If you passed on getting the COVID vaccine, you might be a lot more likely to get into a car crash.
Or at least those are the findings of a new study published this month in The American Journal of Medicine. During the summer of 2021, Canadian researchers examined the encrypted government-held records of more than 11 million adults, 16% of whom hadn’t received the COVID vaccine.
They found that the unvaccinated people were 72% more likely to be involved in a severe traffic crash—in which at least one person was transported to the hospital—than those who were vaccinated. That’s similar to the increased risk of car crashes for people with sleep apnea, though only about half that of people who abuse alcohol, researchers found.
The excess risk of car crash posed by unvaccinated drivers “exceeds the safety gains from modern automobile engineering advances and also imposes risks on other road users,” the authors wrote.
CLINICAL RESEARCH STUDY|ARTICLES IN PRESS COVID Vaccine Hesitancy and Risk of a Traffic Crash Donald A. Redelmeier, MD, FRCPC, MSHSR, FACP Jonathan Wang, MMASc Deva Thiruchelvam, MSc Published:December 02, 2022
Coronavirus disease (COVID) vaccine hesitancy is a reflection of psychology that might also contribute to traffic safety. We tested whether COVID vaccination was associated with the risks of a traffic crash.
We conducted a population-based longitudinal cohort analysis of adults and determined COVID vaccination status through linkages to individual electronic medical records. Traffic crashes requiring emergency medical care were subsequently identified by multicenter outcome ascertainment of all hospitals in the region over a 1-month follow-up interval (178 separate centers).
A total of 11,270,763 individuals were included, of whom 16% had not received a COVID vaccine and 84% had received a COVID vaccine. The cohort accounted for 6682 traffic crashes during follow-up. Unvaccinated individuals accounted for 1682 traffic crashes (25%), equal to a 72% increased relative risk compared with those vaccinated (95% confidence interval, 63-82; P < 0.001). The increased traffic risks among unvaccinated individuals extended to diverse subgroups, was similar to the relative risk associated with sleep apnea, and was equal to a 48% increase after adjustment for age, sex, home location, socioeconomic status, and medical diagnoses (95% confidence interval, 40-57; P < 0.001). The increased risks extended across the spectrum of crash severity, appeared similar for Pfizer, Moderna, or other vaccines, and were validated in supplementary analyses of crossover cases, propensity scores, and additional controls.
These data suggest that COVID vaccine hesitancy is associated with significant increased risks of a traffic crash. An awareness of these risks might help to encourage more COVID vaccination.