Excess deaths and the elephant in the room - Part 2
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As discussed in Part 1, death statistics in a number of countries world-wide suggest that Covid-19 vaccines may be responsible for significant numbers of deaths. A notable exception appeared to be Switzerland, until -perhaps- the end of 2021.
The rise in deaths in tune with Covid-19 boosters was commented with alarm in a recent "Coronagate" blog (Google translation here). But can't we just as well blame the Delta wave for that excess mortality? And - in contrast with Germany - little to nothing can be seen from first vaccinations. Did I overestimate vaccine risk in last year's analysis?
Happily Switzerland provides age stratified data, although not fully consistent (interpolations are required for comparing data in 10 year groups with data split in over 65 and under 65 y.o.). This enabled to examine the Swiss data more thoroughly in spreadsheet format, combining excess mortality, Covid19 deaths and simulated Covid19 vaccination deaths for different age groups. File:CH-vax-deaths-analysis.ods. Links to the data are included in the spreadsheets.
The following graphs all show weekly numbers for over and under 65 y.o. just as in the picture here above; the grey dash lines indicate the expected ranges for "normal" years; note that at the end of each pandemic wave less people die than normally (mortality deficit or "early reaping" effect as can be noticed in early 2021).
By subtracting the Weekly Covid deaths from the Weekly deaths we obtain:
Comparing with the weekly vaccinations:
1. The peak in excess deaths of 65+ in week 49 is not explained by the Covid-19 Delta wave alone.
2. That peak follows 1-2 weeks on the peak in booster vaccinations of 65+; this confirms that splitting in age groups is necessary (see discussion in last blog post).
In the following simulations deaths occur in the same week as vaccinations [Note added: that is, the same week as second vaccinations and the same week as boosters; but see the PS]. As starting point for simulating vaccination deaths, I took my analysis of last summer. In Switzerland the great majority of people were vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which I had estimated at respectively 15 and 20 deaths per million average in vaccinated people of less than 65 y.o. That turned out to fit easily with the Swiss death data (see spreadsheet "Analysis" in the ODS file) but slightly increased values fit better. With trial-and-error the following values resulted in a rather good fit between the grey dash boundaries:
|Age group||under 65||65+|
In view of the large differences between those age groups, based on the above numbers the simulation was refined for a little more precision (partly making use of finer age group data and partly assuming that older people tend to get vaccinated earlier - see spreadsheet "Refined analysis" in the ODS file).
Taking again the plot of non-Covid-19 weekly deaths,
Then by subtracting the simulated vaccination deaths, we obtain death rates in the normal range (except for the "reaping effect"):
The final graphs for the two age groups without the simulated Covid and vaccination deaths still show a slight amount of excess deaths during that period.
But what if the number of Covid deaths is in fact underestimated? Here below follow the simulations accounting for 20% more deaths due to Covid-19 than reported deaths with Covid-19, without changing the simulated vaccination deaths.
In conclusion, vaccinations may explain the non-Covid19 excess deaths - even for Switzerland. Of course there could be other causes of excess mortality that coincided with the boosters, in which case the estimations here are too high. Nevertheless the order of magnitude is likely correct.
But why are the excess deaths after first vaccinations so much less obvious than in Germany? Eyeballing Kuhbandtner's graphs (see last blog post), in Germany for over 65 y.o. the excess deaths seem to jump around 100 deaths per day after a jump in 50'000 doses per day, which means 1 in 500 second vaccinations - much more than simulated here for Switzerland. A possible explanation may be that in Germany also AstraZeneca's vaccine was used; last year I estimated it to be about 5 times more risky than Pfizer's vaccine. If that vaccine was largely used on elderly (please comment if you know!) then that would largely explain the difference.
This analysis matches rather well with my order-of-magnitude estimations of last summer. According to this new analysis, those earlier vaccination risk estimations for persons under 65 years of age may have been slightly underestimated. Further, estimations can now be made for the elderly and for the boosters in the context of new variants. In view of the considerably lower risk of Omicron and the reduced efficacy of those vaccines for new variants, the benefit of additional boosters becomes less clear - even for elderly people, and even accounting for higher infection risk. The following table is purely based on the simulation fit and implies therefore no claim of accuracy or reliability, but just to illustrate the combined effect:
|20-30 y.o.||50-60 y.o.||70-80 y.o.|
|COVID-19 wave||mRNA boost||COVID-19 wave||mRNA boost||COVID-19 wave||mRNA boost|
PS. As the "boosters" were very concentrated in time, it's not very satisfying to simulate with vaccine deaths in the same week as boosters; medically more plausible is the same and the following week. So I still did a variant simulation with half the deaths in the same week and half in the following week. The result is even slightly better:
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