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No, omicron does not favor the vaccinated
If Your Time is short
- Infectious disease experts said that the omicron variant of COVID-19 does not favor vaccinated people.
- Early research shows that vaccinated people are more suceptible to this variant than others because omicron is more resistant to vaccination.
- While there are breakthrough cases with omicron, vaccination continues to offer protection against infection, severe disease, and bad outcomes.
An article on a conservative blog uses infection statistics from other countries to back a dubious claim: that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are more susceptible to the omicron variant of the virus.
"Data from around the world suggests that omicron favors the fully vaccinated," says the headline on the Jan. 3 article from Alpha News that was shared on Facebook.
The article says that in Canada, 81% of omicron cases are among people who are fully vaccinated; that in Germany, the vaccination rate is 71%, but 95.6% of omicron cases are among people who are fully vaccinated; that "61% of omicron cases in Israel were among those who are triple vaccinated; and that "Iceland is the most boosted nation on earth but also has the fourth highest COVID case rate."
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.)
Infectious-disease experts said the conclusion in the headline is incorrect.
While scientists are still studying how effective existing COVID-19 vaccines are against the omicron variant, experts said that being vaccinated does not put people at greater risk.
"Omicron does not favor the vaccinated; it favors everyone," said Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "The immune evasive properties of the variant allow it to infect fully vaccinated, and even boosted, individuals. This doesn’t mean it favors or targets them, it just means it has the capacity to infect them. Other variants lacked this ability and preyed primarily on the unvaccinated. Omicron can prey on both."
Omicron is more resistant than delta to immunity from vaccines or from a prior infection, said Dr. Thomas A. Russo, a professor of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo who treats COVID-19 patients. "That’s why we’re seeing more infections in the vaccinated," Russo said.
But there’s "no question" that people who are vaccinated have more protection, Russo said.
"Vaccination does not increase the likelihood that you’ll get infected. It’s really quite the opposite," he said: Vaccination protects against infection, severe disease and bad outcomes.
The high incidence of infections among vaccinated people is occurring in certain countries not because they are more susceptible to the virus than unvaccinated people, but rather because there are so many more of them than there are unvaccinated people. "As the proportion of vaccinated increases, they’ll have an increasing contribution to the infection pool," he said.
Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said it’s "nonsense" to claim that people who are vaccinated are at higher risk of disease.
PolitiFact has looked at other claims about high rates of omicron infection among vaccinated people, and the statistics behind them. We found that claims that data from the United Kingdom show that unvaccinated people are less likely to get infected with omicron to be Mostly False.
A claim about data in Germany showing 95.6% of omicron cases were among the vaccinated, the same figure Alpha News cited, was from a report that had an error in it that has been corrected. The report had substantially undercounted the number of unvaccinated people who were infected.
A blog post claimed that data from around the world showed that the fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 "favors people who are fully vaccinated."
That’s not accurate.
Early research suggests that vaccines may not be as effective against omicron as they have been against other variants, but there is no evidence to support the claim that omicron favors people who are vaccinated.
Experts say that vaccinated people have more protection, and that the high numbers of infections among vaccinated people are due in part to the high vaccination rates in certain countries.
We rate this claim False.
Alpha News, "Data from around the world suggests that omicron favors the fully vaccinated," Jan. 3, 2022. Accessed Jan. 4, 2022.
PolitiFact, "Claim about omicron risk for the vaccinated is missing key context," Jan. 4, 2022. Accessed Jan. 5, 2022.
PolitiFact, "A report about omicron cases in Germany was based on an incorrect number," Jan. 7, 2022. Accessed Jan. 7, 2022.
HealthFeedback, fact-check, "Misleading claims linking the spread of Omicron variant to vaccinated people rely on partial data and are unsubstantiated," Nov. 26, 2021. Accessed Jan. 6, 2022.
Reuters, "Fact Check-German institute did not report 96% of Omicron cases fully vaccinated," Jan. 4, 2022. Accessed Jan. 5, 2022.
Phone interview, Thomas A. Russo, MD, professor and chief, infectious disease, Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, Jan. 6, 2022.
Email interview, Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Jan. 6, 2022.
Phone interview, George Rutherford III, MD, professor, epidemiology & biostatistics, director, Prevention and Public Health Group, University of California, San Francisco, Jan. 6, 2022.
The Conversation, "How effective are vaccines against omicron? An epidemiologist answers 6 questions," Melissa Hawkins, professor of public health, American University, Dec. 15, 2021. Accessed Jan. 6, 2022.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slide deck, "Update on Omicron Variant," Heather Scobie, Ph.D., M.P.H., Dec. 16, 2021. Accessed Jan. 6, 2022.
MedRXiv, "Effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron or Delta infection," Sarah A. Buchan, et. al., Jan. 1, 2022. Accessed Jan. 6, 2022.
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No, omicron does not favor the vaccinated
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