ONS

Latest Mortality Figures Suggest That Vaccine Effectiveness Has Been Overestimated

The ONS announced last week that there were 49,428 deaths registered in England in December, which is 1,200 more than in November, and 17.5% more than the five-year average.

Age-standardised mortality rates for leading causes of death other than Covid were close to their five-year averages, suggesting that Covid was the main reason for elevated mortality last month (see below). Although, as noted before, cause-of-death comparisons should be interpreted with caution.

December’s overall age-standardised mortality rate was 9.3% higher than the five-year average. This is a greater disparity than last month and the month before. Though it’s still less than that seen in September. Here’s my updated chart of excess mortality in England since January of 2020:

What’s more, December’s age-standardised mortality rate was 8% lower than the same month a year before. Notice that the bump for the winter of 2021 is slightly lower than that for the winter of 2020.  

While it’s certainly good news that mortality is lower, you might have expected a bigger reduction, given the many fewer people had natural immunity last December, and less than 1% of the population had been fully vaccinated.

Indeed, it’s noteworthy that going from under 1% fully vaccinated to more than 68% double vaccinated (including almost all elderly people) is only associated with 8% lower all-cause mortality.  

This is consistent with evidence from other European countries, where post-vaccination waves have been as or more deadly than pre-vaccination waves. Such data are hard to reconcile with claims of 90% vaccine effectiveness against death.

Covid Infections in England Dropped Last Week, ONS Data Confirm

Coronavirus infections in England declined again last week despite infections continuing to rise in children, figures from the ONS showed today. MailOnline has more.

Government analysts estimate 2.6 million people in the country were infected on any day during the week ending January 22nd, compared to 2.9 million one week earlier. Both figures equate to one in 20 people in England carrying the virus.

It marks the second week in a row that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has projected a fall in prevalence, illustrating how the Omicron wave fizzled off after causing infections to spiral to pandemic highs.

Cases are now trending downwards in all age groups apart from under-16s, with the return to classrooms earlier this month thought to be behind the trend.

The ONS survey is regarded as the most reliable indicator of the UK’s outbreak because it uses random sampling of around 100,000 people, rather than relying on people coming forward to be tested.

Official daily numbers show cases have plateaued at around 90,000 per day, following a fortnight of infections being in freefall. This was before the effects of lifting Plan B restrictions in England have even been felt.

Work from home guidance was revoked last week, while Covid passes and requirements to wear face masks in public spaces will come to an end tomorrow. Boris Johnson has also said he wants the self-isolation rules to be ditched by the end of March as part of the UK’s plan to ‘live with the virus’ like flu.

The report, used by ministers to guide Covid policy, is normally published on Friday – but its release was moved while infections run at unprecedented levels. 

The ONS said the proportion of children aged two to 11 in England who were infected increased for a second week in a row, while cases among 12 to 16-year-olds are now also on the rise. 

However, infections among all other age groups are still declining, according to the statisticians. 

All parts of England are seeing a drop in case rates, apart from the South West, where the trend in cases is uncertain, the ONS said.

Worth reading in full.

Deaths Trending 6% Below Average in Mid-January – Time to Accept It’s Over

Winter deaths are usually running high at this point in January, but this year is different. According to the latest figures from the ONS, released today, in the week ending January 14th there were 6.1% fewer deaths than the five-year average in England and Wales (872 fewer deaths). Note that the five-year average the ONS uses doesn’t include 2020, but 2016-19 (which has historically low mortality) and 2021.

In the previous week there were 7.8% fewer deaths than the five-year average (1,036 fewer deaths).

A reflection of the mildness of Omicron and the level of immunity in the population, this makes 2021-22 a mild flu season, and further underlines how unjustified any measures to combat coronavirus now are. The state of emergency and all laws and guidance – including the vaccine mandates – must be removed without delay so that healthy normality can be restored.

This article has been corrected for a mistake in the information about which years are included in the ONS five-year average.

2021 Less Deadly Than 2015, ONS Data Show

Many lockdown sceptics have recently been sharing statistics from the ONS showing that just 17,371 people died of Covid in England and Wales up to the end of September 2021 where COVID-19 was the only cause of death recorded on the death certificate. This compares to 148,536 official Covid deaths in the same period (also for England and Wales, as are the estimates below) where COVID-19 was mentioned as a cause of death somewhere on the death certificate. Separately, the Government dashboard reported 126,384 deaths recorded as occurring within 28 days of a positive Covid test in the same period, while the ONS reported 117,247 excess deaths.

A more recent response to a Freedom of Information request in January gives a figure of just 6,183 deaths, again where COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned on the death certificate, this time up to December 31st 2021. The reason for the difference in these two figures is likely to relate to the definition used – the first figure (17,371) came from a dataset on pre-existing conditions that has been published throughout the pandemic (so didn’t actually need an FOI request to provide the data) and the definition is stated in the dataset. The definition and source of the second figure (6,183) is not stated.

Either way, the figures are an order of magnitude lower than official Covid deaths – for example, 17,371 is just 12% of the official ONS tally of Covid deaths of 148,536 – and some sceptics have inferred from this that up to 90% of the official Covid deaths are not really Covid deaths, or at least were likely to have happened around that time anyway, and thus that the pandemic death toll has been hugely overstated.

More Evidence for the ‘Healthy Vaccinee’ Effect

How much protection do the vaccines provide against severe Covid? Some people claim that getting vaccinated reduces your risk of death by as much as 90%. They point to charts showing massive disparities in hospitalisation and death rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

However, these crude comparisons may overstate vaccine effectiveness. A study published last year by the U.S. CDC found that vaccinated people were less likely to die of non-Covid causes, suggesting that they’re inherently healthier and/or more risk averse than unvaccinated people.

This ‘healthy vaccinee’ effect means that part of the disparity in death rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is due to factors other than vaccination. So even if currently-unvaccinated people got vaccinated, they’d still die from Covid at higher rates than currently-vaccinated people.

Now, I’m not claiming that all or even most of the disparity in death rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is due to the ‘healthy vaccinee’ effect. I’m simply claiming that crude comparisons overstate vaccine effectiveness – which is probably less than 90%.

Okay, but is there any evidence for this form of ‘selection bias’ – as it’s known in the jargon – other than the CDC study? Yes: the ONS documented the very same phenomenon in a report published last year. See the table below, which shows age-standardised mortality rates by vaccination status:

Looking at the second column, unvaccinated people have a higher non-Covid death rate than all four groups of vaccinated people.

Note, however, that the ratios in the first column are substantially greater than those in the second column. This implies that the ‘healthy vaccinee’ cannot explain all or even most of the disparity in Covid death rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

On the other hand, the ratios would presumably be smaller if the comparison were restricted to vaccinated people who’d received their second dose more than, say, six months ago. We know that vaccine effectiveness wanes over time – for both infection and serious illness.

Do Covid Vaccines Reduce All-Cause Mortality? ONS Data Give Us No Reason to Think So

The accuracy of any data purporting to show vaccine effectiveness or safety against a disease is critically dependent on the accurate measurement of: people classified as having the disease; vaccination status; death reporting; and the population of vaccinated and unvaccinated (the so called ‘denominators’). If there are errors in any of these, claims of effectiveness or safety are unreliable.

The risk/benefit of Covid vaccines is best – and most simply – measured by all-cause mortality of vaccinated against unvaccinated, since it avoids the thorny issue of what constitutes a Covid ‘case/infection’. In principle, the data in the ONS vaccine mortality surveillance reports should provide us with the necessary information to monitor this crucial comparison over time. However, until the ONS released its November report, no age categorised data were provided, meaning that any comparisons were confounded by age (older people are both disproportionately more vaccinated than younger people and disproportionately more likely to die).

The week 44 ONS report and data release from November finally provided some relevant age categorised data. Specifically, it includes separate data for age groups 60-69, 70-79 and 80+, but there is only a single group of data for the age group 10-59. After the November data release the ONS released further data on December 20th 2021, albeit at a significant lower level of granularity that inhibits cross comparison with earlier data (different age categories; monthly rather than weekly data; age-adjusted mortality rather than raw death and population data; death counts updated; and fractional membership of vaccination category based on time spent in category) and with different categories for vaccine status than those used in November (five categories rather than four with double dose vaccinated split into less than and greater than 21 days).

At first glance the data suggest that, in each of the older age groups, all-cause mortality is lower in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. In the 10-59 age group all-cause mortality is higher among the vaccinated, but this group is likely confounded by age since it is far too wide for the data provided to be sufficient to draw any firm conclusions.

However, despite this apparent evidence to support vaccine effectiveness for the older age groups, on closer inspection this conclusion is cast into doubt. That is because we have shown a range of fundamental inconsistencies and flaws in the data. Specifically:

How We Know That Official Covid Deaths Are Overestimated

I’ve written before about the overestimation of the pandemic’s death toll in Britain. If you compare the official number of deaths with Covid on the death certificate to the number of excess deaths since March of 2020, you find the latter is about 20% lower. And due to population ageing, even that figure’s an overestimate.

I recently came across another powerful way of showing that the official death count is overstated. (The idea comes from veteran lockdown sceptic and Nobel Prize winner, Michael Levitt.)

Take the two-month period from the beginning of March to the end of April 2021. According to ONS data, age-adjusted excess mortality was –9%, meaning that the overall level of mortality was 9% lower than the five-year average. This can be seen in the chart below, published by the ONS in October:

Each line represents the cumulative age-standardised mortality rate as a percentage of the five-year average. Notice that all three lines begin sloping downward in March of 2021. Since the number plotted is cumulative, this can only happen if the age-standardised mortality rate was below the five-year average at the time.

Okay, so from March to April of 2021, there were significantly fewer deaths than you’d expect. Yet if we turn to the Government’s Covid dashboard, and check deaths in England for the same time period, we see that there were a substantial number:

The red lines mark the beginning of March and the end of April, respectively. Over this period, no less than 4,337 deaths with Covid on the death certificate were recorded in England.

On the one hand, the overall level of mortality was 9% lower than expected. But on the other, there were 4,337 deaths from Covid. What explains this disparity?

A lot of the people who died with Covid on their death certificate would have died anyway. Either Covid didn’t play a causal role in their death; or it did, but they would have died of something else in the absence of Covid (such as seasonal flu).

Note: I’m not claiming that all or even most Covid deaths would have happened anyway. There’s clear evidence that the pandemic killed people, especially during the spring of 2020. But there’s no use in overestimating the pandemic’s death toll. We actually want to get right.

Deaths Are Below Average For This Time of Year, According to ONS

Deaths in England and Wales were 7.8% below the five-year average for the week ending January 7th, ONS data show, in the latest sign that the pandemic is coming to an end. The Telegraph has more.

The fall remains even though the ONS has removed 2020 from its five-year average figure because the first year of the pandemic was so extreme.

When 2021 was also removed there were just 87 more deaths than expected, which experts said was “nothing unusual”, arguing that the 922 Covid deaths reported that week were being offset by fewer deaths from traditional winter killers such as flu.

The ONS figures also show that the virus was not the primary cause of death in nearly a quarter of the registered Covid deaths.

Prof Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he expected the virus to settle into a seasonal pattern that will cause “much less disruption”.

“We may still get quite big winters of infection but not the sort of level where we can justify wholesale societal closedown,” Prof Hayward told Times Radio. “So I think it is genuinely an optimistic picture.”

For the U.K. as a whole, deaths were down 8.3%, with 1,255 fewer people dying than would normally be expected for the first week of January.

Worth reading in full.

Why Won’t They Release the Data on Child Deaths Following Covid Vaccination?

Parents of children in the 12-17 age group want Government officials to release real-time safety data for Covid vaccines. One mother is so concerned about the possibility that her three children could suffer serious adverse events that she asked the High Court on their behalf to force full public disclosure.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) admits it holds the figures but has not revealed them publicly, so last Thursday parent EF, who cannot be named for legal reasons, put her concerns to Mr Justice Jonathan Swift and asked him to direct the ONS to release the data. Her request was denied.

She said: “I’m not surprised. I feel as though the judge had already made up his mind.”

To those of us in court, it certainly felt as though he had and that no one dared question Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s decisions.

Television and radio presenter Beverley Turner, who helped raise over £100,000 to fund the action and who has been vilified for asking questions about the vaccines’ safety, was also there. She said: “It felt that the judge had already decided the outcome. He was hostile to the plaintiffs and convivial to the defendants. All we’re doing is fighting for transparency and for that, we got a hostile response.”

It is known that Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA Covid vaccines can cause the inflammatory heart conditions myocarditis and pericarditis, mostly in young males, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca can cause blood clots and strokes. We do not know to what extent, and whether children have died or been permanently disabled as the result of a Covid vaccination.

Infections Falling in England, Data Shows – The Same Time as Last Year Despite No Lockdown

The latest data from the ONS infection survey confirms that coronavirus prevalence has been falling in London since the end of last month. This is occurring at the same time as last year, despite no lockdown being imposed this time and the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The data also shows that in the last week of 2021, an estimated 6% of the population of England or one in 15 people would test positive for COVID-19. This compares to a peak prevalence last winter of around 2%, so around three times higher.

The breakdown by age shows high prevalence in all age groups and particularly those under 50. Most age groups appeared to be peaking at the end of December, though in the over-50s infections were rising albeit from a lower level.