Damaging Vaccine Effectiveness: The ‘Fact Checks’ Were Wrong Last Autumn and They’re Much more Wrong Now

The truth is I’ m a bit racked away from with both Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter and Tim Harford. I used to go out of my way to hear them on radio; they’ re both gifted communicators, indeed anyone who can make a documentary about barbed cable a riveting listen – and Tim Harford will just that in […]#@@#@!!

The truth is Now i am a bit racked off with both Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter and Tim Harford. I did previously go out of my way to hear them on radio; these people both gifted communicators, indeed anyone who can make a documentary regarding barbed wire a captivating listen – and Bernard Harford does just that in the series “ 50 things that made the modern economy ” – warrants all the accolades he gets.   However , I want they’d tidy up a little behind themselves.   I actually refer, of course , to the furore generated last September by Robert Peston’s tweet and President Bolsanaro’s subsequent technique information to query whether the truth was that the unvaccinated were less likely to test positive for Covid than the vaccinated.

Why bring it upward again now, eight weeks later? There are several reasons.

Firstly, though in general I’ve stopped listening to or even watching any BBC output, I did hear a couple of minutes from the latest BBC Radio four “ More or Less” episode where Tim Harford was dragging some unlucky WHO statistician over the black coals for having the temerity to suggest that Germany had completed less well than the Oughout. K. in the Covid league of death. It’s not as if he hasn’t got a couple of things wrong over the past couple of months himself. People in glass houses, and all that.

Secondly, in a good natured discussion with a doctor friend of mine regarding the efficacy of vaccines (yes, people can disagree without irrevocably falling out) I actually mentioned that the last information provided by the  UKHSA   showing the particular prevalence of Covid bacterial infections in the unvaccinated in comparison to the vaccinated showed that the vaccinated in the 40-49 year-old cohort were more than four instances more likely to test positive to get Covid than the unvaccinated. The lady laughed and said she knew all about this. She told me that Professor Friend David Spiegelhalter, no less, Seat of the Winton Centre designed for Risk and Evidence Communication in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge, had accomplished a thorough demolition of this canard last year. Certainly, to her the argument had been shot straight down in flames.   That annoyed me because we now know Spiegelhalter’s confidence within the efficacy of vaccines against transmission was wrong yet he’s done nothing to clarify this – a bit remiss for someone whose very job description consists of the words ‘ risk’ and ‘ communication’.

Thirdly, I think the fact checkers need fact checking.   Full Fact   had done a piece on this which with hindsight we can see was hopelessly premature and yet they too have got failed to correct their today apparent error.

Fourthly, We contacted both Professor Friend David Spiegelhalter and the “ More or Less” program asking whether they would revisit this issue, and whilst I had developed a very polite response in the Professor declining the invites I’ve still heard nothing from More or Less so I believed I’d better set the record straight for them.

Finally, and most significantly, this issue highlights all too nicely the disservice that the UKHSA is doing us all by ending the publication of real life data and only publishing weighted data in its (no longer weekly)  vaccine security reports . This episode illustrates the deficiencies associated with weighting and shows just how data can be manipulated when they’re obfuscated.   With no raw data, Spiegelhalter and Harford couldn’t have mounted their critiques and I didn’t want to have mounted this riposte.   Raw data function all sides.

Let’s go back to the beginning and the furore caused by Robert Peston’s initial tweet that set this particular hare running.   This was followed by an attempted takedown by Leo Benedictus of  Full Fact after President Bolsanaro of Brazil quoted the same numbers and an  article   within the  Guardian   by Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters published on September 19th 2021.   Additionally , the BBC Radio four programme on  Pretty much   covered the storyplot on Sept 15th 2021, featuring a discussion between presenter Tim Harford and mathematician James Ward which figured the vaccines were quite effective and that there was nothing to find out here. The show also informed us that ITV had deleted the Peston tweet.

Within their  Guardian   piece, Spiegelhalter plus Masters wrote:

The shock came from the reported situation rate per 100, 000 population being higher for fully vaccinated people (1, 116) aged 40 to 49 than for unvaccinated (880), which appears to issue the effectiveness of the vaccines. But the problem is that we don’t know how many people have not been vaccinated, because we don’t know the number of people live in England.

I’ve reproduced below the desk from the UKHSA  7 days 36 vaccine surveillance statement , which was also demonstrated in Peston’s original tweet.   You can see the figures quoted by Spiegelhalter for that infection rate by vaccine status per 100, 1000 in the last two columns circled in orange and azure and the raw number of bacterial infections by vaccine status within columns two and 4.   Of course , the number of infections in the vaccinated 40-49 year-olds is the total less the infections in the unvaccinated, 97, 881 – 15, 106 = 88, 951.

The good Professor went on to explain:

PHE uses National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) estimates of 8. 1 million adults aged 40 to 49 in England. These figures depend on GP records plus tend to overcount. The Office to get National Statistics (ONS) furthermore produces population estimates, based on the 2011 census, migration plus death registrations and estimations 7. 1 million adults in that age group, a million less than NIMS.

Up to September 5th, NHS England reported 6. 4 million people for the reason that age group had received the COVID-19 vaccine dose. Therefore the ONS population estimate simply leaves about 700, 000 unvaccinated people aged 40 to 49, while using NIMS means 1 . 7 million. This is a massive difference.

Let’s find what that massive difference does to the infection price per 100, 000 utilizing the two different population estimates:

The infection rate in the vaccinated doesn’t change whether or not the  NIMS   or  ONS   data are utilized; it stays at 1, 116 per 100, 500. All the error is concentrated within the unvaccinated.   From the statistics above we can see that making use of NIMS data the infection price goes from the reported 880 per 100, 000 to 2, 137 per one hundred, 000, almost 2 . five times what was reported and almost two times the rate of the vaccinated. Simply put, the same number of infections are spread among a smaller group of people if we use the ONS population estimate.

Well, let’s now roll forward 29 weeks to the  UKHSA shot surveillance report of 7 days 13 2022   to see how these criticisms have played out over time.   This was a special week because it was the last time that the UKHSA reported raw data.

Let’s just remind ourselves that this desk shows infections by shot status for the prior four weeks. You can see circled in blue that 15, 437 from the infections in the 40-49 age cohort were amongst the unvaccinated, up 331 (2%) from the 15, 106 amongst the unvaccinated back in September 2021.   Whereas amongst the vaccinated presently there had been 238, 155 bacterial infections (253, 592 – 15, 437). That’s 149, 204 (167%) higher than in September 2021 (238, 155 – 88, 951) and, take a look at not forget, in the meantime many of this particular age group had had a 3rd vaccine dose. Isn’t that will amazing, the rate of increase in infections was about 80 situations greater in the vaccinated compared to unvaccinated.

Simply to nail the point, let’s furthermore look at the change in illness rates per 100, 000. The table below displays the infection rate in the triple vaccinated compared to the not-vaccinated through the  week 13 2022 UKHSA vaccine monitoring report .

The triple vaccinated are apparently 4. 1 times very likely to test positive than the unvaccinated among the 40-49 year-old cohort (3, 957 ÷ 955 = 4. 1). Aha! Spiegelhalter, Harford and Complete Fact might cry, however you haven’t corrected for that NIMS/ONS issue.   Alright, let’s do that.   From this article you can see below, even if we use the ONS population data, the particular triple vaccinated were 1 ) 7 times (3, 958 ÷ 2, 320) more prone to test positive for Covid than the unvaccinated.

Within the 29 weeks since the 7 days 36 report, the vaccination rate amongst the 40-49 year-olds is much the same yet the occurrence of infection in the triple-vaccinated has increased markedly.

As I mentioned, the UKHSA no longer publishes any raw data so it’s increasingly hard to verify claims, but probably it is just worth testing the view expressed by the Pretty much team in the September fifteenth episode, that despite the vaccines not providing complete protection against infection they do still prove very efficacious against death.   Well let’s take a have a look.

Desk 7 is reproduced through the week 13 2022 UKHSA vaccine surveillance report. This shows the number of deaths by vaccine status by age cohort. These are raw figures, not deaths per 100, 000.   As you can see, the aged over 40, three hundred of the 4, 005 fatalities were of unvaccinated people, that’s 7. 5%.   Surely, if the vaccines had been efficacious you’d expect the particular unvaccinated death rate to become higher than that of the vaccinated.

Below, I’ve demonstrated the percentage of deaths against the percentage of those unvaccinated using both NIMS and ONS population data.

You can look at the individual age cohorts if you care to yet I’ll just comment on the entire. At best, using Spiegelhalter and much more or Less’s preferred ONS  population   (which is actually  well-known   with regard to under-counting the population, even, because the UKHSA itself has  pointed out , resulting in a few age cohorts having greater than 100% vaccination coverage), 6% of the deaths in the over-40s cohort are not vaccinated yet they only account for 7% of the deaths, hardly a ringing endorsement for vaccination.

If we use the NIMS population data (which the UKHSA  calls   the “ gold standard” for this purpose), 12% of them are unvaccinated, yet only 7% associated with deaths were of the unvaccinated.   Is this why UKHSA stopped reporting the uncooked data, because they showed that, at best the vaccines appeared to make no difference in the proportion of deaths with worst appear to show the fact that unvaccinated are far less likely in order to die?

May we expect More or Less to have another look at the data or Professor Spiegelhalter to write an additional article for the  Guardian ?   Simply no, I don’t think so possibly. But even they would need to admit that it’s all a bit rum. Still, perhaps Robert Peston or President Bolsanaro will retweet this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *