Agency. Each of the other UK nations is within two percentage points of that rate. By comparison, 56% of the U.S. population was vaccinated as of Oct. 14, according to Our World in Data.

  • Since Scotland rolled out vaccinations, 79.5% of the COVID-19 deaths are among people age 70 and over, according to the Scotland health report.

Our ruling

A headline widely shared on Facebook claimed that in the United Kingdom, “81% of COVID-19 deaths are among the vaccinated.” 

The statistic alluded to by the claim applies to Scotland, not the entire United Kingdom, and it gives a misleading impression of what an official report says. The report says the rate of COVID-19 death in Scotland is much more likely among unvaccinated people.

We rate the claim False.

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