Baseless claims about vaccine safety go viral on Facebook

20 November 2020
What was claimed

Covid-19 does not kill 99.99% of us.

Our verdict

Incorrect. It is estimated that Covid-19 has a fatality rate of around 0.5%-1% globally, though could be slightly higher in countries with older populations.

What was claimed

A Covid-19 vaccine will kill more people than the virus.

Our verdict

There is no evidence for this claim. There have been no reports of deaths attributed to Covid-19 vaccines in any trials. Vaccines are rigorously safety tested before they are rolled out.

A screenshot of a tweet making various claims about Covid-19 and a possible vaccine has been going viral on Facebook.

It starts by claiming that Covid-19 “does NOT kill 99.99% of us.”

This suggests Covid-19 is much less deadly than it is.

The key statistic to look at here is called the infection fatality rate (IFR). This is the proportion of people who die from the disease after contracting it. 

We know for certain that the IFR is higher than 0.01% as suggested, because we know that 53,675 deaths in England and Wales have so far been registered with an underlying cause of Covid-19.

Even if everyone in England and Wales had already contracted the disease (which is implausible), that would still give an IFR of at least 0.09%, so nine times higher than the post suggests.

The actual IFR is hard to measure accurately without widespread testing, and will vary due to factors like a country’s quality of healthcare or the age of its population. However studies estimate a global rate of between 0.5% and 1%.

Recently a report from Imperial College London estimated an IFR of around 0.23% in a “typical low-income country, with a population structure skewed towards younger individuals” and 1.15% in “a typical high income country, with a greater concentration of elderly individuals”.

Also, while Covid-19 may not be fatal for most people, there is some evidence that it can affect health in the medium and potentially long term, so the benefits of vaccination should not be seen purely in terms of avoiding deaths. 

The post then suggests that adverse reactions to any potential vaccine would kill more people than the virus itself.

There is no evidence that any Covid-19 vaccine currently being trialled has caused a death, let alone that any vaccine has a fatality rate higher than the disease itself. More than 1.3 million people have so far died of Covid-19 worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University

There have been no reports of any deaths associated with either the Pfizer or Moderna trials, the two vaccine candidates which have reported late-stage efficacy data.

There have been two deaths in Brazil of participants in two separate vaccine trials, but there is nothing to link the deaths to the vaccines themselves.

Vaccines are rigorously tested for safety prior to being made available to the public.

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 post exaggerates the Covid-19 survival rate and the claim that a vaccine would kill more people than the virus is baseless.

Full Fact fights bad information

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