A picture of an elephant in a room with the words “The unvaccinated aren’t dying” has been shared on Instagram.
The post is similar to another we have previously written about, and is somewhat vague in its claim.
If the post is referring to people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19, it is not true that they are not dying, whether from Covid-19 or other causes.
If the post means that unvaccinated people are not dying as a result of a vaccine they haven’t received, then this of course is true—but it could misleadingly suggest that large numbers of vaccinated people are dying from vaccine-related causes.
While a small number of deaths due to the Covid-19 vaccines have been recorded in the UK, vaccination is estimated to have saved a far greater number of lives.
Sadly, unvaccinated people are dying
In the broadest possible terms, the claim that “the unvaccinated aren’t dying” would suggest that no person who has not been vaccinated against Covid-19 has died of any cause since the vaccine rollout began in the UK in December 2020.
This, of course, is not the case. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published data showing mortality rates for all causes of death, by vaccination status. This data shows that between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022, 107,035 people who were unvaccinated died in the UK.
Unvaccinated people are dying of Covid-19
Another possible interpretation of the post is that people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 are not dying of the disease.
This is also not the case.
The same ONS data shows that between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022, 37,961 unvaccinated people died with Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates. And Covid-19 itself is the underlying cause of death in the vast majority of cases when it is mentioned.
Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that overall being vaccinated is very effective at preventing death from Covid-19, including with the Omicron variant.
Covid-19 vaccines are safe
Finally, it’s possible that the claim that “the unvaccinated are dying” is intended to suggest that vaccinated people are dying of vaccine-related causes, which are not affecting those who are not vaccinated.
While it’s self-evident that unvaccinated people are not dying of vaccine-related causes, there is no evidence to suggest that vaccine-related conditions are killing large numbers of vaccinated people. And there is good evidence that the vaccines have saved many lives.
The UK does report data on the number of deaths that were due to the Covid vaccines. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 37 of these deaths in England and none in Wales registered up to the end of May 2022. There were a further nine in Scotland up to the end of May 2022, according to the National Records of Scotland, and another one in Northern Ireland up to the end of March 2022, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. It is possible that the UK total may rise, if there’s been a delay in registering some deaths due to the vaccines.
The MHRA has recorded 81 deaths from a type of blood clot that it has said may be linked with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but we can’t say how many of these were caused by the vaccine. Death certificates are the best source of data on deaths by cause.
In contrast, by April 2022, more than 140 million doses of the Covid vaccines had been administered in the UK.
At the end of last year, the UKHSA and researchers at the University of Cambridge estimated that the vaccination programme had prevented about 127,500 deaths in England alone.
A recent Imperial College London study estimated that almost 20 million lives may have been saved by the Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.
Overall, when looking at age-standardised mortality rates from the ONS, unvaccinated people had higher mortality rates between January 2021 and March 2022—both in terms of deaths involving Covid, and deaths from other causes.
Image courtesy of Martin Sanchez