Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines have been found to prevent death; more data needed on whether and to what extent they prevent transmission

A meme claiming COVID-19 vaccines neither prevent death nor eliminate the need for restrictions to curb transmission contains false and misleading information.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The image, posted to Facebook, consists of a list of what the user claims the vaccine cannot do, and ultimately questions the purpose of getting vaccinated altogether (here). It reads: “So to summarise, the Covid19 vaccine… Does not give immunity. Does not eliminate the virus. Does not prevent death. Does not guarantee you won’t get it. Does not prevent you from getting it. Does not stop you passing it on. Does not eliminate the need for travel bans. Does not eliminate the need for business closures. Does not eliminate the need for lockdowns. Does not eliminate the need for masking. So… what the hell is it actually doing?”

It is not accurate to say the vaccine fails to prevent death, while the other claims in the post are either unsubstantiated or misleading.

At the time of writing, Feb. 9, three COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna (here). A statement on Feb. 3 from AstraZeneca said its vaccine had been found to reach 82% efficacy against symptomatic disease after two doses (here). For Pfizer/BioNTech, efficacy is said to reach 95%, while Moderna reaches 94.1% (here, here). Both AstraZeneca and Moderna have also reported a 100% rate of protection against severe effects of COVID-19. Pfizer, meanwhile, said 10 severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in its phase III trial – nine of which were in the placebo group; one in the vaccine group.

Scientists are not yet certain how various vaccines will affect transmission, that is, whether and to what extent they will prevent transmission from one person to another. However, early findings have been positive. For instance, the same statement from AstraZeneca said a “substantial impact” had been found on transmission, including asymptomatic transmission. In Israel, where 90% of over 60s have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, researchers say there are initial signs of the number of new infections being curbed (here, here).

The ongoing vaccine rollout coupled with current uncertainty about its effect on transmission have resulted in restrictions – mask-wearing, social distancing and so on - being kept in place for the time being – and it is therefore misleading to say the vaccine will not help to eliminate them (here). As more people are vaccinated and more data on transmission becomes available, further decisions can be made about these restrictions.


False. The three approved vaccines have been found in trials to have a very high effect on preventing symptomatic and severe COVID-19, including death. Vaccine effects on transmission are currently unclear, although early results appear positive. As more information about transmission becomes available, further decisions can be made on restrictions.

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