COVID-19 vaccine mortality risk is lower than in an unvaccinated group

The COVID-19 vaccine mortality risk has been a subject of a lot of myths and misinformation ever since the vaccines were released. Too much of the false information relies upon dumpster diving into the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) rather than good science that might show causality.

The CDC published a study in the peer-reviewed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on 22 October 2021 which examined the risk of non-COVID mortality in a COVID-19 vaccine group compared to an unvaccinated group. So that I don’t bury the lede, the risk of death from non-COVID causes was much higher in the unvaccinated group compared to the vaccinated one.

Let’s look at the details.

COVID-19 vaccines mortality risk paper

The CDC researchers assessed mortality risk not associated with COVID-19 (non–COVID-19 mortality) after receiving COVID-19 vaccines in a general population setting. They employed a cohort study, which was conducted during December 2020–July 2021 among approximately 11 million persons enrolled in seven Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) sites.

The VSD is a much better database to assess vaccine safety and effectiveness because it includes complete medical data on vaccination histories, health outcomes, and subject characteristics. It has been used by other researchers to assess all adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination. The VSD can be utilized by any researcher who has a legitimate need. The VSD is infinitely more useful than VAERS in assessing in determining causal relationships between vaccines and any adverse event.

After standardizing mortality rates by age and sex, and adjusting for demographic characteristics and VSD site, the researchers found the following:

  • Recepients of COVID-19 vaccines had lower risk of non–COVID-19 mortality than did unvaccinated persons.
  • The adjusted relative risk (aRR) of non–COVID-19 mortality for the Pfizer vaccine was 0.41 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.38–0.44) after dose 1 and 0.34 (95% CI = 0.33–0.36) after dose 2. This means that individuals that received the Pfizer vaccine had a 59% lower risk of non-COVID-19 mortality than unvaccinated after the first dose, and 66% lower after the second dose.
  • The aRRs of non–COVID-19 mortality for the Moderna vaccine were 0.34 (95% CI = 0.32–0.37) after dose 1 and 0.31 (95% CI = 0.30–0.33) after dose 2. In other words, the Moderna vaccinated group has a 66% lower risk of death after one dose and 69% lower risk after two doses compared to the unvaccinated group.
  • The aRR after receipt of the JNJ vaccine was 0.54 (95% CI = 0.49–0.59). Although not as impressive as the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, this group had a 46% lower risk of non-COVID-19 related death.

So what does this all mean? It means that if you look for all causes of mortality other than from COVID-19, those who received one of the COVID-19 vaccines had a lower overall mortality risk during the study period than did those who are unvaccinated.

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Now, I’m not going to say that these vaccines are miraculous and they prevent death from cancer or cardiovascular disease, even though the decreases in mortality risk are remarkable, but it will show that the vaccines are not causing a mass casualty event.

Of course, being a curious scientist-type, I do wonder why there was such a statistically significant reduction in mortality risk in the COVID-19 vaccines group. I’m just speculating, something the CDC researchers also did, but I’m going to assume that those who got the vaccine tend to have more concern for their own health and the health of others, so they take fewer health risks.

For example, the study did not adjust for smokers, which is a known risk factor for not only COVID-19 mortality but also mortality for all causes. It’s possible that there are more smokers who do not get vaccinated.

I actually would love to know. Or maybe the COVID-19 vaccines are miracles and prevent death. If that were true, I’m sure vaccine uptake would skyrocket. However, this data is more along the lines of correlation rather than causation. Healthier people tend to get the vaccine.

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Setting aside my speculation, the authors of the study concluded that:

There is no increased risk for mortality among COVID-19 vaccine recipients. This finding reinforces the safety profile of currently approved COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. The lower mortality risk after COVID-19 vaccination suggests substantial healthy vaccinee effects (i.e., vaccinated persons tend to be healthier than unvaccinated persons), which will be explored in future analyses. 

I can’t wait to read their analysis of why there is a difference in mortality risk between the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

But for now, we know that those who get the vaccine are not victims of non-COVID-19 related deaths at a rate higher than unvaccinated. This is more evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and aren’t killing people despite the anti-vax claims.


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!