Yes Virginia, the vaccine is far safer than the disease

A reader writes in:

There seems to be something ugly going on in the latest adverse events reporting from the Covid vaccine in New Zealand.

In the latest week of data (to 4th September) 14 people are reported as dying after vaccination (an increase of 35% in a single week).  The total number of people reported as having died after vaccination in NZ is now 54 (double the number of those who have officially died from the virus).  The figure has more than doubled in the last 4 weeks of reporting (from 26 to 54 deaths).

602 adverse events are classified as serious.  These include life-threatening and/or life-changing events such as strokes, heart attacks, DVTs, thromboses and embolisms, acute liver and kidney injuries, and Guillain-Barre’ syndrome.

There have been 4,615 adverse events reports in the last 2 weeks of data alone, an increase of 42% in the cumulative total since 1st March.  This is 5 times higher than the previous average of adverse events reported per week.

Data may be found here: https://www.medsafe.govt.nz/COVID-19/vaccine-report-overview.asp

The swine flu vaccine was stopped in the USA after I think 50 reported deaths.

I believe we are now at the point where the adverse reaction data show a disproportionate amount of death and harm in relation to the deaths and harm caused by the virus (very few people are reported as dying in the current Auckland outbreak).  I do not know what is the tolerance of the government for deaths, disablements and other harm from the vaccine (except that it appears to be high).  No vaccine or medicine is safe in absolute terms, it can only be safe relative to other things (e.g. to the effects of a disease).

I have no axe to grind. David, you are used to working with stats.  Why don’t you put to one side your oft-stated love of the vaccine (I have no problem with that – these are personal decisions) and crunch the numbers dispassionately yourself?

I’m blogging the e-mail and response, because I think it is important to respond to people’s concerns.

Medsafe produce excellent weekly reports on adverse events. This is excellent transparency. The latest one is here. They show that there have been a total of 18,0777 adverse events following immunisation, of which 666 are classified as serious.

The most common non serious AEFIs are dizziness, headaches, pain at injection site, lethargy and nausea.

There have been 60 deaths of people within three weeks of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. The Independent Safety Monitoring Board reviews those deaths and has found one is likely due to the vaccine. 27 are not thought to be linked, 10 can’t be assessed due to lack of information and 22 are still under investigation.

So one is linked, 27 are probably not, 10 we don’t know and 22 are under investigation. Now 60 deaths sounds like a lot but 720,000 people have had their first dose and 455,000 their second. Even if all 60 deaths were linked (they are not) then it is a 0.005% fatality rate. Or 1 in 20,000.

But as the Medsafe report shows the natural death rate for people over a three week period is in fact greater than the 60 who have died. Normally there would be almost 1,000 deaths for the population dosed in a three week period and in fact there were only 750. So there is no reason to think the deaths are linked, as if they were you would expect excess deaths.

We only know of one confirmed death. That is a 1 in 1.2 million rate. Even if you somehow believe all 60 are linked (they are not) it is 1 in 20,000.

There are some significant serious adverse effects. They include heart attacks, thrombosis, kidney injury, strikes and arthritis. They will seriously affect your quality of life.

There have been 666 of them. So that is around one person in 1,700 has a serious side-effect. This is not zero. It is low, but not zero. No one should be claiming vaccines are entirely risk free. No medicine is.

All the adverse effects information is public (as it should be).

So how do the adverse effects of the vaccine compare to adverse effects of Covid-19? John Hopkins has the case-fatality ratio as ranging from 19% in Yemen to 0.6% in NZ. Globally the average is just over 2%. Now cafe fatality data is not perfect as we undercount both those who die from Covid-19 and those who are infected by it. But these imperfections will not make it anywhere near 0.005% (worst case from the vaccine).

In NZ the death rate from Covid-19 is 118 times greater than the worst possible death rate from the vaccine. And it is 7,000 times greater than the best possible death rate from the vaccine.

How about non fatal but serious impacts? The vaccine has around 1 in 1,700 suffer a serious side effect. Compare that to the 1 in 8 who get Covid-19 and still have symptoms after more than three months. I prefer 1 in 1700 to 1 in 8.

There is an age component to this. The older you are the more likely it is Covid-19 will kill you or give you serious damage. The younger you are, the less likely this is. That is why at this stage the vaccine is only approved for those aged 12 or older.

So it is great we have such thorough data on adverse effects, but nothing I have seen in it makes me thinks the risks of the vaccine are even in the same ballpark as the risks from getting Covid-19.

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