Fact Check-Article examining the probability of Omicron variant breakthrough cases is misinterpreted online

New data from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), says that the triple-vaccinated are 4.5 times more likely to test positive for Omicron than the unvaccinated and that double-vaccinated individuals, were 2.3 times more likely to have Omicron over other variants. Social media users are misrepresenting these findings (on Omicron’s apparent ability to breakthrough vaccine protection) by saying those vaccinated are more susceptible to infection overall.

Most examples share an article from the Daily Sceptic (here) (here) seen archived here: .

A tweet with over 2,800 likes (here) includes responses of users misinterpreting the findings. One user wrote, “Turns out that the “jab” is shite… SURPRISE!!” (here)

Another tweet reads, “#vaccinesdontwork #NaturalImmunity WORKS !! #DoNotComplyEVER” (here).

Other social media posts link the data to Antibody Development Enhancement (here), a claim Reuters has debunked in the past, here .

Some noted how the data was being misinterpreted, with one person writing, “Prime example of anti-vax click bait. The article does not say this. You are LESS likely to catch Omicron and all variants if you are triple vaccinated. You are simply more likely to have Omicron vs the others because of its mutation.” (here)

Indeed, the Dec. 22 article clearly states in paragraph three: “Note that this is the probability of an infection being Omicron given a person is infected, so it doesn’t tell us how likely a person is to test positive in the first place.”

It also says, “This means it doesn’t tell us that the vaccines are making things worse overall, only that they are making it much more likely that a vaccinated person is infected with Omicron than another variant,” adding “it is a measure of how well Omicron evades the vaccines compared to Delta. The fact that the triple-vaccinated are much more likely to be infected with Omicron than the double-vaccinated confirms this vaccine evading ability.”

It uses data from a provisional ONS Infection Survey (here) that shows Omicron has significant vaccine evading ability.

The ONS supported the article’s assessment of Omicron’s vaccine evasion capability. ONS communications officer Jonathan Cook told Reuters via email that, “The Daily Sceptic’s article looked at those in the population with a positive test result. These were then looked at to see which characteristics of that population were associated with Omicron.” Indeed, he said there were more Omicron variant cases among vaccinated people who tested positive than an unvaccinated person who tested positive.

Cook added context, saying, “from our recent characteristics release, we also see that unvaccinated people overall are more likely to test positive for COVID-19, regardless of variant.”

Reuters reporting here shares the findings of a recent report (not peer-reviewed) by the Imperial College London COVID-19 response team who estimated the “risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant is 5.4 times greater than that of the Delta variant.” The report explained that “the protection against reinfection by Omicron afforded by past infection may be as low as 19%."

The Imperial College report (here) and study (here) provide “further evidence of the very substantial extent to which Omicron can evade prior immunity given by both infection or vaccination” both concluding that “this level of immune evasion means that Omicron poses a major, imminent threat to public health.”

A Reuters report from Dec.11 (here) shares the finding of an Israeli study which asserts that “a three-shot course of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine provided significant protection against the new Omicron variant.”


Misleading. Some social media users are misinterpreting ONS data about Omicron’s ability to break through in vaccinated individuals. New data shows breakthrough cases among vaccinated people are more likely to be Omicron than other variants, not that vaccines don’t work or that vaccinated people are at greater risk of infection than the unvaccinated.

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