Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t raise risk of catching and dying from the disease

12 September 2023
What was claimed

The Covid-19 vaccine increases your chance of getting Covid and spreading Covid, and it damages your immune system to such a degree that you have a higher risk of hospitalisation and death.

Our verdict

This is false. A large body of evidence shows that the Covid-19 vaccines protect to some extent against infection, and substantially against hospitalisation and death.

A video falsely claiming that the Covid-19 vaccine raises people’s risk of hospitalisation and death has been shared on Facebook and liked around 2,000 times on Instagram (where it now appears to have been deleted).

As we have said before, when writing about the same claim in another video, it is not true.

Full Fact has seen many posts on social media making false claims about the Covid vaccines, and about the pandemic in general. This could lead people to harm their health by making decisions based on incorrect information.

We have previously fact checked claims about vaccines by the influencer behind this video, who we have approached for comment.

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What the video says

The video shows the influencer who posted them, Chris Preddie, as he watches another video appearing to show a doctor, Dr Charles Hoffe, taking part in an unofficial Covid inquiry in Canada. We approached Dr Hoffe for comment when we first fact checked this.

In the clip of Dr Hoffe, he says: “I'm going to show you the evidence that this so-called vaccine is actually an anti-vaccine, and that it has increased people's risk. It increases your chance of getting Covid, it increases your chance of spreading Covid and it damages your immune system to such a degree that you have a higher risk of hospitalisation and death.”

These claims are false.

Dr Hoffe says in the video that a study of healthcare workers in Cleveland, Ohio substantiates his comments, but it does not.

Why these claims are wrong

The video includes a chart from the Cleveland study which implies a correlation between past vaccine doses and Covid infection during the study period, but the study authors have warned that the explanation for these numbers is not clear, as reported by the fact checking site Logically.

Even if the correlation is real, that also doesn’t necessarily mean the doses caused people to have a higher chance of catching Covid. As we’ve written before, vaccinated people might be more likely to take Covid tests, or report Covid infections. Knowing they are more protected, they might even be more likely to risk catching the disease.

Indeed a different chart from the same study, which compares those who received the bivalent vaccine with those who didn’t, shows that people who received it were less likely to catch Covid, when the data was adjusted to account for some other differences between the groups.

In fact, the study says its findings suggest that the bivalent vaccine was effective to some extent against two strains of Covid, although it did not demonstrate effectiveness against a third.

Speaking to Full Fact via the Science Media Centre for our last check, Dr Lance Turtle, Reader and Honorary Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases, Clinical Infection, Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Liverpool, told us that it was not plausible that more vaccine doses would lead to a higher chance of catching Covid.

Dr Turtle said: “There is no biological basis whatsoever for thinking that the vaccine could result in a state where you were more likely to become infected. To me it seems pretty obvious that [this apparent association] would either be down to exposure, or testing behaviour.

“People who get vaccinated are much more likely to be concerned about Covid and therefore more likely to get tested.”

What we know about the vaccines

Evidence from the UK Health Security Agency’s vaccine surveillance report suggests that the Covid vaccines offer some limited protection against infection with more recent variants of the virus for a short period of time.

Real world data on those aged 65 or older also shows that the vaccine had a substantial protective effect against hospitalisation with Covid, particularly in the months after vaccination.

Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre in the UK also suggests that people who were not vaccinated were far more likely to be admitted to intensive care, compared with those who were.

Mr Preddie does not comment audibly on the video of Dr Hoffe, and his reactions and the captions included with the video give no indication that Dr Hoffe’s claims are false.

A disclaimer on the post says: “The purpose of these videos is to highlight these issues and topics that we face in our community and everyday life. My videos are used solely to provide context to my opinion whether the footage is factual news or not, so stay focused on the bigger picture which is MAD- making a difference.”

Image courtesy of Braňo

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