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Jason Asenso
By Jason Asenso July 30, 2021

A UK health official misspoke when he said 60% of hospitalized patients had been fully vaccinated

If Your Time is short

  • A U.K. health official misspoke when he said, "around 60% of the people being admitted to hospitals with covid have been double vaccinated." He later issued a correction. 

  • Partly or fully vaccinated individuals made up about 40% of people who were hospitalized in the U.K. between February and July. Public health officials said that’s due to the U.K.’s high rates of vaccination and the spread of the delta variant.

  • The vaccines are still effective at reducing the number of infections that result in hospitalization.

In a July 19 press conference, the U.K.’s chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, incorrectly said, "around 60% of the people being admitted to hospitals with COVID have been double vaccinated."

Vallance corrected himself later that day, tweeting: "About 60% of hospitalisations from covid are not from double vaccinated people," Vallance wrote. "Rather 60% of hospitalisations from covid are currently from unvaccinated people."

But by then, clips of Vallance’s initial statement began circulating online.

A viral Facebook post repeated the incorrect statistic and said, "60% of patients admitted to the hospital in the UK have been fully vaccinated."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post didn’t acknowledge Vallance’s correction, leaving the misleading impression that it was accurate.

But even the corrected statistic has raised eyebrows. It suggests that 40% of hospitalized patients are people who were at least partly vaccinated.

On his July 19 show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson cited the corrected statement and went on to question why it appears that so many vaccinated people in the U.K. are being hospitalized.

"The fact that anybody is going to the hospital, particularly a big percentage of people who are going to the hospital who have already been vaccinated, is the opposite of what they've been telling us here in the United States," Carlson said. "They've been telling us anyone who is fully vaccinated is fine; the only people getting dangerously sick or dying from COVID are those people who have refused to get the vaccine."

The explanation lies in both the high rates of vaccination in the U.K., and the rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, health officials say.

"Even with a highly effective vaccine, it is expected that a large proportion of cases would occur in vaccinated individuals, simply because a larger proportion of the population are vaccinated than unvaccinated," a spokesperson for the agency said in an email.

Featured Fact-check

A July 23 technical briefing from the government agency Public Health England found that 229,218 delta variant cases were recorded between Feb. 1 and July 19. Of these cases, 7,790, or 3.4%, of the total recorded infections resulted in hospitalization.

Of these 7,790 hospitalizations, 4,853 or 62.3%, of people were unvaccinated, aligning with the 60% Vallance mentioned.

The breakdown for the remaining nearly 40% went like this:

  • 1,101 (14.1%) had received both doses

  • 1,148 (14.7%) were at least 21 days past their first dose

  • 608 (7.8%) were fewer than 21 days past their first dose

  • 80 (1%) of the samples sequenced could not be matched to someone. 

What all that means is that roughly 0.48% of people who tested positive for COVID-19, and had been fully vaccinated in the U.K., had to be hospitalized.

Vaccination still helps prevent a large number of hospitalizations. While no vaccines are 100% effective, Public Health England cited a study suggesting that with two doses, both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are over 90% effective in preventing infections that require hospitalization.

So even though the delta variant has reduced the efficacy of the available vaccines, the U.K.’s National Health Service still recommends vaccination against COVID-19. The country’s vaccination program is estimated to have prevented at least 21.3 million infections, 57,500 deaths, and 52,600 hospitalizations so far.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said "60% of the people admitted to hospitals with covid have been double vaccinated."

The claim was based on a misstatement by a U.K. health official. The official issued a correction where he said he meant to say that 60% of hospitalized patients were unvaccinated. The post didn’t acknowledge the correction.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Twitter post, July 19, 2021 

YouTube, COVID-19 press conference, July 19, 2021

Facebook post, July 21, 2021

Fox News, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," July 19, 2021

Full Fact, Double vaccinated people do not make up 60% of Covid-19 hospitalisations, July 21, 2021

Public Health England, Vaccines highly effective against hospitalisation from Delta variant, June 14, 2021

Public Health England, Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants identified in UK, accessed July 23, 2021

Public Health England, Cases in the UK | Coronavirus in the UK, accessed July 29, 2021

Email Interview with spokesperson for Public Health England, July 29, 2021

Public Health England, Healthcare in the UK

New England Journal of Medicine, Effectiveness of Covid-19 Vaccines against the B.1.617.2 (Delta) Variant, July 21, 2021

Public Health England, Technical briefing 19 | SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation, July 23, 2021

Public Health England, Press release: COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report published, July 29, 2021

Public Health England, COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report Week 30, July 29, 2021

National Health Service, Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines, accessed July 30, 2021

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A UK health official misspoke when he said 60% of hospitalized patients had been fully vaccinated

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