On November 12, the government of Gibraltar announced it intended to cancel various functions, “including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings,” in response to a rise in active COVID-19 cases. It called on people “to exercise their own judgement” in organizing events.
That announcement was met with a flurry of social media posts.
Russian state broadcaster RT, which has repeatedly stoked vaccine hesitancy, ran an article headlined “'Most vaccinated' place on earth cancels Christmas.”
Others stated that the situation in Gibraltar, which has achieved one of the world’s highest rates of full COVID-19 vaccination, was proof that the shots are doing nothing to stop the pandemic.
The Dr. Rath Health Foundation, which has drawn controversy by pushing people to treat HIV/AIDs with vitamins and promotes the use of vitamin C and other natural compounds to combat COVID-19, was among those sowing vaccine hesitancy.
“With its entire eligible population claimed to have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and masks still required in stores and on public transport, the recent exponential increase in COVID-19 cases in Gibraltar demonstrates yet again that conventional health approaches cannot provide the solution to ending the pandemic,” the Dr. Rath Health Foundation said in a November 26 post.
“Unfortunately, however, Gibraltar’s government has thus far failed to recognize this and is instead putting its faith in so-called ‘booster’ vaccinations, in the desperate hope that these will somehow stem the growing tide of infections.”
The claim that vaccines can’t help end the pandemic is false.
In fact, many of the newly recorded COVID-19 cases in Gibraltar are occurring among those who have not been vaccinated. Moreover, the vaccines are, as predicted, succeeding in preventing deaths and serious infections that lead to hospitalization.
Gibraltar, a British-ruled peninsula on Spain’s southern coast, has a population of roughly 33,691 – a far smaller number than the population size used in some COVID-19 vaccine studies.
Online commentators have noted reports that Gibraltar’s vaccination rate exceeds 144.8 percent.
However, that figure is the result of some news outlets comparing the number of vaccine doses administered relative to the population and does not reflect the number of Gibraltar residents who have been vaccinated.
In fact, thousands of Spaniards who cross into Gibraltar for work have been vaccinated. And while Gibraltar is also offering booster shots, not all residents have been vaccinated. Children under 12 are still not eligible, and Gibraltar only started vaccinating those aged 12-15 last month.
Children who become sick are counted among COVID-19 infections, and there are an estimated 6,887 people under the age of 15 in Gibraltar. The most recent data indicate that new infections are disproportionately hitting Gibraltar’s unvaccinated, many of whom are children.
On November 28, 16 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Gibraltar. Five were vaccinated and 11 were unvaccinated. Nine of them were 15 and younger.
On November 29, 23 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Gibraltar. Eight were vaccinated; 14 were unvaccinated. Eleven of them were 15 and younger.
On November 30, 24 vaccinated individuals tested positive for COVID-19 versus 18 unvaccinated individuals.
During all of November, the share of infections among vaccinated vs. unvaccinated varied day-to-day. But the rate of infection among the unvaccinated remained higher regardless of the daily variations.
In light of the waning effectiveness of vaccines over time, Gibraltar’s Ministry of Health and Care has been pushing booster shots for those in their 40s.
The ministry maintains that its booster program is effective. It said there have been “very low numbers of cases in the older age groups who received the booster more than 2 weeks ago, compared to the numbers of cases in younger age groups who have not yet received a booster.”
While vaccines reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, their primary purpose is to stop death and hospitalization.
Dr. Anna Durbin, director of the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in September: “Vaccines are designed to prevent serious illness, not to prevent infection or prevent any symptoms.”
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 98 COVID-19 deaths in Gibraltar out of 7,281 confirmed cases. There have only been four deaths since March, when Gibraltar reached full vaccination for its eligible adult population.
Of the new cases, hospitalization rates remain low. On November 30, three people who tested positive for the virus were in a COVID-19 ward, but none were in a critical care unit (CCU). The most recent CCU case dates to November 18.
Clive Palmer, the chair of the United Australia party, and others have also claimed that Gibraltar has the highest amount of COVID-19 in the world per capita. Fact-checkers at the U.K Guardian newspaper have debunked that claim.
Others have claimed that Gibraltar is returning to or already is in full lockdown, even though most lockdown restrictions have been lifted, with shops, gyms, hair and beauty salons, places of worship, bars and restaurants open.
The government of Gibraltar does not appear to have responded to the latest wave of disinformation.
Deciding when a pandemic ends is also anything but straightforward.
As noted in Vox, the end of a pandemic rests on a number of factors, including dropping the virus' reproductive number, and subjective evaluations like "accepting the level of impact the virus has."
Polygraph.info reached out to The Dr. Rath Health Foundation regarding its claims but had not heard back at the time of publication.