I recently noted that South Korea, poster child for the ‘contain and vaccinate’ strategy, had reached the same level of excess mortality as Sweden. Despite keeping infections to a minimum until after its vaccine rollout, the country has ended up with the same total death toll as Sweden – which took a famously relaxed approach to dealing with Covid.
South Korea sustained the vast majority of its excess mortality in one major post-vaccination wave during March of this year. Another country that’s seen a deadly post-vaccination is Singapore. In October of last year, excess mortality reached 30%, and didn’t fall back to zero until the end of January.
It now appears that Singapore has joined South Korea in the ranks of ‘contain and vaccinate’ countries to reach parity with Sweden. This March, the country experienced a second deadly post-vaccination wave, which took excess mortality back up above 30% – as shown in the chart below:
Note that, by the start of March, Singapore had administered enough booster doses to cover almost 70% of the population – far more than Britain or the United States (see below). So vaccinating almost 80% of over 80s and almost 90% of those aged 60–79, and then ‘boosting’ similar numbers, didn’t stop two deadly post-vaccination waves.
One caveat when comparing South Korea and Singapore with Sweden is that excess mortality in Sweden was mostly sustained in 2020 – as opposed to late 2021 or early 2022 in the other two countries. This means the people who died in South Korea and Singapore lived slightly longer than those Sweden.
As you may recall, Singapore isn’t the only country that’s on to its second, deadly post-vaccination wave.
Despite taking an early lead in the ‘vaccination race’ and getting 80% of over 60s double-vaccinated by mid-January, Israel has now seen two waves where excess mortality exceeded 30%. In fact, in the country’s latest wave, excess mortality topped 40% – something that didn’t happen in 2020:
Singapore and Israel’s numbers are very difficult to reconcile with commonly heard claims of 90% vaccine effectiveness against death. Indeed, they suggest that vaccine effectiveness against death could be less than 50%.