COVID-19

Breakthrough infections either hopeful or horrible depending on your perspective

A number of people have contracted COVID despite being vaccinated. Your takeaway depends on how you frame the numbers.

On the one hand, 5,800 people have contracted COVID-19 even after having received vaccines to protect them from the disease. On the other hand, 99.992% of vaccinated people have dodged the virus so far.

The headline all depends on your perspective – and how news organizations decide to frame the data.

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One thing isn’t in dispute: So-called breakthrough infections do occur – to date, at a rate of 0.008% of fully vaccinated people.

Many news outlets, including CNN, opted to highlight the more alarming statistic showing the vaccine failed to prevent infections in almost 6,000 people. Others, including Ars Technica, preferred to note how rare breakthrough infections really are.

An article published by the group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting said that basic math illiteracy is to blame for the discrepancy.

“Math is hard, for journalists as well as readers, and there’s an understandable reflex for news sites to try to keep the numbers in their stories simple, to avoid making people’s eyes glaze over,” reads the article.

The author points the finger at a lack of context in stories involving math – be they statistics, probabilities, or even basic things like infection rates.

The solution is to avoid simplistic headlines and provide clear context for your numbers.

You can read the full story here.

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