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BBC wants "to understand why 8% of the population remains unvaccinated against Covid"

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Update: within 2 hours of me posting this article and tweeting it the BBC updated the article (see below) so it's just as well I grabbed a screenshot of the original.




A new BBC documentary (hosted by mathematician Prof Hannah Fry) "seeks to understand why eight percent of the population remain unvaccinated against Covid-19."

But, as pointed out by Clare Craig, the latest UKHSA Covid-19 surveillance report (dated 7 July 2022) reports something very different: almost 30% of the population of England eligible for the vaccine has not had a single dose of the vaccine. Even if we ignore those aged under 18 it is almost 20% without a single dose and almost 40% who have not had 3 doses.

(Note: we know NIMS everestimates the population size by several million because of a combination of double counting people vaccinated and non-residents/non-citizens attending hospitals or GPs etc, but there is no basis to claim it overestimates the proportion of unvaccinated - if anything it is more to likely to underestime this proportion). As we have shown in several of our own research articles, (see for example here and here) accurate estimates of the proportion of people who are unvaccinated is critical in determining both vaccine efficacy and vaccine safety. To see why suppose, for illustration, we know that in a given period there were one million people in a specific age group of whom one thousand died. Then the overall all-cause mortality rate is 1 in 1000. Suppose we know that 800 of those who died were vaccinated while 200 were not. Then:

  • If the true proportion of unvaccinated is 10% that means 200 out of 100,000 unvaccinated died (that's a mortality rate of 1 in 500), while 800 out of 900,000 vaccinated died (that's a mortality rate of 1 in 1,125). So the mortality rate in the unvaccinated is much higher than that of the vaccinated.

  • If the true proportion of unvaccinated is 30%, that means 200 out of 300,000 unvaccinated died (that's a mortality rate of 1 in 1,150), while 800 out of 700,000 vaccinated died (that's a mortality rate of 1 in 875). So the mortality rate in the unvaccinated is much lower than that of the vaccinated.

Our reports showed clearly that many of the claims by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about vaccine efficacy and safety are based on flawed data, which includes not just misclassifying some of those who die shortly after vaccinated as 'unvaccinated', but also underestimating the true proportion of unvaccinated.


The 8% unvaccinated claim by the BBC is clearly wrong and it clearly has a major impact in exaggerating any claims about vaccine safety and efficacy. Having previously co-presented a BBC documentary with Hannah Fry, I am well aware of the extent to which what presenters say is scripted by others. So I'd be interested to know if Hannah is comfortable presenting such obviously inaccurate statistics.


Update: within 2 hours of me posting this article and tweeting it the BBC updated the article. It nows says Hannah Fry "seeks to understand why a portion of the population remain unvaccinated against Covid-19." So a small success of sorts, but how about an apology by the BBC for misleading the public again and also an explanation for how they came to get it so wrong. Who are the 'experts' they relied on for the data and are they the same 'experts' who will be scripting the programme with a biased narrative?




But while the BBC have now changed their web page after we pointed out this blatant misinformation I see they still haven't deleted this tweet:



That's good, as it's more evidence of the extent of BBC lies. But look at that 'ratio' ....

(above is a screenshot in case they do decide now to delete it)



Unlike the BBC biased nonsense, this article describes a rigorous study into the views of the unvaccinated (includes link to the detailed study)

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16 Comments


Michael in Dublin
Michael in Dublin
Jul 29, 2022

The late Douglas Altman (a professor of statistics in medicine at the University of Oxford) recognized a serious problem with the use of statistics in medical research. He worked long to address the problem.

The majority of statistical analyses are performed by people with an inadequate understanding of statistical methods. They are then peer reviewed by people who are generally no more knowledgeable. Sadly, much research may benefit researchers rather more than patients, especially when it is carried out primarily as a ridiculous career necessity.” (1998) (my emphasis)


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Another point that nobody seems to have picked up on about this programme: the segment about the 'nocebo effect' (the jelly-bean section). If it's the case that adverse effects from the vaccine are often a result of the expectation, on the part of the patient, that they will experience such effects (in other words, they are illusory), could not the same principle be argued in the case of so-called 'long covid': that adverse side-effects from Covid-19 could (in some cases at least) be the result of the expectation of such side-effects, especially since 'long covid' has been frequently publicised within the media for quite some time now?

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"Our reports showed clearly that many of the claims by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about vaccine efficacy and safety are based on flawed data, which includes not just misclassifying some of those who die shortly after vaccinated as 'unvaccinated', but also underestimating the true proportion of unvaccinated. "

As far as I'm aware, the ONS doesn't keep data on numbers of vaccinated and unvaccinated in the UK population.

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Can you please clarify why you have taken the population of ENGLAND (rather than of the UK) as the starting point for your rebuttal? The claim that '8% of the population remain unvaccinated' may well be erronious, but surely one would need to assume that 'population' here refers to the UK as a whole, not just England.

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The table in your rebuttal shows the population of England at over 63,000,000. Actual population in 2021 census 56,489,800 https://ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/bulletins/populationandhouseholdestimatesenglandandwales/census2021 Number of vaccinated in your rebuttal about 44.5 million actual figures on 22 july over 53 million https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/vaccinations?areaType=overview&areaName=United%20Kingdom I realise that this table also come from a govt source but it shows how difficult figures can be!

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