STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Did the "most vaccinated countries in the world" have the "worst case fatality rates" for COVID-19? In addition, did the vaccines fail to save lives? No, that's not true: These claims are not supported by current scientific evidence. Numerous studies have shown that COVID vaccines have been effective in reducing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the virus. Vaccines have played a crucial role in saving lives and mitigating the impact of the pandemic worldwide.
The claim appeared in a video on Facebook on May 27, 2023, under the title "'These vaccines saved NO ONE! The most vaccinated countries in the world had the worst case fatality rates!' - Dr Pierre Kory." The headline in the video says something similar:
THESE VACCINES SAVED NO ONE
Dr. Pierre Kory
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed May 31 15:45:41 2023 UTC)
About Dr. Pierre Kory
Dr. Pierre Kory is a physician affiliated with the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), an anti-vaccine group that has been cited for perpetuating unsubstantiated claims regarding the COVID-19 virus in a scholarly article in Frontiers in Pharmacology. Kory is a founding member of FLCCC.
The heavily edited 91-second clip is from a March 7, 2023, public hearing on the immunization of Wisconsin students in grades seven-12, in which Kory testified. A graphic in the upper right-hand corner of the video identifies the hearing and when it took place. The clip opens with Kory saying:
I'm completely estranged from my profession and, in some ways, even society. It's literally a society that's been corrupted by forces, and nobody realizes it. We sit in these little bubbles, we read our New York Times, and we think everything's going as according to plan. You know, we even have my colleague over there who says that we saved a million lives with these vaccines. That is utter and complete nonsense. Nonsense! These vaccines saved no one. Across the world, the most highly vaccinated countries had the worst case fatality rates.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an adjunct assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provided this response to the claims in a May 31, 2023, email to Lead Stories. He said:
While it is true that certain highly vaccinated countries had high fatality rates from COVID, that does not translate into that the vaccine had some causal role in causing the deaths or had no impact on COVID mortality.
Vaccines have demonstrably reduced rates of death from COVID-19 but many highly vaccinated countries had too many high-risk people who remained unvaccinated contributing to the death toll (it is also true that in high-risk individuals vaccines don't reduce the risk of COVID death to zero).
Vaccines are what transformed COVID into a manageable illness, one that did not require trucks to store dead bodies.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine operates the Coronavirus Resource Center, which compiles global COVID statistics. The charts below represent 20 countries in two COVID categories. On the left, the countries ranked according to the percentage of the population vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. On the right, the rankings of the highest mortality rates in the most affected countries.
(Source: Johns Hopkins screenshots taken on Wed May 31 2023 UTC)
Lead Stories found only four countries -- Canada, Chile, Peru and Portugal -- that appeared on both charts for most vaccinated and worst fatality rate countries.
Dr. Robert J. Havey, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, provided a more succinct response to the claims in the video in a June 1, 2023, email to lead Stories. He said:
This is simply not true.
COVID vaccine impact
A June 23, 2022, study in the medical journal The Lancet suggests that COVID vaccines played a substantial role in reducing the number of deaths globally due to the virus. It said, "COVID-19 vaccination has substantially altered the course of the pandemic, saving tens of millions of lives globally." The study added:
Based on official reported COVID-19 deaths, we estimated that vaccinations prevented 14·4 million ... deaths from COVID-19 in 185 countries and territories between Dec 8, 2020, and Dec 8, 2021. This estimate rose to 19·8 million ... deaths from COVID-19 averted when we used excess deaths as an estimate of the true extent of the pandemic, representing a global reduction of 63% in total deaths (19·8 million of 31·4 million) during the first year of COVID-19 vaccination.
A separate study published on December 13, 2022, by The Commonwealth Fund, shows similar results but was limited to the United States. It said:
From December 2020 through November 2022, we estimate that the COVID-19 vaccination program in the U.S. prevented more than 18.5 million additional hospitalizations and 3.2 million additional deaths. Without vaccination, there would have been nearly 120 million more COVID-19 infections.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In a May 31, 2023, email, Belsie González, a senior public affairs specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said a study published on December 20, 2022, shows the benefits of vaccination. She told Lead Stories (emphasis hers):
In one of the largest studies of its kind to date, CDC found no increased risk of death among people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines. Rates of death among people who received COVID-19 vaccines were lower than those of people who did not receive COVID-19 vaccines (deaths not related to COVID-19).
This study's findings should reassure potential COVID-19 vaccine recipients and their healthcare providers that these vaccines are safe. Findings also counter unsubstantiated claims that COVID-19 vaccines have caused widespread deaths. Rigorous vaccine safety monitoring has been a priority and practice at CDC for decades. CDC will continue to monitor vaccine safety and provide updates as needed to guide COVID-19 vaccination recommendations.
More than 672 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 1, 2023, the CDC website said. More than 13 billion doses had been administered globally as of May 31, 2023, according to Our World in Data.
Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to vaccines can be found here.
Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to Dr. Pierre Kory can be found here.
2023-06-02T14:53:07Z 2023-06-02T14:53:07ZAdds response from Dr. Robert J. Havey, executive director of the MD Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.