Fact Check-Deaths among COVID-vaccinated not a reflection of vaccine effectiveness

Social media users continue to share the misleading suggestion that numbers of COVID-19 deaths among vaccinated people reflect the ineffectiveness of vaccines. In fact, experts say that one reason the majority of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States is among vaccinated adults is that most adults are vaccinated. Data show that the rate of deaths and severe COVID illness is lower among vaccinated adults than those who are unvaccinated.

An Instagram video that received over 36,000 likes at the time of writing includes a clip of a presenter saying, “New data from the CDC shows that vaccinated people now make up the majority of COVID-19 deaths” (here). A graphic in the video is labeled “vaccine effectiveness” and the post contains the text, “A present from me to you. The Truth!”

Reuters has previously factchecked a similar claim that was based on an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published by the Washington Post in November 2022 (here) (here)

The data showed that the majority of COVID-19 deaths is among vaccinated people, particularly the elderly, a group that is 94% vaccinated in the United States. That same data also showed, however, that vaccination continues to reduce the risk of death across all ages (here).

Cynthia Cox, who analyzed the CDC data for the Washington Post and is vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on public health, told Reuters in an email at the time, “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.”

A spokesperson for the Kaiser Family Foundation also pointed to an article by Cox, which explained that the rise in COVID-19 deaths among vaccinated people is caused by “a rising share of the populations that is vaccinated, waning immune protection and low uptake of boosters” (here).

The CDC tracks COVID vaccinations given in the United States (here), and as of Dec. 21, 2022, a total of 228,989,746 people had completed the two-dose primary vaccination series, representing 69% of the population, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

Among adults age 18 and older, 203,343,439 or 78.9% have completed the primary vaccine series.

Two new studies published by the CDC on Thursday show that booster shots also reduce the risks of hospitalization and severe illness among adults (here) and (here).


Misleading. Data collected by the CDC showing that a majority of people dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. had been vaccinated does not reflect vaccine effectiveness.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here.