Biblical and Constitutional Politics

Fitness for One and All

Statistical Refutations of Covid Deniers and Antivaxxers

(Coronavirus Statistics and Other Updates)

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

 

      Is the Covid pandemic as serious as the authorities make it out to be? Do the Covid vaccines really work? Are booster shots necessary? What about the new Omicron variant?

      This two-part article will answer these questions using statistics about the pandemic. It will also update statistics and other details from my previous writings on the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19 or just Covid). Please see those articles and commentaries for my full discussions on these and many other Covid-related matters. Here, I will only present sufficient details from what I said in previous articles to give context to the updates. On the References page is an extensive list of over 250 references supporting each of the major points made in this two-part article. That page also includes an explanation of my footnoting system, for those unfamiliar with it.

 

Case Fatality Rate Numbers

 

      The case fatality rate (CFR) or death rate refers to the odds of someone dying who contracts a particular disease. The seasonal flu, for instance, has a 0.1% case fatality rate. That means, if you catch the flu, you have a one in one-thousand chance of dying.

      Estimates varied at the start of the Covid pandemic as to what the CFR would be for COVID-19. Estimates ranged from 0.2% to 1.0%. That would make it from two to ten times as deadly as the flu. But the most common estimate was it would be 0.5% or five times as deadly as the flu.

      That 0.5% figure is the CFR I most cited in my early writings and that I used in my calculations. It is also still cited by conservative commentators and other talking heads. But they usually phrase it in the positive, saying on average 99.5% of people will survive a Covid infection. They will say it in that manner in order to deny the seriousness of the Covid pandemic and in turn the need for the Covid vaccines, hence the title of this two-part article. However, that 0.5% figure was just an estimate at the start of the pandemic. We are now almost two years into it, and we have actual data by which to calculate the CFR.

      On Newsmax, on October 20, 2021, the Covid survival rate was cited as being 98.4%. That came from John Hopkins, the source for most Covid numbers. Putting that into the negative, it gives Covid a CFR of 2.6%. That is over five times the original estimate and makes Covid 26 times as deadly as the flu. I’m not sure where John Hopkins got that figure from, as when I do the math with numbers attained from them, I get somewhat different numbers.

      Let me start with my home state of Pennsylvania. On November 10, 2021, my local ABC TV affiliate, WTAE, cited the following numbers for our state: 1,608,022 cases. 32,188 deaths  (WTAE.COVID-19). To calculate the CFR, you need to divide the number of deaths by the number of cases (deaths as the numerator/ cases as the denominator for a quick grade school review that will be important later). Doing so gives Covid here in PA a 2.0% CFR.

      Checking another source, the New York Times (NYT), the numbers for the USA as a whole on November 13, 2021 were: 46,949,943 cases and 761,354 deaths. That gives the USA a 1.6% CFR. Worldwide, the numbers from the NYT are: cases: 252,371,354, deaths: 5,086,058, for a CFR of 2.0%.

      The following are the numbers for a few other select countries, with the USA included for comparison:

 

Country     Cases          Deaths          CFR

Israel:          1,336,587          8,140            0.6%

Sweden       1,182,471        15,082            1.3%

India          34,414,186      462,690            1.3%.

USA          46,949,943      761,354            1.6%

Canada        1,751,444        29,325            1.7%

Italy             4,843,957      132,686            2.7%

Russia          8,843,238      248,203            2.8%

Brazil         21,924,598      610,224            2.9% (New York Times. Coronavirus).

 

Comments on these CFR Numbers

 

      It can be seen that the only country with a CFR close to that original 0.5% estimate is Israel. The rest are far higher. Some are below the world figure of 2.0% but some higher, as would be expected. But overall, the 2.0% figure is probably the best overall average.

      That means, it is factually inaccurate and disingenuous for conservative commentators to continue to deny the seriousness of Covid and the need for the vaccine by citing the 0.5% figure. Covid is in fact about four times more deadly than that or about 20 times as deadly as the flu.

      I am only guessing, but maybe the John Hopkins figure of 2.6% is an estimate as to what the CFR would be without treatment and without a vaccine. Meanwhile, these varying country numbers probably reflect the effectiveness of each national response to Covid.

      Israel was fast out of the gate in terms of distributing the Pfizer vaccine to its population. As a result, it was the first to have the majority of its population vaccinated. But also as a result, it was the first to see a waning effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine after six months. Conservative commentators jumped on this fact a couple of months ago as “evidence” the vaccines do not work. But what they ignored was that even though Israel’s cases were climbing rapidly, their deaths were not. Thus, while the vaccine was losing effectiveness against infection, it was not losing effectiveness against serious illness or death. Israel has since began distributing booster shots, and that has brought down their case numbers. But with that spike in cases but not deaths, it raised the denominator but not the numerator, so it brought down their CFR to the lowest on these sample countries.

      Brazil having the highest CFR probably reflects that their hospital system basically collapsed under the weight of their spring 2021 surge of Covid. That led to a great increase in deaths. Add in a very low vaccine rate, and hence their high CFR.

      Russia also has a high CFR, probably because its Sputnik vaccine has proven to be basically worthless. It is so worthless, the USA does not accept vaccination with the Sputnik vaccine as fulfillment of our mandate that all foreign travelers to the USA be fully vaccinated (Yahoo! News/ Axios. New).

      Sweden is interesting. It was vilified for not utilizing lockdowns. But it can be seen its CFR is very low. That is probably because many young healthy people got infected with the original Wuhan variant that did not seriously affect young people. As a result, its case rate is high, but its death rate is low due to few younger people dying from Covid. Now, even though the Delta variant can affect the young with more serious illness than the original virus, much of Sweden’s younger population has natural immunity and are not getting infected and dying. All of that leads to the low CFR in Sweden

      That was the mistake made here in the USA. We locked down the young and healthy along with the elderly and those with comorbidities. That kept the young and healthy from getting infected at a time when it would not have been a big deal but susceptible now when it could be problematic. I discuss in detail what would have been a better approach in my four-part article  My Multi-Group Plan for Overcoming the Coronavirus Crisis. But as it was, those lockdowns actually increased our CFR. I explain how in my article Stay at Home Orders and Business Closures Do NOT Work.

      Also increasing our CFR was the politicization of early safe and effective treatments like Hydroxychlotoquine (HCQ) and later Ivermectin. Also increasing our CFR is our high obesity rate, with its corresponding high diabetes and hypertension rate (iHeart: 90%). You can add in low vitamin D status, especially among people of color, and hence our high death count (Newsmax. Vitamins and see my two-part article Supplements to Reduce the Risk of Covid-19).

      But decreasing our CFR is our excellent healthcare system and dedicated healthcare workers, our high vaccination rate, and now increasing use of newer treatments like monoclonal antibodies. These factors together are why we are the middle of this list.

 

Comparison with 6-7 Months Ago

 

      It will be interesting to compare the preceding numbers for my area and the USA as a whole with 7-8 months ago. That would be just before the vaccines were readily available and before the Delta variant appeared.

      I happened to have an old recording from CNN for a book I am working on. It’s running Covid numbers for March 25, 2021 were for the USA 30,042,191 cases and 545,726 deaths. That gave the USA a CFR of 1.8% at that time. I also had copied Covid numbers from my local newspaper’s website (Trib Live, Pittsburgh, PA area) from April 20, 2021. They were: World: 141,662,932 cases and  3,024,099 deaths for a 2.1% CFR, USA: 31,700,126, 567,422. 1.8%. PA: 1,109,291, 25,690, 2.3%.

      If you compare these numbers with the ones cited previously from November, and it can be seen that the CFR has dropped for all areas. There are two possible reasons for this drop.

      The first is that the Delta variant is now the dominant variant across the USA and the world. It is said to be more contagious than the original Wuhan variant. That raises the case count, the denominator. But it has been debated if Delta is more or less deadly than the original virus. If it is less deadly, then that would lower the corresponding death count (the numerator) and thus the CFR. But more likely, these numbers reflect the rollout of the Covid vaccines. I say that as the degree of the droppage corresponds with the vaccine rates for each area.

      The drop for the world as a whole is 0.1 percentage points. For the USA it is 0.2 points. For PA it is 0.3 points. Meanwhile, the percent of the population vaccinated is greater in the USA (59%) than in the world as a whole (53%) and greater in PA (69%) than for the USA as a whole (as of 11/14/21;  (WTAE. COVID-19)).

      With this pattern, It is clear that the prime reason for the droppage overall is the vaccines. They are very good at preventing serious illness and death but not as good at preventing infections. These statistics prove those facts and contradict claims of Covid antivaxxers that the vaccines are not effective. That might be true for infections but not for deaths.

 

Comparison with Other Viruses

 

      The preceding statistics show that Covid is far deadly than is claimed by Covid deniers and that the vaccines are far more effective than claimed by Covid antivaxxers. But lest I get accused of fearmongering, I want to make it clear that though Covid is a deadly virus, it is not near as deadly as true killer viruses.

      For comparison, Newsmax, on the same show as it gave the John Hopkins estimate of Covid having a 2.6% CFR gave the following CFR for other viruses: Bubonic Plague: 10%, Polio 23%, Smallpox 30% (Newsmax. Probe).

      Going with my number of a 2.0% CFR for Covid worldwide, the Bubonic Plague (aka, the Black Death or simply The Plague) is five times as deadly as Covid, Polio over ten times, and smallpox 15 times as deadly.

      That 10% for the Black Death made me wonder, as I know it has been said the Black Death wiped out one-third to one-half of the population of Europe during the Middle Ages. But if it only has 10% CFR, how can it have killed 33-50% of the population?

      My best guess is it is because many Europeans got infected more than once, with some not dying from their first infection but dying after their second infection, as the virus mutated. That is why The Plague continued for over a century. We are now seeing the same thing today. The Coronavirus is mutating, and as it does, people can and do get infected more than once. I know, as the friend I mention about in a previous article as being infected and being sick for three months got infected a second time six months after she recovered the first time.

      Her second infection was not as severe, and she was only sick for three weeks. But that was probably because she got the monoclonal antibody treatment this time. Her suffering might have been even less if she had gotten that treatment in a timely manner, but it took eight days rather that the recommend 24-48 hours.

      In any case, with or without treatment, some have a harder time with a reinfection than with their initial infection. That is why I have recommended those who have had Covid receive one doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Doing so will boast antibody levels ten-fold, while a second dose adds little (Factcheck.org. Instagram). By getting just one dose, those with natural immunity can avoid the more significant side effects of a second dose but still have the immunity boast (Wall Street Journal. Covid-19).

 

Natural Vs. Vaccine Immunity

 

      The mentions of natural immunity and reinfection leads to the next question. Which is more effective, natural immunity or vaccine immunity? To word it another way, which is more likely, infection after having had Covid or a breakthrough case after being fully vaccinated? Be sure to note the terminology here. Reinfection refers to a person who had Covid getting infected a second time. Breakthrough refers to someone who is fully vaccinated getting Covid.

      Covid antivaxxers point to an Israeli study that found natural immunity was 6-13 times more effective than vaccine immunity at preventing infection and 27 times more effective at preventing symptomatic Covid (Israel National News. Israeli; Times of Israel. Study). But more recently, the CDC released a study that found vaccine immunity was 5.5 times more effective than natural immunity at preventing infection (CDC. New; Yahoo/ AP. COVID).

      Both sides denigrate the other side’s study. The Israeli study is criticized for not being published in a peer-reviewed journal (Factcheck.org. Instagram). The CDC study is criticized for only looking those who were hospitalized and not all reinfections and breakthrough cases (Just the News. ‘Propaganda’).

      In defense of the CDC practice, it is hospitalizations and deaths than matter much more than just cases. That is why I would much rather hear about the risk of reinfection leading to hospitalization or death than just infection that only causes mild or even no symptoms. The same goes for breakthrough cases.

      Those critical of the CDC study also point to an earlier study by the CDC that found the risk of reinfection as about equal to the risk of a breakthrough case.

      Personally, I think that position would probably be the most accurate. Both reinfections and breakthroughs are equally possible. And many experts would concur (Wall Street Journal. Covid-19). That is why I recommend that one dose for those with natural immunity and booster shots for those who are fully vaccinated. With either, the person will now have a much greater immunity and a greatly reduced risk of hospitalization and death from Covid (Trib Live/ AP. GOP; Newsmax. Israel).

      Along these lines, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy was on Fox Report on September 9, 2021. He referred to a study that found those who were infected but not vaccinated were twice as likely to be reinfected than those who were infected and got the vaccine (CDC. New; Trib Live/ AP. GOP'). He said on the same appearance that the risk of myocarditis (heart inflammation) that has been much touted by Covid antivaxxers is greater with infection than with the vaccine (New York Times. Heart; Reuters. U.S.). And he said there was no evidence the vaccines cause infertility, refuting additional Covid antivaxxer talking points (Newsmax. New Data; Newsmax. No Sign).

      Later, Dr. Murthy was on CNN, on October 2, 2021. He said then that only 31% of pregnant women were vaccinated. But he emphasized that there was little risk to a pregnant woman or her unborn baby from the vaccines, but there were increased risks from Covid. Overall, for pregnant women, he said, “Covid is far riskier than vaccine” (Trib Live. What). Just to address another Covid antivaxxer talking point.

 

Vaccine Effectiveness After Six Months and Boosters

The FDA has authorized Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 booster shots for all adults ages 18 and up. Do you plan to receive a booster shot following this news?

I've already received a booster: 40%
Yes, definitely: 24%
Possibly: 9%
No, definitely not: 14%
I’m not vaccinated against COVID-19: 9%
Other / Does not apply: 4%
Based on 799 responses

      The preceding is the results of a poll on my local newspaper’s website.  On the issue of booster shots, a recent study showed the vaccine effectiveness after six months for the three vaccines used in the USA as follows: Johnson & Johnson (J&J). 13%. Pfizer. 43%. Moderna. 83% (Newsmax. Effectiveness). The low rate for the J&J vaccine is why some authorities are saying it should have been a two-shot vaccine in the first place.

      This effectiveness is based on cases, not hospitalization or deaths. But it does show why the CDC is now recommending that everyone who got the J&J shot more than two months ago get a booster shot. It has now also approved boosters for everyone who got the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines more than six months ago. It is especially urging those 50 and over to get a booster (Just the News. CDC panel; Wall Street Journal. Pfizer-BioNTech). Boosters have been shown to bring the effectiveness of the vaccines back up to their original 95% effectiveness (Trib Live/ AP. 5 things; Newsmax. Boosters). They also help increase protection for cancer patients (Newsmax. COVID).

      The superiority of the Moderna vaccine is why I encouraged my dad, when he got his booster, to get the Moderna rather than the Pfizer vaccine that he got originally. I will do the same when I get mine. I base that recommendation on a study whose results were shown on Newsmax on the effectiveness of various vaccine combinations. In decreasing effectiveness, the results were:

 

Original       Booster

Moderna        Moderna

Pfizer              Moderna

Pfizer              Pfizer

J&J                 Moderna

J&J                 Pfizer

J&J                 J&J

 

Rates for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated

 

      To document the claim that the unvaccinated account for the majority of the Covid deaths under Biden, the following is from the same section of the NYT as I where got the preceding Covid numbers:

 

      Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that people who are unvaccinated are at a much greater risk than those who are fully vaccinated to test positive or die from Covid-19. These charts compare age-adjusted average daily case and death rates for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the 14 states and two cities that provide this data.

 

      The NYT then presents a graph showing these statistics. I cannot reproduce the graph here. But the conclusions are: “Unvaccinated 6x as high” vs vaccinated in terms of cases per 100,000. “Unvaccinated 12x as high” vs vaccinated in terms of deaths per 100,000 (New York Times. Coronavirus). Those figures also mean the vaccines are twice as effective at preventing death than at preventing cases. That is why highly vaccinated areas might still have high case counts but low death counts, leading to low CFRs.

      Here in Pennsylvania, WTAE reported on November 23, 2021 about statistics released by the PA Department of Health. They reported that from January 1 to November 10, 2021, 78% of Covid cases, 80% of hospitalizations, and 89% of deaths were among the unvaccinated (WTAE.COVID-19).

      However, getting closer to my home, here in Allegheny County (where Pittsburgh is located), if you look at just October through November 25, then breakthrough cases accounted for 38% of new cases (Trib Live. Health). Antivaxxers will point to such a statistic and claim the vaccines are losing their effectiveness. That is true in part, as already discussed. But it is probably more a matter of vaccination rates. As the percentage of the population that is vaccinated increases, the percentage of new cases among the vaccinated will increase. But the risk for the unvaccinated is still far greater.

     The vaccinated rate for Allegheny County is even higher than for PA as a whole, about 80%. That means, four times as many residents are vaccinated than are unvaccinated. Yet, the unvaccinated account for 62% of the cases, about 1.6 times as much as the vaccinated. That means an unvaccinated Allegheny County resident is about 6.4 times more likely to get infected than a vaccinated resident.

     If you looked at hospitalizations and deaths, the risk factor for the unvaccinated would be even greater. AHN, operator of 14 hospitals in western PA, reported on November 30, 2021, “A recent internal review of nearly 500 covid-19 patients found that more than 90% of hospitalizations involved unvaccinated patients” (Trib Live. Allegheny).

     Interestingly, during that same time period of October through November, reinfections accounted for only 1% of new cases. But only 11.3% of the county’s population has been infected. That means, breakthrough cases are 5.3 times more likely than reinfections. Thus, here in Allegheny County anyway, it is clear natural immunity is better than vaccination immunity.

 

Vaccine Hesitancy, Fetal Tissue, and Experimental Drugs

 

Do you know someone who is hesitant to get the covid-19 vaccine?

Yes: 100%

No: 0%

Unsure: 0%

 

Have you received a vaccine against the coronavirus yet?

Yes: 65%

No: 22%

I don’t plan to get vaccinated: 13%

Based on 2,687 responses

 

      The preceding are the results of two additional polls on my local newspaper’s website. It is clear vaccine hesitancy is quite common here in the Pittsburgh area, as it is across the USA. I address many false claims of vaccine antivaxxers that fuel this hesitancy in my four-part article Why I Decided to Get Vaccinated (Refuting Covid Anti-Vaxxers). Here, I want to add a bit to two points I address in that long article.

      The first is the use of fetal tissue in the development of the vaccines. To reiterate from that article, there is no fetal tissue in the vaccines themselves. However, a 20-year-old fetal tissue line was used in the development of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. I explain what is meant by a fetal tissue line in in that article and that even the very Pro-life Pope does not consider it a reason  to not get either of those vaccines. He in fact is now saying it is “an act of love” to get vaccinated and has received the vaccine himself (Just the News. Pope; Trib Live/ AP. Vatican).

      But to add to that, if you are Pro-life and claim the use of fetal tissue in the development of the vaccines is why you will not get the vaccine, then, to be consistent, you had better stop using Tylenol, Tums, Pepto-Bismol, and even Preparation H. That is because a fetal tissue line was used in the development of all four of these over the counter (OTC) drugs (Trib Live/ AP. As).

      And they are not alone. Many other prescription and OTC drugs were developed using fetal tissue lines. Therefore, if this is really the reason you do not want to get the Covid vaccine, and it is not just an excuse, then you need to do go through your medicine cabinet and do some research and throw out any and all medications that used fetal tissues lines in their development .

      To explain what is meant by development, as best as I understand it, fetal cells are used in the initial development or in the testing phase for a drug or vaccine. The researchers use the cells line to produce cells that do not react to the virus or to test to see how the fetal cells react to the product being tested. That gives researchers a jump start on development or some idea how our cells will react to the product. As such, it makes no sense for there to be fetal cells in the finished product, as they would serve no purpose at that point (NCBI. The ‘Ethical’).

      Another common claim I discuss is the claim the vaccines are “experimental drugs.” That is not true, as I explained in that articles. But if you think it is for the vaccines, which have now been in use for about 1-1/2 years and given to literally billions of people, then it is far truer for any drug you might be given if your stubbornness to get the vaccine gets you seriously ill or even lands you in the hospital with Covid.

      Monoclonal antibodies (Regeneron), Merck’s new little red pill (Molnupiravir), and Pfizer’s new blue and white pill (Paxlovid) are all far newer and far less distributed and studied than the three vaccines used in the USA. If you will be willing receive one of those treatments once you are sick and suffering , it would be far more logical to get vaccinated now and prevent that suffering.

      Along those lines, Covid antivaxxers complain that the drug companies are getting rich off of their vaccines. That is true, but it is even more true for any of these treatments, as they are far more expensive than the vaccines.

      The US government is paying the drug companies about $30 for each dose of the vaccines. But a single treatment with monoclonal antibodies costs about $2,000. A course of treatment for Merck’s pill costs about $700 (Trib Live/ AP. U.K.). I have not heard the cost of Pfizer’s new pill, but I would guess it would be about the same as for Merck’s pill. Thus, if you do not want to enrich Big Pharma, chose the vaccine now over having to get one of these treatments later (Trib Live/ AP. Merck envisions).

      Let me add, I think this is why HCQ and Ivermectin were vilified. A course of treatment with the former costs just $20 dollars and for the later just a few bucks (Steadfast Clash. Why; New York Times. How). I think it should be obvious which treatments Big Pharma would want you to get if you get infected.

      Note that there is controversy as to if HCQ and Ivermectin are actually safe and effective for treating Covid. Personally, I think the evidence is stronger for HCQ than for Ivermectin. But HCQ needs to be given early in a Covid infection and with zinc. I have included references on both sides on the References page, so that the reader can study the issue for yourself.

      But here, do not skip vaccination and say you will get one of these inexpensive pills if you get infected, as it is doubtful you will be able to find a doctor willing to prescribe either. And if you do, you will then have a hard time finding a pharmacy willing to fill the prescription. I know, as the friend I mentioned about previously asked for HCQ both times she tested positive and also  Ivermectin the second time, but she was denied both times, resulting in weeks of needless suffering.

      I know that makes me sound conspiratorial, but it is what it is. And given that situation, if you do not get vaccinated now, you almost certainly will get infected sooner or later and have to use one of the newer and more expensive treatments. That leads to the next section.

 

Covid Is Now Endemic

 

      From the start of this pandemic, I wrote much about herd immunity. The idea was that once we reached a certain percentage of the population with either natural or vaccine immunity, the pandemic would be over. But it is clear now that we will never be over this pandemic. That is because of the way the Coronavirus is mutating. Covid will be with us forever, just like the seasonal flu and the common cold (Trib live. Experts; New York Daily News. Changing).

      That means, just like with the flu vaccine, it is very possible that yearly booster shots for Covid will be needed. But it also means, don’t put all of your eggs in the basket of natural or vaccine immunity. That is because reinfections or breakthrough cases will always be possible due to ever-emerging new variants.

      I addressed this possibility early on in the pandemic when I first heard of two cases of reinfections. I said then and will say again now, if, or now, since, Covid will be with use forever, that makes my longstanding recommendations to take steps to reduce your risk of serious consequences from a Coronavirus infection by following a healthy lifestyle. That includes losing weight if you are overweight, getting your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes, getting your blood pressure under control if you have hypertension, stress control, adequate sleep and relaxation, exercise, and getting sufficient sunlight (or taking a vitamin D supplement). These steps will not only reduce your risk from Covid but from many other diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and stroke. But, as I emphasize in my two-part article, Supplements to Reduce the Risk of Covid-19, these steps should be in addition to getting vaccinated, not instead of doing so.

      The reason again is that with Covid being endemic, sooner or later you will get infected, and maybe reinfected or experience a breakthrough case, and the best way to reduce the risk of serious consequences from an infection is this holistic approach of using every possible method to reduce your risk of serious consequences from a Covid infection.

 

This two-part article is concluded at: Statistical Refutations of Covid Deniers and Antivaxxers: Part Two

 

References:

See Statistical Refutations of Covid Deniers and Antivaxxers: References.

 

Statistical Refutations of Covid Deniers and Antivaxxers: Part One. Copyright 2021 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).

 


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The above article was posted on this website December 2, 2021.

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