A nurse administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Los Angeles, California on July 16, 2021 ( AFP / Frederic J Brown)

Posts mislead on protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines

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Social media posts downplay the protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines, saying survival rates are the same whether people receive the shots or not. This is misleading; health authorities say that more than 99 percent of people who have recently died of Covid-19 in the United States have not been vaccinated against the disease.

"Unvaccinated, you can get COVID and have over 99% chance of survival. Get vaccinated and you can STILL get COVID and will still have over 99% chance of survival," conservative television personality Tomi Lahren tweeted on July 18, 2021.

A screenshot of a tweet taken on July 19, 2021

Screenshots of the tweet were shared by Lahren and others on Facebook here, here and here in posts liked tens of thousands of times.

The posts are accurate in that people can still contract Covid-19 even if they have been vaccinated -- though the chance of doing so is much lower. And most people who get the disease survive it.

But the comparison of survival rates made in the posts -- which are part of a broader trend of false or misleading claims circulating online about Covid-19 and vaccines -- ignores the fact that almost all deaths recently caused by the disease are among people who have not received the shots.

"We are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated in particular. And while if you are vaccinated you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not true if you are not vaccinated," the US surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, told CNN's "State of the Union" on July 18.

"We're seeing 99.5 percent of deaths right now from Covid-19 in our country are happening among the unvaccinated," America's leading public health spokesman said.

Top US infectious disease specialist Dr Anthony Fauci gave a similar figure on NBC's "Meet the Press" on July 4.

"If you look at the number of deaths, about 99.2 percent of them are unvaccinated. About 0.8 percent are vaccinated. No vaccine is perfect. But when you talk about the avoidability of hospitalization and death... it's really sad and tragic that most all of these are avoidable and preventable," said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a July 16 briefing that "this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated."

"We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk. And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well," Walensky said.

The social media posts also fail to mention the long-term impact Covid-19 can have even on those who survive the disease.