Covid vaccine statistics – is taking the vaccine worth the risk?

To inform the personal decision of whether to get the vaccine here are some statistics from authoritative sources. Should you have a more accurate source for any of these statistics please leave it in a comment.

The risk of death from Covid infection overall is 500000 / 10000000 so 5%

Source: “this virus has infected over 10 million individuals and resulted in at least 500,000 deaths world-wide”

John Hopkins University shows currently 4 million deaths from 200 million Covid cases worldwide indicating a 2% risk of death from Covid infection overall.


Non authoritative sources show a worst case death rate of 0.5% for those over 80 years old and 0.15% overall though these figures may be population fatality rates i.e. your risk of catching the infection and then dying from it rather than your risk of dying after having certainly been infected. Of course catching Covid is not a certainty so the risk of catching the infection and then dying from it is the risk it makes most sense to compare against the certain risk from deciding to have the vaccine and then going to get vaccinated.


A personal risk calculator from Oxford University is here

The current known risk of death following shortly after Covid vaccination is 0.002%

Source: “VAERS received 6,490 reports of death (0.0019%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

So short term overall taking the vaccine is between 250 and 2,500 times safer than not taking it according to the headline statistics, as far as risk of death goes. Taking the vaccine does not guarantee elimination of the risk of dying from Covid so it is more complicated than this, and the reduced risk of death from Covid having taken the vaccine should strictly be added to the risk of death from the vaccine itself, but we are dealing with ballpark figures so let us suppose for now that it does.

From the personal risk calculator, which excludes previous recovery from Covid infection as a risk (mitigating) factor, my own personal risk of dying during a 90 day period (based on data from the first pandemic peak) is 0.008% so taking the vaccine is 4x safer than not taking it, but only assuming I could catch Covid from the general population. Taking the risk of actually catching Covid into account, together with a previous positive test for Covid antibodies from previous Covid infection, the benefits of vaccination for me are more debatable. Furthermore, arguably morally, it would be better that the vaccine dose available to me in the UK be used to vaccinate someone in the world more vulnerable to succumb to death from Covid or spread Covid to others.

Of course, this figure will vary for individuals and the personal risk calculator can help one calculate an individual figure – though no provision is made for those who have already contracted and recovered from Covid.

The risk of long-term negative impact from Covid infection is at least 5% given that 5% of adults have “long Covid” from Covid infection.

Source: “A study of over half a million adults in England found that one in 20 had persistent COVID-19 symptoms.”

The risk of long-term negative impact from the vaccine is currently unknown. There are various reassurances about the mechanism the vaccine uses being well established and its elimination from the body.

Source: “mRNA doesn’t affect your genes in any way because it never enters the nucleus of cells, where your DNA is kept. After the mRNA does its job, it breaks down and is flushed out of your system within hours. It’s also important to know that although mRNA technology for vaccines is new, the mRNA technology itself isn’t. Therapies using mRNA have been around for years and are currently being used to treat cancer and viral diseases.”

Of course, the long term risks only come into play if you survive the short term risks.

These statistics and the reasoning above just consider one’s individual risk of death rather than the risk of ‘causing’ death to others by inadvertently infecting them while one is infected or the risks to public health from Covid infection treatment stretching the health service. While there is evidence (sources TBC) that vaccination reduces the risk of spreading Covid to others the question of whether one has any moral obligation to reduce the risk of Covid in others, and if so how best to do that through one’s actions, is more complicated.

There are arguments both ways and further questions. What level of risk and inconvenience should we expose ourselves to in order reduce risk to others e.g. should we all shield/isolate to minimise the risk to others? Should we be allowed to give our vaccine allocation to others who are more likely to die or spread Covid? Could it be advantageous to the species that some proportion of the population never develops Covid antibodies?