Joe Rogan Podcast uses contextual Covid-19 death dates
November 4, 2021
What was said
Over 70% of Covid-19 deaths now occur among vaccinated people in the UK.
This is correct for deaths in England and is evident from the UKHSA data in their week 38 vaccine surveillance report. However, the UKHSA states that this is to be expected as a larger proportion of the population is vaccinated than unvaccinated, especially among vulnerable groups
A video clip from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast in which journalist Alex Berenson claims that over 70% of Covid-19 deaths in the UK now occur in people who are fully vaccinated was widely shared on Facebook.
This claim comes from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data for England from August to September 2021. However, the abridged clip from the podcast shared online does not contain the important caveat and context that the number of people vaccinated (in particular those in older or more vulnerable groups) far exceeds the number of unvaccinated people, so that unfortunately more deaths are to be expected in this much larger group.
The Joe Rogan Experience is hosted by Mr Rogan, an American comedian and former television presenter. It was reported that his podcast reached an estimated 11 million people per episode and was the most popular podcast in the U.S. for much of 2020 and 2021. We checked other claims about the podcast.
The shared section of the show on social media includes Mr Rogan and Mr Berenson discussing numbers from a table in a Public Health England (PHE) document. Mr Berenson describes this as “the UK’s worrying technical briefings”. However, the numbers actually come from a slightly different PHE document called the Covid-19 Vaccine Monitoring Report. This is a weekly report that was previously produced by PHE and is now produced by UKHSA (the body that has performed the health protection functions of PHE).
Mr Berenson says that in the UK over 70% of people who are “dying now” from Covid are fully vaccinated. Breaking this down into age groups, he says, “I want everyone to see that the vast majority of the people in the UK who died in September were fully vaccinated – 1,270 out of 1,500 [over 80s] were fully vaccinated, 607 of the 70-year-olds out of 800 were fully vaccinated, 258 of 411 60-year-olds. Almost all of them were fully vaccinated. Most of the people who are now dying from it are fully vaccinated in the UK. Those are the numbers. “
It’s worth noting that later on in the podcast, Mr. Berenson begins to discuss some of the context of these numbers. However, this is not included in the clip shared on social media.
The numbers included in the podcast are largely correct numbers from the Week 38 report, which included data from August 23 to September 19, although this report only includes data from England and not the whole of the UK.
These figures show that overall more vaccinated people than unvaccinated people died of Covid-19 during this period. A total of 3,158 deaths were reported during this period (within 28 days of a positive test), and 2,284 of those deaths (72%) were fully vaccinated.
This pattern of greater deaths in vaccinated than unvaccinated people is found in the age groups 60 and over, which accounted for the majority of deaths. However, this does not apply to younger age groups. If you look at age groups 18 to 59 in isolation, only 35% of deaths occurred in people who had been given a double vaccination.
The clip of the podcast shared on social media misses an important caveat and context that helps explain these numbers.
In front of the tables in the report there is a section in the document entitled “Interpretation of the data” which states: “Given a very high level of immunization coverage in the population, even with a highly potent vaccine, a large proportion can be expected of the cases, hospitalizations and deaths would occur in vaccinated people simply because a larger proportion of the population is vaccinated than unvaccinated and no vaccine is 100% effective ”.
She added, “This is especially true because vaccination is a priority for people who are more susceptible to or at greater risk of developing serious illnesses.”
In other words, although the risk of death from Covid-19 is greatly reduced after vaccination because so many people in the UK have been vaccinated and the intake has been highest and the oldest and most vulnerable people cared for first, it is expected that many people will who have Covid-19 will now be vaccinated.
For example, by week 38, over 90% of those over 80 were double-vaccinated. Although the vaccines are highly effective, they cannot 100% prevent serious infections. Because so many people in this age group are vaccinated, many of the infections occur in people who are vaccinated.
If you look at the number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, there are many more deaths in the unvaccinated than in the vaccinated. A recent report by the Office for National Statistics found that between Jan.
We have already written about some of the potential inaccuracies in using this type of data to comment on vaccine effectiveness. These include difficulty in accurately estimating the number of unvaccinated people and changes in behavior in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
The UKHSA said, “The vaccination status of cases, inpatients and deaths is not the most appropriate way to assess vaccine effectiveness and is at high risk of misinterpretation”.
In its most recent report, the UKHSA instead uses information from a number of sources to say that the vaccines are estimated to be 65 to 95% effective in preventing symptomatic disease with the Delta variant of Covid-19 with a high level of protection against serious illness and death.
It also states, “There is some evidence that protection against infection and symptomatic illness declines over time, although protection against serious illness remains high in most groups for at least 5 months after the second dose.”
The Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee announced the launch of a refresher program for vulnerable groups who were first vaccinated over six months ago.
We have often written about similar topics.
This article is part of our job reviewing potentially fake pictures, videos, and stories on Facebook. Read more about it here – and learn how to report Facebook content. For the purposes of this scheme, we have classified this claim as a lack of context as the video misses the expected context as a greater proportion of the population is vaccinated than unvaccinated, especially among vulnerable groups.
- By Daniella de Block Golding