Fact Check-Vaccinated people in Britain are not dying at a higher rate than the unvaccinated

Refiling to remove duplicated phrase “fully vaccinated” in paragraph nine

A video shared on social media and viewed thousands of times features American writer Alex Berenson saying that most people who died from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom in September were fully vaccinated. However, the assertion misses the crucial context that a high percentage of the nation has been double vaccinated. The number of COVID-19 deaths, when adjusted proportionally to show the rate per 100,000 people, is higher in the unvaccinated population than the vaccinated population.

The 30-second clip (here) was taken from the Oct. 12 Joe Rogan Experience podcast (here), on which Berenson was a guest.

Berenson is public with his critical stance on vaccines (here) and has been banned from Twitter for repeatedly spreading COVID-19 misinformation (here).

“The vast majority of people in Britain who died in September were fully vaccinated,” Berenson says in the podcast, while presenting a Public Health England (PHE) chart, seen in the corner of the footage.

He continues: “1,270 out of 1,500 were fully-vaccinated, 607 of the 70-year-olds out of 800 were fully-vaccinated, 258 out of the 411 60-year-olds... They were almost all fully-vaccinated.

“Most people who die of this now are fully-vaccinated in the UK, those are the numbers.”

The chart and data Berenson cites are from the “COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report - week 38” (here), published on Sept. 23 by PHE, which has since been renamed by the UK Health Security Agency.

The document contains information on COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths in England between Aug. 23 and Sept 19, 2021.

Indeed, of 1,521 over-80s who died from COVID-19 during this time, 1,272 were fully vaccinated, the data shows. Forty-three had received one vaccine dose, while 198 were unvaccinated. Meanwhile, 607 out of 801 70 to 79-year-olds who died from COVID-19 had received two vaccine doses (164 hadn’t been vaccinated) and of 411 60- to 69-year-olds, 258 were fully vaccinated (125 were unvaccinated).

However, the numbers alone miss the context necessary to understand the impact of COVID-19 vaccines. This data does not show that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are more likely to die from the virus.

When much of a population has been vaccinated, most infections and deaths are “expected to be among those vaccinated”, Dr Muge Cevik, a clinical lecturer in infectious diseases and medical virology at the University of St Andrews, previously told Reuters (here).

On Sept. 19, 64.9% of over-16s in England had received one vaccine dose, with 59.5% having also received the second, according to the document.

When adjusted proportionally to display the rate per 100,000 people in all age groups, the number of COVID-19 deaths is higher in the unvaccinated population than in the vaccinated population, the data shows.

For the over-80s, the rate of death per 100,000 unvaccinated was 156. For those vaccinated, it was 49.5.

For those aged 70-79, the rate of death was more than five times higher in those who are unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, the rate of death for unvaccinated 60- to 69-year-olds was 66.4 out of 100,000 in comparison to 13.1 for those who are vaccinated.

This shows that, proportionally, fewer people died from COVID-19 who had been fully vaccinated.

Reuters previously addressed claims taking Public Health England data out of context here.

Reuters also addressed social media posts questioning why more cases and deaths might be reported amongst a vaccinated population than an unvaccinated one (here).

A PHE spokesperson told Reuters at the time: “The data should be interpreted taking into consideration the context of very high vaccine coverage in the UK population. Even with a highly effective vaccine, it is expected that a large proportion of cases would occur in vaccinated individuals, simply because a larger proportion of the population are vaccinated than unvaccinated.”


Missing context. The rate of death from COVID-19 is higher in the unvaccinated population than the vaccinated.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.