Boris Johnson misspoke about unvaccinated people in ICU

10 January 2022
What was claimed

90% of people in ICU with Covid-19 have not been vaccinated.

Our verdict

This is not supported by the latest evidence, which shows that 61% of admissions in the first half of December 2021 were unvaccinated people. Around 90% had not received a booster dose.

90% of the people who are in ICU with Covid have not been vaccinated.

Boris Johnson has told Sky News that 90% of people in intensive care units (ICU) with Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

While the Covid vaccines are definitely very effective at preventing serious illness, this figure is not correct, based on the data we have available.

The Prime Minister’s office has confirmed to Full Fact that he misspoke, and was talking about the proportion who had not received a booster dose, specifically.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

What does the data say?

When the Prime Minister was speaking, the latest figures from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) covered the first half of December 2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In this period, these figures show that about 61% of ICU admissions with Covid-19 were in people who were unvaccinated.

The same data shows that about 91% of these admissions had not received a booster dose, which is what Downing Street told us the Prime Minister meant to say.

A spokesperson from his office told us: “The 90% figure refers to the percentage of people not vaccinated with a booster in ICU.”

Mr Johnson also used this figure in a public statement on 4 January 2022, when he correctly specified that he was speaking about people who had not received boosters.

These figures refer to admissions, so the proportions of people “in” ICU at a given time may also be somewhat different, if vaccinated and unvaccinated people tend to stay in ICU for different lengths of time. It is also possible that the proportions may have changed since the first half of December, but more recent data is not yet available.

We have written before about confusion over the share of Covid ICU admissions who are vaccinated. For a period in the autumn, a small majority of admissions were vaccinated, but the most recent data shows that the majority have been unvaccinated since November.

Since the vast majority of UK adults have been vaccinated against Covid, especially those who are most vulnerable, this shows that unvaccinated people make up a very disproportionate share of serious cases.

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Sky News to request a correction regarding this claim.

Sky News did not respond.

It’s not good enough.

Will you add your name for better standards in public debate?

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.