Vaccines against COVID-19 reduce hospitalization and mortality rates, contrary to what is claimed on social media


By Saranac Hale Spencer

SciCheck Compendium

People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are more likely to have severe illness and die at a higher rate than those who are vaccinated. Yet partisan social media accounts, including a post by a member of former President Donald Trump’s campaign legal team, continue to wrongly suggest that vaccines are unnecessary and discourage their use.

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New Jersey Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone announced on Twitter on April 8 that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Pallone, who is 70 years old and in the age range most at risk for a serious prognosis, also wrote: “Fortunately, I am vaccinated and have two booster doses so my symptoms are mild.”

Shortly after, Jenna Ellis, an attorney who held a position on former President Donald Trump’s legal team, responded with a tweet that read, “Why do these idiots keep saying THANK YOU to the Vaccine? Many people who have NOT been vaccinated have also experienced zero or mild symptoms. Stop promoting the vaccine.” She also posted screenshots of the tweets on Facebook and Instagram.

This exchange illustrates the kind of politicization of public health recommendations that has made responding to the pandemic difficult from the start.

We have written before about the differences in the effects of COVID-19 between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. In general, those who have been vaccinated have better prognosis.

As explained by the Mayo Clinic, “fully vaccinated people who become infected are less likely to develop severe COVID-19 than those who are not vaccinated. Even when vaccinated people do develop symptoms, they tend to be less severe than those experienced by unvaccinated people.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows significantly higher hospitalization rates in COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated than in those who are fully vaccinated.

In Pallone’s age range, specifically adults over 65, the rate of unvaccinated patients per 100,000 who were hospitalized was 79, while the rate of vaccinated patients was 15, for the week ending 26 February, the most recent for which the CDC has released data. These rates have dropped from a high of 481 and 55, respectively, when the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 peaked in January.

Data presented April 6 to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vaccine advisory committee show that for adults older than 65 who can mount a normal immune response, those who received a booster dose had an 88% lower risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 than the unvaccinated, four to six months after receiving it (see slide 25 of the report).

Additionally, several studies have shown that vaccines have been effective in preventing severe COVID-19. A study conducted in the United Kingdom in September found that, in infections in vaccinees, the odds of not having symptoms after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine increased by 94%.

“Nearly all symptoms were reported less frequently in vaccinated infected individuals than in unvaccinated infected individuals, and vaccinated participants were more likely to be completely asymptomatic, especially if they were 60 years of age or older,” the study, published in the magazine The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Another US study published in July found that both the risk of fever and the duration of illness were lower in patients vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to those not vaccinated. “Licensed mRNA vaccines were highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection among working-age adults when administered under real-world conditions, and the vaccines attenuated viral RNA load, risk of febrile symptoms, and duration of illness. the disease among those who were infected despite being vaccinated,” said the study, published in the New EnglandJournal of Medicine.

However, both studies predated the recent wave of omicron, and neither primary vaccination nor natural immunity was very effective in stopping infection against this variant. But booster doses of the vaccine did increase protection, according to preliminary research.

So Ellis’s suggestion that there is little difference between COVID-19 outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated is wrong.

A meme that has been making the rounds on conservative social media accounts and takes Ellis’s statement a bit further reads: “the unvaccinated are not dying.” That is totally false.

Similar to the hospitalization rates of unvaccinated versus vaccinated people, CDC data shows that not only are unvaccinated people dying, but they are dying at significantly higher rates than vaccinated people. vaccinated people.

For example, when the omicron variant peaked in January, people over the age of 5 who were not vaccinated had a 9 times higher risk of dying than those who were vaccinated with the primary series, according to the CDC. The risk of dying from COVID-19 was 21 times higher in unvaccinated people over 12 years of age than in people who were vaccinated in the primary series and received a booster dose.

Translated by Elena de la Cruz.

Editor’s Note: The SciCheck Vaccination/COVID-19 Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control about editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase access to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, and reduce the impact of misinformation.

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