The authors of a study published Sept. 30, in the European Journal of Epidemiology Vaccines said the sole reliance on vaccination as a primary strategy to mitigate COVID-19 and its adverse consequences “needs to be re-examined.”
A study published Sept. 30, in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Epidemiology Vaccines found “no discernible relationship” between the percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID cases.
In fact, the study found the most fully vaccinated nations had the highest number of new COVID cases, based on the researchers’ analysis of emerging data during a seven-day period in September.
The authors said 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 (B.1.617.2) variant and the likelihood of future variants.
“Other pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions may need to be put in place alongside increasing vaccination rates. Such course correction, especially with regards to the policy narrative, becomes paramount with emerging scientific evidence on real-world effectiveness of the vaccines.”
As part of the study, researchers investigated the relationship between the percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID cases across 68 countries and 2,947 U.S. counties that had second dose vaccine, and available COVID case data.
For seven days preceding Sept. 3, researchers computed COVID cases per one million people for each country, as well as the percentage of population that was fully vaccinated.
Notably, Israel with more than 60% of its population fully vaccinated, had the highest COVID cases per 1 million people during the seven-day period.
Iceland and Portugal, with more than 75% of their populations fully vaccinated, had more COVID cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa, where only about 10% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Across U.S. counties, the median new COVID cases per 100,000 people during the seven-day period was similar across the categories of percentage of population fully vaccinated.
The researchers found a substantial county variation in new COVID cases within categories of percentage of population fully vaccinated. There also appeared to be no significant signaling of COVID cases decreasing in counties where a higher percentages of the population was fully vaccinated.
Of the top five counties with the highest percentage of population fully vaccinated (99.9% – 84.3%), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified four as “high” transmission counties.
Three of the four counties classified as “high” transmission had fully vaccinated rates of 90% or higher. Conversely, of the 57 counties classified as “low” transmission by the CDC, 15 had fully vaccinated rates of 20% or lower.
The findings also showed no discernible association between COVID cases and fully vaccinated rates when a one-month lag was considered, to account for the 14-day period it takes for a vaccine to be considered effective.
The authors suggested a correction to the policy narrative is warranted, as increasing vaccination rates is not enough. “Such course correction, especially with regards to the policy narrative, becomes paramount with emerging scientific evidence on real-world effectiveness of the vaccines,” they wrote.
The authors cited data from the Ministry of Health in Israel showing the effectiveness of two doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine against preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection was reported to be 39% — substantially lower than the reported trial efficacy of 96%.