More COVID Stats, Yet Less Light

I have left the Wuhan virus behind. Truth be told it was never front and centre in my mind. That is, as distinct from the grotesque and damaging measures governments imposed on their populations in attempting to contain its spread. They were front of mind and still are. I have no confidence that governments and their hangers-on aren’t itching for excuses to reimpose onerous restrictions on liberty. Exercising capricious power over others is seductive for those of authoritarian turn of mind. And there’s never been a shortage of would-be despots among the powers that be and their minions.

Hence their clinging to useless mask mandates. Hence their preoccupation with pressing vaccines and boosters onto those at no risk from the virus; including, of course, young children. Boosters brings me to a recent editorial in The Weekend Australian. As you know, the newspaper is paywalled, so I’ll quote liberally.

While Australians have good reason to hope the worst of the pandemic is behind the nation, analysis by this newspaper shows an apparent but clear correlation between booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines and death rates from the virus.

Who knew that the good folk at the newspaper had skills in medical statistics? Well, they don’t, of course, and it shows. Though to be fair, the analysis of COVID stats, wherever you look, is purposefully superficial. And the purpose? To frighten populations into thinking they are at mortal risk, making them easier to control and push around; and to boost the profits of Big Pharma by extoling the life-saving benefits of the vaccines.

By the way, to be clear, I’m not suggesting, at least for the most part, that politicians, journalists or medicos have been swayed by brown-paper bags full of money. Nothing so tawdry. I’m merely suggesting that the lobbying efforts of Big Pharma are more pervasive and persuasive in moulding opinions than we might think; particularly when many billions of dollars are on the line and hyped-up health scares are afoot.

To the stats reported in the newspaper’s editorial. Western Australia is cited as having one of the lowest death rates among the states; at “15 per 100,000 people.” And, lo and behold, “the highest booster rate of 80.2 percent.” Let me leave aside for the moment the other interesting reported stat, which is that Western Australia also “has had the highest number of COVID cases per head of population since February.”

Western Australian, if you recall, took advantage of its geography and Mark McGowan’s secessionist instincts and kingly ways to insulate itself from the rest of the populated world. He crowed while Berejiklian and Andrews wrestled with outbreaks and painfully played second fiddle to their public health gurus at those tortuous daily press briefings. Meanwhile, overtime, the viral strain became less deadly; Omicron evolved.

Perhaps the lower death rate in WA can be accounted for by its obese, unhealthy and frail-aged cohort (the only ones at material risk) meeting Omicron rather than its predecessor, the deadlier Delta. It’s a thought, which didn’t seem to occur to the newspaper’s “medical statisticians.” Neither did the apparent anomaly of having more cases in a highly-boosted population. Nothing to see there.

And to my larger point. Correlations can be insidious when used as the basis for drawing conclusions and for setting policy. They are at best superficial and tenuous evidence of causation. Prime example: the observed simple correlation between the mild warming since the end of the Little Ice Age and man-made emissions of CO2. In Australia, under the tutelage of green zealots, this will inevitably lead to soaring energy prices, blackouts and loss of competitiveness and jobs. But to no cooling whatsoever.

Now, back to COVID and those stats in The Australian’s editorial. It was reported that the three jurisdictions “with the highest booster vaccination rates [WA, the ACT and Tasmania] had the lowest death rates.”

The problem with this kind of analysis is that there is no evidence at all that factors which might bear on the different death rates have been brought into account or even thought about. I’ve mentioned one, the later inroads of the virus into WA. There are many others. The age structure of the population, for example. The ACT has a relatively young population. There are other, even more relevant demographic factors. Migrant populations were disproportionately affected. That might be something to do with lifestyle. It might be something to do with more crowded living. Unless account is taken of demography, the results are useless — worse than useless, misleading.

African-Americans suffered disproportionally from the virus in the US. Among the states, Mississippi has the highest proportion of black residents and the highest COVID death rate. Massachusetts, on the other hand, has one of the lowest proportions of black residents and sits well down among the states when it comes to death rates. How relevant is that? It might be. However, when I look down the list of death rates among US states, I reckon I could get a good positive correlation between the average temperature in each state and the death rate. Then I could editorialise somewhere about that. What a lark.

You simply can’t perform such a naïve piece of statistical analysis and present it to the nation as being meaningful, as The Weekend Australian editors did. Not if you want to retain credibility, you can’t. Do the vaccines work? Do the boosters work? These are serious questions requiring detailed information, expert analysis and scientific integrity before they can be answered with any confidence.

To go close to finding the answers, the people who should form the basis of studies are those who, because of their age-related frailness, obesity and/or co-morbidities, face serious risk from the virus; not the general population, most of whom are at no risk. We know that the overwhelming number of people who’ve succumbed to the virus fit into the narrow cohort as described. So, we also know, if they were vaccinated, as many were, that they weren’t saved. The question is how many were saved who would have otherwise died? That is the question to which an answer is required. Maybe the editors of the aforementioned newspaper will get busy on it. Someone, somewhere, should; in case Big Pharma is having us on.

  • Greg Buchanan

    Maybe The Australian should be looking at the all cause mortality significant increase in mass vaccinated countries? This increase ‘correlates’ with the vaccine uptake, but worryingly insurance companies are reporting the majority of deaths are in the 19-44 age range, Sounds like the risks outweigh the benefits for these non-vaccines (experimental genetic drugs).

  • Homer J

    Why was our government so determined to get everybody vaccinated, even going down the path of mandates? I never quite could figure it out. Maybe I’m not cynical enough. Yesterday my taxi driver (60 years old) told me that he recently had Covid and it hit him like a hammer. He was very sick. He got multiple jabs/boosters. Then he said “I don’t know what I would have done without the vaccine!” That’s exactly what governments want us to think. When we are all vaccinated or more than 90%, we have nothing to compare it to. It would have been an interesting experience if only 50% would have been vaccinated. It’s still not accurate because of all the different scenarios, as Peter points out above, but nevertheless interesting.

  • Stephen Due

    The vaccines are actually not very good, for several reasons. But the elephant in the room is the existence of excellent protocols for treating Covid-19, which have been widely used in some places overseas for more than two years, Since the illness is mild in most people, and since it is readily treatable with cheap repurposed drugs, there is no need for the vaccines. The hospitalizations and deaths that are still occurring due to vaccine failure could have been largely avoided using established early treatment protocols. In fact, the experimental vaccines, lockdowns and other mandated interventions would have been rendered unnecessary had the TGA not banned the use of effective treatments. This enforced therapeutic nihilism is not only an egregious interference with medical practice, but also a major cause of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality in Australia.

  • Botswana O’Hooligan

    Well, a look at the death rates can give us an inkling and instead of the death rates soaring with people dropping like flies the death rate was higher in 2019 before this dreaded supposedly thinned us out as it were. As with supposed climate change, too many variables are in play so the death statistics are a good guide since death is reasonably final, at least I have never known anyone to recover from it. The irony of it all was only the elderly appeared to toddle off, not so the young and yet the economy was trashed beyond belief by the petty tyrants in power locking the younger people out of their work places. We elderly folk are long gone from the workforce anyhow so one wonders just why the States did that unless it was to remove any doubts about their competency to govern.

  • Dallas Beaufort

    Of the tens of thousands who refused to take the jab and or laid off or those who marched in the streets, where are the media interviews or Government inquiries, Fasionable fiction dressed up as facts?

  • jackgym

    Latest NSW Covid surveillance data –

    Admitted to Hospital with Covid
    50 had 4 or more injections
    184 had 3 x injections
    93 had 2 x injections
    0 were Vaccine Free

    Admitted to ICU with Covid
    5 had 4 or more injections
    20 had 3 x injections
    2 had 2 x injections
    0 were Vaccine Free

  • pgang

    I’m a little confused at this point. Did The Australian really print that there was a correlation between boosters and death rates? They are saying that the boosters and deaths are in sync.: more boosters = more deaths. They correlate.
    If so, then Peter Smith may have taken a somewhat redundant position with this article.
    Surely the alternative is too ridiculous to contemplate – that these professional journalists and statisticians actually meant that there was an inverse correlation.

  • Alice Thermopolis

    WA has a population of 2.67m. As of today, official COVID cases for the last 90 days are 887,743 (+) (33%).
    It is probably higher, hence the plus sign.Contact tracers gave up long ago. We can assume quite a few who catch probably don’t report it.
    Another 3,434 (+) cases were reported yesterday. Current active cases are 27,167 (+). There have been 377 deaths (0.04%).
    If so-called” “long COVID” is real and if cases grow, perhaps that could become a bigger issue than the death rate.
    For me, another issue is how individual immune systems handle several injections in a short space of time. Will some go into overdrive and produce a serious autoimmune response?

  • Peter Smith

    pgang , correlation can be positive or negative in the range from (-)1 to (+)1. Clearly, the Australian newspaper claimed to have found a negative correlation between boosters and death rates.

  • pgang

    That is correct Peter, but they didn’t state that it was a ‘negative’ correlation so the assumption, if you had no background, would be a positive correlation. In normal usage the word correlate means a direct relationship, rather than an inverse one. Extremely poor journalism in my opinion, suggesting that they don’t fully understand the subject matter.

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