Covid-19 vaccines are not being used to treat strep A or scarlet fever

17 January 2023
What was claimed

They’re using the same vaccine for strep A, Covid-19 and scarlet fever.

Our verdict

False. Covid-19 vaccines are not being used to treat strep A infections or scarlet fever.

What was claimed

The vaccines were not trialled or tested.

Our verdict

Covid-19 vaccines underwent clinical trials and were subject to the same safety assessments as other vaccines.

What was claimed

The triple vaccinated are the most likely to die.

Our verdict

Covid-19 vaccines aren’t 100% effective, so some vaccinated people do still sadly die of the disease. But figures show that deaths involving Covid have been consistently lower for people who have received booster vaccines.

In a video posted on Facebook, Chris Preddie makes a number of inaccurate claims about the Covid-19 vaccines.

While we’ve not fact checked everything Mr Preddie said, we have looked at misleading claims made in the video about the testing process for the vaccines, deaths from Covid-19 among those who have been vaccinated, and how strep A and scarlet fever are being treated.

Mr Preddie was awarded an OBE for youth work in 2012. We have previously checked other claims he has made about the vaccines on social media.

In the caption of the video, Mr Preddie includes a “disclaimer” which states: “My videos are used solely to provide context to my opinion whether the footage is factual news or not”. 

Full Fact has contacted Mr Preddie for comment and will update this piece if he responds.

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Covid-19 vaccines are not being used to treat strep A or scarlet fever

In the video, Mr Preddie claims that the Covid-19 vaccines are also being used to treat strep A and scarlet fever, saying: “strep A, Covid-19, scarlet [fever]... same vaccine for everything”.

This isn’t true.

Group A streptococcus (or strep A) is a common bacteria that can be responsible for a range of diseases, ranging from mild to severe. The bacteria can cause scarlet fever, a disease most common in children, with symptoms of fever, sore throat, rash and a ‘strawberry’ swelling of the tongue. More serious and even life-threatening infections can occur when the bacteria enters deeper into the body, such as in the lungs or the bloodstream—these are termed invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported a higher rate of scarlet fever and iGAS infections in recent months, and as of 8 January 2023, there have been 190 iGAS deaths across all age groups in England this season, including 30 children.

As we’ve previously explained, scarlet fever is always treated with antibiotics once it has been diagnosed by a doctor, regardless of severity, while milder strep A infections such as strep throat may also require antibiotics to reduce the risk of similar complications.

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent or treat strep A or scarlet fever, although a recent UKHSA pre-print article showed there were fewer strep A infections in areas where more children received the nasal flu vaccine, and no significant difference in scarlet fever or iGAS numbers.

We’ve written about misinformation on social media relating to strep A and scarlet fever a number of times in recent weeks.

Covid-19 vaccines were tested before being approved for use

Mr Preddie also claims that it has been admitted that “we don’t know what was inside the [vaccine] and we actually haven’t even trialled and tested it”.

Covid-19 vaccines which have been approved for use among the general public have been subject to the same clinical trials and testing processes as other vaccines, and it’s not true that we don’t know what’s in them.

All the Covid-19 vaccines used in the UK have met the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)’s standards for safety and effectiveness.

As we’ve written before, while the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are the first to be rolled out to the public that use mRNA technology, this technology has been researched for a number of years, and the vaccines have been tested to high standards for safety and effectiveness, in the same way as other vaccines.

The ingredients used in the Covid-19 vaccines vary by vaccine type, and can be found on the patient information leaflets for each vaccine, which include the Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines which protect against both the original and Omicron variants of the Covid-19 virus. 

The Oxford Vaccine Knowledge Project provides detailed information about ingredients commonly found in vaccines here.

Triple vaccinated people are not the most likely to die of Covid-19 

The video begins with a clip from testimony given by ophthalmologist Dr Richard Urso to the House Health Subcommittee of the Tennessee General Assembly on 1 March 2022, during which he claims “the triple vaccinated are the most likely to die”. 

Dr Urso appears to have been referring to the risk of dying from Covid-19, and said this was based on “studies in England, in Scotland, and in northern countries in Europe”.

This claim was fact checked at the time by AP News, which cited immunology experts and data showing receiving multiple doses of the vaccine “substantially increased protection” against the Omicron variant, which was the dominant variant in circulation in the US and Europe at the time.

The latest update to Covid-19 mortality rates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), containing data up to May 2022, said: “Monthly age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) for deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) have been consistently lower for all months since booster introduction in September 2021 for people who had received a third dose or booster at least 21 days ago, compared with unvaccinated people and those with just a first or second dose.”

ASMRs allow for comparisons over time and area, because they take into account population size and age structure.

Since Dr Urso made his claim in March 2022, we’ve written about other claims that people who have been vaccinated are more likely to die of Covid-19, which were based on data published by the ONS showing the majority of deaths in England where Covid-19 was listed on the death certificate as a cause of death in April and May 2022 were in vaccinated people.

However this data did not show that being vaccinated increases your risk of dying from Covid-19.

Covid-19 vaccines aren’t 100% effective, so some vaccinated people do still sadly die of the disease. As such a large proportion of the population has been vaccinated, especially the elderly and most vulnerable, it is not unexpected that there are more deaths in the vaccinated population than the unvaccinated.

The ONS says that data on mortality rates by vaccination status “are not equivalent to vaccine effectiveness”.

We have contacted Dr Urso for comment.

Image courtesy of Hakan Nural

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