#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 19°C Sunday 25 July 2021
Advertisement

FactFind: Is Ireland leading the EU vaccine race?

A tweet by the Taoiseach lacked some context on exactly how well Ireland is performing.

download

IRELAND’S COVID VACCINE rollout has gained significant momentum in the past few weeks, and a recent tweet by the Taoiseach on the country’s performance in comparison to our European counterparts suggests were are doing very well.

“Ireland is delivering one of the best vaccine programmes in the world,” Micheál Martin said this week.

“Please register for your vaccine, turn up for your appointment – and together we will keep up the progress against #COVID19.”

The Taoiseach’s tweet was accompanied by three graphs from the statistics website Our World In Data which show Ireland coming out on top when its vaccine rollout is compared to a range of other countries.

But do these graphs tell the full story? Is Ireland really number one, at it appears to be on the charts?

When the graphs are analysed and Ireland is compared with other countries with the same EU/EEA supply of vaccines, we fall down the rankings.

The graphs shared by the Taoiseach are missing context: they show Ireland performing well because we are being benchmarked against a narrow range of countries.

Let’s take a look at these graphs in more detail.

Graph 1: Daily Covid-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people (seven-day rolling average)

MM1

The first graph tweeted by the Taoiseach (above) is a measure of how quickly countries are administering vaccines, adjusted for population size.

However, it includes several countries whose rollouts are slowing down because they made better progress earlier in the year.

At the same time, the graph also shows Ireland’s rollout is currently progressing at a faster rate than the rollouts in the UK and the US ever did.

But a rollout can only be as fast as supplies will allow: if more vaccines are approved for use in a country at a given time, and if companies are able to make and distribute more doses, the faster those countries will be able to vaccinate people.

To objectively gauge whether the speed of Ireland’s vaccine rollout is going well, one has to account for our performance in comparison to countries with a similar supply of doses.

Luckily, we can do this because Ireland shares a vaccine supply agreement with 29 other EU and EEA countries – meaning we receive the same number of vaccines as a proportion of our population at the same time as those other countries do.

Here’s how the Taoiseach’s first graph looks when it includes all 27 EU member states and the three EEA countries who are part of that supply agreement:

coronavirus-data-explorer (1)

(See the graph in more detail here.)

That isn’t exactly easy to read, in part because it shows how vaccines were rolled out in 30 countries over a seven-month period. But it’s clear that, as per the date of the Taoiseach’s tweet, Ireland isn’t on top.

Things become a bit clearer if we just look at the past two weeks:

coronavirus-data-explorer (3)

(See this graph in more detail here.)

It’s hard to see Ireland’s name there (it’s in faded font between Spain and Denmark), but at the time of Martin’s tweet, the ranking was:

  1. Portugal (1.40 doses administered per 100,000 people) 
  2. Sweden (1.30)
  3. Spain (1.17)
  4. Ireland (1.13)

However, the Taoiseach’s graph only compared Ireland to Italy (0.89), Germany (0.76), and France (0.68).

Two weeks previously, on 26 June, Ireland was sixth with 1.10. That huge rise and fall on both graphs is Iceland, which almost met its all-time record rate – which was also the highest in Europe – of 2.21 in early July.

On 14 June, Ireland’s rate fell to 1.01, behind Denmark (1.08), Spain (1.12), and Portugal (1.36).

So while Ireland is currently administering more doses per 100,000 people than Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States ever did, and while our rate is currently among the best in Europe, we still aren’t top of the pile.

The Taoieach’s tweet also mentioned the whole world, and not just EU/EEA countries. But when compared to every country, Ireland ranks 8th for doses administered per 100,000 people – definitely a top performer, but some countries are still ahead.

Ireland is technically 9th when Niue – a South Pacific island nation – is included, but data is missing for 10 June at the time of writing.

Graph 2: Share of total population vaccinated against Covid-19 on 9 July

MM2

This (above) is the second graph the Taoiseach tweeted.

The pace of Ireland’s rollout is currently strong, as demonstrated in graph one, but the overall progress pales in comparison to other EU/EEA countries.

The narrow focus of countries listed in the Taoiseach’s chart hides that fact.

Full data is now in for 9 July, and among EU/EEA countries, Malta held the top position for the total number of people with at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, followed by Iceland and the Netherlands.

Malta purchased a relatively modest number of extra vaccines, which has had a big impact on its small population).

Ireland is actually 15th on the list:

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

coronavirus-data-explorer (4)

(See this graph in more detail here.)

Include every country in the world and Ireland is 34th – but this is data is skewed slightly, as many nations with small populations who were able to achieve high levels of vaccine coverage quickly feature, such as the Cayman Islands (74.47%), Pitcairn (100%), and Gibraltar, with a statistically anomalous 116.63%.

Graph 3: Ireland vs the United States

MM3

The final graph (above) tweeted by the Taoiseach was a straight comparison between Ireland and the United States, which looked at the share of people who have received at least one dose in both countries.

This graph is accurate. During the opening months of the year, the United States was consistently painted as a world leader for the pace of its vaccine rollout. However, a slew of issues is now holding the US back, and Ireland has caught up.

On 9 July, 55.4% of Ireland’s total population had received at least one dose, compared to 54.9% of people in the United States.

Although some of the graphs featured above showed a selective range of countries, Ireland’s performance is quite strong regardless.

Two months previously, on 9 May, those figures stood at 27.29% for Ireland and 45.48% for the United States.

The progress made since then

As of 15 July, 46.36% of Ireland’s total population is fully vaccinated, 8.09% partially vaccinated, and 45.55% unvaccinated.

********

There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

Read next:

COMMENTS