Lies Damn Lies and Hospitalisation Statistics

Last summer when the data from Public Health England began to look a bit weak on Covid vaccine effectiveness, Sky News ran a segment commenting on some data in an official government report. It had been circulating on social media and fuelling ‘vaccine hesitancy’, according to some people. Perhaps it was time for a mainstream news outlet to reassure the public. And so Table 5 from a government report that summarised vaccination data from February to July 2021 made it on to telly. The data showed that of the over-50s who caught the Delta variant in the UK, around 13,700 had been vaccinated at least once; around 2,400 had not been vaccinated. That is “about 85% of those catching the virus being double-jabbed, which is a little higher than one would expect” said the Sky News reporter. But he reassured viewers that what matters is hospitalisations. “Of the vaccinated people, some 3.5% were hospitalised. Of the unvaccinated people, some 8.4% were hospitalised. In other words, the rate of hospitalisations per case was 2.4 times higher among those who were unvaccinated.”[i] That sounded like a reasonable way of presenting the data. It meant that one might wish to get vaccinated if elderly or within a vulnerable group, in order to halve one’s chances of going to hospital with Covid. I thought that level of risk reduction is not sufficient to mean that vaccination rates would affect hospital capacity significantly – especially not vaccination for younger generations who rarely end up in hospital anyway. It meant that although Covid vaccinations were not working well for stopping infections, and might soon be ineffective due to viral evolution, so long as they were safe, as far as staying out of hospital was concerned, there was some benefit in the elderly and the vulnerable getting jabbed. At the time I did not see the benefit in mass vaccination as the jabs were not preventing transmission, so herd immunity from the jab seemed a fantasy.

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