GB News presenter wrong about booster vaccine deaths

29 April 2022
What was claimed

Official UKHSA data shows booster vaccines are ineffective.

Our verdict

This is based on an inaccurate reading of a vaccine surveillance report, which specifically includes a caveat warning that the data can’t be used to determine vaccine effectiveness.

What was claimed

UKHSA data also shows having a booster vaccine increases your chance of hospitalisation and death.

Our verdict

There may be various reasons why people who have been boosted show higher rates of hospitalisation and death, beyond the fact they have been boosted. For example, a higher proportion of elderly people, who are more vulnerable to Covid-19, have been triple-vaccinated. There is no proof that a booster vaccine increases your chance of dying or being hospitalised.

Why aren’t we talking about this? It seems, if the booster shot is making it thrice as likely that you’re going to be deadsville, that they’re going to carrying you out by the handles, why aren’t we talking about that?

GB News presenter Mark Steyn has claimed in a televised monologue that people who have had a Covid-19 booster vaccine are twice as likely to be infected or hospitalised, and three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than people who had two doses or fewer. 

We have been asked by readers to check this claim. Mr Steyn’s words have also been published in full by the website TCW (formerly The Conservative Woman) and posted to social media

Mr Steyn’s figures are broadly accurate based on official data for England published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), covering the four weeks to 27 March 2022, but he is wrong to claim the booster “increases your chances of hospitalisation and death”.  

As we have written about extensively before, the figures cannot be used to make statements about vaccine effectiveness and have been used many times throughout the pandemic to support vaccine misinformation

Mr Steyn argues that both groups (the triple-vaccinated and those who have received fewer than three doses) are roughly equal in size and so it is “relatively easy to weigh the merits of the third shot upon Group A versus Group B”. 

However, this data is expected to overestimate the unvaccinated population meaning the two groups may not be as similar in size as first appears to be the case.

The UKHSA estimates the number of unvaccinated people by subtracting the number of vaccinated people (which can be accurately counted based on vaccination records) from the total number of people on GP registers through the NIMS system.

However, these GP records are expected to overestimate the total population of England (and therefore the total number of unvaccinated people), as they include people who are still registered with the NHS despite moving abroad, for example, and may double count people registered with more than one GP. 

More importantly, using these figures to argue that the booster vaccine itself may be the reason for the different levels of Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths, ignores any other differences between the two groups which may affect these figures. For example, in every age group over 70, triple-vaccination rates are at more than 90%, and fall with every age group below 70. This means triple-vaccinated people are much older than the general population, and more likely to die in general than those in younger age groups.

The report Mr Steyn is quoting from specifically warns against drawing conclusions based on the raw data, stating: “We present data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths by vaccination status. 

“This raw data should not be used to estimate vaccine effectiveness as the data does not take into account inherent biases present such as differences in risk, behaviour and testing in the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.”

According to the most recent UKHSA vaccine surveillance report, booster vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation for people aged 18 to 64 peaks at 82% and has been found to drop to 54% by 15 weeks post-booster. For people aged 65 and over, booster vaccine efficacy against hospitalisation peaks at 92%, falling to 77% after 15 weeks. 

Booster vaccine effectiveness against death from the Omicron variant (currently the dominant variant in the UK) for the over-50s has been estimated as 95% two or more weeks after the booster. 

Full Fact contacted GB News for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication. 

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After we published this fact check, we contacted GB News to request a correction regarding these claims.

GB News did not respond.

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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 false because the claims made by Mr Steyn, reproduced in the article are inaccurate and based on a flawed interpretation of the data.

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