The Latest Vaccine Misinfo to go Viral

NSW Health data published on 5 January has unfortunately been fed into a new COVID vaccine conspiracy. The data comes from a NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report for Weeks 51 and 52 of 2022.

Chief exponent is former LNP MP and now leader of the United Australia Party, Craig Kelly, and the conspiracy is currently circulating on multiple platforms.

The story begins with NSW Health data showing hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and deaths (in that order, left to right, in the table below) due to COVID. Part of the report breaks down these numbers by vaccination status.

Kelly claims the data means “NOT a single vax-free person needed hospitalisation.” So let’s step back for a minute. 

Six unvaccinated individuals died of COVID. With COVID’s mortality rate typically found to be around 2% of those infected and the hospitalisation rate in NSW at approximately 12% of infections, those 6 deaths correspond to an expected 36 hospitalisations.

One possible explanation is that those 36 hospitalisations of unvaccinated people were camouflaged in the group of 364 hospitalised people whose vaccination status was unknown. Alternatively, the unvaccinated may be so committed to a narrative on the evils of medical science that they refrained from seeking medical attention entirely, and so although seriously ill were never hospitalised.

It should be noted that on Commonwealth Ministry of Health statistics, 20.09 million Australians have received at least one vaccine dose. The total Australian population aged 16 or over is 20.63 million, leaving around 540,000 who are completely unvaccinated. 

Thus the unvaccinated are 2.02% of the national population. They accounted for 6.3% of COVID deaths in NSW in Weeks 51 and 52 of 2022. That’s before their likely overrepresentation in the “unknown” group, who were categorised as such because their medical records contained inconsistencies.

The story doesn’t end there, however. So far, the unvaccinated appear, according to the conspiracists’ own cherry-picked data, to be more than three times more likely than the vaccinated to die of COVID.

Additionally, however, the unvaccinated are also a younger group than the vaccinated. We can see here that of those aged 20-24 years of age, 5.98% are completely unvaccinated, compared to 2.02% nationally. Of those aged 60-64 years of age, just 1.1% are completely unvaccinated.

The trend continues at the higher range of vaccination. There are 12.06 million people 30 or more years of age who are eligible for a fourth COVID shot, but just 44% have had it. Of those 65 years of age or older, 3.99 million are eligible for a fourth shot, and over 75% have had it.

So while the unvaccinated are far more likely than the vaccinated to die of COVID, they are a younger population that, all other things being equal, would be less likely to die of COVID.

Unfortunately, these clear errors don’t stop conspiracy material from flourishing.

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