Deaths

Why is the ONS Claiming Just 1% of Covid Deaths Are in the Vaccinated When PHE Data Shows the True Figure For August was 70%?

The ONS has published a new study on Covid deaths which purports to show how few vaccinated people die of Covid. Here’s how the Telegraph reported the headline claim: “Only 59 fully vaccinated people without serious health conditions died from COVID-19 out of more than 50,000 deaths in England this year, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.”

The Telegraph report continues:

In the first study of deaths by vaccination status, the ONS found that around 99% of COVID-19 deaths between January 2nd and July 2nd 2021 were in people who had not had two doses.

Overall 640 (1.2%) of deaths were in those who had received both vaccine doses, but the ONS said many of those could have been infections picked up before the second dose. 

Just 256 deaths (0.5%) were considered true “breakthrough” infections where the second dose had long enough to work, but still did not offer protection. 

However, the average age of those “breakthrough” infections was 84 and the majority (76%) were classed as “extremely clinically vulnerable”. Just 59 did not have serious medical conditions.

These statistics appear remarkable – until you realise what they’ve done. Although the data is presented as “this year” in fact the cut-off date is July 2nd. That is significant because it is just before the Delta surge got going. This means the data all comes from the Alpha surge, when almost no-one was vaccinated and tens of thousands of Covid deaths were reported, and from the quiet spring and early summer when many were vaccinated but almost no-one died (see chart below).

A Doctor Writes: Predictions of Doom Have Not Been Borne Out

We’re publishing an update this morning from the Daily Sceptic’s in-house doctor in which he analyses the latest NHS hospital data. Conclusion: no need to panic.

I have been a bit quiet lately, partly due to being on holiday and partly due to waiting a while to examine what trends are emerging from the hospital admissions data over the later summer.

On looking at the latest figures and associated media commentary I have been reminded of an old Russian aphorism from the Soviet era: “The future is certain, but the past keeps changing.”

For example, on February 3rd, 2020, Boris Johnson, warned of the danger that “new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic”, leading to measures that “go beyond what is medically rational, to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage”.

I didn’t catch any reference to that (very reasonable) remark this week when the Prime Minister imposed further taxation on the working-age population and the companies that employ them. Before returning to the airbrushing of recent history, I will consider the hospital level data over the last month to discern trends and discuss what reasonable inferences we can draw from the numbers. I confess that some of the information doesn’t quite make sense to me – I will elaborate on this point later.

The first and most glaringly obvious fact is that the catastrophic tsunami of hospitalisations confidently predicted by all the experts who have assumed the governance of the U.K. has failed to arrive. How annoying that must be for Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the Lancet, who described the relaxing of restrictions in July as “driven by libertarian ideology” rather than the data. Or Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, who said that “the Government policy seems designed to increase cases” and predicted there will be hundreds of ‘superspreader’ events in the coming weeks. The Lancet published a letter signed by 122 self-identifying experts which suggested that the Government was conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” in removing societal restrictions on July 19th.

NSW to Record Patients as Dying “With” Instead of “From” Covid

New South Wales (NSW) health officials have admitted that not all of the state’s ‘Covid deaths’ have actually been caused by Covid and say they will start recording patients as dying “with” instead of “from” the virus. Better late than never, I suppose. The Mail Australia has the story.

[NSW Health’s] Dr. Jeremy McAnulty made the admission during Sunday’s Covid briefing as the state recorded 1,218 new cases of coronavirus. …

Dr. McAnulty said the change in language was because it was “very difficult to know” whether someone with Covid died from the virus, or another health complication.

“We know when elderly people die, they can have a range of comorbidities, and also, being old increases your risk of death,” he said.

“Covid may often play a role in the death, but it may not. Sometimes, some of our cases who have sadly died appear to have recovered from Covid, and then they have died of something [else].

“We report people who have died ‘with’ Covid, unless there is a very clear alternative.”

He added that it was difficult for doctors who were looking after patients to know exactly how much the virus contributed to their death. …

Earlier this month, Ady Al-Askar a forklift truck driver from Liverpool collapsed in his shower after contracting Covid from his wife Yasmin who works in aged care. 

The 27 year-old was isolating with his wife in their unit in Sydney’s southwest and barely showed any Covid symptoms before his untimely death. 

However, heart conditions reportedly run in the Al-Askar family, and his cousin, Khalid Thijeel, told the Mail Australia he believed it was this that cost the man his life, not the virus. …

Paramedics who responded to the emergency reportedly confirmed that Ms Al-Askar suffered heart failure, whereas the hospital and Dr Chant specified that Covid was a contributing factor in his death.

A few weeks later, Osama Suduh from Sydney’s Covid-hit south-west, became the state’s youngest recorded victim of Covid – though he died of meningitis.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson Will Impose New Lockdown if Reported Covid Deaths Reach Around 1,000 a Week, According to Government Sources

The Prime Minister is said to have devised a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether he should plunge the country into another lockdown. A Government adviser says Johnson would be minded to impose further restrictions if the reported number of Covid-related deaths in the U.K. over the space of a year looked likely to rise above 50,000 (that’s just under 1,000 a week, or 137 a day). i news has the story.

Downing Street has denied it has set any “acceptable level” of Covid deaths but one adviser, who has been close to the Government since coronavirus struck 18 months ago, told i that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had privately accepted that there would be at least a further 30,000 deaths in the U.K. over the next year, and that the Prime Minister would “only consider imposing further restrictions if that figure looked like it could rise above 50,000”.

The Government’s cost-benefit analysis on Covid measures is believed to set not only the acceptable level of cost to save the life of a Covid patient at up to £30,000, but also how much each life lost costs the U.K. economy.

It is understood the analysis shows that the cost of keeping the annual death rate below 50,000 would outweigh the cost to the U.K. economy of allowing it to rise above this level.

As i revealed earlier this month, the Government has put contingency plans in place should the rate of infection and deaths rise to an “unacceptable level”.

The source said: “The Prime Minister is minded to implement another lockdown or new restrictions only if the figure of annual deaths looks like it’s going to go above 50,000. That means deaths from Covid of 137 a day, or just under 1,000 a week.

“However, it won’t be an immediate reaction. A sustained rate of death of around a 1,000 a week for two or three weeks will, though, lead to discussion on restrictions being reimposed. Unfortunately, prime ministers have to weigh up the cost of saving lives to the impact on the economy. No one wants to talk about that’s how it works.” …

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “There is no set number of acceptable deaths from Covid.”

But one of the Government’s most senior scientific advisers has also suggested the cost of saving lives could be a factor in the strategy.

Worth reading in full.

The Figures Don’t Match Up To the Fear, a Doctor Writes

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, who says the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not only failed to arrive after ‘Freedom Day’, but we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once remarked: “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” I have been reflecting on that comment, now we are three weeks since the inappropriately named July 19th ‘Freedom Day’. Readers will remember the cacophony of shrieking from assorted ‘health experts’ prophesying certain doom and a tidal wave of acute Covid admissions that would overwhelm our beleaguered NHS within a fortnight. Representatives from the World Health Organisation described the approach as “epidemiologically stupid”. A letter signed by 1,200 self-defined experts was published in the Lancet predicting imminent catastrophe.

Accordingly, this week I thought I should take a look at how the apocalypse is developing and then make some general observations on the centrality of trust and honesty in medical matters.

Let’s start with daily admissions to hospitals from the community in Graph One. Daily totals on the blue bars, seven-day rolling average on the orange line. Surprisingly the numbers are lower than on July 19th. How can that be?

Perhaps there are more patients stacking up in hospitals – sicker patients tend to stay longer and are hard to discharge, so the overall numbers can build up rather quickly. So, Graph Two shows Covid inpatients up to August 5th. Readers should note that Graph Two includes patients suffering from acute Covid (about 75% of the total) plus patients in hospital for non-Covid related illness, but testing positive for Covid (the remaining 25%). How strange – numbers seem to be falling, not rising. This does not fit with the hypothesis – what might explain this anomalous finding?

Maybe the numbers of patients in ICU might be on the increase – after all, both the Beta variant and the Delta variant were said to be both more transmissible and more deadly than the Alpha variant. Graph Three shows patients in ICU in English Hospitals up to August 5th. It shows a similar pattern to Graph Two – a small fall in overall patient numbers in the last two weeks. I looked into the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre ICU audit report up to July 30th. This confirms the overall impression from the top line figures. Older patients do not seem to be getting ill with Covid. Over half the admissions to ICU with Covid have body mass indices over 30. Severe illness is heavily skewed to patients with co-morbidities and the unvaccinated. Generally speaking, the patients have slightly less severe illness, shorter stays and lower mortality so far.

Finally, we look at Covid related deaths since January 1st, 2021, in Graph Four. A barely discernable increase since the beginning of April.

So, whatever is going on with respect to the progress of the pandemic, the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not arrived yet – in fact, we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

Public Health Scotland Adds 85 Unvaccinated Deaths in a Week as it “Updates” its Reporting

Last week I reported on the latest data from Public Health Scotland (PHS), which showed that 87% of the deaths added in the most recent week (July 9th-15th) were in the vaccinated (one or two doses) and 74% were in the double vaccinated. I estimated from this that the vaccine effectiveness against death was a surprisingly low 46%, though acknowledged that this was a very crude estimate based only on one week’s data.

This week’s update is now out from PHS, and the data is surprising to say the least. Whereas in the week July 9th-15th, 38 deaths were added, only five of which were in the unvaccinated, just one of those aged over 70, in the week July 16th-22nd, 141 deaths were added, 85 of them in the unvaccinated, 78 of those aged over 70. This kind of change from one week to the next is obviously anomalous and presumably reflects some kind of reporting artefact.

Indeed, it turns out that PHS announced an update to their COVID-19 reporting on July 28th, which they said would be reflected in this week’s report and would include a “one off increase in reported deaths”.

This means we can discount the weekly change implied by this week’s report and resume our effort to deduce the vaccine effectiveness against death from next week.

Britain’s Daily Covid Cases Fall to a Five-Week Low

The number of new daily Covid cases in the U.K. fell to 21,952 today, the lowest it’s been in five weeks. Meanwhile, deaths are up slightly compared to last Monday and hospitalisations are down. MailOnline has more.

Covid cases are lower today than they have been since June 29th, according to the official figures released today.

But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up.

The new figures follow data published on Friday, which suggested cases are still on the rise and as many as one in 65 people in England are currently infected.

Some experts think fewer people are coming forward for Covid tests to avoid isolation.

The figures also signal a slow in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases dropping by 12% on seven days earlier.

Last Monday, cases had dropped by 37.5% compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid tests were recorded, down from 65 yesterday, but an increase of 71.4% compared to last Monday.

Covid death figures released on Monday often lag, due to a delay in recording deaths over the weekend.

Updated hospitalisation figures for last Tuesday show a further 911 patients were admitted to hospital who tested positive for the virus, a drop of 1.6% compared to one week earlier.

Worth reading in full.

Does This Data From Public Health Scotland Show that Vaccine Effectiveness Against Death is Just 46%?

How well do the vaccines protect from death? The two most recent weekly reports from Public Health Scotland give us death data by vaccination status, and by subtracting one from the other we can work out how many Covid patients died in the week July 9th-15th. The results are shown below.

We see that 38 people died with Covid that week, 37 of whom were over 50. Twenty-eight (74%) were fully vaccinated (18 of whom were over 80 and 24 were over 70). Thirty-three (87%) had had at least one dose. Just five (13%) were unvaccinated.

To fully interpret these we need to know how many people were vaccinated in each age group. The problem with obtaining this information is that the official Scottish statistics appear to use the same method as the NHS for estimating vaccine coverage, which gives figures which exceed the likely more accurate estimates of Public Health England by around 5%.

A Doctor Asks: The Data Is Looking Good, So Why the Doom-Mongering?

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formally a senior medic in the NHS, analysing the latest NHS England data packet.

Once a month, the NHS releases a more detailed summary of COVID-19 related data than provided in the regular daily updates. Although the data set is far from complete, the monthly packets provide a better impression of what is really happening in hospitals than the daily snapshot. I find this month’s information particularly interesting. Apologies in advance to readers for reverting to a more data-driven ‘chart fest’ format for my latest contribution – but stick with it, because there are some important messages here which have not been widely reported so far.

Take a look at Graph One. This rather complicated graphic shows daily admissions in the vertical orange bars and paired daily discharges in the vertical blue bars. Readers will notice that on every day between April 7th and June 30th, there were more discharges than admissions.

The grey line with the secondary y-axis to the right of the chart shows the total number of ‘COVID-19’ patients in hospital on each given day. For the first period from April 7th to May 25th, this was on a falling trend – that’s what one would expect if there were more discharges than admissions each day.

From May 26th to the end of June, however, the total number of patients in hospital ‘with COVID-19’ was on an upward trend – but on each day of the series, there were still more discharges than admissions. How can that be?

I’ve discussed this issue with colleagues and there are only three interpretations we can think of. One is that there are a very large number of patients contracting COVID-19 in hospital who came into hospital without the virus. The second is that some of the ‘discharges’ are in fact patients who were never admitted to hospital at all, but seen in A&E and then sent home. The other is that the data quality is very poor and gives a misleading impression of the true picture.

Just 25 Under-18s Died From Covid in England Up Until February, New Data Shows – Figures Much Higher for Suicide and Trauma

As the Government assesses the pros and cons of vaccinating children, new data has revealed that just 25 under-18s in England died from the virus between March 2020 and February 2021. This equates to an absolute risk of one in 481,000. In the same period, 124 children died from suicide and 268 died from trauma. The researchers conclude that lockdown “may prove a greater risk than… SARS-CoV-2 itself”. The MailOnline has the story.

Young people with pre-existing medical conditions, like heart disease and cancer, and severe disability, which can include cerebral palsy and autism, have a higher chance of becoming seriously ill from the virus.

But the scientists – from three top British universities – said this risk is no higher than the risk from flu.

Teenagers, black and obese children were also at higher risk from dying with Covid but these numbers were still very low, they found. 

Researchers said their findings – which were published in three separate papers today – will help inform vaccine and shielding policy for under-18s.

They will submit the studies to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department for Health and the World Health Organisation. …

The studies were led by researchers at University College London, the University of York and the University of Liverpool.

One of the studies is the first to determine the number of children who died from Covid rather than with the virus. It concluded that the virus killed 25 children in England. 

The coronavirus contributed to 0.8% of the 3,105 deaths in children from all causes in the first year of the pandemic. 

During the same period, 124 children died from suicide, while 268 died from trauma, showing that Covid “is rarely fatal” in children, the researchers said.

They found the under-18s who died were more likely to be teenagers than younger children, showing that the risk from the virus increases with age.

Higher proportions of Asian and black children died from the virus but these deaths were “still extremely rare”, they said. 

More than 75% of the children who died had chronic conditions, while two-thirds had more than one underlying condition and 60% had life-limiting conditions.

Six of the children who died were not recorded as having an underlying health problem, but the scientists said they may have had undiagnosed illnesses. 

The paper states that the “extremely low” risk of death means removing children from their normal activities like school and social events “may prove a greater risk than that of SARS-CoV-2 itself”. 

A second study found that 251 young people in England were admitted to intensive care with Covid from March 2020 to February this year, which equates to around a one in 50,000 risk.

Of these patients, 91% had one or more underlying health conditions. 

They also found one in 2,000 were admitted to hospital with Covid, equating to almost 6,000 children. …

A third study, which was led by Dr Rachel Harwood at the University of Liverpool, supported the findings of the other papers.

The researchers found that of the children admitted to hospital with Covid, those at the highest risk of severe illness or death are teenagers, have heart or brain conditions, two or more underlying condition, or are obese.

Worth reading in full.