Covid-19 survival rate is less than 99.8%

19 February 2021
What was claimed

The Covid-19 vaccines are experimental.

Our verdict

All the Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK have been safety tested and approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

What was claimed

The vaccine manufacturers do not have liability.

Our verdict

Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune to some, but not all, civil liability.

What was claimed

Covid-19 has a survival rate of 99.8%.

Our verdict

The survival rate varies by country but this estimate is too high for the UK. Estimates of the survival rate range from around 99% to 99.5%.

A post on Facebook claims that Covid-19 vaccines are “experimental”, do not incur any liability, and are used to treat a virus with a 99.8% survival rate.

These aren’t all correct.

The vaccines have been tested for safety

It’s not clear exactly what the post means by “experimental”.

At the time of writing, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines have been approved for use in the UK and are being rolled out. The Moderna vaccine has been approved, and is expected to be rolled out in the spring.

Vaccines undergo multiple trials, increasing in scale, to check whether they work and if they are safe. The final trial before launch is the phase three trial where the vaccine is given to tens of thousands of people. All three vaccines were shown to be safe in these trials.

All three vaccines then had their safety and efficacy data checked and approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK. 

The vaccines were approved using rapid temporary regulatory approvals, but this doesn’t mean they’re untested or “experimental”.

Members of the public being given the vaccine as part of the national vaccine roll-out are not participating in an experiment and are not part of ongoing trials, although the authorities will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccines.

This monitoring happens with all vaccines, including those that have been in use for years, to detect any adverse effects.  

Vaccine manufacturers are immune from some liability

The Covid-19 vaccines in the UK were all granted temporary authorisation.

UK law says that when the government makes the decision to roll out a vaccine without full “marketing  authorisation”, the vaccine manufacturers are not liable for any loss or damage incurred by anyone as a result of being vaccinated. 

However, manufacturers are not immune from all liability. For example, they are still liable if they manufacture a vaccine which is defective or doesn’t meet safety standards. 

We wrote about this in 2020 before the vaccines were rolled out.

The virus’s survival rate is lower than 99.8% in the UK

Covid-19 is far more dangerous for older people than younger people. Therefore in countries with older populations, the virus will be more deadly and have a lower survival rate than countries with younger populations.

We’ve written before about how European estimates (i.e. estimates in countries with similar age profiles and healthcare quality as the UK) put the fatality rate at somewhere between 0.5% and 1%, meaning the “survival rate” could be somewhere between 99% and 99.5%, but not as high as 99.8%.

Precise estimates for the UK are difficult to make, because we don’t know how many people have caught Covid, and therefore what proportion have survived.

However, we can be almost certain that the survival rate here is not as high as 99.8%, because of the sheer number of people who have already died. 

As of 18 February there have been 129,498 deaths registered with Covid-19 recorded as a cause on the death certificate. This is about 0.19% of the entire UK population

If only 0.2% of people die from Covid-19 after catching it (which the claimed 99.8% survival rate implies), then virtually everyone in the country must have already been infected. This is almost certainly not the case, because the disease is still spreading between susceptible people, more people are still dying, and population surveys have not shown high enough rates of infection. .

Even assuming many people were infected during the first spring wave, it’s implausible that everyone has already been infected. 

Also, Covid-19 is not just dangerous because it kills people. The effects of “long Covid” are not well understood, but it is expected that Covid-19 will reduce the quality of life for some people who contract and survive the disease.

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 partly false because the virus’s survival rate is lower than 99.8% in the UK, the vaccines approved for use are tested, and manufacturers are not immune from all liability.

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