Covid 3/18: An Expected Quantity of Blood Clots

This week’s Covid news was that most of Europe suspended administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports of blood clots. This was ludicrously stupid several times over. There was always going to be something that happened to correlate with vaccination days to some extent, somewhere, over some time period. The number of blood clots experienced after vaccination wasn’t even higher than the base rate you would otherwise expect. And even if all the observed clots were extra, all were caused by the vaccine, all were fatal, and that represented the overall base rate, and we ignore all population-level benefits and economic issues, the vaccine would still be worth using purely for personal health and safety by multiple orders of magnitude.

The WHO and EMA said there was no evidence there was an issue.

None of that mattered, as one by one countries suspended injections as part of a blame avoidance strategy. As a result vaccinations are hold, thousands (or more) will die as a direct result, with many European countries seeing things getting worse rather than better and facing possible new restrictions, and with a permanent new weapon in the arsenal of vaccine skeptics that we’ll have to hear about for decades, long after this is proven to be a non-concern. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, deaths are happily way down, but case numbers have stopped dropping due to the rise of the new strains, and will likely start ticking upwards once again for a while. Whether or not this will count as a last surge/wave is unclear, it looks like the strains aren’t as additionally infectious as we feared and vaccinations are going well, so it might not be so bad.

Also, we (myself and the anonymous donor) awarded the Covid Microgrants, for details see the section on that below.

Let’s run the numbers.

The Numbers

Predictions

Prediction (WaPo numbers): Positivity rate will be 4.2% (unchanged) and deaths will fall by 12%. 

Results from WaPo Covid page, which I picked last week as the data source:

Positivity rate was indeed close to unchanged, but I see a contradiction with the Wikipedia data. The Washington Post source says there were 26% fewer tests and an essentially unchanged positive rate. Wikipedia reports essentially a flat number of positive tests. Those two things can’t both be true at the same time, so someone has this wrong. John Hopkins has 4.7% positive rate right now, but their data a week ago was jumping around due to an anomaly so it’s hard to get a good week over week number out of them here.

I think this comes down to the data anomaly a week ago, which different places are handling differently? Which previously was easy to handle since I had a good chart, now I have a bunch of graphs and have to dig for actual raw numbers when I want them. Oh how I miss the Covid Tracking Project. 

My guess and hope is that such disagreements between sources will usually be much smaller than this, and my best guess on what happened is that the real positivity rate didn’t change much. I’m going to treat tha 26% decline in reported tests at WaPo as not real, and assume that’s where the mistake is.

On deaths, we did much better than I expected. A 12% decline is good, a 28% decline is fantastic. 

Prediction (WaPo numbers): Positivity rate of 4.3% (up 0.2%), deaths decline by 8%. 

I don’t think we can sustain this huge decline in deaths because the decline in cases mostly stopped about a month ago, but given how slow deaths were to decline there’s clearly a bunch of extended and variable delays in death reporting, even more so than previously appreciated, so some additional decline seems likely. Also, whenever there’s a huge jump there’s a decent chance some of it is shifting things in time, and there will be a bit of reversion.

Positivity rate likely starts creeping back upwards in the short term. 

Deaths

DateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEASTTOTAL
Jan 28-Feb 3552430788071341020083
Feb 4-Feb 10493726877165342918218
Feb 11-Feb 17383722215239270013997
Feb 18-Feb 24365224334782242713294
Feb 25-Mar 3383416695610195813071
Mar 4-Mar 1025951775371415399623
Mar 11-Mar 1714921010321714027121

This is excellent news as deaths continue to decline steadily. We’re finally seeing the full impact of the decline in cases, especially in the Midwest and West. This was essentially the best case scenario, as substantially bigger declines would have mostly caused me to suspect data issues.

The bad news is that these declines are probably going to stall out soon, since cases aren’t declining at these rates anymore.

Positive Tests

DateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEAST
Feb 4-Feb 10144,90299,451255,256149,063
Feb 11-Feb 1797,89473,713185,765125,773
Feb 18-Feb 2480,62564,857150,493110,339
Feb 25-Mar 366,15158,295151,253115,426
Mar 4-Mar 1062,93557,262114,830109,916
Mar 11-Mar 1749,69659,881109,141115,893

All hail the control system, which has successfully once again reasserted itself. We will face increasing pressure from further reopenings and increased dominance of the new strains, and will get steady additional help from vaccinations and warmer weather. Soon we will see which side of that is stronger. In the long run, of course, the vaccinations will win out unless new strains manage to escape them and we don’t respond in time, but in the short run things are more likely to get somewhat worse first before they get better.

Vaccinations

Things are going well on the vaccination front in America. Regional differences exist but steady progress is being made everywhere, and additional supply steadily comes online. We may be a little bit ahead of ourselves with the weekly number due to the giant spike earlier in the week, but much of that was given back the next day, and the steady improvement in volume seems quite real. 

The news in Europe is not as good, because not only were they already far behind, now they’re suspending AstraZeneca shots for no reason, which is the big news item this week. 

(I’m going to stop showing the Europe graphs each week as I don’t think they’ve been worthwhile recently, but if you want to find that info yourself you can always get it at OurWorldInData.)

Europe Panics Over Actual Nothing, Halts AstraZeneca Vaccinations

The AstraZeneca vaccine does not cause blood clots.

At all. No, seriously. It simply doesn’t cause blood clots. Wenodis. We are aware of this. 

The whole incident is so mind-bogglingly insane and stupid that I don’t even know where to begin. 

From what I can tell, the sequence of events was something like this.

  1. A lot of people got the AstraZeneca vaccine.
  2. Because we are paranoid about possible side effects, there’s extensive reporting of anything that happens to people right after getting the vaccine.
  3. Because of #1 and #2, we record a lot of stuff that happens by coincidence, because this isn’t Unsong.
  4. At some point, in some region, over some time period, something bad will happen more often than chance within that region and period, because that’s how probability works.
  5. In this case #4 is certain types of blood clots in some places at some times. 
  6. Many did not notice or care that the overall rate of blood clots for those getting vaccinated is actually below the population base rate, and similar to the rate for those getting the Pfizer vaccine.
  7. Many did not notice or care that even if all the blood clots were due to the vaccine, and then in addition even if all the blood clots were fatal, neither of which is possibly true, the vaccine would still be worth taking by multiple orders of magnitude.
  8. Even the WHO and EMA said there was no evidence and nothing to worry about.
  9. Everyone in Europe lost their minds and collectively massively sabotaged the vaccine effort, and likely all vaccine efforts everywhere permanently, by halting vaccinations ‘as a precaution.’
  10. People will die.
  11. People will also get more blood clots, because Covid-19 does cause them.
  12. People everywhere will have new stupid arguments that will make people not get vaccinated, likely for all vaccines, permanently, which is already happening.

All of this due, effectively, to pure p-hacking, without even bothering to pretend otherwise.

In addition to being below the base rate, the incidents with AstraZeneca weren’t substantially different from the incidents with Pfizer, because again they are random.

Or as my friend put it when in an unfairly charitable mood:

Or, in the modern vernacular:

Or, in the words of one of the few remaining possibly sane European health authority figures:

Again, let’s be crazy generous and say all 39 cases both were entirely caused by the vaccine (which they weren’t, since again below base rate) and also killed all the patients (which they didn’t, death rate from blood clots is 10-30% per Google). That’s 39 deaths in 9.7 million doses, for a fatality rate of one in 300,000. For example, if that happened to the entire United States it would kill about a thousand people, so purely in terms of deaths it would be about the price of delaying vaccinations by one day.

Also, by the way, there’s this:

So it’s not remotely fair to use the background population rate when you’re explicitly targeting your elderly population for vaccinations. This is so much more insane than it looks at first glance.

It’s purely and simply this (link to Reuters):

Another simple Fermi calculation:

And again, how many people could this possibly kill, even if several things went impossibly badly, in exchange for saving those 1,785 lives? 

Six. 

Not six thousand. Not six hundred. Six.

What do you idiots slash mustache-twirling villains have to say for yourselves, and do you have a preference as to which of those two ways would you prefer to be primarily identified?  

Link to the Q&A here (in German). Translated, here’s the meat of it:

So of all the potential things that can go wrong you managed to find one subsection of one thing that happened more often than chance, and let’s be super generous and again assume that all seven were lethal and also that all seven were caused by vaccination and that’s the typical rate going forward, and (does math) yeah you’re still off by more than two orders of magnitude and you know it, but you have a legal obligation to these people that forces your hand, because ‘there could be legal consequences’? And there’s no way to, say, pass a new law to fix that, even if you should have fixed it long ago? So that’s it, nothing you could do, huh? 

Also there was this:

Read that last line again and think about what it implies in the context of this question.

The amount of damage this is already doing to vaccination effort is staggering. I got this comment on my last post:

On her first day back after our trip, my wife saw five patients. Two of them expressed serious concern about getting vaccinated in the United States, where they don’t even give the AstraZeneca vaccine, due to these concerns, and she had to spend a bunch of time explaining the several-layered absurdity of that concern. A twitter poll I did already found multiple people saying they know of a shot that was missed. This is only going to get worse.

On my todo list is to do a standalone pure ‘why vaccinations are safe and effective and everyone should get one as soon as possible if they’re able to do so’ post, if no one else has one that does the job well enough. Is there a good one already in existence? Several people have asked, and there’s nothing I’m fully happy pointing people towards. The concern is not ‘you should take one now even if you’re worried others need it more’ but rather ‘if and when there’s enough shots for everyone you really really need to take one,’ which is the error that matters far more overall. 

Better To Have Vaccinated And Stopped Than Never To Have Vaccinated At All

Europe halted AstraZeneca vaccinations. And that’s terrible.

Then again, at least they started doing AstraZeneca vaccinations, without which halting them would have been impossible. America didn’t even start them, and have been holding hostage tens of millions of doses? Isn’t at least starting a pretty good relative result? Isn’t it a mistake to bring down the shame hardest on the person who at least interacted with the problem and did some good, even if they nonsensically stopped, rather than the one who did no good whatsoever?

In this case, I don’t think that applies, because halting distribution is causing large active harm over and above the lack of doses being administered, and because halting it now after approving it is far more indefensible than failing to approve in the first place. Failing to approve also isn’t defensible, but if you’re committed to defending power and ‘ethics’ and counterproductive principles above all else then at least it makes some sense. It can be argued it’s at least consistent and it doesn’t quite fully mean You Fail Statistics Forever. Halting now is some combination of malice and pure madness. It is choosing to cover one’s ass against blame for the perception of irresponsibility at the cost of thousands of lives. Perhaps the blame dynamics involve this, which would be an impressive shooting of one’s nose to spite one’s face…

…or it’s (also) something worse. 

There isn’t a better option. 

That doesn’t let the United States off the hook. But I am very happy that we are not right now halting one of the vaccines for no reason, because that would do that much more damage. And I do think the suspensions are a much worse sign of dysfunction than America’s failure to begin in the first place. To get this result, the rot must go far deeper. 

The most harmful act of all around AstraZeneca, of course, is the United States deciding to hold onto tens of millions of doses indefinitely, left to sit in warehouses unused, while it refuses to approve it and also refuses to send it out, although it is now considering sending some to Mexico and Canada, both of whom have asked for doses. Then again, that’s exactly as harmful as never making those doses in the first place, so it’s hard to know what’s effectively being punished if we accept that politics and power won’t let us export the doses. Economists talk about ‘tax incidence’ and who effectively ends up with the bill for a tax (e.g. the ‘employer half’ and ‘worker half’ of social security are not economically distinct and making one side pay all of it would change very little) and this makes me think about blame incidence, especially now that I (may? have begun to?) understand how central blame is in decision making.   

The English Strain

From the Washington Post, in a standard issue ‘look at the irresponsible ones’ article :

How does that stack up against what the naive model said? If we have 2.7% in January, and assume it means something similar to what ‘March’ means here, we can compare that to a predicted 2.88% for the week of January 18. Then we compare the 36% endpoint to our naive prediction of about 72%, and notice that things are substantially behind schedule since then. That’s great news. Curve fitting gives a rise in R0 from the new strain of only 35%. If that’s accurate, then the model predicts that the new strain prolongs our pain, but there is never a last surge. 

What that model isn’t doing is drawing any distinctions between regions. It presumes that spread is evenly distributed around the country, which is obviously false. That could plausibly mean that we’re underestimating the danger substantially and will see surges in the harder hit places.

Prediction for the control system is hard to evaluate, and will be key to how this plays out. Clearly levels of precaution are declining, but putting a figure on how much they are declining is very difficult. Could be a small impact, could be a large one. 

The alternate explanation is that my five-day cycle is too short, which would be bad news, but would still mean we have more time than we expected and it’s probably not so bad.

Six Feet Good, Three Feet Acceptable In Pinch

The CDC suggests child prison social distancing requirements could soon change, and be reduced from six feet to three feet. You see, there was one recent study that said with full and proper masking that three feet distancing was “safe.” 

This is what happens when various political requirements and elite demands are dominant over decision making, with the scientific justifications being designed to fit whatever the elites need, combined with the obsession with telling people strict/absolute simple rules rather than anyone involved treating the world as a physical object. 

What happened here seems simple. The CDC said 6 feet distancing because they’ve been saying 6 feet distancing for a year, and if you suddenly said 3 feet in a school then everyone would quite rightfully ask what the hell the whole 6 feet thing had been about this whole time, whereas the 6 feet rule is the one thing that everyone has mostly agreed to agree upon even if in practice it often gets ignored.

So the CDC basically came out with guidance that said for child prisons to do their best to follow existing CDC rules for adults, even for children as young as 2, and then do their best to reopen. 

(You should know this already: The actual physical effect, of course, is gradual rather than a step function, likely similar to an inverse square law, so 3 feet I am guessing is about four times riskier than 6 feet, if everyone is exactly 3 or 6 feet apart respectively, and the goal of a 6 foot restriction is to get people to at least be a few feet apart and not crowd into spaces too aggressively. 

There’s also what they see as a necessary distinction between ‘safe’ actions, which allow the retention of a state of grace, and ‘unsafe’ actions, which are blameworthy, and to label everything as either one or the other, with the ability of guidelines to change which is which when the guidelines change, because they don’t think people can handle anything else.) 

Then a lot of child prisons, and especially teachers and teachers’ unions, interpreted the guidelines as actual requirements rather than goals or suggestions, and it was clear a lot of child prisons would remain largely or entirely closed, with prisoners forced to go remote. 

People in power didn’t like that, they wanted the child prisons open, and things will soon be in a place where if the 6 foot rule became 3 feet in general in many places it wouldn’t be that big a disaster, so now the rules are changing, with the one Massachusetts study being used as a fig leaf, despite no one being fooled that we suddenly had learned something from it, let alone that it was strong evidence. 

As always when thinking about child prisons, it’s hard for me to get behind putting our children in child prisons, but given that the alternative is virtual child prisons that are very clearly even worse, and the economic aspects of all this, I’m fine with treating the desire to reopen the child prisons as legitimate. Given that need, and the real physical risks involved, the previous guidelines were wrong and the potential new guidelines are better. 

So this change would be good, even if the process that got us here wasn’t great, and even if issuing the first set of guidelines will continue to cause a bunch of issues. With children (who are effectively largely immune) and vaccinated teachers (almost entirely immune) and masks everywhere, of course you can loosen the distancing requirement.

The even more interesting question here is, if these guidelines do get issued, how do people react more broadly? Do they think ‘oh the six foot thing was all a lie?’ Do all elites memory hole that we ever said six feet and start saying three feet, and how much whiplash does that cause? If the one central rule goes out the window does everyone start treating all of it as one big joke? It would be quite an interesting experiment that should increase popcorn sales.

Alternatively, perhaps that’s a lot of the pseudo-intent here? Use the schools as a backdoor way to loosen distancing requirements without having to out loud admit they were arbitrary, by counting on The People to notice the contradiction, once we get to a place where we want some continued caution but not to go nuts, as we are likely to be in August? 

We Must Protect This House

The House of Representatives has a problem. They would like to return to normal operations, but 25% of their members are being idiots and refusing to get vaccinated (or getting vaccinated but then neglecting to inform others of this, presumably for political reasons). With so many unvaccinated members, the Office of the Attending Physician is unwilling to relax social distancing guidelines.

The problem isn’t lack of supply. That would be even more insane, and congress has its own supply. As much as crippling the speed at which the house can do business appeals to me, our representatives should have and do have full vaccine access at this point.

At least there’s this, which is some small comfort:

But they still have to put up with things like this:

If I were in charge of the house, I’d tell everyone to get vaccinated because starting in a few weeks I was going to expel anyone who wasn’t, or at least bar the doors and not let them in until they fix it, whether or not there’s a way to let them do remote voting anyway, unless they somehow have a physician’s note saying why they can’t get it. There are plenty of workplaces doing the same. Dare the other side to defend not getting vaccinated and make a big deal out of it. 

What I’m curious about is to what extent the refusals are about ‘worried that their crazy base will see it as a betrayal to get the vaccine,’ to what extent it is actual failure to understand that the vaccines are safe and effective and worthwhile, to what extent it is their hatred of the other members of the House and a desire to make their lives as difficult as possible, and to what extent it is a strategic move to delay the work of the legislature. 

I like to think the last one is primary, a lot of them secretly did get vaccinated but are refusing to say so in order to prolong the delays as long as possible, and that these Representatives are mostly like the one who had a cloth mask on that said “I’m just wearing this so I don’t get fined” while having an N95 on underneath. The alternatives involve sufficient disconnection from reality that they are even more concerning. 

One response to this is that a 75% uptake rate is better than what the public is reporting, and that’s without the ones who got vaccinated, so the number is not so bad especially given some of the 25% presumably did get vaccinated, and we don’t need an explanation.  

Covid Microgrants Have Been Awarded

I was very happy with the results here. We got many good responses, and I am proud to announce that we are giving out $39,000 in grants to ten applicants. 

Or at least, we are trying to give out $39,000. It’s proven surprisingly difficult, because several people who thought they had a working PayPal account were often surprised to learn that a four-figure international transfer required much additional paperwork. Hopefully all of that sorts itself out, and as of this edit on Thursday afternoon nine of ten payments have been resolved successfully. 

The recipients are:

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who is working on the vaccine availability website vaxxmax.com, which interfaces with RiteAid.

Someone else who wishes to remain anonymous, who is working on the vaccine availability website vacfind.org

Someone else who also wishes to remain anonymous, who is working on https://forecasting-covid.com/, which will recreate covid19-projections.com using a new data source, likely Johns Hopkins.

Konstantin Likhter, who is working on the vaccine availability website covidwa.com for residents of the state of Washington. 

Po-Shen Loh, who is working on a better app-based method to do multi-stage contact tracing.

Lisa Hakkert, who is working on pandemic modeling and how the pandemic interacts with internet access.

Jakob Jonnerby, who is working on school reopening plans.

Dylan Alban, who gets special mention for stopping before accepting the money to note that his team had pivoted to working primarily on a different project, the vaccine availability website https://vaccinespotter.com, and making sure we still wanted to support him. 

Abraham Hinteregger, who is working on advocacy for First Doses First.

Garrett Schilkey, who is working on 3D modeling of UVC lighting and its preventative effects.

There’s a clear theme here. These are all IT or modeling projects, and the bulk of it are websites that help track availability of vaccine appointments. This was informative on several levels, not least of which it was a pointed reminder of who reads these posts. More than that, it drove home that this is the strongest current source of small low-hanging fruit an individual can easily pick. Offering information on where appointments are available is not illegal or even regulated, and that’s a sharp contrast to other many areas. 

The vaccine rollout is a hodgepodge of different stuff, so helping ensure that people can find appointments reasonably, and that vaccine does not sit idle, is a big game that can be accomplished for relatively little investment.

I’m sad we didn’t get to do this earlier, when there was more room to have a bigger impact, but better late than never.

Our plan is to follow up later to see how things went, and report back. There’s some chance this or something similar will be open again some time, but we do not have any concrete plans at this time for doing so. 

In Other News

From MR: A theory that when you listen to doctors and other health professionals and let them make decisions, you get decisions with a strong bias towards inaction and paralysis under uncertainty.

Not Covid-19 directly but central to how this column makes decisions: Politics is way too meta.

Badly needed, but actually, given we just now did it and only this much, it seems it’s incredibly hard…

In case there were still doubts what Cuomo is:

It’s not every day you get to look this clearly into a glass house and watch the residents throw stones, I mean wow just wow:

Novavax vaccine 96% effective in preventing mild and severe illness, still not approved. 

Yo-Yo Ma uses post-vaccination observation period as a concert for newly inoculated.

Not centrally covid, but seems like a worthwhile data point that private equity purchases of nursing homes found to have very large harmful effects

Would you go for it, or just let it slip?

Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t book an appointment for. See everyone next week.

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33 Responses to Covid 3/18: An Expected Quantity of Blood Clots

  1. CB says:

    I live in a Midwestern state that just expanded vaccine access. It was a mess, but I managed to get the shot the day after I became eligible.

    Early in the year you could register with the state and with the county, and they would add you to a mailing list about vaccine availability. Every week or so the county would email to say “We don’t have any information yet, but do register with the state!”

    A few weeks ago the state started emailing vaccine appointments out to the currently-eligible (mostly old people). But they were invariably several hours away. My in-laws had to make 3.5 hour (one way) trips to get shots, and they’ll have to take the same trip for their second does (because of course you must get the second shot at the same place you get the first).

    At the same time, various pharmacies and such were allowing people to schedule appointments. Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc. Their process for doing this was (and remains) absolutely bananas. * The Walmart website is the best of the bunch, and it will let you get all the way through the form (which has several steps), pick a location, and then tell you there is nothing available.
    * The Walgreens website is actively hostile. You have to lie to it to get through the form (they haven’t updated the eligibility questionnaire yet), and again you have to fill out the form to find out there’s nothing available. Even worse, you can be presented with appointments for Dose 1, click through, and then get denied because they don’t have slots for Dose 2 yet (meaning you start the form over).
    * The CVS website will show available appointments, but not redirect you to the page where you can schedule.
    * If you’re not tech savvy, I don’t know how you can get an appointment – all of the above are actively hostile to phone callers. It took me 4 tries to get through CVS’s phone tree, plus lying to an operator, to get any information at all.

    I managed to schedule an appointment several hours away on Monday morning. On Monday night the state emailed me several other available slots that were even further away. On Tuesday morning I opened the state’s email again and refreshed, and this time they had an only-one-hour-drive appointment, which I immediately booked.

    I’m very happy to have been vaccinated, but this is just absolutely nuts. I get a flu shot every year with zero friction – can we just do that?!

    • TheZvi says:

      Congrats on getting through all that.

      I mean, clearly we cannot do that!

      When we allocate scarce resources via ability to navigate a variety of complex systems, with varying technical requirements, this is what you get.

      The good news is that it should be getting gradually easier – this was the ‘get on first day permitted’ difficulty level, which is hard. Not that many can win!

  2. Bill says:

    I am generally with you on the question of how we should treat side effects. But, This post from someone who I think has been pretty good over the course of the pandemic gives me at least some reason to wait and see what is going on. It doesn’t seem like the most naive case of assuming that any side effects that happen are related:

    • TheZvi says:

      Ah, I do follow Kai so I randomly missed that link, I’ll check it out.

      The reason I was willing to be this bold wasn’t that it was actual 0% that this is real – effectively p-hacked results sometimes still represent real results of a sort. This still feels exactly like the kind of thing you’d expect if you were looking for any worrisome pattern at all anywhere.

      But, let’s say it’s real, and I still respond with… so?

      This is from that same article:
      Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, noted in a statement that even if the risk of CVT is raised by the vaccine to five or more cases per million people vaccinated, the COVID-19 infection fatality rate for men in their mid-40s is 0.1%, or 1000 deaths per million infected.

      Which is still, again, multiple orders of magnitude short of anything that should cause anyone to stop vaccinations, no?

      • Bill says:

        I was just commenting that this particular one seemed slightly more worthy of investigation than the usual crap. But I 100% agree that they should keep going and investigate in parallel.

  3. walruss10 says:

    The delay/actually don’t trust vaccines issue is standard GOP fare – If the commentary class picks up on the delay, they can appease the non-crazy portion of the GOP base by marketing it as a tactic, while still winking to the crazy portion. It’s the “We must protect…” for vaccine denialists.

  4. Alsadius says:

    I ran across this article recently, and I don’t think I found it here, so I’ll ask about it:

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-likely-in-u-s-in-mid-december-2019-cdc-scientists-report-11606782449

    Looks like blood-bank samples show a lot of covid in the US in December 2019. If it was that widespread, that early, I think we need to reduce our estimates of how contagious it is – if it was bad enough to explode from a few cases to April 2020 levels in two months, then it’d have hit those levels in February instead. Or else there’s something even stranger going on?

    I notice that I am confused. But it seems like a reliable source, and worth looking into.

  5. Burris Jackes says:

    Dear Zvi,

    Thank you so much for all your work and wisdom on the absurdity that has been the US (and World) reaction/policy/naked-ass-covering-power-grab.

    I would like to share some thoughts on the vaccination debacle.

    First, let me say: I am 52 years old, white, male, and work in entertainment (Hollywood, I am a set carpenter, though not in a union because I hate unions so work has suddenly dried up as Local 44 flexes their….sorry not relevant)

    I personally have ZERO worry that COVID could ever possibly harm me. ZERO. For many reasons: my family was military, I was born overseas, have been vaccinated for anything known to medical science, my grandfather was a surgeon and Army officer and was *brutally* pragmatic about diseases, I am Irish, etc, –> I am confident that I am either immune already, or that COVID would produce a 2-3day bout of illness I would fight off.

    And if I am wrong, then I would die. So what? That is the binary truth about medicine. You will either recover or die. IANAD, but I am 100% certain saying that. Also: YOU WILL DIE. I am also 1000% certain stating that.

    That said, here are my thoughts and impressions:

    I would gladly take a vaccine, IF I COULD PAY SOMEBODY FOR IT

    When someting is free, nobody cares so much if you don’t get it. Vaccine/schmaccine, that’s some government s^^^ nobody believes that bulls^^^ anyway.

    I woud pay $200 for a vaccine. I have no doctor and avoid medicine with a violent aversion. But if I could contract/pay-for/schedule an appointment, I would pay $200 and do so. If you start to ask me questions like “Who is your Primary Care Physician”, I will just stare at you like you are thick. If I am supposed to scan my ID and submit to some contract tracing to get a “free” vaccine, LOL

    If I could contract with a pharma company , and pay them, I might get…A GUARANTEE! A WARRANTY! I sure as hell would not have to submit my “demographic” information to see if I am “eligible”. They might even have a privacy policy that did not literally direct to a “billing” page. They might issue me a “vaccine passport” that was worth more than a hunk of warm (spit).

    So enough ranting, here are some data points that I see nobody thinking about:

    — Who the F*** is getting a COVID test if it is not REQUIRED FOR WORK?

    — Seriously who do you think is being tested? Nobody effing cares about COVID themselves, but a 24-hr-recent test is required for entry into many workplaces (as a contractor)

    — I have been required to submit to a COVID test ten (10) times in the last four months.

    — None of the “testing” companies were even coy about saying they would not collect your DNA and sell/use it for financial gain. Yet I was required to have objects stuck into my body with DNA collected by shady companies that were founded in March 2020.

    — DEMOGRAPHICS? HAHA? I always say I am a black female, JUST TO FFFF UP THE DATA COLLECTION. Because it’s goddamed offensive to even ask.

    — These people are obsessed with race. At first, it was understandable, the first mass testing at Dodger Stadium had what I recognized as very valid “stuff” to make sure that poor people would not be excluded, and to do “outreach” This was good.

    — And then it was all bullshit when You were required to “drive-through”. At Dodger Stadium, showing up on foot was some grave emergency that required many levels of possibly coercive (Sherriffs) people to sign off. So I ended up driving. I drive a ’73 Chevy truck. Holding my transmission on the hills for 45 minutes while being AGRESSIVELY yelled at to keep my windows rolled up (in August In Los Angeles for 45 minutes) and only being able to receive instructions through your radio (don’t have one) or cell phone Bluetooth (no F^^^ing way) Was hell on me and ended up costing me $200 in transmission service (possibly unrelated but I felt when it slipped….)

    — Fender (guitar company) has paid more than $700 to have me “Rapid Antigen Tested” four times. Yes that is “retaill price” but these testing companies are making shitloads of money. Does nobody see the moral hazard here?

    — Re: Demographics. There is much “concern” about “uptake” in “communities of color”. I have been homeless, I have lived in the worst places in the US, so I am here to tell you: Why would “people of color” pay any attention to anything the govenrment says? Unless it is the police arresting or killing them, or UI EDD or welfare benefits, people “of color” wisely stay as far away from the govt as they can.

    — Now, there used to be OTHER WAYS to spread information about public health initiatives. I remember:
    — children bringing home printed materials that were handed out at school. Most of these concerned lice and maybe scoliosis when I was a child but that was a good way to spread the word
    — Ministers/priests/rabbis talking to their congregations about the health/welfare of their communities, using their weekly (or more) pulpit to help the public good
    — Actual advertising on the RADIO. Many Americans drive, and those non-rich losers without a $$$ sat radio or iPhone Pandorawhatever connect still consume broadcast media.
    — Maybe you talk to an actual neighbor or friend at the ballgame or barbershop or beauty parlor or BAR, and learn that “My friend got the vaccine, he told me where to go, gonna call that place tomorrow.”

    But we see here the government has shut down:

    Schools
    Sports
    Church
    Bars
    Any gathering of people, basically.

    And as for the radio, it is F^^^ING WALL TO WALL COVID FEAR ADS AND PSA’S. Everyone I know who is not white has noticed this and said basically, “I can’t listen to the f^^^ing radio anymore it’s all this Bulls^^t” Even K-DAY, PWR-106. I know 94.7TheWAAAAVE is unendurable. You wonder why your cousin’s mix-tape is suddenly trending.

    So, I needed to get that off my chest. The govt has destroyed any credibility they already did not have, shut down all community-type venues where trusted people can share information, and are rationing so-called “life-saving” medications based on ugly political motives that everybody can see right through.

    It’s a CLUSTERF^^^k. If you want actual vaccination, contract LeBron James or Kevin Durant, they are respected, thoughtful people, and leaders. If they took to Facebook or IG (Which is where 99.999995% of people get all their information) and promoted vaccination, you would see the rate of uptake triple.

    I think maybe somebody approached those guys (maybe NBA in general) and were rebuffed, “No, you don’t have your sh** together, this seems sketchy, I’m not going to advocate anything if you don’t know what the F^^^ you are talking about.”

    (The NBA and the NFL seem to be incredibly experienced in dealing with this “pandemic”, they have done what it takes to keep going nobody loves it but they are doing the work. Why the silence about vaccination?)

    B

  6. danohu says:

    Comprehension note: it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that “child prisons” means “schools”. Fine if that’s the effect you want (my forehead-slapping moment was when I reached “prisoners forced to go remote”), just remember that some of your other readers might be almost as dumb as me.

    • TheZvi says:

      All right, presumably I should have been slightly more obvious there, since I haven’t been calling those things by their proper names enough to get people used to it yet – e.g. a “most people call them schools” somewhere is probably necessary for a bit.

      • A1987dM says:

        Also, I’m considering posting this on Facebook but I’m hesitant because some people who would otherwise agree might be put off by referring to schools as prisons.

      • TheZvi says:

        Understood, I do thank you for being explicit about that. I am sad if it has that effect, but would be more sad about censoring to avoid the reaction.

      • Jeff Russell says:

        Since this is my first comment here, first let me just say I wish I had found your blog years ago (that’s what I get for not more thoroughly checking out SSC’s blogroll), and thank you so much for these excellent weekly reports. They utterly crush almost all of the other COVID sensemaking I’ve encountered (except the Dark Horse podcast with Brett Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying. Also rather good).

        Anyhow, after reading your review of “The Case Against Education” and “Something Was Wrong”, and now seeing you once again refer to “child prisons”, I’m curious what you and your wife have done for education with your children, if you’re willing to share more. I didn’t see anything further in the archive, but I’m still working my way through it and may have missed it.

        I’ve got a two year old and am thinking about what’s coming in the next few years.

      • TheZvi says:

        Doing home schooling during the pandemic. It’s still a struggle getting that to happen and keep happening, even with my view of the situation, alas. There are places that are not like the typical ones out there, which are at least much less bad, I suppose, but if I had choice I’d prefer to home school.

      • Jeff Russell says:

        Makes sense. I’m starting to lean more that way as the prospect of school gets more real, but it would likely be a tough sell to my wife. If you have any resources to point to or end up writing up your thoughts on the experience, I’d be an eager audience.

    • tresspassingvisitor says:

      I correctly inferred that “child prisons” was a euphemism being used for political reasons. I incorrectly inferred that it was a euphemism for detainment of underage illegal immigrants caught crossing the Mexican border. (I think there’s one faction arguing that this is bad and the current administration should feel bad, and another faction arguing that it’s receiving less coverage under Biden than under Trump and the media are biased against the latter?)

  7. Lauri Elias says:

    I wish for a website ranking Spahn and other officials denying people vaccines by kills. With ‘GODLIKE RAMPAGE’ and the works.

    • TheZvi says:

      I’m not saying that a Covid Microgrant applicaiton would have been accepted, but I’m not saying I would have declined one either.

    • danohu says:

      Can we have tabloid-style tearjerker interviews with the families of people who died before they could be vaccinated? “The EMA killed my wife” kind of thing? Or find and amplify other people doing that?
      Ghoulish bad taste — but if there’s one time where it’s worth being exploitative…

  8. German bureaucrats killing thousands of people while saying that it is their legal duty to do so. That sounds vaguely familiar.

    • German Guy says:

      Don’t blame me, I voted against these evil idiots. Spahn in particular should never have been anywhere near any position of power.

      Covid wasn’t predictable in the last election, but their corrupt, incompetent and antisocial nature was plain for all to see. Yet every election, 30+% of the German voters actively waddle to the voting booth to vote for CDU aka the worst party in existence (not counting literal neo-Nazis) when all they had to do was stay home and tend to their garden, drink coffee or play video games. And another 20+% vote for SPD, which is somewhat better but not that much.

      So after every election, they get to have a Great Coalition together to fuck up everything for everyone. No party in Germany is really good, but even some of those that only get 0.1% to 0.4% of the votes like the Humanists or the Pirate Party are objectively better suited to govern than CDU+SPD. Yet the majority keeps repeating the same pattern, over and over again. At least many of them are now personally affected by the damage they’ve caused. I hope it will serve as a wake-up call to actually oust these parasites from power in the election this fall. I’m not holding my breath though.

  9. A1987dM says:

    Looks like my facepalming at the people who said Belgium’s health minister was unfit for that position because of her obesity has been vindicated at last.

    And did the German one just kind-of called fertility a disease in that Q&A answer?

  10. frei says:

    The issue with the EU stopping vaccination with AZ is another sign that the EU is handling this pandemic as worst as possible.

    They stopped, so they shown that the process of getting approvals is not 100% credible. If it was the case, stopping a day wouldn’t make sense. Then, if it is not credible, we have an issue. It means that not only the AZ, but all medications approved in EU may got the approval with a process that is not safe enough. I don’t like logic implications of stopping.

    But of course, EU is not following the logic for anything.

    • Leo says:

      I think you’re confusing decisions at EU level (approving medicines in general and the AZ vaccine in particular, continuing to recommend the AZ vaccine) and decisions by individual countries in the EU (suspending the vaccine against the EU’s recommendation).

  11. myst_05 says:

    Thank you for supporting covidwa.com. Their website is not perfect but it helped 2 essential worker friends of mine get a vaccine spot as soon as they became eligible, one of them with a bad heart condition that made them constantly panic about having to go to work over the past 12 months.

    I do wish it was linked on the official WA vaccination portal so that everyone could at least know about it but I do understand that would be impossible to pull off.

  12. Emdash says:

    I don’t want to be that guy who thinks everyone is playing 13-dimensional chess when really they are just being dumb but…

    If you were having an abysmally bad vaccine distribution campaign, causing you to lose face on the global stage at a particularly fraught time, maybe it starts making sense to come up with a reason that you need to distribute the vaccines more slowly “for your own good”. Now you’re not just a bunch of feckless bureaucrats who have badly underperformed the most important governance test that is likely to occur in your entire life. Now you’re heroes saving lives through caution!

    Of course that relies on the general consensus never coming around to realize that this too is a colossal blunder. But hey, in for a penny, in for a pound.

  13. S says:

    “Six feet good, four feet acceptable after a good-faith effort” has been California schools’ policy since at least Jan 19, 2021: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/Schools-Reopening-Letter.pdf

  14. WeekendReadingEditor says:

    I did some analysis of the AZ/OX blood clotting issue and came to a similar conclusion as yours: the overall VTE rate among vaccinees is below the population rate, and even if the 7 or so CSVT events were caused by the vaccine, that’s less risk than COVID. (It appears that many rare CSVT events in a row is what freaked out the hematologists at PEI. I have some sympathy with them. But better monitoring for thrombosis seems more apt than shutting down vaccination.)

    Fortunately, the supranational agencies (mainly EMA and WHO) agree that continued vaccination is the better course of action. Perhaps they will prevail.

    Since people are telling their harrowing tales of woe in getting their own vaccines (web sites to fight, bureaucracies to overcome, FUD to ignore, …), I wrote up my personal experience as well.

  15. Alsadius says:

    I posted a link yesterday to a WSJ article about how covid had been discovered in donated blood from December 2019 – looks like it might be caught in a spam filter, since it’s a day later and still not up. Zvi, could you approve it, perchance? Thanks.

  16. Roy says:

    Wouldn’t you expect that as more vulnerable people get vaccinated, deaths would go down, even if cases are not declining as much? That is, that deaths per case go down a lot because the people who are at most risk of dying are vaccinated at a higher rate.

  17. Craken says:

    “a standalone pure ‘why vaccinations are safe and effective and everyone should get one as soon as possible if they’re able to do so’ post”

    The amount of information pollution has probably overwhelmed many people. These weekly Covid summaries reveal much of the *credentialed* mendacity, incompetence, censorship, politicization that constitute the most harmful type of pollution, since the credentials fool many and largely prevent the censors from swooping in. With no official credibility remaining, it comes down to “well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man”–all ex cathedra, where the closer you look, the more the cathedra seems an illusion in a house of strange mirrors.

    How many people have expertise relevant to vaccine safety? A few thousand worldwide? Even medical doctors do not have this expertise as a matter of general education or experience. Everyone else is attempting some type of information filtration process based on various logical and experiential cues, since they cannot filter based on the substantive science: procedural filtration vs. substantive filtration. How many people buy into the vaccine narrative because it is deemed “high status” to do so? Maybe almost everyone who first thinks, then buys? I mean, if the experts are virtually united, what could go wrong? Does anyone remember the state of expert opinion on the Iraq invasion circa March 2003? Or the state of expert opinion on the financial system circa 2007? Or expert opinion on the coronavirus 14 months ago? This time is different!–they insist. Is it?

    Since I’m on the spectrum, yet not a quokka, let me suggests a few more detailed points of skepticism:

    No mRNA vaccine had been commercially available anywhere in the world until 4 months ago. There is no long term data on the risks of this type of vaccine, much less these specific instances of mRNA vaccines. I read of one particular concern about these vaccines potentially activating an auto-immune response in the long term due to their lipid nanoparticle component (see JW Ulm’s comments here: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2021/01/11/rna-vaccines-and-their-lipids). Yes, mRNA has been a plaything of the lab geeks for 30 years, but little of that play has involved human subjects.

    I wonder, when a vaccine expert claims (as a prominent one did), that vaccines either produce negative effects within a few months or not at all–how strong is the statistical evidence for this claim? How many different vaccines have been administered, then properly tracked long term? Are there more than 100 vaccines extant? And even if you score 100/100, what does that say for the odds that the next in line will not be a long term threat? As an anecdote, I know of a theoretical physicist (also a published quantitative geneticist) who said he will not take an mRNA vaccine due to what he likes to call “epistemic caution.”

    These vaccines are recommended to the 18-30 age group. This group has an IFR of about 1/10,000. Is the long term risk really that low? Furthermore, they are testing vaccines in children, whose IFR is about 1/50,000? Perhaps we ought to admit to necessary ignorance on the long term risk question, and at least take precautions with the young?

    In America, vaccine producers are immune to Covid vaccine-related liability–as of 2020. Apparently they get to keep all their skin regardless of the outcome. Not a good look. And, for the conservative audience, Pfizer and Moderna both delayed their Phase III results until after the election, violating their own previously stated protocols–with Pfizer also denying that it participated in Operation Warp Speed, a lie later retracted. In a nation where all important institutions are controlled by, let’s say, non-conservatives, to the objective misbehavior noted above we have super-added ostentatious political bias as well.

    Maybe the elite just cares enough that they would ensure nothing terrible happens? I’ve seen too much of cavalier politicians, from Cuomo, de Blasio, Wolf, and other Dems in early days, to Trump and his train of DeSantis, Noem, and others. Experts did not start vaccinations as early as possible for the high risk. Experts were more concerned with keeping borders open and flights running than containing the spread. The permanent government egregiously failed properly to prepare for a pandemic. The Dems sent their violent gangs into the streets in the middle of the pandemic for obvious political reasons. Republicans minimized the efficacy of masks, with largely mask-free political gatherings. MSM played politics throughout–as did most of alt-media. I won’t even get into the misbehavior regarding the national election. After all this and more, we are to trust our thoughtful, ethical ruling class?

  18. Oliver says:

    > So it’s not remotely fair to use the background population rate when you’re explicitly targeting your elderly population for vaccinations. This is so much more insane than it looks at first glance.

    I agree with your conclusion and I’d like to make some additional remarks:

    1. In Germany, the Astra Zeneca vaccine was only approved for over 64-year-olds in early March [1], so using the background population rate for thrombosis might have actually been a conservative estimate.
    2. However, most of the fuss in the media was about sinus thrombosis which actually occurs most often in femals and in the third decade according to [2].

    As a consequence of 1, Pfizer vaccines were mostly reserved for older people so health workers (i.e. lots of younger females) were more likely to get the Astra Zeneca shot.
    Because of 2, using the background population rate *for sinus thrombosis* as a comparison was indeed unfair but because the *younger* population was targeted for Astra Zeneca vaccinations.

    [1] https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/in-big-shift-germany-to-give-astrazeneca-shots-to-over-65s-1.5333297
    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_venous_sinus_thrombosis#Epidemiology

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