Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Excess Death Disappearing Act

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the United Kingdom has unfurled a new methodology for calculating excess deaths.

At the helm of this change is Julie Stanborough, ONS’s deputy director for Data and Analysis for Social Care and Health, and a seasoned veteran in the realm of government statistics. She spun her numerical narratives previously for the Cabinet Office during the COVID-19 crisis, and before that, in the labyrinthine corridors of HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Ms. Stanborough has promised a regime of continuous refinement for these newly minted estimates of excess deaths, now intriguingly tagged as “Official Statistics in Development.”

She said, “In the spirit of continuous improvement, we will regularly review estimates of excess deaths produced by the new methodology, with further refinements being undertaken if necessary. As such, the new estimates will be labelled as Official Statistics in Development while further review, testing, and development work is undertaken.”

In place of the old method, Ms. Stanborough has ushered in a statistical model that she explains will rely on age-specific mortality rates.

The ONS is now posing the question—how many deaths would we expect there to be within the context of an evolving population?

The introduction of the new calculation method, has been dissected with clinical precision by health campaigner John Campbell, revealing startling disparities between the old and new figures, with the latter method significantly reducing the count of excess deaths.

David Dickson, a forensic investigator, has unveiled an even more shocking revelation, accusing the ONS of erasing some 68,000 excess deaths from the 2023 records through this statistical manoeuvre.

This open-ended commitment to iterative adjustment begs the question: What necessitated this methodological metamorphosis in the first place?

The recalibration of numbers has cast the pandemic’s mortality in a starkly different light, artificially amplifying the lethality of the pandemic year in comparison to the previous counts of excess mortality.

The complexity of the new model equation is seemingly decipherable only by someone such as Rainman, raising suspicions about the motivations behind such opaque adjustments.

Ms. Stanborough has said, “It’s important to note that excess deaths estimates are just that—estimates. They cannot be counted on an individual basis, as can be done for death registrations. They are estimated using statistical techniques and, as a result, there is no single ‘true’ measure of excess deaths.”

Thus, while statistical manipulations may have obscured relative increases in mortality, the immutable facts of absolute death counts remain more resistant to concealment.

Dr. Thomas Binder has pointed out that a similar strategy of adjusting excess mortality expectations was previously employed by StatSchweiz in Switzerland, particularly affecting younger demographics.

Lifting the Shroud

Amidst this backdrop of statistical shuffling, a rigorous investigation by Denis Rancourt, Maurine Baudin, Joseph Hickey, and Jérémie Mercier has pierced through the fog with their illuminating study on COVID-19 vaccine-associated mortality across the southern hemisphere.

Their empirical scrutiny of the vaccination campaigns across 17 countries has revealed a damning narrative: the mass vaccination efforts have failed to demonstrably impact all-cause mortality rates, contradicting the prevailing vaccine discourse.

The study has meticulously correlated the timing of mortality spikes with the aggressive rollout of vaccine boosters, challenging the purported benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Far from reducing mortality, the data suggested a sinister association between vaccination campaigns and subsequent increases in death rates.

This revelation has cast a long shadow over the global push for COVID-19 vaccinations, demanding a sober reassessment of their safety and efficacy.

Mr. Rancourt and his team’s findings not only have questioned the utility of these vaccines in curtailing the virus but also have shone the spotlight on the critical need for a more discerning and empirical approach to public health policy.

As the narrative around excess deaths and COVID-19 vaccines has continued to evolve, the ONS’s new methodology for calculating excess deaths has added another layer of complexity to an already convoluted debate.

With politicians like UK MP Andrew Bridgen advocating for inquiries into excess mortality, the ONS’s adjustments now threaten to obscure these crucial investigations, potentially eroding public trust in governmental transparency.

This latest episode in the annals of public health statistics serves as a poignant reminder of the adage, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

In the end, the quest for truth in the age of COVID-19 has become ever more entangled in the webs of statistical reinterpretation, leaving the public yearning for clarity amidst a sea of numbers.


CDC Reveals ‘Changing Threat’ of COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Feb. 23 that hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are overall on the decline in recent years despite some episodic episodes of elevated transmission.

“Severe outcomes from COVID-19 have substantially decreased since 2020 and 2021,” the agency said. Hospital admissions in the United States for COVID-19 have dropped by more than 60 percent from the peak in 2021, and have also decreased to just 900,000 hospitalizations in 2023—from 2.5 million in 2021.
“The decline in deaths associated with COVID-19 is even more dramatic than the drop in hospitalizations. In 2021, over 450,000 deaths among Americans were associated with COVID-19, while in 2023, that number fell to roughly 75,000,” it said.

The federal agency further noted that COVID-19 infections have stayed at a level similar to previous years, but the chance of being hospitalized has dropped.

“While other factors are involved, the increase in the percent of the population with COVID-19 antibodies indicates that rising population immunity is partially responsible for the decline in severity,” the agency said. “In January 2021, only 21 percent of people aged 16 years and older had COVID-19 antibodies.”

At the same time, the CDC said that hospitalization rates have dropped across all age groups. But it stressed that certain older adults, infants, pre-existing medical conditions still appear to have a higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, adding that adults aged 65 and older accounted for 63 percent of hospitalizations and 88 percent of in-hospital deaths from the virus for the first half of 2023.

More than 90 percent of that group had “multiple pre-existing medical conditions,” and it also noted that infants aged six months and younger have higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations, the CDC said.

Despite the positive update, the CDC warned that the virus is a “public health threat” and again recommended everyone, including infants and pregnant women, to take one of the updated booster vaccines. It once again suggested that people wear masks and improve ventilation in closed areas.

On Feb. 16, the CDC said that the 2023–24 respiratory illness season appears to have peaked but stressed it is “far from over.” It noted that hospitalizations for COVID-19, influenza, and RSV have dropped in recent weeks.

“However, respiratory disease activity remains elevated, and some flu activity indicators have increased again,” according to the agency’s update. “Test positivity for flu rose nationally in late January and has leveled off since but continues to increase in parts of the country. Emergency department visits for flu have been going up in some areas of the county.”
Notably, the combined peak for hospitalizations associated with the three viruses “was not as high” as the previous season, adding that there were also “fewer reports of healthcare strain” for 2023 and 2024. Overall hospitalizations and deaths for the flu and COVID-19 were lower, too, it added.

Major COVID Study

This month, researchers from the Global Vaccine Data Network—an arm of the World Health Organization—looked at about a dozen medical conditions considered adverse events of special interest in a population study of 99 million people who were vaccinated.
“The size of the population in this study increased the possibility of identifying rare potential vaccine safety signals,” lead author Kristýna Faksová of the Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, said in a news release. “Single sites or regions are unlikely to have a large enough population to detect very rare signals,” she added.

Cases of a type of heart inflammation known as myocarditis were found in first, second, and third doses of the Pfizer mRNA shot, while the rate was higher in Moderna’s second shot, according to the research.

Pericarditis, which is inflammation of the pericardium, saw a 6.9-times higher risk in people who took AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while there was a 1.7-fold to 2.6-fold chance of developing the condition after taking Moderna’s first and fourth dose, respective, it found.

“This unparalleled scenario underscores the pressing need for comprehensive vaccine safety monitoring, as very rare adverse events associated with COVID-19 vaccines may only come to light after administration to millions of individuals,” the authors wrote.

They also found an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome for those who received the AstraZeneca shot within a few weeks, and higher-than-anticipated cases of disseminated encephalomyelitis, a form of inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, among people who got the Moderna first vaccine dose.

“Moreover, overall risk–benefit evaluations of vaccination should take the risk associated with infection into account, as multiple studies demonstrated higher risk of developing the events under study, such as GBS, myocarditis, or ADEM, following SARS-CoV-2 infection than vaccination,” the authors concluded.




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