Newsletter claims that vaccinated patients face higher death risk from COVID-19

A newsletter by a prominent vaccine opponent referenced a small Ohio State University study, which found that vaccinated patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19-related respiratory failure were more likely to die than unvaccinated patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19-related respiratory failure. The writer falsely concludes that COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent COVID-19-related deaths.

Risk level: Medium

Recommendation: Cherry-picking data is a common tactic vaccine opponents use to discourage vaccination. This newsletter may promote vaccine hesitancy among patients in Ohio, where the study was conducted. It may also promote vaccine hesitancy among patients throughout the U.S. who encounter this false claim. Debunking messaging may emphasize that while the study did find that vaccinated patients were more likely to die from COVID-19-related respiratory failure than their unvaccinated counterparts, the newsletter writer ignored a critical portion of the study’s conclusion. The researchers wrote that their findings “...may reflect that within the general population, those individuals at highest risk for COVID-19 mortality/immune failure are likely to be vaccinated. Importantly, the value of vaccination may be in preventing hospitalization as opposed to stratifying outcome among hospitalized patients, although our data do not address this possibility.” Additionally, a correction notes that previous research cited in the study found that vaccinated people made up only 1 percent of all hospitalizations and deaths. Years of research and vaccine monitoring show that COVID-19 vaccines prevent severe illness, hospitalization, death, and long COVID. The CDC recommends the updated COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.