Correction: Vaccination Advantage Exaggerated

by Steve HanerTwenty to one

?  Where did that math challenged fellow get that?  Oh, wait, I am the math challenged fellow and I have to offer a big correction to my post from yesterday.  Yes, the advantage to being vaccinated is evident in that new data set on the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, but the advantage is not that large.

Over the period measured, January 17 to February 14, a vaccinated person had about a 15 to one advantage over an unvaccinated person (2 versus 31 out of 100,000) when considering risk of death, and slightly better than ten to one (9 versus 98 out of 100,000) when considering risk of hospitalization.   The blatant error I made probably reflected a bias to see that advantage, having gotten the shots and hoping the hesitant will come around.

Still pretty dramatic, you say.  There is more bad news.  The data is week by week, and looking at the most recent weeks, those gaps have dropped substantially.  One week’s data is a small snapshot but looking at all the weeks in July (probably fairly complete now) a trend of smaller gaps is evident.   

I’d be happier if somebody who hadn’t demonstrated poor math skills took a look and mapped the trends. Month by month would have more validity than week by week.  If the data do show a strong deterioration in efficacy, it still means that the newly vaccinated get the same strong benefit for the first six to eight months the rest of us enjoyed.

I realized my error myself (one point for me) and I suspect others saw it.  Somebody who is inclined to dismiss the value of the vaccines probably didn’t want to call attention to my mistake because the real numbers were still encouraging.  Somebody who is hoping more will get the shots was happy I erred in that direction.  I’ll retreat back to the subject areas where I have more confidence.  But if interested, do check out that new data set.

All along there has been a strong suspicion that this bug was so effective most people would get it.  The case for that is getting stronger, but the data remains clear you want to be vaccinated before it hits.  Even in July, the odds against going into the hospital or dying were far better with than without.

A year ago with fewer cases being reported we were dealing with masks in all indoor settings, limited seating in restaurants, and strict limits on public gatherings.  None of those are in place in this midst of this surge.  If Kroger says, everybody wear a mask, I’ll comply, but so far, no such request is made.  Likewise no limits on inside dining or restricted seating on airplanes.

It is almost as if, deep in the bowels of government, a decision has been made to let this thing spread more rapidly.  In the debate between fast or slow, fast is now winning, with the assumption that medicine has caught up a bit and can save a higher number.  If people refuse to get vaccinated, then let them get a case, recover, and that too provides a level of protection.

The data also demonstrate why it is so hard to persuade some people of the dangers.  The risk remains quite low.  If during that seven month period, about 100 out of 100,000 unvaccinated Virginians ended up in a hospital, 99,900 did not.  If 31 of them died, 99,969 did not.   Those numbers of course include the spring, when prevalence dipped as low as it has since the start, but things were raging in January and February.

And nothing has changed the reality that age and pre-existing underlying conditions contributed mightily to the risk of hospitalization or death.

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46 responses to “Correction: Vaccination Advantage Exaggerated”

  1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    Find a mathematics or STEM club at a local high school or middle school to verify your math. They would like the challenge and even read the blog. It might be fun. Forgiven!

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Hell, how about the math teacher who has shared my life for 49 years??? 🙂

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Perhaps she gave up hope long ago 😉

  2. Steve, I appreciate your candor in bringing your mathematical miscalculation to the attention of readers. It’s never easy eating humble pie, but in the long run it builds credibility with readers, who respect you for your intellectual honesty. (Along the same vein, see the next post, in which I acknowledge that my previous complaints about Facebook and the Virginia Department of Health were overblown.)

    Your tentative finding of a declining efficacy gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated is unnerving but very important. One could argue that we are following the same path as the Pfizer vaccine in Israel (which Don Rippert has alluded to). If that’s so, it will require a significant adjustment in the way we all think about COVID.

    Speaking of Israel, here’s the latest on that from the Financial Times:

    Israel banks on boosters to avert new lockdown as jab efficacy fades…

    Infections are back on the rise despite rapid rollout of vaccination programme…

    Israel data show higher rates of breakthrough infections among those jabbed earlier…

    1. Anecdotal tidbit. Friend had COVID in 1H20. No hospitalization but definitely felt bad for couple weeks. Vaccinated earlier this year. Just confirmed as having it again with 2 positive tests. Obviously, a single data point doesn’t mean anything but is an example that COVID is not going anywhere.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        “Vaccinated earlier this year.”

        His immunity, from both catching the disease in 1H20 and getting vaccinated earlier this year, declined.

        This will turn out to be true for everybody.

        1. Exactly. Is asymptomatic. Got tested for travel purposes, which is only reason they figured it out.

          This maybe a growing problem, mainly I guess for unvaccinated who have not had COVID yet. The n-th time someone else is sick, there’s probably little indication they are contagious. They are potentially spreading it without any clue. So any view from those who haven’t had it and are unvaccinated that “i probably won’t get it” is really rolling the dice going forward.

          Would like to understand the degree of contagiousness of the vaccinated. Does being vaccinated and asymptomatic mean not shedding much virus?

      2. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Could also be the initial infection lingering. They need to study how long people shed COVID-19 for, given the asymptomatic aspect of it, perhaps it’s just linger infection.

        1. Yes. in this instance there where negative tests in between.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Interesting, well lucky for your friend its asymptotic and outside of having toe quarantine he won’t see much of an impact.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Again, you have to consider the length of time between the second shot and the statistic being measured. These vaccines are very effective at preventing infection at first. But that effectiveness declines over time.

      As for the initial two shout regimen preventing hospitalizations and deaths over time … I have my doubts looking at Israeli data.

      I’ll make another prediction …

      It will be seen that the Moderna shot is more effective than Pfizer because the second shot was three weeks after the first while Pfizer was two weeks. It will also be seen that the second shots should have been three months after the first, not two or three weeks.

      You heard it here first.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        No, Pfizer was three weeks and Moderna four.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          OK, I stand corrected but the basic point remains the same. Neither allowed enough time. And Pfizer allowed less time than Moderna. I think Moderna was a stronger dose too. The guy I talked to (a doctor) said Moderna “used more product to start with”.

          This generally good news since the brief timing between shots did not seem to have any severe adverse reactions and changing the time between boosters is easy to do if that is needed.

          My friend the doctor gets his third shot tomorrow. I know an 82 year old woman with some health issues who already has gotten her booster.

      2. This discussion suggests another statistic that ought to be (and can be) collected: the average length of time since vaccines were administered. The longer the time, presumably, the less the protection. I would think that would be useful for predicting the course of the epidemic.

        1. DJRippert Avatar


          The first vaccines at some scale were being fully administered in January. If you assume 6-8 months of high durable effectiveness, the boosters should be going out now.

          I note that some medical personnel are already getting boosters.

          Boosters are being rolled out in Israel.

          Time to roll out the boosters in America.

          1. Wow. I had my Moderna shots in Jan/Feb so I should probably try to get a booster as soon as they are available here.

          2. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            I believe they observed that Moderna efficacy decayed at a rate less than Pfizer.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      RTD numbers are straight off the VDH website.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    What? No hat tip for me?

    My comment from your original post …

    “Nobody doubts that the vaccines are effective, at least at first. However, nobody looking at Los Angeles or Israel should doubt that the effectiveness drops fast.

    By your rough logic there should be no surge in Israel and 30% of COVID infections in Los Angeles should not be coming from vaccinated people.”


    Any statements about the vaccines need to be tested against the observed results in Los Angeles and Israel.

    All of which brings out a question – what are the expectations of the vax proponents? If 80% of eligible Americans were vaccinated what results would you expect to see? Do your expectations require one or more booster shots?

    Jim Bacon got it right – based on observed reality around the world … COVID is likely to around for a long time.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Getting a positive test is not the key measure. Just like a year ago, most cases are never reported. Ending up in the hospital or, uh, dead are much more valid measures when considering the value of the vaccines. If the advantage is now only five to one, still considerable. If we had reached 80% vaccinated and stalled, rather than 50%, there obviously would be fewer people in ICU or a morgue today.

      Based on what we are seeing now, boosters on a regular basis are likely. I suspected that months ago and Gottlieb was saying it long ago. Like DJ, I still think the unspoken fact is that doing the second shot only three or four weeks later was the big mistake. It should have been a longer interval. But that’s a guess. And if you are only now getting those shots, you go right back to highest protection for that period.

      And in my defense, my original post noted that the more recent week to week data could be used to see if efficacy was waning. I tried to look that up yesterday but the pages loaded….so….slowly….Faster this morning.

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Based upon what I read the first dose was a teaser that go everyone to 90% immunity in 21 and 28 respectively. The second dose got the additional 5%, 2 weeks post vaccination. I think there some studies undertaken in Israel where 6 months might have been a more effective time for the 2nd dose.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Well, again the VDH data splits out the “partial” folks with one shot only and there is a big protection gap there, too. (That’s where I screwed up, throwing them into my calculations….)

          Now I’m really hoping that cold I had in June was COVID, but never got tested. Probably true that shots + previous infection is the best overall protection.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            I’ve not looked at their data recently, do they differentiate between the mRNA vaccines (2 shots) and the J&J?

            I can’t find the study where I read the 6 months, go figure you can never find what you’re looking for.

            However, I did find that the UK administers their doses of Pfizer with an 8 week span.

          2. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            No, they just look at fully or partially vaccinated. No reference to the brands. They may have that internally.

      2. DJRippert Avatar

        I’d say “keep watching Israel” but the Israelis are already giving boosters. Hospitalizations and deaths are spiking in Israel just like infections – although after a lag time. The boosters will probably tamp down the issues in Israel.

        My guess is the effectiveness of those vaccines (against everything) declines over time.

        All the more reason to get the booster shots widely deployed in the US.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          I hope in the nursing homes, etc. it is already well underway.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Stop with that logical thinking about protecting the vulnerable.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    Ok, vaccine mandate proponents …

    1. Pfizer is fully approved. Apparently the vaccine with the least durable effectiveness but fully approved.

    2. Boosters are inevitable, despite what was said in the past.

    3. Some countries, like Israel, have shown that very high rates of vaccination among the eligible can be achieved.

    Let’s say 80% of eligible Americans get fully vaccinated and then start the booster regimen.

    What are your expectation for how the epidemic progresses?

    If you want to mandate vaccines you should have a clear idea of the benefits you expect from such a mandate.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Not in favor of mandating them but listening to the commentary and speculation about things like time between the shots, most all of us “sheepie” just totally bought the proclamation from the scientific elites that it was two shots we needed. Not 3 or 1, but 2 and never heard a challenge to the “science” but we DO “question” the time between shots and just about everything else…

      So when the “elite” come back and say, we’ll need a booster shot every 3-4 months or twice a year, we’ll be compliant “sheepie” or once again question their “guidance”?

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Not in favor of a mandate. Employers are legally able to apply one and I assume they simply want fewer bad outcomes among their workforce, and a workforce that is more comfortable returning to the office. They also want to reassure customers who might be face to face with staff. I have no expectations any more — will deal with it as it arrives, but I’m done with living in fear. The vast majority of my peers kicking the bucket are not dying of this and never were. At the stage when just seeing the sun is a pleasant daily surprise.

    3. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

      It will soon be hard to define vaccine mandate. What does that mean? Up to date with Boosters or what? Community activities might be better with social distancing and masks than vaccine, but the vaccine mandaters want to see that litmus test, then they are lax on the other controls.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I think one of the things there is a lot of agreement on is that few want lockdowns.

        But the price of that is vaccines, masks and social distancing.

        Quite a few are willing to do that even if they think it might be overkill. Just do it.

        Go along to get along.

  5. “And nothing has changed the reality that age and pre-existing underlying conditions contributed mightily to the risk of hospitalization or death.”

    And there’s no push to address one easily remedied underlying condition: Vitamin D deficiency, more likely in the elderly and darker skinned. There have been studies that show low levels of Vit. D are associated with greater COVID severity requiring ICU and mortality. This one concludes: “In our COVID-19 patients, low 25OHD [Vitamin D] levels were inversely correlated with high IL-6 [interleukin 6] levels and were independent predictors of COVID-19 severity and mortality.

  6. Matt Adams Avatar
    Matt Adams

    Boosters are going to be required, I think the latest data I saw indicated that effectiveness began to wane after 6 months to 84% and by 9 months it was in the 60% range.

    COVID as I said in the very beginning will be an endemic. Its viral load shares DNA with a common cold.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Meh, close enough.
    As we used to say in school, “He’s a business major and he got the sign right. That’s an ‘A’.”

  8. Bubba1855 Avatar

    Folks…I’m retired (77y/o)…BS degree in Math from a VA private college and a Wharton MBA…I can make almost any data set you give me produce the outcome that you want…

    For covid lets get real…it’s a virus and it’s a pandemic. And it has mutations. Some mutations are minor, however, Delta is different. The bottom line is that you need to get the vaccine…time has told us that the current vaccines…all of them…are not the ‘end all’ solution to the problem. Yes, all of us , including Big Pharma wanted the vaccine to be the answer. Hey…that should not surprise us. Look at our history of flu vaccines. Regardless of what you think about ‘Big Pharma’ they are working their asses off to find solutions…let’s cut them some slack.

    So, what do we do…
    1. get the damn vaccine, I don’t care which one…just get it. It’s a whole lot better than nothing. Don’t fight over the percentages/ratios (sorry ‘Bacon’).

    2. If they say ‘get a booster’…then get it. No one knew how effective the various vaccines would be over time. Now we have more data…deal with it. It’s not a conspiracy.

    3. Masks? I put on one of those ‘flimsy’ blue ones whenever it go out. When I’m at Walmart, I see lots of people with the flimsy masks and lots who don’t wear masks. Do they do any good? Probably not. I wear mine not for protection but to remind me and others that covid is out there and we need to practice things like social distancing, etc.
    4. Get the kids back into school…without masks.

    5. Covid is going to be around for a long time…longer than I will be alive.
    6. The more people that get the vaccines and boosters the less virulent the virus will be if/when you get it. The data so far, I mean ‘so far’ indicates that the vaccines mitigate the effects of virus. Yes, it will not ‘save’ everyone…deal with it.

    7. Prey to which ever God you like that the next mutation is not like Delta. Hey…what if Delta had been the first one?
    8. Just remember…’you can run, but you can’t hide’…that’s reality.

  9. DJRippert Avatar

    Well Fauci is out again doing more harm than good in my opinion. Today he declared that the US won’t emerge from the COVID pandemic until next spring at the earliest.

    “If we can get through this winter … I hope we can get some good control in the spring of 2022.”

    Get through?
    Good control?

    “That would mean you have the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated. Then we can get an overall blanket protection of the community.”

    Overwhelming majority? What percentage is that, doctor? Would, say 78% of those eligible count? That ‘s the percentage in Israel. Does the term “vaccinated” just mean the maximum of two shots or are you including boosters in that definition? One booster or potentially many?

    Overall blanket protection of the community? What the hell does that mean? Does that mean it’s over? Does that mean it’s no worse than the seasonal flu?

    Here are two bits of observed reality:

    1. 59% of the patients HOSPITALIZED with COVID in Israel are fully vaccinated.
    2. 87% of the fully vaccinated patients who are hospitalized in Israel are over 60 years old.

    I know Fauci is smart, honest and hard-working but his public statements aren’t helping.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      He and Biden need to be roomies in the Geezer Hostel….

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        They already are, no?

      2. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        POTUS is beneath Dr. Fauci, he makes more money.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Fauci does seem to talk in riddles sometimes, at least to me and he can be irritating, so he’s not the best face to present, however, he is not really equivocating on what is going to happen if we don’t get a lot more people vaccinated.

      You can disagree with him and will but I would say that what he has predicted before is pretty close to what has happened and I’d not bet against him on this either.

      He’s basically saying if we don’t get more vaccinated, it’s going to keep going past spring.

      Folks can quibble with it I guess but I did not get warm fuzzies about the future if vaccination rates don’t improve and I have a bad feeling they will not.

      But if you don’t like Facui – then who would you listen to instead and are they saying things more or less consistent with Facui or are they contradicting him?

      Who have you trusted before now and still do if not Facui and the CDC.

      Yes, both Biden and Fauci are geezers… but I’ll take them over the prior crew… any day.

  10. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “Why you dirty sidewinder!”

    Snake bit! Death and long covid effects are the works of the Serpent.


  11. Chris Slatt Avatar
    Chris Slatt

    Watch out for Simpson’s Paradox.

    The unvaccinated population does not look like the vaccinated population (age differences, job/exposure differences, etc) leaving all sorts of lurking variables to surface counter-intuitive results when comparing the two populations in aggregate.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The funny thing is that I don’t believe the cited studies actually discuss this. Interesting.

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