Fact Check: Bulgaria's Low COVID-19 Vaccination Rate Is NOT Related To Low Excess Mortality

проверка на факти

  • от: Lead Stories автор
Fact Check: Bulgaria's Low COVID-19 Vaccination Rate Is NOT Related To Low Excess Mortality Cherry-Picked

Do countries with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates like Bulgaria also have lower excess mortality rates? No, that's not true: The selective comparison of unrelated European datasets suggesting that high national rates of COVID-19 vaccination led to high excess mortality rates is false and misleading. It is not possible to draw any valid conclusion based on a single factor, such as vaccination rates, from data that is aggregated at a country level, without putting it in context. Such data may not reflect the true effects of vaccines, especially if it is selectively chosen to support a certain narrative.

The claim appeared in a TikTok video (archived here) published on April 12, 2023, under the title "The latest official data from Eurostat. The aftermath of the injections." Behind the narrator, who in the video speaks Russian, on the screen a map by the European Union statistical office (Eurostat) is visible, accompanied by the following caption, translated from Bulgarian by Lead Stories staff:

It is a real plague in Europe, they die like flies and no one hides it. Here is the official information from the Eurostat website. So, we are focusing on Eurostat's excess mortality data. [...] People were asking when the results would be obvious. It started some time ago, of course, but now they can't hide it. As I said, in this 'negative' rating, you can see Germany in the lead. They are now having more than 40 percent their usual number of deaths. This is the latest information, from last year. [...] On the contrary, in countries where it's normal to think with your own head, such as Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and where they doubt that the globalists care about you - they are all alive, thank God.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

TikTok screenshot

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Jun 5 21:26:44 2023 UTC+2)

Social media users in Bulgaria have been sharing information which juxtaposes European COVID-19 vaccination rates and mortality rates to imply that countries with higher COVID-19 vaccination rates have greater excess mortality. However, this is a misleading and inaccurate claim that ignores the context and the sources of the data. According to Eurostat, "excess mortality" is the rate of additional deaths in a month compared to the average number of deaths in the same month over a baseline period, which, in this case, is the period between 2016 and 2019. It refers to the number of deaths from all causes measured during a crisis, above what could be observed under 'normal' conditions. Excess mortality can be influenced by many factors, such as seasonal variations, population ageing, environmental events, and infectious diseases. Therefore, a comparison of excess mortality rates across different countries or time periods without taking into account these additional factors, is not a valid one.

The TikToker here notes that Germany, which according to Statista is the seventh most-vaccinated country in Europe, "has the highest excess mortality" unlike Bulgaria which is the least-vaccinated and has the least excess mortality. There is currently no scientific evidence supporting the claim of a causal relationship between COVID-19 vaccine rates and excess deaths.

Professor Jeffrey Morris, director of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told Reuters Fact Check via email that finding a valid relationship between vaccines and excess deaths would require "individual-level data" including numerous variables - such as cause of death, people's vaccination status and comparisons between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Additional data would also be needed to account for "confounding factors related to vaccination status and risk of death, including age, sex, socioeconomic status, pre-existing health conditions, vocation - as it relates to potential high COVID exposure - COVID infection history etc. by appropriate design or analysis approaches."

Bulgaria was hit hard by COVID-19 due to its low vaccination rate. More than 50 percent more people died in Bulgaria than usual during September 2021, making the European Union's least vaccinated country its hardest hit during a resurgence of coronavirus cases over the late summer of that year. During some of the most difficult times of the pandemic, such as the autumn-winter period of 2021, excess mortality in the country was the highest in the EU, and as of January 2023, Bulgaria had the EU's highest incidence of COVID-19 deaths.

Vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing serious complications and deaths from COVID-19. Several studies support this conclusion with sound evidence.

Lead Stories fact-checked a similar claim linking the "most vaccinated countries" and the "worst case fatality rates" here. Additional Lead Stories fact checks on vaccines can also be found here.

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