According to Public Health Scotland, the age-standardized mortality rates for COVID-19 deaths are lower in the fully vaccinated than unvaccinated.
The Expose, a U.K. website known for propagating COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, makes highly misleading claims about the vaccine's effectiveness in a recent article.
The Expose in its post uses official data from a recent COVID-19 Statistical Report published by Public Health Scotland. The article titled "Fully Vaccinated account for 9 in every 10 COVID-19 Deaths over the past 4 months," claims that official data shows "the vaccinated population has accounted for 58 percent of cases, 71 percent of hospitalizations, and 85 percent of deaths over the past 16 weeks." It further falsely states that vaccines are creating worse health outcomes.
The article misinterprets raw numbers from the report as it fails to provide the full context. It even conceals critical points mentioned in the Public Health Scotland report that demonstrates that vaccines are, in fact, effective.
In its report, Public Health Scotland explicitly mentions that the COVID-19 summary data "does not assess the effectiveness of the vaccine or whether the vaccine has worked in these individuals." It cautions that vaccine effectiveness requires a "careful examination" to analyze reasons such as a person's pre-existing condition.
In the summary section, Public Health Scotland reveals that between November 6 and December 3, the age-standardized COVID-19 hospital admissions have been lower for the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. It also states that the age-standardized COVID-19 mortality rates are lower for fully vaccinated people than those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Organizations such as Public Health Scotland and Office for National Statistics use an age-standardized mortality rate (ASMR) to reduce the impact of age and improve comparability in different groups. Age can have a drastic impact on COVID-related data. As older people are more at risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, they were prioritized in the vaccination campaign. Therefore people with two or three doses are on an average older than the unvaccinated. Unvaccinated people are more likely to be young, and younger people tend to have better health outcomes if they contract COVID-19.
Indeed according to the report, unvaccinated individuals are younger than those with two or three doses. The report also finds that the age-standardized hospital admissions per 100,000 were higher in unvaccinated than vaccinated individuals.
To understand the impact of age on COVID-19 mortality rates, Logically spoke to Dr. Charlotte Bermingham, an ONS data scientist. While comparing mortality data by vaccination statuses, "age must be taken into account." She further explained, "when age is taken into account, the mortality rates are consistently lower for people who have had two vaccinations compared to unvaccinated, as shown by our published data."
In a separate section titled "Overall Results of COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalisations, and Deaths by Vaccination Status," Public Health Scotland states the vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant. It affirms that the AstraZeneca vaccine is 65 to 70 percent effective against symptomatic disease, while the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are 80 to 95 percent effective. In addition, it states that first-world results show high effectiveness of the booster vaccination again symptomatic disease.
The unvaccinated have a higher risk of catching and dying from COVID-19 compared to the vaccinated. ONS Data between January and September 2021 shows that the age-adjusted risk of deaths involving COVID-19 was 32 times greater in unvaccinated individuals than double-vaccinated people. The U.K. Statistics authority accounted for differences in population size and age groups by calculating age-standard mortality rates of COVID-19 deaths.
By omitting context and misinterpreting data, the Expose instills fear and promotes vaccine hesitancy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.