Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ending as it Began

 The year, is ending the way it began with the news being about COVID. 

It seems that the country continues to blame the government when the citizens are unwilling to do what they are asked to do to stem the infection. It is kinda f like the experts are saying do this--and the uninformed are saying No, we don't want to and then complaining that COVID is running out of control. 

That, friends is a no win situation. Until people do what they are asked to do there is no reason to blame the government for not having a plan. There is a plan--follow it and get vaccinated. 

And the continued stream of misinformation is actually killing people. 

For instance, I came across this insightful article about interpreting death rates.

How do death rates from COVID-19 differ between people who are vaccinated and those who are not?

From the article comes this example:

Why we need to compare the rates of death between vaccinated and unvaccinated

During a pandemic, you might see headlines like “Half of those who died from the virus were vaccinated”.

It would be wrong to draw any conclusions about whether the vaccines are protecting people from the virus based on this headline. The headline is not providing enough information to draw any conclusions.

Let’s think through an example to see this.

Imagine we live in a place with a population of 60 people.

Then we learn that 10 people died. And we learn that 50% of them were vaccinated.

The newspaper may run the headline “Half of those who died from the virus were vaccinated”. But this headline does not tell us anything about whether the vaccine is protecting people or not.

To be able to say anything, we also need to know about those who did not die: how many people in this population were vaccinated? And how many were not vaccinated?
Base rate fallacy explanation 03

Now we have all the information we need and can calculate the death rates:

  • of 10 unvaccinated people, 5 died → the death rate among the unvaccinated is 50%
  • of 50 vaccinated people, 5 died → the death rate among the vaccinated is 10%

We therefore see that the death rate among the vaccinated is 5-times lower than among the unvaccinated.

In the example, we invented numbers to make it simple to calculate the death rates. But the same logic applies also in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Comparisons of the absolute numbers, as some headlines do, is making a mistake that’s known in statistics as a ‘base rate fallacy’: it ignores the fact that one group is much larger than the other. It is important to avoid this mistake, especially now, as in more and more countries the number of people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 is much larger than the number of people who are unvaccinated (see our vaccination data). 

This example was illustrating how to think about these statistics in a hypothetical case. Below, you can find the real data for the situation in the COVID-19 pandemic now.

As can be seen, many people misinterpret the data. 

Here is the current chart (as current as I can find) for the United States:

The death rates among unvaccinated is much higher than fully vaccinated and digging further into the data it can be assessed that many of the fully vaccinated deaths have underlying complications, as in the case of Colin Powell.

So--the plan is get vaccinated, if you choose not to get vaccinated don't try to say the government doesn't have a plan. Your exercise of your rights is killing people and maybe yourself. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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