Public Health Scotland

Public Health Scotland Admits That the Majority of People Hospitalised and Testing Positive for Covid Are Vaccinated

The latest Covid report from Public Health Scotland has gone back to adding data normally after last week where a backlog was added without any kind of helpful differentiation between the normal data and the one-off additions. This means we can resume our effort to get a rough estimate of how well the vaccines are preventing death.

Here’s the data so far presented by week.

In the bottom right table I have ignored the week July 16th-22nd, when the backlog was added, to get two weeks’ worth of data covering July 9th-15th and July 23rd-29th. Focusing just on the over-50s (for which vaccination rates are now stable), we can see that there were 14 deaths in the unvaccinated added in those two weeks and 60 deaths in the double vaccinated. Using our rough estimates from last time of vaccine coverage in the over-50s of 7% unvaccinated and 91% double vaccinated, this gives a (roughly estimated) vaccine effectiveness against death in those two weeks of 67% (1-((60/91%)/(14/7%)). This is up from 46% from one week’s data last time, and heading closer to the estimate from PHE data of 77%. This is perfectly respectable and will (if correct) be contributing to reducing the death toll from COVID-19, but is notably much lower than the up-to-99% effectiveness against death currently estimated by PHE in their official reports.

Another point of note from the latest PHS report is that it shows that the majority of both new positive cases and hospital admissions are in vaccinated people. According to the report, in the four weeks up to August 6th, “48.1% of COVID-19 positive PCR cases were in unvaccinated individuals” and “46.8% of COVID-19 related acute hospital admissions were in unvaccinated individuals”. There are confounders of age and the proportion of the population vaccinated, of course, but even so this shows that any attempt to claim that the majority of current infections or hospitalisations are in unvaccinated people is misleading.

The growing share of the vaccinated in new infections and hospitalisations also appears to be confirmation of the phenomenon noted from PHE data earlier this week, where infections in the unvaccinated peaked and declined ahead of those in the vaccinated. This phenomenon warrants further investigation.

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.

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%.