How do death rates from COVID-19 differ between people who are vaccinated and those who are not?

To understand how the pandemic is evolving, it’s crucial to know how death rates from COVID-19 are affected by vaccination status.

To understand how the pandemic is evolving, it’s crucial to know how death rates from COVID-19 are affected by vaccination status. The death rate is a key metric that can accurately show how effective vaccines are against severe forms of the disease. This may change over time when there are changes in the prevalence of COVID-19 and because of factors such as waning immunity, new strains of the virus, and the use of boosters.

This page explains why it is essential to look at death rates by vaccination status rather than the absolute number of deaths among vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

We also visualize this mortality data for the United States, England, Switzerland, and Chile.

Ideally, we would produce a global dataset that compiles this data for countries worldwide, but we cannot do this in our team. As a minimum, we list country-specific sources where you can find similar data for other countries, and we describe how an ideal dataset would be formatted.

Why do we need to compare the death rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated?

During a pandemic, you might see headlines like “Half of those who died from the virus were vaccinated.”

Based on this headline, it would be wrong to draw any conclusions about whether the vaccines are protecting people from the virus. The headline is not providing enough information to draw any conclusions.

Let’s think through an example to see this.

Imagine we live in a place with a population of 60 people.

Then we learn that 10 people died. And we learn that 50% of them were vaccinated.

The newspaper may read, “Half of those who died from the virus were vaccinated.” But this headline does not tell us whether the vaccine protects people or not.

To be able to say anything, we also need to know about those who did not die: how many people in this population were vaccinated? And how many were not vaccinated?

Now we have all the information we need and can calculate the death rates:

Of 10 unvaccinated people, 5 died → the death rate among the unvaccinated is 50%.

Of 50 vaccinated people, 5 died → the death rate among the vaccinated is 10%.

We, therefore, see that the death rate among the vaccinated is 5 times lower than among the unvaccinated.

In the example, we invented numbers to simplify calculating the death rates. But the same logic also applies to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Comparisons of the absolute numbers, as some headlines do, make a mistake known in statistics as a ‘base rate fallacy’: it ignores that one group is much larger than the other. It is important to avoid this mistake, especially now, as in more and more countries, the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 is much larger than the number of unvaccinated people (see our vaccination data).

This example illustrated how to think about these statistics in a hypothetical case. Below, you can find the actual data for the situation in the COVID-19 pandemic now.

Data on COVID-19 mortality by vaccination status

Here we combine the official mortality data by vaccination status published by the United States, England, Switzerland, and Chile. These charts are no longer updated since August 2023.

United States

The United States has vaccinated its population mainly with the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. The US CDC publishes mortality data by vaccination status.

This chart presents the COVID-19 death rate among unvaccinated people (0 doses received), people vaccinated without an updated bivalent booster, and those vaccinated with an updated bivalent booster.

You can click the “Change age group” button on the top left to explore data for a specific age group.

The mortality rate for the "All ages" group is age-standardized by the US CDC using the 2000 US Census standard population. Rates for specific age groups are calculated as crude incidence rates.

Switzerland

Switzerland has vaccinated its population mainly with the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Mortality data by vaccination status is published by the Federal Office of Public Health (data coverage also includes Liechtenstein).

This chart presents the COVID-19 death rate among unvaccinated, fully vaccinated, and those who additionally received a booster dose.

You can click the “Change age group” button on the top left to explore data for a specific age group.

The mortality rate for the "All ages" group is age-standardized by Our World in Data, using single-year age estimates from the 2022 revision of the United Nations World Population Prospects for Switzerland. Rates for specific age groups are calculated as crude incidence rates.

Chile

Chile has vaccinated its population mainly with the Sinovac vaccine. The Ministry of Health publishes mortality data by vaccination status.

This chart presents the COVID-19 death rate among people who are not fully vaccinated, among fully-vaccinated people, and among those who additionally received a booster dose.

You can click the “Change age group” button on the top left to explore data for a specific age group.

The mortality rate for the "All ages" group is age-standardized by Our World in Data, using single-year age estimates from the 2022 revision of the United Nations World Population Prospects for Chile. Rates for specific age groups are calculated as crude incidence rates.

Country-by-country sources

We’ve compiled here a list of links to similar datasets for many other countries. If you know an official source of disaggregated data not listed here, please send us a message using this page's “Feedback” button.

Our team at Our World in Data does not have the resources to bring this data into a common global dataset. If others are interested in doing so, an ideal global dataset would pull this data together into a common format, making sure to harmonize the data in terms of methodology and denominator (for example, per 100,000 people), and would include complete documentation of the sources used. This would be a major contribution to public understanding of the pandemic.

Location

Source

Data available by vaccination status

Australia

New South Wales Government

Cases in New South Wales

Chile

Ministry of Health

Cases + ICU admissions + deaths, by age group

Colombia

Esperanza Cohort, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Colombia

Hospitalizations and deaths, by age group

England

Office for National Statistics

Deaths by age group

Finland

Department of Health and Welfare

Hospitalizations, by age group

France

Ministry of Solidarity and Health

Cases + hospital & ICU admissions + deaths

Germany

Robert Koch Institute

Hospitalizations + deaths

Israel

Ministry of Health

Deaths, by age (direct link to API)

Italy

Higher Institute of Health

Cases + hospital & ICU admissions + deaths

Same data in machine-readable format maintained by MaxDevBlock

Liechtenstein

Federal Office of Public Health

Hospitalizations + deaths, by vaccine type

Malaysia

Ministry of Health

Northern Ireland

Department of Health

Hospitalizations + deaths

Singapore

Ministry of Health

Deaths, by age

Slovenia

Government of Slovenia, via Sledilnik

Spain

Ministry of Health

Cases + hospitalizations + deaths, by age group

Switzerland

Federal Office of Public Health

Hospitalizations + deaths, by vaccine type

United States

US CDC

Cases + deaths, by age group

Cite this work

Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. When citing this article, please also cite the underlying data sources. This article can be cited as:

Edouard Mathieu and Max Roser (2021) - “How do death rates from COVID-19 differ between people who are vaccinated and those who are not?” Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/covid-deaths-by-vaccination' [Online Resource]

BibTeX citation

@article{owid-covid-deaths-by-vaccination,
author = {Edouard Mathieu and Max Roser},
title = {How do death rates from COVID-19 differ between people who are vaccinated and those who are not?},
journal = {Our World in Data},
year = {2021},
note = {https://ourworldindata.org/covid-deaths-by-vaccination}
}

Reuse this work freely

All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited.

The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. We will always indicate the original source of the data in our documentation, so you should always check the license of any such third-party data before use and redistribution.

All of our charts can be embedded in any site.