There follows a guest post by the academic economist who wrote a short post a few days ago about the apparent failure of the vaccine roll-out to reduce the number of over-60s being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 as a percentage of the number of over-60s testing positive rate. It generated a lively discussion in the comments so I asked the author to expand on it.
In the following short essay, I am going to examine whether the vaccines are preventing hospitalisations. We already know that the vaccines are not proving very effective at suppressing cases – which appear to be soaring in many countries, and notably the United Kingdom, in spite of the successful vaccine roll out and even though we are in summer and last summer cases remained suppressed. Some of us expected this to happen. The vaccine trials were rushed, the studies were of dubious quality, and they were released by drug companies who had a vested commercial interest in claiming high efficacy for the vaccines.
In addition to this, it should be obvious to anyone who gives it any thought that vaccines do not suppress highly contagious respiratory illnesses; more than half of Americans get flu shots every year, yet the United States has a flu season that is every bit as bad as Europe – which does not have high rates of annual flu vaccinations. A cynic might say that the flu vaccine business is much like the cosmetic business: a hustle by pharmaceutical companies to sell medicine to people who are not ill thereby massively expanding their market.
Now that it has become obvious that the vaccines are not preventing the spread of the virus, the public health clown show is doing what it does best: moving the goalposts. They are acting as if we knew all along that the vaccines did not prevent transmission. Instead, they tell us, the vaccines are there to prevent serious illness and death. We are supposed to ignore the fact that they are also insisting that groups that are not at-risk take the vaccine, but no matter – water under the bridge and if hundreds of young people die from blood clots or heart inflammation, so be it, better than Whitty and Vallance having to (gasp!) admit they were wrong.
Okay, well let us do what these clods never do: let’s test their hypothesis against the data. We are going to use data from Scotland (see here, here and here). Why? Because Scotland has had an outbreak that rivals previous outbreaks. The U.K. has not. It may appear the U.K. has had a full-on outbreak if you simply look at case data, but this is misleading. Testing has increased due to the proliferation of lateral flow testing. When we control for testing and look at the percent of tests that are positive rather than cases, we see this clearly.
Okay, so Scotland has a verified outbreak. How do we check whether the vaccines are preventing serious illness? Well, we know that serious illness only really occurs in older groups. We also know that older groups are more heavily vaccinated than younger groups. In fact, in Scotland almost 100% of over-60s are fully vaccinated. This provides us with a very nice natural experiment.
What we need to check is whether the correlation between positive cases among the over-60s and hospitalisations has broken down. In the pre-vaccination period we know that a certain percentage of positive cases among the over-60s would go on to become hospital patients. Well, if the public health boffins are correct and the vaccine prevents hospitalisations then fewer people should be being hospitalised relative to the number of cases. Do we see this?
Maybe. Squint and you will miss is. Hospitalisations do not appear to be rising quite as fast as cases in the over-60s. But let us not forget that testing has increased. So, what we really need to do is construct a positive test rate for the over-60s. With a bit of digging and applying a few statistical tricks, we can do this.
No squinting required this time around. The link has not been broken at all. The slight break between hospitalisations and cases in the over-60s is fully explained by the rise in testing. Control for this and the break disappears. Just as many people over the age of 60 are being hospitalised today in Scotland relative to the number of over-60s testing positive as they were before the vaccine roll-out began. The real-world evidence suggests that the vaccines are not, in fact, preventing serious illness. This confirms the impression we get reading the Scottish press. The Herald reports ‘Covid hospital admissions triple in over-60s — and nearly half of patients fully vaccinated’ – in fact, half is probably an understatement.
What about the link between hospitalisations and deaths? Perhaps the vaccines aren’t preventing serious illness, but maybe they’re preventing people with serious illness from dying?
Again, squint and you will miss it. Deaths are rising together with hospitalisations. If there are slightly fewer deaths relative to hospitalisations this could well be due to the better treatments for Covid that we know have been developed. Anyway, the notion that the vaccines will stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed – (were they ever really overwhelmed?) – is nonsense.
As we move into autumn and cases rise, it seems possible that the vaccines may fail spectacularly. What happens next? A rational society would turn on the public health buffoons and the greedy pharmaceutical companies. A rational society would take seriously the grim statistics on vaccine fatalities being reported to the Government’s Yellow Card system.
But we do not live in a rational society. We live in a society gripped by hysteria and fear; a society where control at both a governmental level and in day-to-day interactions has been handed over to the most neurotic and stupid among us. What will likely happen then is that these people double down. Rather than admit they were wrong they will get angry and project that anger on the people who doubted them. Those who have chosen not to get vaccinated will become increasingly vilified. They will be blamed for the hospitals stuffed full of fully vaccinated elderly people. Boosters will be insisted upon – and the dodgy pharmaceutical companies will continue to rake it in as they peddle untested drugs.
Either that, or our leaders grow spines and put a stop to this madness.
Stop Press: Covid hospital admissions among over-65s are a third of the level they would be if Britain didn’t have vaccines, according to PHE. MailOnline has more.
Stop Press 2: The Swiss Doctor has weighed in on this subject with a typically measured and erudite post.