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Vaccines do not make patients more susceptible to delta variant

June 29, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Data from the U.K.’s public health agency confirms that those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are anywhere from two times to six times more likely to die from the delta variant than the unvaccinated.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The data from Public Health England did not show evidence that those who are vaccinated are more susceptible to dying from the COVID-19 delta variant. Rather, the data shows the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective against hospitalization from the variant.

THE FACTS: As concern grows around the COVID-19 delta variant, social media users are misrepresenting data British public health researchers published on June 18 about the impacts of various variants.

The delta variant contains mutations that make it easier for the virus to attach to the body’s cells.

One popular Instagram post falsely claimed the Public Health England’s report found vaccinated people were twice as likely to die from the delta variant than unvaccinated people. Another claimed vaccinated people were “six times more likely to die from a circulating ‘variant’ like ‘Delta’ than are unvaccinated people.” One post used a table in the report to share the false claim, but the post misrepresented the table’s data.

The table in the agency’s report does address delta variant deaths, but it shows that among 60,624 confirmed cases of the variant between Feb. 1 and June 14, recorded deaths included 37 vaccinated people and 34 unvaccinated.

Furthermore, the table does not state the age group of those who died and whether they suffered from any additional illnesses. Experts say that means conclusions cannot be drawn about the role of vaccines in those deaths.

“Unless you account for these differences in age and population, you really can’t make the argument that vaccination confers a higher risk of death,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, an infectious disease physician at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health.

The report notes that follow up is needed when examining the data on delta variant deaths because “it is too early to provide a formal assessment of the case fatality of delta, stratified by age, compared to other variants.”

The public health agency issued another report on June 25 that showed that no deaths had been recorded of patients under 50 who were infected with the delta variant and had received both doses of vaccine.

The data from the agency shows that two doses of the vaccines made by Pfizer or AstraZeneca are highly effective against hospitalization from the delta variant.

A representative from the agency told The Associated Press that since June 14, 806 people in England have been hospitalized with the delta variant, of which 527 were unvaccinated and 84 had two doses of vaccine.

“These hugely important findings confirm that the vaccines offer significant protection against hospitalisation from the Delta variant,” said Dr. Mary Ramsay, the agency’s head of immunization, earlier this month in a press release.

Jeremy Kamil, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, said data from Los Angeles County, where the delta variant is on the rise, further refutes the false claims online. The County of Los Angeles Public Health said on June 24 that almost all the COVID-19 patients in the county who were hospitalized or died were unvaccinated.

Of the false posts circulating online, Kamil said: “It is very bankrupt for them to be claiming that delta is different and somehow it is causing deaths among vaccinated people whereas we know the vaccines protect against the other variants.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536