Former MEP wrongly uses UK Covid-19 data

22 November 2021
What was claimed

Figures show a “consistently higher” number of Covid-19 cases among vaccinated adults.

Our verdict

This is based on misleading information which cannot be used to measure the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines.

What was claimed

Vaccines are ineffective.

Our verdict

This isn’t true. Data in recent months shows vaccination lowers the risk of testing positive for Covid-19 and for having an infection with symptoms.

A video posted on Facebook by former UKIP and independent MEP Godfrey Bloom claims vaccines are ineffective based on data looking at the proportion of cases of Covid-19 among vaccinated and unvaccinated adults. 

The video’s narrator says infection rate data from Public Health England (PHE) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows it is the “much larger vaccinated population who is transmitting the virus at the greatest rate” therefore proving Covid vaccines are ineffective and Covid-19 passports are unjustifiable. 

However, as we have stated recently, the particular data used in the video is misleading and shouldn’t be used to determine how effective vaccines are. Better data on vaccine efficacy does show that vaccines substantially (but not perfectly) protect against catching Covid-19.

What does the video say?

The video’s narrator claims that, based on PHE and UKHSA data, case rates (the number of cases among every 100,000 people) have been “consistently higher” in double vaccinated 40 to 79-year-olds 

The video also claims that while rates were higher among unvaccinated 30 to 39-year-olds in early August, this trend reversed by the end of October.  As we’ve said before, this data cannot be used to accurately compare the Covid case rates among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. This is because of problems in the underlying population estimates used to calculate the case rate figures. 

With vaccination rates often around 90% or higher in older age groups, the population numbers have to be very accurate, or they can skew the infection rates substantially. But the data uses population estimates from the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS), which are higher for the older age groups than population estimates from the Office for National Statistics. This may make Covid case rates look much lower among unvaccinated people than they really are.

There are also other differences that could affect Covid case numbers. For example, vaccinated people may feel they are less likely to catch Covid-19 and therefore take greater risks, such as not social distancing or attending indoor events without a mask. 

The video uses data from UKHSA Covid-19 vaccine surveillance reports. Although the narrator does not mention it, one page from these reports shown in the video clearly contains a footnote which warns: “Interpretation of the case rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated population is particularly susceptible to changes in denominators and should be interpreted with extra caution.”

The same reports also warn:  “The vaccination status of cases, inpatients and deaths is not the most appropriate method to assess vaccine effectiveness and there is a high risk of misinterpretation.”

Vaccines are effective

The video also uses these misleading statistics to claim that vaccines are ineffective, which isn’t true. 

Data from both the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and the Office for National Statistics in recent months shows vaccination greatly lowers the risk of testing positive for Covid-19 and for having an infection with symptoms.

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 there is no way to accurately compare the number of unvaccinated people, let alone the number of cases.

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