Saturday, March 20, 2021

Death Statistics and COVID-19 Vaccines

A week or so ago, my wife sent me a link to an article on COVID-19 vaccine deaths and side effects.  The article was mostly a light touch on statistics with a bit of anti-vaxxer opinion thrown in, but no analysis.  My wife is very leery of the vaccine, and to some extent I think she is right.  But the numbers don't really show that.  Let me explain.

At the time of the article, there were over 1,500 deaths reported following COVID vaccination.  According to the reports, there is no data on the causal relationship, and no statistical data was provided on time-frames after vaccination.  There were also indicators (though numbers weren't provided) of significant numbers of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Further, the reports indicated 100 million vaccines had been given to people by that date.  And I'm assuming for this analysis that the time frame was December 21st to March 21st for both vaccinations and deaths.  Since most vaccines required two doses, one can assume somewhere between 50 million and 100 million people were vaccinated--out of a population of 330 million.  Let's say on the conservative side, 1 in 6 people had been vaccinated.

Reports on general deaths indicate that about 7,000 or more people die each day in the US (before the COVID pandemic).  So over the 90 day vaccination period, 630 thousand people in the US would have died from any variety of causes.  I would presume quite a number of those people either visited the emergency room or the hospital before their deaths.  Now assume 1 in 6 of those people had taken the vaccine (a purely random assumption).  You would have expected 105 thousand vaccinated people to have died.

The question I would have is how many of those theoretical 105,000 vaccinated people that died did so shortly after their vaccination and without other obvious causes of death?  I don't have a clue.  But a report that says 1,500 deaths after vaccination does not seem to me to be unexpected, worrisome, or even any indication that vaccination was the cause of death.  If anything, the number seems lower than I would expect.

On the other hand.  I do not trust government or our health agencies to tell us the truth.  They have strong motivation to brush bad press under the rug and try to get as many people vaccinated as possible.  If a small risk exists, I would not expect them to reveal the truth to us, but instead to rationalize the statement that "there is no indication of causal relationship between vaccinations and reported deaths."

Let me diverge from the statistical analysis to some thought on adverse reactions to vaccines.  One assumes most start with no immunity.  But they say exposure to other flu/coronavirus types can provide some level of immunity.  Let's see what my first line of thinking leads to (note:  I am not a doctor and have no experience with immunology); what follows is pure conjecture.  Either your body already has some immunity and quickly overcomes the invader (vaccine), thus no noticeable symptoms.  Or your body is ineffective and has to put up an extended fight; hence, you are going to get adverse reactions.  Or your body's immune system is good, but is fighting something new, so you are likely to get mild adverse reactions.  That would explain why I never get the flu, but always get the flu vaccine and have no noticeable reactions.

But what would explain worse reactions on a second (booster) shot of the COVID vaccine?  And there are lots of stories about worse adverse reactions.  At least enough so you can assume this circumstance happens more than occasionally.  One would assume the body's response to the vaccine would be more effective on the second shot.  And adverse reactions would be less severe than the response on the first shot.  Either my line of thinking is wrong (very possible), or something else is happening.

They say the messenger RNA (mRNA) Pfizer and Moderna vaccines program your body's response to the virus rather than just presenting a similar viral-like threat as in standard vaccines.  In this case, the vaccine will 1) create a first order invader response like a standard vaccine (however, to the mRNA vaccine itself rather than the virus), and 2) create a second order response by the body that enhances your normal immune response to an actual live virus.

The second order response seems to be the unknown in my line of logic.  It could explain the occasionally more severe reaction to the second vaccine dose.  Everybody is unique physically (our bodies are really complex), and so will be their reactions to newly introduced catalysts (in this case the mRNA vaccine).  If your body did not respond well to the catalyst the first time, it might fight harder the second time.  Thus, the more severe adverse reactions.  That would not necessarily indicate that the catalyst's intended response is not seen (immunity).  And vaccine tests indicate that even with adverse reactions, the immunity occurs.

Okay, that was a long side-bar.  But I wanted to get my own thinking in order.  Once again, the above was all conjecture.

What I really wanted to point out was that 1,500 deaths associated in some way (maybe only in time?) with vaccination is not an unexpected number due to the much larger number of 'normal' deaths expected in the vaccinated population in the US.  In fact, that relatively small number reassures me that the vaccine is relatively safe.

But, I would like to leave you with my reservations.  As I mentioned earlier, I don't trust the government (or most companies/organizations).  They have agendas they are working on; and this one is to get the country vaccinated and back to work.  Small 'losses' probably won't matter to them unless the media hypes the issue.  And the media in this case is pro-vaccination.

Secondly, the FDA has only given an emergency use authorization; the vaccines have not been approved for general use (ha!).  That is, they are still experimental.  The testing has been short term, and there has not been enough time for long term effects to have been observed.  Taking the vaccine is thus a risk.  But it is similar to a risk with any drug.  You could always be in the small percentage of users that have a bad reaction.

Third, there are stories out there that talk about unintended consequences of the mRNA vaccination on your immune system.  If I remember correctly, they claim to reduce immunity to certain other pathogens for a period of about 3 months.  I do not know the details, and had no means to evaluate the likelihood of the claims I've read about.  But those reports definitely add to the perceived risk of the vaccine.

Finally, I am not an anti-vaxxer.  I take the flu vaccine and will take any other vaccines my doctor recommends for me.  On the other hand, if I had a child with a degraded immune system or a significant medical condition, I would talk long and hard with my pediatrician or family doctor about whether the child should get certain vaccines.

I do plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I can.  I know it's a risk, and a significant one; but I think it is worth taking for some peace of mind.

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