Statistics that show the majority of deaths from COVID-19 are among vaccinated people reflect the fact most people are vaccinated, not that the vaccines are ineffective, as implied in a social media post. Similar statistics show COVID vaccines continue to reduce the risk of dying and severe illness, an expert told Reuters.
An Instagram video that received over 22,000 likes at the time of writing features excerpts from a Washington Post article and the headline: “Analysis: Vaccinated people now make up a majority of covid deaths” (here) with the comment “It is ‘no longer’ a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’”
A man in the video reads from the article text: “For the first time, a majority of Americans dying from the coronavirus received at least the primary series of the vaccine. Fifty-eight percent of coronavirus deaths in August were people who were vaccinated or boosted, according to an analysis conducted for The Health 202 by Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.”
The user who shared the video commented that public officials and health experts should apologize to Americans for criticizing and firing people who refused to get vaccinated, and implied the vaccine was never effective.
The data cited in the article show the majority of COVID-19 deaths are among vaccinated people, particularly the elderly, a group that is nearly 94% vaccinated in the United States. CDC Data cited in the same article shows that vaccination continues to reduce risk of death across all age groups.
The Washington Post article cited in the video (here), written by Post researcher McKenzie Beard, was originally published on Nov. 23 in the Post’s health-policy newsletter with the title, “Vaccinated people now make up a majority of covid deaths,” according to a spokesperson for the newspaper. The spokesperson added that the article title on the Post’s website was later updated, to clarify its intended focus, to: “COVID is no longer mainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Here’s why.” (here)
In the analysis for the Post, Cox looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected between September 2021 and September 2022 on rates of COVID-19 cases or deaths by age group and vaccination status (here).
Cox told Reuters in an email, “Earlier in the rollout of vaccines, experts warned we would see vaccinated people represent a rising share of deaths simply because a larger share of the population was vaccinated. There are many more vaccinated people than there are unvaccinated people. And vaccinated and boosted people, on average, are older and more likely to have underlying health conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID outcomes.”
That is why, Cox added, when the CDC statistics are adjusted to account for those differences between groups, “we still see that unvaccinated people are at a much greater risk of death and other severe outcomes than vaccinated and boosted people are.”
Stuart Ray, a professor of medicine and oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine pointed to a second CDC report published in November showing that people 65 and older had the highest rates of death from COVID-19, but vaccines continued to reduce the risk of dying in all age groups (here) . “It is clear from that analysis that across age groups, vaccination reduces risk of death from COVID-19 by 6- to 12-fold depending on the age group studied,” Ray told Reuters in an email.
The CDC tracks COVID vaccinations given in the United States (here ), and as of Nov. 30, 2022, a total of 228,390,445 million people had completed the two-dose primary vaccination series, representing 68.8% of the population, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.
By age group, 93.8% of people 65 and older had completed the primary vaccination series, the Data Tracker shows. A majority in every age grouping has also completed primary vaccination, including 78.6% of those 18 and older, 77% of those 12 and older, and 72.9% over age 5.
Reuters has previously factchecked similar misleading claims that a large proportion of COVID-19 deaths among vaccinated people reflects poor vaccine effectiveness (here) (here) and (here).
Misleading. Data collected by the CDC from September 2021 to September 2022 and described in a Washington Post article shows that a majority of people dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. had been vaccinated because the majority of people in the U.S. are vaccinated, and does not reflect vaccine effectiveness.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.