Fact check: memes comparing being vaccinated and being unvaccinated are missing context

Fact check: memes comparing being vaccinated  and being unvaccinated are missing context

Photo caption: One misleading and widely shared Facebook post.

By Reuters Fact Check

A graphic being shared widely online makes misleading suggestions about COVID-19 vaccines. The image shows a table that draws comparisons between being vaccinated and being unvaccinated. The table suggests that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can get COVID-19, spread it, and die from the virus, while only those inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine can die from a vaccine.

The overall message of the meme falsely suggests that it is safer to be unvaccinated. Examples can be seen on Facebook and on Instagram. Similar posts can be viewed. One social media user added in the comments: “Love this! Puts it into perspective! For those who don’t get it.” Another said: “Sums it up perfectly.”

However, the images omit context when comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated outcomes. They imply the risks of catching, spreading and dying from COVID-19 are equal, regardless of vaccination status.

“These memes are highly inaccurate,” Prof Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine and Associate Division Chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), told Reuters.

“The chance of having severe disease (hospitalization) from COVID-19 is reduced by at least 96% with the vaccine in multiple well-done real-world effectiveness studies, even among older individuals >65 years old as shown by a recent CDC study,” Gandhi said.

“The reason vaccines were developed was to prevent severe disease (hospitalizations and death) from COVID-19, the most devastating consequence of this new virus,” she added.

Reuters previously addressed the claim that vaccines do not significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization from the virus.

“Moreover, although symptomatic breakthroughs with the delta variant may result in some transmission, the viral load likely drops much more quickly in a vaccinated person and is less infectious,” Gandhi said, referring to a CDC report.

A study conducted by researchers at Imperial College Dublin found that fully vaccinated people are at 50%-60% reduced risk of infection from the delta coronavirus variant.

“Therefore, vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract COVID-19, spread it, and much less likely to experience severe disease than those who are unvaccinated, contrary to these memes,” Gandhi said.

The U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reporting scheme for adverse events and deaths following the COVID-19 vaccine do not imply causation. Claims regarding VAERS data have been previously addressed by Reuters.


Missing context. Vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract COVID-19 and experience severe disease than those who are unvaccinated.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. The original article contains several links to the sources mentioned, including social media posts and statistics. Read more about Reuters' fact-checking work at https://www.reuters.com/fact-check/about.