ONS data shows lower death rates in people vaccinated against Covid-19

23 August 2023
What was claimed

ONS data shows unvaccinated people in the UK had lower all cause mortality than people who had the vaccine.

Our verdict

The data shows the opposite of this.

What was claimed

UK data shows high rates of vaccine-induced mortality.

Our verdict

The data does not say why people have died, only whether they have been vaccinated. It also shows a lower mortality rate in vaccinated people. The actual number of recorded deaths due to the vaccines is very small.

A widely shared Facebook video falsely claims that UK data shows people vaccinated against Covid-19 have a higher death rate than unvaccinated people. In fact, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the reverse.

The video was posted in April 2023, but is still being viewed and commented on.

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What the video shows

The video is clipped from a panel discussion hosted by US Senator Ron Johnson. It shows an insurance analyst, Josh Stirling, discussing his analysis of UK government data.

In the video Mr Stirling states “people in the UK who took the vaccine have a 26% higher mortality rate. The people who are under the age of 50 who took the vaccine now have a 49% higher mortality rate. And worst of all, the people who only took one dose of the vaccine have approximately a 145% [...] worse mortality rate”.

Later in the video, he says that this represents “higher vaccine-induced mortality.”

The problem with these claims

Mr Stirling does not explain how his analysis was done, but he illustrates it with a chart that claims to show the “Age-Stratified [sic] Relative Mortality Rate” per 100,000 person-years for all ages and all causes of death in the UK in May 2022.

We have not been able to find this data for the whole UK, but the ONS publishes it for England (assuming Mr Stirling’s chart was meant to show age-standardised mortality rates (ASMR)).

ASMR is different from a simple death rate. It is a way to compare different populations taking into account their varying age distributions, helping us see more accurate differences in mortality. It lets us compare rates of death between groups with different sizes and different proportions of people of different ages. The higher the ASMR for a group, the more likely someone in that group will die based on deaths in the given time period.

In December 2022, when Mr Stirling was speaking, the latest data showed that the ASMR for people ever vaccinated against Covid was slightly lower (797.0) than for people never vaccinated against it (872.9). 

A note on this data says it was provisional, and new data published in February 2023 now shows a vaccinated ASMR of 941.2 in May 2022 compared with 1,147.5 for unvaccinated people.

In short, people who had never been vaccinated against Covid were in general more likely to die, when you standardise the ages of the two groups—and this has been true in every month for which we have data, from January 2021 to December 2022. 

Is this about the vaccines?

We don’t know how Mr Stirling conducted his analysis, so we don’t know why his method made the death rate for vaccinated people look higher, as he claimed.

However, it is still wrong to suggest that the Covid vaccine itself was necessarily the whole or the main explanation for the difference between these rates, which Mr Stirling did when he said the data showed “vaccine induced mortality”. 

The latest ONS data available when Mr Stirling was speaking includes this warning: “Caution must be taken when comparing mortality rates and counts as the characteristics of people in the different vaccination status groups, such as health, may differ, particularly due to the prioritisation of the vaccine to more clinically vulnerable people. While differences in the ages of people in the vaccination status groups are accounted for, other differences, such as ethnicity or level of deprivation, may remain, which can affect the mortality rates and counts.”

Over 151 million doses of Covid vaccines have been administered in the UK to date. From March 2020 to June 2023 there have been 64 deaths in England and Wales with Covid vaccines named on the death certificate.

We have contacted Mr Stirling via his website but have not heard back at the time of publication.

Featured image courtesy of Spencerbdavis

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