Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they’re very good.


Recent detailed data from Malaysia shows deaths among the non-vaccinated were 10 times higher than for people who were fully vaccinated.

The researchers looked closely at the 1,956 Malaysians who were fully vaccinated and yet died of COVID-19. Risk of death was higher for those who were older, male, or had health conditions like obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. Often, the patient had several of these risk factors.

Three vaccines are widely available in Malaysia: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Sinovac.

Researchers compared the type of vaccine for the people who were fully vaccinated and still died of a breakthrough infection. Risk of death among the fully vaccinated population was 2 per 100,000 for those who got AstraZeneca, 6 per 100,000 population for Pfizer recipients, and 17 per 100,000 for Sinovac recipients. For people who were unvaccinated, risk of death was 10x higher at 116 per 100,000.

We don’t know if the people who got the Sinovac vaccine were somehow systematically different from those who got Pfizer, but this isn’t the first hint that Sinovac is somewhat less effective than the mRNA vaccines. Even so, the Sinovac vaccine is a lot better than no vaccine!

The report was performed by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, and you can read the details in a preprint manuscript.

It’s not a complex analysis and can’t account for things like systematic differences in who got vaccinated or got which vaccine, overlap between being unvaccinated and other risk factors, time since vaccination, whether there were also differences in exposure, or which variant was going around. But, it does include the entire population of COVID-19 deaths using comprehensive population data on vaccine type. Overall it paints a very clear picture of just how protective the vaccines are against death from COVID-19.

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