HSE Confirms: 95% of new cases are in the unvaccinated

The headline to this piece is not, in fact, what the HSE said. In truth, because the HSE must (you’d nearly think there was a law mandating it) present all data in with the most depressing possible spin, they pointed out that 5% of new cases are people who have been vaccinated:

This is not bad news. It is, actually, remarkably good news. What we have here in Ireland is a huge vaccine testing ground: About half the people have a vaccine, and about half do not. And we can see that Covid is presenting overwhelmingly in those who have had a vaccine. That is all the objective evidence you need (and yes, this will upset some readers) to know that the vaccine works.

Are there any other explanations that are possible for this data? The only one that comes to mind is behavioural: that the groups who are unvaccinated, either by choice, or because their turn has not come, are also the groups most likely to be socialising and mingling in the way most hospitable to the virus. That might account for some of the figures, but there is no credible way it could account for all: If the Delta variant is as transmissible as alleged, these young unvaccinated people should be bringing it home to their vaccinated parents. But the parents are not getting sick. The behavioural argument does not really stand up.

It also tends to align with the claims the vaccine manufacturers made about their products. They say that the vaccines are about 95% effective. That does not mean – as some people think – that they work in 95% of people. What it means is that they reduce the number of cases by about 95% in a vaccinated population, compared to an unvaccinated population. There will still be cases, according to the vaccine manufacturers – just many fewer. So far, the Irish figures support that claim.

There is another point to make here, too, and it is about statistics. That figure – the percentage of people who have covid and who have had a vaccine – will go up. In the months ahead, the HSE will be reporting that 7, 8, 9, and 10% of new cases are in the vaccinated. Some people will take this and say “oh the vaccine is not as effective as we thought”. That will be because they do not understand statistics.

As the total number of vaccinated people goes up, and the total number of unvaccinated people goes down, we would expect to see fewer cases in total. But we would expect to see the raw number of cases in vaccinated people go up: If, for example, there are fifty cases of covid in vaccinated people when half the public have been vaccinated, we would expect to see about 75 cases of covid in vaccinated people when two thirds of the public have been vaccinated. By the same token, the number of cases in unvaccinated people will fall, because there are fewer of them. So instead of 50 cases out of 1000, or 5%, we might see 75 cases out of 800.

Then we would have a headline saying that 9% of new cases were in the vaccinated. And so it would look like the vaccine was less effective, even though it remained exactly as effective as before. This absolutely will happen. Be prepared for it, and understand the statistics.

The bottom line here is this: Take a vaccine, or do not take one. It is a matter of your own personal choice. But the figures so far from Ireland and overseas make it clear: The vaccines work to reduce covid infections. They also appear to be very low risk to most people. They are also the most compelling, fastest, and most effective way to get our society back to normal. That is my opinion. You are entitled to your own. The facts, however, are increasingly stark.

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