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A study led by a Harvard researcher found high rates of infection in communities with high rates of vaccination.
It concluded that prevention measures such as handwashing, safe distancing and testing should be employed along with vaccinations to fight the epidemic.
The headline on a widely shared YouTube video suggested that a Harvard University study found that vaccinations aren’t effective in fighting COVID-19.
"Covid SURGES Among Most Vaxxed Communities Says Harvard Study," the headline said.
The author of the study said the headline misrepresents its conclusions.
The study’s conclusion was not that vaccinations don’t impact infection, but that steps such as masking and social distancing should be used along with vaccination to fight the pandemic.
The video was hosted by comedian and commentator Jimmy Dore, who cited a study published Sept. 30 in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Epidemiology. The study’s lead author, S.V. Subramanian, is a professor of population health and geography at Harvard.
The introduction to the journal article noted a surge in cases in the United States and Israel. But the study itself analyzed the relationship between the percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases reported over a seven-day period across 68 countries and across 2,947 counties in the United States. The periods varied slightly by area, but were in late August and early September.
During that time frame, the study found, countries with a higher percentage of population fully vaccinated had a higher rate of new COVID-19 cases per 1 million people.
The findings were similar in the U.S. Of the five counties with the highest vaccination rates, three of them — Chattahoochee (Georgia), McKinley (New Mexico) and Arecibo (Puerto Rico) counties — had above 90% of their population fully vaccinated while also being identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as high-transmission counties.
But the study’s message was not that vaccination doesn’t work. It was that other steps should also be employed to reduce case rates.
"The sole reliance on vaccination as a primary strategy to mitigate COVID-19 and its adverse consequences needs to be re-examined, especially considering the delta variant and the likelihood of future variants. Other pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions may need to be put in place alongside increasing vaccination rates," the study concluded.
The study noted reports of declines in immunity from mRNA vaccines after six months. It also noted that vaccines offer strong protection against severe hospitalization and death.
"In summary, even as efforts should be made to encourage populations to get vaccinated, it should be done so with humility and respect. Stigmatizing populations can do more harm than good. Importantly, other non-pharmacological prevention efforts (e.g., the importance of basic public health hygiene with regards to maintaining safe distance or handwashing, promoting better frequent and cheaper forms of testing) needs to be renewed in order to strike the balance of learning to live with COVID-19 in the same manner we continue to live a 100 years later with various seasonal alterations of the 1918 Influenza virus."
Subramanian told PolitiFact:
"Concluding from this analysis that vaccines are useless is misleading and inaccurate. Rather, the analysis supports vaccination as an important strategy for reducing infection and transmission, along with handwashing, mask-wearing, proper ventilation and physical distancing."
We rated False a claim that it’s safer to be unvaccinated than vaccinated against COVID-19.
In September, the CDC analyzed vaccine effectiveness across 13 jurisdictions from April 4 to July 17 and matched that data to vaccine registries from those areas. It found that after delta became the most dominant variant, unvaccinated people were five times more likely to be infected than fully vaccinated people, and more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized or die.
The headline on a YouTube video suggested that vaccinations don’t help fight COVID-19, claiming that the disease "surges among most vaxxed communities," according to a Harvard study.
The study did find high rates of infection in communities with high rates of vaccination. But the conclusion was not that vaccinations are ineffective. It was that prevention measures such as testing and distancing should be employed along with vaccinations to fight the epidemic.
The statement is partially accurate but takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.
YouTube, post, Oct. 17, 2021
European Journal of Epidemiology, "Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States," Sept. 30, 2021
Mother Jones, "A Harvard Study Is Going Viral Among Anti-Vaxxers. The Author Says They Are All Wrong," Oct. 12, 2021
PolitiFact, "Nearly half US might have ‘natural immunity’ from COVID-19, but infection brings high risks," Oct. 12, 2021
PolitiFact, "Safer to be unvaccinated against COVID-19? In several ways, that’s False," Aug. 4, 2021
Email, Nicole Rura, senior media relations manager/writer, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Oct. 19, 2021
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