Reality check: Researchers did NOT find that unvaccinated people pose a risk to those vaccinated
During the last 24 hours, many Canadian and international mainstream media outlets ran copy-cat stories summarizing a new article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The news stories are titled along the lines of:
“Remaining unvaccinated increases risk to the vaccinated, says U of T COVID study” (Toronto Star)
“Being with unvaccinated people increases COVID-19 risk for those who are vaccinated: modelling study” (CTV News)
“Unvaccinated disproportionately risk safety of those vaccinated against COVID-19, study shows” (Gobe and Mail)
“Mixing with the unvaccinated increases COVID-19 risk for the vaccinated, study finds” (Vancouver Sun)
We assess the claims reflected in these headlines as misleading and partially false.
The CMAJ article reports on a modeling study, as CTV News correctly titles, not a real-world study. You can tweak mathematical models to achieve any “result” you want. In this case, the researchers assume 80% vaccine efficacy as an “all-or-none phenomenon” (no consideration of break-through cases!?) and ignore the well-known waning of the mRNA injections’ protection over just a few months. They also peg natural immunity among the unvaccinated group at only 20%, without references or a “plausible range”, while recent studies peg that number at 33% for Canada and 50% for BC. In addition, their model is highly simplistic and based on a model of sexually transmitted disease rather than respiratory infection.
Real-world data on infection rates by vaccination status are readily available, rendering abstract modeling studies superfluous. For example, over the last 90 days, the case rate among 40- to 59-year old unvaccinated Ontarians has consistently been some 30% lower than in the double-vaccinated and some 50% lower than in the boosted. This represents negative vaccine efficacy against infection, while the modeling study assumes 40% to 80% protection.
In Ontario’s reality, the unvaccinated fare better or equal to those double-vaccinated across all vaccine-eligible age groups below 60. Only in the oldest age group, where the most frail may in fact remain unvaccinated due to their vulnerabilities, is this pattern reversed. The CMAJ study does therefore not demonstrate facts, in contrast to the suggestion in all of the misleading media headlines. The formulations in the Toronto Star’s subtitle (“modeling holds true”) and the Globe and Mails’s title (“study shows”) are downright false.
Instead of truthfully reporting and critically questioning relevant research, Canada’s mainstream journalists continue to disavow their profession and serve as mouthpieces of the fear-mongerers. Any self-respecting journalist would have noted that the study’s first author has served as a paid advisor to several vaccine manufacturers and a paid consultant to several organizations supporting vaccination mandates, and therefore is, or appears to be, in a conflict of interest.
The consequence of this sleazy news reporting is the persistence of medical apartheid in Canada, the denial of informed medical choices, and the perpetuation of a chasm in society.