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VERIFY: Claims that vaccinated people are more likely to die from delta are misleading

Online claims that U.K. data shows vaccinated people are more likely to die from the delta COVID-19 variant take the numbers out of context, experts say.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Misleading online claims state that data from the U.K. shows people who are vaccinated are more likely to die from the highly contagious delta COVID-19 variant than people who did not get the vaccine. One article with the headline "Vaccinated people found to be 600% more likely to die from covid 'variants' than unvaccinated people" cites a briefing from Public Health England (PHE) that looked at cases, hospitalizations, and deaths stemming from delta.

The Question

Are vaccinated people more likely to die from the delta variant than unvaccinated people, according to Public Health England data?

Sources

  • Public Health England
  • Dr. Jane Kelly, Assistant State Epidemiologist, South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control

The Answer

Any conclusions from the PHE data that vaccinated people are more at risk of dying from the delta variant are built on flawed logic, according to Kelly. The article in question also ignores data showing the effectiveness of the vaccines.

"It is quoting some numbers out of context and failing to understand that a certain number of people, inevitably, even if fully vaccinated, may contract COVID and have a bad outcome," Kelly said.

It is apparent, from the headline, the article's author takes the 26 delta-related deaths in vaccinated people, cited in the PHE briefing, and divides those by the total number of delta cases in vaccinated people, which is roughly 4,000. The death rate calculates to about 0.6%.

That is compared to 34 deaths in unvaccinated people, out of roughly 35,000 delta cases in unvaccinated people, which is a death rate of about 0.1%.

While that math seemingly points to a lower death rate in unvaccinated people, Kelly reminds that the math leaves out the important factor of why the vaccinated people got sick in the first place.

"They were largely older people, people who had other medical problems, people who had conditions that might render their immune systems less responsive," Kelly said. "This is a classic case of the misuse of statistics."

Essentially, the two-sample groups of deaths are not comparable.

The article also ignores the data showing, out of more than 60,000 cases of delta, there were about 4,000 cases in fully vaccinated people, making about 7% of all delta cases breakthrough cases. Thus, an overwhelming majority of people who fell ill with delta during the study period in the U.K. were unvaccinated or had not completed their vaccination series.

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram