Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States
“…At the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases in the last 7 days (Fig. 1). In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. Notably, Israel with over 60% of their population fully vaccinated had the highest COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in the last 7 days. The lack of a meaningful association between percentage population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases is further exemplified, for instance, by comparison of Iceland and Portugal. Both countries have over 75% of their population fully vaccinated and have more COVID-19 cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa that have around 10% of their population fully vaccinated.
Across the US counties too, the median new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days is largely similar across the categories of percent population fully vaccinated (Fig. 2). Notably there is also substantial county variation in new COVID-19 cases within categories of percentage population fully vaccinated. There also appears to be no significant signaling of COVID-19 cases decreasing with higher percentages of population fully vaccinated (Fig. 3).
Of the top 5 counties that have the highest percentage of population fully vaccinated (99.9–84.3%), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies 4 of them as “High” Transmission counties. Chattahoochee (Georgia), McKinley (New Mexico), and Arecibo (Puerto Rico) counties have above 90% of their population fully vaccinated with all three being classified as “High” transmission. Conversely, of the 57 counties that have been classified as “low” transmission counties by the CDC, 26.3% (15) have percentage of population fully vaccinated below 20%.
Since full immunity from the vaccine is believed to take about 2 weeks after the second dose, we conducted sensitivity analyses by using a 1-month lag on the percentage population fully vaccinated for countries and US counties. The above findings of no discernable association between COVID-19 cases and levels of fully vaccinated was also observed when we considered a 1-month lag on the levels of fully vaccinated (Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary Figure 2).
We should note that the COVID-19 case data is of confirmed cases, which is a function of both supply (e.g., variation in testing capacities or reporting practices) and demand-side (e.g., variation in people’s decision on when to get tested) factors.
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…”