Norman Fenton and Martin Neil
23 Sept 2021
The UK Government's own data does not support the claims made for vaccine effectiveness/safety. In a previous post we argued that the most reliable long-term measure of Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness/safety is the age adjusted all-cause mortality rate. If, over a reasonably prolonged period, fewer vaccinated people die, from whatever cause, including Covid-19, than unvaccinated people then we could conclude that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. We also pointed out that, to avoid the confounding effect of age, it is critical that data for each age category is available, rather than the aggregated data because, clearly, aggregated data might exaggerate vaccine mortality rates if more older people, with shorter expected mortality, are included. The UK roll out of the vaccine was executed in descending age order, from older to younger, except very early on in the vaccination programme when the vulnerable young were vaccinated along with the very elderly. As the programme progressed those vaccinated were, on average, older than those who remained unvaccinated and as the roll out proceeded a progressively higher proportion of the residual unvaccinated population are younger. The latest Office for National Statistics report on mortality rates by Covid vaccination status provides data on all deaths – Covid related and non-Covid related for the period Jan-July 2021 for the unvaccinated and the different categories of vaccinated ('within 21 days of first dose', '21 days or more after first dose', 'second dose'). The ONS data for Covid-19 mortality, is given in Table 4 of the ONS spreadsheet and the ONS data for all-cause mortality excluding Covid-19, is given in Table 5 of the same spreadsheet. Both tables are reproduced at the bottom of this post. We believe there are severe weaknesses and possible errors in the ONS data (see foonote**). But importantly, while it does not provide the raw age categorized data, it does provide age standardized mortality rates. This means the ONS have calculated the overall mortality rate in a way which (they believe) adjusts for the confounding effect of age, and this is ‘baked into’ the mortality rates they have published. However, while they report this age adjusted mortality rate for each of the three separate categories of vaccinated people they do not report it for the combined set of vaccinated people. In our analysis, and in the absence of the actual age stratified data, we compute a population weighted age adjusted all-cause mortality rate by using the ONS’s published population sizes for each of the three categories of vaccinated. This is not ideal because the ONS age adjusted rates are so opaque and are not 'abolute numbers'. However, in the absence of detailed data this should provide a reasonable estimate of what the ONS age adjusted all-cause mortality rate would be for all unvaccinated if they had bothered to report it. We will call this the ‘weighted vaccinated mortality rate’. The data table derived from the ONS data and used to compute this rate is given at the end of this post.
It turns out that, even using this age adjusted mortality rate, the death rate is currently higher among the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.
The age adjusted mortality rates for vaccinated against unvaccinated for weeks 1 to 26 of 2021 are charted below. Overall, the chart shows that, over time, the weighted mortality rate for the vaccinated has steadily increased and by week 16 (23 April 2021), surpassed that for the unvaccinated.
Week 1 ends 6 Jan 2021, Week 26 ends 2 July 2021
The chart suggests a normal seasonal mortality trend for the unvaccinated, with a winter peak on week 6, 12 February 2021, and a steady decline toward summer. In contrast, the pattern for the vaccinated is completely different. From week 24 onwards the mortality rates for the vaccinated and unvaccinated appear to be converging as summer begins.
As the ONS data breaks down the data over time for the three categories of vaccinated (those within 21 days of first dose, those 21 days after first dose, and those after two doses), we can also plot mortality charts for each of these categories. The mortality rate, for week 26, up to 2 July, for the unvaccinated is around 25 deaths per 100,000. But there are big differences between the mortality rates for the different categories of vaccinated deaths. For example, for those after 21 days of first dose, the comparable mortality is around 89 deaths per 100,000 people (a number which has drastically increased since January), while for those vaccinated with two doses there were approximately 15 deaths per 100,000 in the same July period.
The trends for the different vaccination categories are also concerning. In contrast to the unvaccinated, the mortality rates for the vaccinated have initially increased from very low initial values, but then have increased, whilst that for the unvaccinated has decreased. The charts below show these patterns.