Vaccines reduce the risk of death but don’t eliminate it altogether

26 July 2021
What was claimed

Unvaccinated people are not dying from Covid-19.

Our verdict

This is untrue, unvaccinated people are dying from Covid-19.

What was claimed

Vaccinated people are dying from Covid-19.

Our verdict

The Covid-19 vaccines are very effective. But no vaccine is 100% effective and therefore there will be breakthrough cases.

A widely shared Facebook post asks “If the jabbed are apparently dying from the unjabbed. Why are the unjabbed not dying? And why are the jabbed dying?” 

As we have written about before, the Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A recent Public Health England (PHE) study, for example, showed that two doses of vaccine are 96% effective against hospitalisation of patients infected with the delta variant. 

However, no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing everyone from getting a disease, and some ‘breakthrough’ cases in vaccinated people are expected. Although the virus can be passed on from both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, we know that people who are vaccinated are less likely to transmit the virus.

A July 2021 publication from PHE showed that amongst cases of the delta variant (which is now dominant in the UK), there have been 257 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in England since February 2021. Of these, just under half had received two doses of vaccine,  17% were amongst those who’d had the first dose and tested positive after a 21 day period (the time taken to build immunity), and 36% of those deaths were amongst unvaccinated people. However, this does not mean that the vaccines aren’t working, or are themselves causing the deaths. 

It is important to remember that although the risk of death with Covid-19 is much reduced with vaccination, because so many people in the UK have been vaccinated, and uptake has been highest and provided first to the most vulnerable people, it is expected that many people who become unwell with Covid-19 will now be among those who are vaccinated. 

As statisticians Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, ​​chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, and Anthony Masters, a statistical ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society, wrote in the Guardian, due to the age-related nature of Covid-19 deaths: someone aged 80 who is fully vaccinated has a similar risk profile to an unvaccinated person aged around 50.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.