Why might vaccinated people account for a bigger share of Covid-19 deaths than infections?

16 December 2021
What was claimed

In Scotland, the fully vaccinated account for nine in every 10 Covid-19 deaths over the past four months.

Our verdict

Broadly correct. It’s more like eight in 10. People who have been vaccinated at least once account for around nine in 10 Covid-19 deaths.

What was claimed

Vaccinated people account for a higher proportion of Covid-19 deaths than infections. This suggests that the vaccines are actually making the recipients worse once exposed to the alleged Covid-19 virus.

Our verdict

There’s no evidence vaccines make infections more severe. There are other reasons why vaccinated people account for a higher proportion of deaths than infections.

An article from the blog, The Exposé, claims that fully vaccinated people accounted for nine in 10 Covid-19 deaths in Scotland over the past four months. Screenshots of the article’s headline, including this claim, have also circulated on social media.

That’s broadly accurate. Fully vaccinated people have accounted for around eight in 10 Covid-19 deaths over the period, while people who have received at least one dose account for around nine in 10 Covid-19 deaths over the period.

The Exposé also notes that vaccinated people account for a higher proportion of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths than unvaccinated people. As we’ve said before, with so many people in the population vaccinated now, it’s to be expected that a large proportion of cases, hospitalisations and deaths occur among that group.

However, the Exposé also points out that vaccinated people account for a higher proportion of deaths than of infections and even hospitalisations. It questions why the trend is not reversed if vaccines are meant to be more effective at preventing hospitalisation and death.

Vaccination is more effective at reducing serious illness and death than reducing infection. However, there are population factors at play here that could impact the figures in the way the Exposé describes; for example, age. 

Vaccine uptake has been highest in older age groups and lowest in younger age groups. 

Young people are also far less likely to have a severe illness or die from Covid-19 than older people. 

So that might explain why a relatively high number of cases but low number of deaths are among unvaccinated individuals. Lots of young, unvaccinated people are being infected but  not dying. This may mean the numbers look different when examining the overall populations rather than the individual risks and benefits.

So it’s not true that “the data suggests that the vaccines are actually making the recipients worse once exposed to the alleged Covid-19 virus” as the article goes on to hypothesise.

There are genuine reasons why the trend may be as observed. There’s no evidence vaccines make infections worse.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because the figures for Covid-19 deaths among vaccinated and unvaccinated people are broadly accurate while the claim that the vaccine is making infections worse is unevidenced.

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