Lacks context: Although the U.S. has administered a large number of doses, the proportion of Americans who received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose is lower than the proportion of vaccinated people in other countries, such as Israel or Chile.
FULL CLAIM: “In five weeks, America has administered the most COVID vaccine shots than any other country in the world.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world since early 2020, causing more than 100 million confirmed cases and more than 2.5 million deaths worldwide to date, 500,000 of which happened in the U.S. Since the first COVID-19 vaccines were authorized in December 2020, many countries have initiated large nationwide vaccination campaigns. The rate of vaccination differs between countries, reflecting differences in public health policies, vaccine supplies and local challenges, such as lack of storage infrastructure or complex geography that makes transportation challenging.
Comparing COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategies between countries, some claimed that the U.S. is ahead in the vaccination campaign. For instance, this Facebook post from 1 March 2021 claimed that the U.S. had “administered the most COVID vaccine shots of any country” in the 5-week period from 25 January 2021 to 1 March 2021. The comparison of publicly available data showed that this is mostly accurate.
However, the U.S. vaccination campaign is not ahead of other countries in terms of the proportion of the population that has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
The website Our World in Data compiled vaccination figures using publicly available official datasets from various countries. The graph in Figure 1 shows that the U.S. delivered more doses of COVID-19 vaccine than any other country included in the analysis.
Figure 1. Cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by various countries throughout the world, compiled as of 2 March 2021. The curves represent how many doses have been administered in each country since the beginning of the vaccination campaigns.
The U.S. administered 54.17 million COVID-19 vaccine doses between 25 January and 1 March to reach a total of 76.90 million since the beginning of the campaign. This is in line with the data reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of vaccine doses administered by the U.S. is currently higher than those administered by other frontrunners, such as China, which administered 29.75 million doses or the U.K. which administered 13.77 million doses over the same period.
While it is accurate to say that the U.S. administered more doses than any other country, this number is somewhat misleading if population size isn’t taken into account. The impact of a vaccination campaign at the country level depends on the proportion of vaccinated people. Therefore, it is important to take into account not only the absolute number of vaccine doses administered, but also the proportion of vaccinated people relative to the entire population.
When the number of administered COVID-19 vaccine doses is reported as a proportion of the population of each country, Israel is currently ahead of all other countries, as 55.6% of the population has already received at least one dose of the vaccine (Figure 2). The U.S. is currently in sixth place, with 15.2% of the population having received at least one dose as of 1 March. This places the U.S. behind the U.K. (30.2%), Chile (18%), and Bahrain (17%).
Figure 2.The graph represents the percentage of each country’s population that received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of 2 March 2021 (most of the COVID-19 vaccines require at least two doses for full effect).
In conclusion, it is accurate to say that the U.S. administered more COVID-19 vaccine doses than any other country during the 5-week period from 25 January 2021 to 1 March 2021. However, it is important to keep in mind that the proportion of the population that has received at least one vaccine dose is actually lower in the U.S. than in other countries around the world.