Covid vaccine hasn't caused increase in care home deaths

12 February 2021
What was claimed

Deaths in care homes are up 81% since the start of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Our verdict

Deaths in care homes are up about that much since before the vaccination rollout, although we haven’t been able to replicate the 81% figure exactly. These are not deaths due to the vaccine. They are largely due to Covid-19 itself and reporting delays.

A Facebook post claims that deaths in care homes are up 81% since the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

It’s correct that care home deaths are up since the vaccination rollout started, but it is wrong to suggest that these are deaths caused by the vaccine. 

They are, largely, deaths due to the virus itself, and reporting delays.

What has happened in care homes?

The vaccine rollout started on 8 December, though vaccinations among care home residents in England didn’t get underway until Christmas week.

In the week to 25 December, 2,060 deaths in care homes in England were notified to the Care Quality Commission. This rose as high as 3,746 in the week to 23 January, an 82% increase.

This doesn’t cover the deaths of all care home residents, just those who died in care homes as opposed to in hospital or elsewhere.

In the week to 25 December the deaths of 2,529 care home residents were notified in England which increased to 4,650 in the week to 22 January (the latest data available before the Facebook post was in question published). This is an 84% increase. 

Regardless of the exact figure, we know that death registrations among care home residents did not increase because of the vaccination programme, but for two reasons. 

Firstly, Covid itself spread widely in December and, subsequently, the number of care home residents dying increased. For example, of the 2,529 deaths in the week to 25 December, 746 involved Covid-19 and 1,783 didn’t. In the week to 22 January, of the 4,650 deaths, 2,365 involved Covid-19 and 2,285 didn’t.

The increase in deaths of care home residents is mostly the result of increased Covid-19 deaths.

Secondly, some deaths which occurred in late December were not registered immediately due to delays over Christmas, and so pushed into January. This made the jump between late December and early January look larger than it actually was, for both Covid and non-Covid deaths (though there was also a genuine increase in Covid deaths between December and January as mentioned).

After this article was originally published, the media organisation UK Column, which publicised the 81% figure on 1 February discussed some of the points made. 

One point they made was that our original article looked at the change in care home deaths before and after 8 December, when the first vaccine was administered, but that care home vaccinations didn’t actually start until later, from Christmas week.

We are grateful for that point and have edited the piece accordingly, though, in practice it doesn’t make much difference to the overall findings. The increase in deaths after vaccinations in care homes was largely due to deaths from Covid-19.

This is evidenced by the sharp rise in Covid-19 deaths notified to the CQC, and also as judged by medical professionals on the death certificates of care home residents

Vaccine safety

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has been monitoring reports of adverse effects during the vaccine rollout and recently wrote that the data “shows that the safety of these vaccines remains as high as expected from the clinical trial data that supported the approvals.”

It notes that you would expect to see deaths anyway after vaccination, given the most vulnerable are being vaccinated as a priority, but that, on investigation, it did not appear vaccination played a role in any of the deaths reported as suspicious.

Another indication that the vaccination isn’t responsible for the increased number of care home deaths is that deaths also rose in other groups, who were much less likely to be vaccinated at the time.

As with care home residents, deaths registered among non-care home residents fell in the last few weeks of 2020, and then rose considerably. 

 

As mentioned, the fall in late December is likely due to a delay in registrations rather than a fall in deaths actually occurring. 

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 missing context because these deaths were not due to the vaccine, but mirror increased deaths from Covid-19 itself, also seen in unvaccinated groups.

Correction 24 February 2021

This article was updated to reflect the fact that care home vaccinations in England started to be rolled out closer to Christmas.

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