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Nursing coordinator Beth Springer looks into a patient's room in a COVID-19 ward at the Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 17, 2021. (AP) Nursing coordinator Beth Springer looks into a patient's room in a COVID-19 ward at the Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 17, 2021. (AP)

Nursing coordinator Beth Springer looks into a patient's room in a COVID-19 ward at the Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 17, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher January 26, 2023

No, ‘Dilbert’ creator is wrong about unvaccinated, they face more risk of COVID-19 infection, death

If Your Time is short

  • Data has consistently shown that unvaccinated people are at greater risk than vaccinated people of getting infected by COVID-19 and dying from it.

  • COVID-19 vaccines have a strong safety record and infection alone provides only limited protection.

  • Usually, vaccine side effects are minor and emerge within days, not years later. Some people who get COVID-19 experience "long COVID" — physical effects that can last for years.

The cartoonist who made us laugh at workplace culture long before TV’s "The Office" aired on TV is drawing cheers from vaccine skeptics following comments he made on his YouTube livestream.

Scott Adams, creator of the "Dilbert" comic strip, which launched in 1989 and appears in more than 2,000 newspapers worldwide, claimed that people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are better off than those who are.

"The anti-vaxxers clearly are the winners at this point, and I think it would probably stay that way," Adams is seen saying in a video clip posted on Instagram. "And I don’t want to put any shade on that, whatsoever; they came out the best."

The video of his statements gathered more than 57,000 likes when it was shared on Instagram by the "Just Think" podcast, a show that describes itself as having "a strong aversion to labels, political correctness, and censorship" and has hosted a number of vaccine skeptics.

Unvaccinated people, Adams says in the clip, "feel better." He said they don’t have to worry what might happen to them "five years from now."

For unvaccinated people who got COVID-19 and recovered, he said, "Now you’ve got natural immunity and you’ve got no vaccination in you. Can we all agree that that was the winning path?"

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

Data has consistently shown that unvaccinated people are at greater risk than vaccinated people of contracting COVID-19 and dying from it. Infection without vaccination provides only some protection.

As for vaccine side effects, they "emerge within days, maybe a week or two, or not at all," said John Moore, a Cornell University professor of microbiology and immunology. "And in the vast majority of cases, serious side effects simply do not happen."

What Adams said

The Instagram post takes excerpts from Adams’ Jan. 21 YouTube episode of "Real Coffee with Scott Adams."

In his video, Adams said he got vaccinated but hasn’t received booster shots. He said "adverse events" to the COVID-19 vaccines reported to the federal VAERS system are much higher than for previous vaccines. He said that even though the reports do not prove a vaccine caused a serious side effect, the number of reports suggest COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous.

VAERS — Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — helps researchers collect data on vaccine aftereffects and to detect patterns that may warrant a closer look. The reports are not verified, and incomplete VAERS data often accompanies false claims about vaccine safety.

Higher risks of infection, death for unvaccinated

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in reporting statistics on COVID-19 infections and deaths in the United States, said vaccinated people in all age groups had a lower risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and dying from COVID-19, compared with unvaccinated people.

The results were even stronger for people vaccinated with a bivalent booster, which includes messenger RNA components of the original COVID-19 virus and the omicron variant.

According to the CDC, based on data from April 23 to Oct. 29 from 22 areas of the United States:

  • In October, people age 5 and older vaccinated with the booster were 18 times less likely to die from COVID-19.

  • In November, they were three times less likely to be infected.

Similarly, Our World in Data, a science publication, reported that from April 2 to Sept. 3, the rate of death from COVID-19 was several times higher among Americans age 50 and older for the unvaccinated. 

We’ve debunked similar claims.

Featured Fact-check

Since April 2022, people vaccinated against COVID-19 have comprised the majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. compared with unvaccinated people. But a key reason is that there are far more vaccinated people than unvaccinated. 

We also reported that immunity conferred from prior COVID-19 infections can be comparable to vaccine-induced immunity, but in both cases, the effectiveness wanes over time.

"There is abundant evidence that the strongest and most durable protection is conferred by the combination of infection plus vaccination, in either order," Moore said. "A previous infection does confer some protection from reinfection, but it wanes over time, and it does not provide much protection against the omicron variants."

Vaccine side effects quick, nearly always mild

More than 667 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the U.S. as of Jan. 18 "under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history," the CDC reported.

Common side effects include pain where the shot was given, tiredness and headache, and they generally go away within a few days. 

Serious side effects are rare, the CDC said:

  • Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, has been reported in vaccinated adolescents and young adults, but most felt better soon after treatment. Confirmed myocarditis cases numbered 708 out of 63 million doses given to people ages 5 to 17.

  • The FDA requires health care providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Of the 667 million doses given since December 2020, CDC has received 18,769 preliminary reports of death (0.0028%), but cautioned that such reports do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused any health problem. 

Historically, severe effects from vaccines tend to happen within two months of vaccination, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported.

MRNA COVID-19 vaccines, the type most commonly given in the U.S., have been used for a relatively short time, but other mRNA vaccines were previously studied in people. MRNA doesn’t stay in the body’s cells longer than needed to generate immunity, according to the report.

"As opposed to other types of treatments and medications that are taken regularly," the Henry Ford Health System said, "vaccines can’t cause a surprise reaction years down the road."

Some people who get COVID-19 experience "long COVID" — physical effects that can last for years, according to the CDC.

We sent emails to an address listed on Adams’ website and at Dilbert.com and an address on his Facebook page. We didn’t get a reply.

Our ruling

Adams said that people unvaccinated against COVID-19 "came out the best." He said those who survived COVID-19 have natural immunity without having to worry about long-term vaccine side effects.

Data shows that unvaccinated people are at greater risk than vaccinated people of contracting COVID-19 and dying from it. Medical experts recommend vaccination even for people who have had COVID-19, due to variants of the virus.

Generally, vaccine side effects are minor and emerge within days, not years later.

We rate the statement False.

RELATED: Gov. Ron DeSantis falsely claims bivalent booster vaccine increases chances of COVID-19 infection

RELATED: 'Died Suddenly' repeats debunked COVID-19 vaccine claims, promotes conspiracy theory

RELATED: Federal VAERS database is a critical tool for researchers, but a breeding ground for misinformation

Our Sources

Instagram, post (archived), Jan. 23, 2023 

YouTube, Real Coffee with Scott Adams "Episode 1995 EXCERPT - AntiVaxxers Win" post, Jan. 21, 2023 

YouTube, "Real Coffee with Scott Adams" Episode 1995 Scott Adams: Get In Here! post (30:00), Jan. 21, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status," accessed Jan. 24, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines," Jan. 23, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination," Jan. 23, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Possible side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine," Sept. 14, 2022

Our World in Data, "United States: COVID-19 weekly death rate by vaccination status, 50+," accessed Jan. 24, 2023

Email, John Moore, Cornell University professor of microbiology and immunology, Jan. 25, 2023

Inside Medicine, "Future COVID-19 booster vaccinations should be 100% omicron, or whatever is actually circulating at the time," Jan. 19, 2023

New England Journal of Medicine, "Protection against reinfection with the omicron BA.2.75 subvariant," Jan. 18, 2023

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, "Feature article: Long-term side effects of COVID-19 vaccine? What we know," March 9, 2022

Henry Ford Health System, "5 reasons we know the COVID-19 vaccines don’t have long-term health effects," Feb. 1, 2022

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More by Tom Kertscher

No, ‘Dilbert’ creator is wrong about unvaccinated, they face more risk of COVID-19 infection, death

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