We know that vaccine effectiveness against infection was wildly overestimated. The evidence is now clear: the vaccines don’t stop transmission. But what about effectiveness against serious disease and death? There’s a certain amount of evidence that that too has been overestimated.
Several datasets have revealed a ‘healthy vaccinee’ effect, whereby vaccinated people are less likely to die of non-Covid causes. Since the vaccines don’t protect against things other than Covid, this suggests that those who opt into vaccination are inherently healthier and/or more risk-averse than those who don’t.
The ‘healthy vaccinee’ effect may partly derive from a quirk of methodology. As HART researchers have noted, it’s common practice to exclude data from the first 14 days after vaccination. If the most frail people tend to die in that 14 day period, their exclusion would reduce the average frailty in the vaccinated population.
I should add that this is pure speculation on my part. Nonetheless, the ‘healthy vaccinee’ effect clearly demands further scrutiny.
Another piece of evidence suggesting that vaccine effectiveness against death has been overestimated is that some countries have seen as much excess mortality in their post-vaccination waves as they saw in their pre-vaccination waves. I previously presented charts showing this for Israel. Here I’ll present similar charts for several other countries.
First, Austria saw a large uptick in excess mortality, beginning in mid October. At this time, 62% of the population was double vaccinated, including a much higher percentage of the elderly.
Second, Germany also saw a large uptick in excess mortality in mid October. At this time, 65% of the population was double vaccinated, including a much higher percentage of the elderly.
Third, the Netherlands also saw a large uptick in excess mortality in mid October. At this time, 68% of the population was double vaccinated, including a much higher percentage of the elderly.
Fourth, Norway saw a moderate uptick in excess mortality in mid October, which was larger than any previous wave. At this time, 68% of the population was double vaccinated, including a much higher percentage of the elderly.
As noted last time, I’m not claiming these plots amount to a comprehensive analysis. But it’s hard to reconcile them with claims of, say, 90% effectiveness against death.
Take Austria. More than 80% of over 50s were double vaccinated by early October. Given that the vast majority of Covid deaths occur in this group, if the vaccines were 90% effective against death, you’d expect to have seen only a handful of deaths in the post-vaccination wave. In fact, unadjusted excess mortality reached 40% by early December.
One thing these four countries, plus Israel, have in common is that they experienced below-average excess deaths in their pre-vaccination waves (relative to other countries in Europe). As a result, there may have been more very frail elderly people alive when their post-vaccination waves hit. In other words, the ‘dry tinder’ effect may be relevant here.
None of this implies the vaccines don’t protect you against severe Covid. But it does suggest their effectiveness has been somewhat overstated.