Australia is facing a spate of COVID-19 cases as the highly contagious ommicron COVID-19 variant continues to spread across the continent.
But one media outlet claims there is something different about the latest wave of COVID-19.
“Fully vaccinated Australians in hospital for COVID-19 outnumber unvaccinated,” reads a January 12 article of the Epoch Times, a conservative media site with a history of publishing wrong information.
Like the headline, the beginning of the article implies that vaccinated people are more susceptible during the ommicron wave.
“For the first time, New South Wales (NSW) has seen more fully vaccinated patients in hospital with COVID-19 compared to unvaccinated patients as the Omicron outbreak continues to reach its peak,” the article says.
Outside of that sentence, the article is behind a paywall – leaving many readers with no context that more fully explains the situation.
The article was shared in social media posts, which were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to fight false news and misinformation in the news feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The headline is misleading; it refers to ‘Australians’, but the full article focuses only on data from New South Wales, a state in the south-east of the country.
Government of New South Wales data was current up to and including 9 January.
According to that data, 2,030 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in New South Wales. Of those patients, 28.8% were unvaccinated and 68.9% fully vaccinated. (The data does not include information about whether the patients had received vaccine boosters.)
The same data reported 159 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. Of those patients, 49.1% were not vaccinated and 50.3% were vaccinated.
Based on those statistics in New South Wales, it was correct to say that the number of people vaccinated in hospitals in New South Wales was greater than the number of people who were not vaccinated.
Still, the Epoch Times article itself acknowledged the apparent increased risk to the unvaccinated.
“Based on the data presented, unvaccinated individuals appear to be six times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly 13 times more likely to be sent to the ICU than those who have been fully vaccinated,” according to the Epoch Times. . “This implies that the number of unvaccinated patients appears to be over-represented in the figures – 7.3 percent of the NSW population aged 12 and older were unvaccinated at the time, but they made up half of the COVID-19 ICU patients in the NSW health system.”
The article no longer refers to the most current data.
More people are currently hospitalized in New South Wales and Victoria – Australia’s worst-affected states – than at any previous point in the pandemic, Reuters reported:.
On January 12, New South Wales officials reported 2,242 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state. Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet reported: 175 patients in ICUs.
“More than 50% of those people are not vaccinated,” Perrottet said of the ICU patients. “Vaccination has been key during this time to protect you and your friends and your family. It’s very clear about those numbers. They don’t lie.”
In New South Wales, 92.5% of the eligible population (aged 12 and older) had been fully vaccinated by January 9, according to the state’s most recent COVID-19 data. That represents 78.3% of the total population of the state.
Perrottet emphasized that because New South Wales has such a high vaccination rate, the fact that more than 50% of those in the ICU with COVID-19 were unvaccinated demonstrates the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“About 93% of adults in NSW are now fully vaccinated, leaving about 7% of the population not fully protected,” the spokesperson said. New Zealand Herald reported on January 12. “Despite being a small part of the wider community, this 7% now accounts for more than half of all ICU admissions.”
Catherine Bennett, and professor of epidemiology at Deakin University, told the Herald that if the vaccines didn’t protect people from severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalization, vaccinated people would make up a higher proportion of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
“People who are a very small proportion of the at-risk population make up a large proportion of those in the ICU,” Bennett said.
An Epoch Times headline shared on social media said: “Fully vaccinated Australians in hospital for COVID-19 outnumber unvaccinated.”
The headline suggests that vaccinated people are more susceptible to serious illness from the virus than unvaccinated people. But the headline misrepresents the data cited in the article, parts of which are only accessible to paying subscribers.
The article looks at data from one Australian state – not the entire country – where more vaccinated people were hospitalized than unvaccinated people.
But nearly 93% of eligible people in the state have been vaccinated. Coupled with the fact that more than 50% of those in ICUs with COVID-19 were unvaccinated, experts say, the numbers show the vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing serious illness.
The statement is partially correct, but it omits important details or takes things out of context. We rate this claim Half True.