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Fact Check-UK vaccine report still includes data comparing COVID-19 rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated

The article has been corrected to reflect that while it is true to say a bar chart has been taken out of the weekly report, the data is still present - but is presented differently. The UKHSA said this change was implemented to ensure the report is less open to manipulation.

An article has claimed that a chart showing higher COVID-19 infection rates in vaccinated people than unvaccinated people has been removed from the UK government’s vaccine surveillance report.

The piece (here) in question is titled: “Hide the Vaccine Failure: UKHSA Caves to Pressure and Removes Chart Showing Higher Infection Rates in the Vaccinated – as Effectiveness Hits New Low of Minus-132%”.

According to the article, the latest UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) vaccine surveillance report was “purged of the offending chart” that showed infection rates to be higher in double vaccinated people than unvaccinated people that are over the age of thirty.

Firstly, as was explained in this previous Reuters fact check (here), accurately calculating the COVID-19 infection rate for unvaccinated people is problematic because the exact population in England is not known, and different population estimates produce significantly different rates.

The UKHSA relies on a population estimate from the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) to calculate infection rates. NIMS calculates the number of people in the country registered with a GP, which may overestimate the actual total. This is because some people appear on old records with previous GP surgeries or stay registered when they have emigrated. It also does not take account of people who are yet to register with a GP.

Another population estimate is available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which adjusts its figure based on data from the 2011 census.

Depending on which estimate you use, the COVID-19 infection rate varies significantly.

Further to this, while it is true to say a bar chart showing the rates has not been included in later reports, the data is still present in a table moved elsewhere. They now appear in a table on page 20 (here) that compares the rates of infection, hospitalisation and death alongside each other.

The UKHSA said it had worked with the UK Statistics Authority to make changes to the presentation of data in the report to help make it less open to manipulation.

In a comment sent by the agency, Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UKHSA, said: “There has been some misunderstanding and, at times, deliberate manipulation of the data presented in the UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance Report by those who want to undermine the vaccine programme, and we are grateful to the UK Statistics Authority for working with us to help make the report less open to manipulation.

“We regularly review our data outputs to ensure they are as clear as possible and reflect the current situation and will make any appropriate updates to this report in the future if we feel they are required.”

Ramsay said the NIMS denominator continues to be used so that the data can be comparable week-on-week.

“It is absolutely clear in our report that COVID-19 vaccines provide a high level of protection against severe outcomes, and the data shows that rates of hospitalisation and death are substantially lower in fully vaccinated people across all age groups,” she said.

VERDICT

Missing context. A bar chart showing rates has not been included in the report; however, the data is still present and has been moved to a different page to help make it less open to manipulation and misinterpretation.

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

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