Fact Check: COVID Deaths Among Vaccinated Massachusetts Residents

A viral tweet from conservative talk show host Steve Deace claims that “Massachusetts reporting 45% of its Covid deaths last week were fully vaccinated.” 

The tweet, which has also been widely shared on Facebook, is accompanied by an October 12 report from the Massachusetts Department of Health, that states: “As of October 9, 2021 there were 4,660,716 fully vaccinated people and there were 44,498 cases in vaccinated people.” These numbers are cumulative.

The claim that 45 percent of  Massauchuestts’s COVID-19 deaths were from vaccinated people is false. The tweet misrepresented the data. The report did not find 45 percent of vaccinated people died of COVID. Instead the report shows that 45 COVID deaths among those vaccinated, which works out to .007 percent of the vaccinated population.*  

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  • 45 vs 45%… because math is hard.

  • This fact check is incorrect. It conflates the statement
    1) "45% of deaths were in vaccinated people"
    with the statement:
    2) "45% of vaccinated people died".
    The tweet being fact-checked claims 1) while the fact check attributes to it 2), and refutes that. It's simply false.

  • I took me a while to recall this, but this article has me thinking of the following:
    “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
    – Michael Crichton (1942-2008)

  • Please retract this fact check. It is incorrect. There were 45 vaccinated deaths and about 100 total deaths. That's about 45%.

    The first sentence of your fact check is "A claim that vaccinated patients accounted for 45 percent of deaths is false". That is wrong.

    1. I think a lot of people are talking past each other regarding this fact check. Taking the report and tweet in isolation, with no other information, the fact check is correct. The report does not contain any data regarding unvaccinated individuals.

      1. At some point you argued that the fact check should have mentioned missing context. I agree. But simply stating that the 45% figure is wrong without explaining how it’s wrong, or what the correct number is, isn’t good fact-check journalism. A good fact check for this would include the following:
        1. Explain what the best estimate is for the 45% figure, and how it’s calculated. I claim it’s 45.9%.
        2. Explain the difference between deaths reported during a week vs deaths incurred, and why deaths incurred numbers change.
        3. Include the vacc rates of the population, especially the populations that had the bulk of the deaths. Explain how this makes numbers like 45% look bad, when in reality, for a highly vaccinated population, 45% is good.

        The final result would start out, “Yes, approx 45% of deaths that week were among the vaccinated. However, this is to be expected in a highly-vaccinated population. As an extreme, if the entire population were vaccinated, 100% of deaths would be among the vaccinated…”.

        Unfortunately, this fact check is nothing like this. It just says 45% is wrong, without explaining how it’s wrong.

      2. If the fact check is correct, then the subtitle, “A claim that vaccinated patients accounted for 45 percent of deaths is false”, must be a true statement, right? The claim they’re referring to references Oct 3-9, so it must be the case, according to you, that this percentage is some number different from 45%. What is that percentage? If you don’t know what it is, how do you know that 45% is incorrect? Unless you come up with a different figure, you have no idea if the fact check is correct or not. But for some reason you claim the fact check is correct. Why? Just guessing?

  • I don’t understand why this fact check has not been retracted. Every statement in the 3rd paragraph is incorrect.

    1. Did you email the TD corrections email? I think you are right that the tweet isn't wrong, it just isn't proven by the one screenshot the tweeter shows. You need a denominator figure for total number of covid deaths reported in order to get 45% from 45.

      1. I did yesterday. As someone else said, the tweet looks wrong at first glance, but the denominator is close to 100, so changing the 45 to 45% is correct.

  • Reading through comments I do think the writer should have considered that as the percentage of the population vaccinated rises, we could get to a point that all Covid deaths are in the vaccinated because there are no unvaccinated.

    1. I have to agree.

      Let's assume the claim that 45% of COVID deaths that week were from vaccinated is completely true, since it appears the denomenator for that week is around 100. The implication from the tweet is that the vaccine is ineffective. Here's my problem... 67% of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated. That means that 55% of COVID deaths are coming from 33% of the population. This is dispite the people least at risk (0-11) being universally unvaccinated and the ones most at risk (65+) being over 95% vaccinated.

      I think the tweet the fact check is misleading, even if it appears to be factually true. From my view, the problem with the fact check is that it doesn't give very good context to show why the tweet was wrong.

      Source for vaccination rates: https://www.mass.gov/doc/weekly-covid-19-vaccination-report-october-14-2021/download

    2. Plus, the most at risk people are vaccinated. I can't find the source, but while perusing Massachusetts' covid website I saw the average age for a vaccinated deaths is in the 70's vs the average age for an unvaccinated death is in the 40's or 50's. So getting vaccinated makes your immune system equivalent to someone 20-30 years younger than you.

  • "Instead, the report shows 45 COVID deaths among those vaccinated, a number that represents .007 percent of all COVID deaths in Massachusetts during the period in question."

    I don't think that's quite right. The chart shows that 0.007% of fully vaccinated people died of COVID (345/~4.6M).
    The total # COVID deaths in MA is 18,875 (per NYT). So 1.8% of cumulative COVID deaths in MA are among vaccinated people.
    But the earliest someone could have been fully vaccinated was January 15 2021. Deaths in MA since that date are 5,292 (Worldometer). So 6.5% of deaths in MA since mid Jan 2021 are among fully vaccinated people.

    The original claim is still bonkers. But it's worth getting these fact checks right...

  • Another awful fact check. The specific claim being fact-checked is: "Massachusetts reporting 45% of its Covid deaths last week were fully vaccinated."

    TD rates this as "false" because: "The report did not find 45 percent of vaccinated people died of COVID." Good god, man. That's not even close to what the tweet said. If that were actually the claim, it would mean that 1.2 million vaccinated people had died. (4.6M vaccinated x .45 = 1.2M).

    The TD then segues into the red herring observation that "the report shows 45 COVID deaths among those vaccinated, a number that represents .007 percent of all COVID deaths in Massachusetts during the period in question." But this is just a bait and switch that redefines the "period in question." The "period in question" in the tweet is whatever time period is reflected in **last week's** reporting period. So why is TD off on a tangent talking about the **cumulative totals** from the beginning of time (or whenever the TD's undefined "period in question" begins).

    Moving the goal posts, mixing apples and oranges, whatever metaphor you prefer, this fact check sucks.

    If someone in our vaunted journalist class wanted to get an actual number that matters, they would need to calculate the percentage of vaccinated people who have *in the most current reporting period* died of Covid; and then compare it to the percentage of unvaccinated people who *in the most current reporting period* have died of Covid. (For extra credit, they could try to control these numbers for age and other risk factors). (For extra extra credit they could calculate and compare the all cause mortality rates for the vaccinated and unvaccinated.) But math appears to be too hard for journalism majors. It's much easier to just keep chanting that "experts say the vaxx is safe and effective."

  • I had a friend who was vaccinated. He got Covid and the contracted pneumonia and died a few days later. I got covid the same week, also vaccinated but was mildly ill. Difference being he was over 60, very obese, and diabetic. So the deaths of the vaccinated could be due to underlying conditions.

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