Fact Check: A Study Does NOT Find Vaccinated Patients Are 27 Times More Likely To Develop COVID Symptoms Than Unvaccinated

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: A Study Does NOT Find Vaccinated Patients Are 27 Times More Likely To Develop COVID Symptoms Than Unvaccinated Misconstrued

Does a study find vaccinated patients are 27 times more likely to develop COVID symptoms than unvaccinated? No, that's not true: The study, based on medical records of the Maccabi Health Service HMO in Israel, found that vaccinated patients are 27 times more likely to develop COVID symptoms than people who were infected with and recovered from COVID-19. Though "unvaccinated," they were people who had already recovered from a bout with SARS-CoV-2 and had some degree of natural immunity. That was the point of the study: comparing infection-induced immunity to vaccination-induced immunity.

The claim appeared as a video (archived here) where it was published on Instagram on September 13, 2021. It opened:

Study finds vaccinated patients 27 times more likely to develop COVID symptoms than unvaccinated

Social media users saw this:

Screen Shot 2021-09-15 at 2.40.01 PM.png(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Sept 15 18:20:29 2021 UTC)

The false claim was made by the OAN network in an article headline and in a video aired by the channel. They updated the headline on their website to say, "​​Study Finds Vaccinated Patients 27 Times More Likely To Develop COVID Symptoms Than People Who Recovered From COVID," but the article and video still are repeating the false claim.

At the 6:17 mark, the Instagram video repeats the false claim in the opening audio of the segment and in the chyron of the video. The video opens:

A new study involving tens-of-thousands of patients reveals fully vaccinated people are 27 times more likely to end up with COVID, COVID symptoms than those who have never had a vaccine. One America's Pearson Sharp has more.

The study does not say that vaccinated people are 27 times more likely to end up with COVID symptoms than those "who have never had a vaccine." It compares vaccinated people to people who previously were infected with COVID-19, meaning they had some degree of natural immunity, but who were not vaccinated. It does not compare them to people who were unvaccinated.

Science.org published an article explaining what the study said:

The new analysis relies on the database of Maccabi Healthcare Services, which enrolls about 2.5 million Israelis. The study, led by Tal Patalon and Sivan Gazit at KSM, the system's research and innovation arm, found in two analyses that never-infected people who were vaccinated in January and February were, in June, July, and the first half of August, six to 13 times more likely to get infected than unvaccinated people who were previously infected with the coronavirus. In one analysis, comparing more than 32,000 people in the health system, the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 was 27 times higher among the vaccinated, and the risk of hospitalization eight times higher.

Health care professionals continue to recommend people get the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure the greatest protection from the disease. The article continued:

No one in the study who got a new SARS-CoV-2 infection died--which prevented a comparison of death rates but is a clear sign that vaccines still offer a formidable shield against serious disease, even if not as good as natural immunity. Moreover, natural immunity is far from perfect. Although reinfections with SARS-CoV-2 are rare, and often asymptomatic or mild, they can be severe.

Lead Stories previously debunked the claim that the study proved vaccines are less effective than natural immunity here.

While the study does indicate people who survived infection with SARS-CoV-2 resisted the delta variant better than those who had been vaccinated, it also notes that people who have been infected and vaccinated fare best of all against reinfection or breakthrough infections and that risking infection without the vaccine means taking a higher risk of death from COVID-19 or lingering symptoms known as "Long Covid."

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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