Steve April 13, 2021
facebook-post-makes-misleading-claims-about-covid-19-passports-and-death-rate

13 April 2021

What was claimed

Mandatory vaccine certificates are being introduced.

Our verdict

There has been no suggestion certificates will be mandatory across all settings, although plans are under discussion.

What was claimed

Covid-19 vaccines are experimental.

Our verdict

All UK Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective and safe through clinical trials.

What was claimed

Covid-19 vaccines don’t prevent infection or transmission of the disease.

Our verdict

Evidence shows vaccines have a significant effect on the infection rate of Covid and reduce transmission.

What was claimed

The Covid-19 death rate for “most of us” is 0.05%.

Our verdict

The terms here are poorly defined and seem to be based on disputed research. The 0.05% death rate figure, for younger people, is disputed.

A Facebook post that has been shared more than 3,000 times claims: “We’re about to be forced to have a digital ID, proving we’ve had an experimental vaccine, which doesn’t prevent infection or transmission of a virus that most of us have 0.05% chance of dying from, so we can live ‘normal life’. Can people really not see through this?”

The claims in this post are largely false or misleading. 

Vaccine certificates

The claim regarding a “digital ID” appears to refer to Covid-19 vaccine certificates (also known as vaccine passports). These are documents which would prove a person’s Covid-19 vaccination or infection status. These are not currently mandated by the UK government. 

The government has published a Roadmap Reviews paper which discusses how certificates could be used in everyday life. The paper includes details of a government-led Events Research Programme, which will run a number of trials in April and May to test how Covid status certificates could be used to reintroduce large public events like football matches and concerts, and reduce border restrictions for travellers.

It also states how businesses will legally be able to ask for proof of Covid-19 status from customers, provided doing so doesn’t break equality laws. 

If certificates are formally introduced, the government says it is unlikely anyone would require a certificate to access essential shops, essential public services and public transport and people for whom vaccination isn’t advised and repeat testing is difficult are likely to be exempt from such a scheme. 

However, talks are ongoing; vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi recently said certification is “only one option” while some MPs say they will vote against it if it is brought to parliament.  

Therefore, with no legislated policy, clear indications there will be exemptions and more debate (or even a vote) on the matter, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that Covid-19 passports will be mandatory or “forced”. 

Experimental vaccines

It is also not true the vaccines are “experimental”. The three Covid-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK have already been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials. 

Some of the vaccines used in the UK are mRNA vaccines. While these are the first mRNA vaccines to be rolled out to the general public, the technology behind mRNA vaccines has been developed over a number of years. Both mRNA Covid-19 vaccines have passed the same safety tests and procedures any other vaccine would.

It’s normal that authorities continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines even after they have been approved. This monitoring happens with all vaccines, including those that have been in use for years, to detect any adverse effects. Just because studies into these vaccines are continuing, doesn’t mean the vaccines are experimental.

Transmission and infection

As we have said before, vaccines significantly reduce the risk of developing Covid-19. 

Clinical trials have shown recipients of the Pfizer vaccine were 95% less likely to contract Covid-19 compared to placebo treatment while the Moderna vaccine has been shown to be 94% effective. Recent trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine showed it was 76% effective against symptomatic Covid-19, 100% effective against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation, and 85% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in participants aged 65 years and older. 

And while the risk of transmission does not disappear following vaccination, initial evidence suggests vaccines help stop the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus which causes Covid-19. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) notes that there is only one study on the impact of vaccination on the risk of transmission so far, a Scottish study which has not yet been peer-reviewed, which suggested vaccination of a household member reduced the risk of infection to susceptible households by at least 30%. 

However, the ECDC also stated “the total number of infections is expected to decrease significantly as vaccination coverage increases, provided that there is a match between the vaccine strains and the circulating virus strains” which would “lead to decreased transmission overall.”

0.05% Covid-19 death rate

It is very difficult to calculate an accurate death rate for Covid-19, because we do not know exactly how many people have been infected and therefore what proportion of people have died. 

The post claims there is a 0.05% death rate for Covid-19 for “most of us” but doesn’t clarify what “most of us” means. It appears to be based on a systematic review of Covid-19 studies, from Stanford University, which suggests that only 1 in 2,000 people (0.05%) under the age of 70 infected with Covid-19 would die from the disease. . 

The review has been disputed by epidemiologists who say the death rate varies greatly among age groups. One peer review noted the populations sampled in the review varied “greatly” which was “inappropriate to analyse” together and that the infection fatality rate estimated was “lower than those reported in multiple other studies”. 

The review also did not thoroughly examine the effect of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and lung disease, which are associated with severity of Covid-19 symptoms and mortality. 

It’s also unclear whether the reference to “most of us” in the Facebook post does mean under 70s. According to the World Health Organization, estimates suggest that the overall death rate for Covid-19 is somewhere between 0.5% and 1% of all people who catch it.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because vaccine passports have not yet been introduced and there is no reason to believe they will be mandatory, the UK’s Covid vaccines are not experimental, there is evidence to prove the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines and how they reduce transmission and the death rate figure has been widely questioned.

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