HWFO August 2022 Housekeeping
And a soft rebuttal on "All Cause Mortality" vaccine discussions
Ordinarily I compose some kind of quick thought splat for the monthly housekeeping posts, but today I’m drawing a blank. There’s either too much or too little, depending on your perspective. Most of the things spinning around my social media spaces are things HWFO has already covered, so it feels redundant speaking about them again.
One thing I’m seeing a lot of in my curated feed, however, is the claim that all cause mortality spiked after the Covid vaccine was rolled out, and has remained high afterwards. Several Substacks are pushing this narrative right now, such as this one which breaks down some numbers from Germany. I’m open to the idea, but I am absolutely not convinced. The most robust study on Covid-19 infection and response globally has been conducted in Israel, and Israeli scientists addressed this concern robustly here.
In most months of the pandemic, the non-COVID-19 mortality rates were not significantly different from those in 2017–2019. However, between November 2020 and March 2021, they were significantly lower for total population and Jews and Others, and hence the total excess mortality was less than that expected from the high COVID-19 mortality. Only in August 2021 was the rate of non-COVID-19 mortality significantly higher than 2017–2019, 5% (95% CI 1–9%) higher for the total population and a very significant 20% (8–33%) higher for the Arab population. In the Arab population the non-COVID-19 mortality was also significantly higher in May and September 2020 and September 2021, by 14% (3–27%), 19% (7–33%) and 18% (6–32%), respectively.
Israel had the highest vax rates in the world, and did a good job of separating Covid mortality from non-Covid mortality in their data. They saw no rise in non-Covid mortality across the time span where they vaxed.
Mortality rates for those vaccinated in 2021 were lower than the 2017–2019 average, significant at most ages. Total age adjusted mortality in this cohort was 14% (95% CI 12–15%) lower, 13% (11–15%) in males and 16% (14–18%) in females. Age specific mortality ratios were lowest for ages 45–54 in males (0.76, 95% CI 0.69–0.85) and 55–64 (0.70, 0.64–0.77) in females. The mortality ratios for these seven months in the vaccinated were also lower than those for the whole pandemic period presented in Table 2 at all ages, and for ages 55 and over showed lower rather than excess mortality.
Curiously, the lower-than-baseline mortality rates among the vaccinated population in 2021 may be because a bunch of sick and old people died off from Covid in 2020 so they got cleared out of the death queue.
Significantly higher excess mortality was found only for ages above 55, particularly high for males aged 65–74 (11% higher), maybe because deaths are less frequent in general at this age and they seem to have been more susceptible to severe COVID-19. It is also possible that the excess mortality was lower or not much higher in the oldest population (85 and above or 75 and above) than younger groups (65–74, 75–84) because many of them were very careful to self–isolate as recommended by the Israeli government, sometimes at significant emotional cost! At ages under 45, there was no significant excess, and mortality was significantly lower for ages 0–24, which may be a result of the protective effects of lockdown, and lifestyle changes due to COVID-19, on mortality in youth, children and newborns. Evidence for this can be seen, for example, in the reduction of visits to the emergency room in 2020 for all diagnoses at ages 0–17, particularly in the early months of the pandemic . Similarly there was a reduction in traffic accidents with injury and mortality in 2020 compared to 2019 at all ages, a 26% reduction in mortality at ages 0–14 .
There’s also a relatively good “debunking” article on the idea regarding England’s numbers here, which I find intuitively compelling. I’m still not vaxxing my kids and I’m still not getting a booster because I don’t see the point. Omicron variant is no more damaging than influenza for anyone under the age of the median US Senator. But I also don’t currently find the case that the vax has indirectly killed lots of people particularly compelling.
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