Time for a CCP virus update with a focus on the effectivnes of vaccines. And the big takeaway? Good luck to you if you can detect any evidence for the popular view (including President Biden’s) that the United States has been seeing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” lately – and especially during pandemic phase dominated by the highly infectious Delta variant.
Full disclosure: I’m fully vaxxed and have been since late April. I got the shots as soon as I could make an appointment (not easy back then in my state of residence, Maryland). I’ll probably get a booster – and certainly have no inherent objections to these jabs.
But I’m 67 years old and have some underlying conditions that make me more vulnerable than other young seniors (although my physicians tell me I’m still healthy overall). So I concluded that getting vaccinated made good sense for me. For anyone else? As always, the only medical advice I’m qualified to give is “Use your judgment in consultation with your doctor(s).”
In other words, I’m no anti-vaxxer. Instead, my main concern continues to be the often confusing advice given by public health authorities on dealing with the pandemic, their regular habit of departing from “The Science” in their recommendations, and – especially important – their willingness to push aggressively for policies with major implications for both other public health issues and crucial non-health-related issues based on highly questionable data. (The latest potential problem revealed concerned the hospitalization figures, which I and many others viewed as the most reliable measure of the pandemic’s status and the severity of the virus – though far from perfect.)
Here’s what I’ve just done. I’ve looked at the statistics for the states and territories that have fully vaccinated the highest percentages of their populations and the lowest percentages of their populations, and compared the changes in newly reported deaths and numbers of CCP Virus-related hospitalization rates over the last week as of this morning. My source, as often the case, is the Washington Post‘s very well-designed and thus very convenient interactive virus database. The results are below:
Top 10 vaxxed states Full Vax rate new deaths last week new hospns last week
National average: 54.2 percent +26 percent -6 percent
Vermont: 68.8 percent +100 percent +26.5 percent
Connecticut: 67.5 percent +33.3 percent +4.4 percent
Puerto Rico: 67.4 percent +8.3 percent -15 percent
Maine: 67.2 percent 0 percent +3.1 percent
Massachusetts: 67 percent +44.4 percent +14.5 percent
Rhode Island: 66.5 percent +50 percent -11.8 percent
Guam: 65.1 percent +200 percent not available
New Jersey: 63.1 percent +12.5 percent +2.6 percent
Maryland: 63 percent +23.1 percent 0 percent
New York: 62.1 percent -29.4 percent -14.6 percent
Bottom 10 states for vaccination rates
National average: 54.2 percent +26 percent -6 percent
West Virginia: 40 percent +91.7 percent +9.3 percent
Wyoming: 40.4 percent +100 percent -9.4 percent
Idaho: 40.5 percent +120 percent +10.3 percent
Alabama: 40.7 percent +110 percent -14.5 percent
Mississippi: 41.7 percent -15.4 percent -15.1 percent
North Dakota: 42.9 percent 0 percent +7.4 percent
Virgin Islands: 43.1 percent 0 percent +16.7 percent
Georgia: 43.5 percent +50.6 percent -10.2 percent
Louisiana: 43.8 percent +10.4 percent -17.8 percent
Tennessee: 43.8 percent +28.3 percent -12.2 percent
Before proceeding, another data caution shouldn’t be forgotten. Because most of the states in each group have very small populations, changes in both deaths and hospitalizations are often infinitesimal in absolute terms, which means that even tiny increases or decreases in those terms can produce huge percentage change results. Indeed, in places like Vermont and Wyoming and the Virgin Islands, these changes are only in the single digits in absolute terms.
All the same, as for some of the most obvious comparisons:
The number of top ten vaxxed states whose CCP Virus-related deaths rose during the past week is eight. For the bottom ten, it’s only seven.
The number of top ten vaxxed states where such deaths fell during that week is one. None of the bottom ten saw falling deaths.
The number of top ten vaxxed states whose hospitalizations rose over the last week is five. The comparable figure for the bottom ten vaxxed states is four.
The number of top ten vaxxed states whose hospitalizations fell over the last week is two. For the bottom ten vaxxed states? Six.
If anything, the bottom ten vaxxed states recently have been doing slightly better than the top ten according to these measures.
Also peculiar – and tough to square with the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” claim: Within these two groups, there are some big death and hospitalization variations between states with identical or very similar vaccination rates. Indeed, the fully vaxxed range in the top ten group is between 68.8 percent and 62.1 percent. Yet the trends for New York and Massachusetts, for example, are going in exactly the opposite directions – and very strongly so. Moreover, the top ten state with the best record on both counts combined by far is New York, even though it’s the least fully vaxxed state in this group.
Using the national average as the bar doesn’t produce a better story for the highly vaxxed states.
In that group, the number whose deaths rose faster than the national average is five. For the lowest vaxxed states, the number is six.
As a result, five states in the top ten category saw deaths rising more slowly than the national average, versus four in the bottom ten category.
Turning to hospitalizations, six of the top ten vaxxed states experienced worse changes than the national average, and data were unavailable for Guam. The comparable number for the bottom ten states was the same.
Therefore, three states in the top ten group experienced better hospitalization change results than the national average, versus four in the bottom ten group.
One possible reason for still taking the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” claim seriously: Many of these results might be explained by the fact that in the top ten vaxxed states, absolute levels of deaths and hospitalizations are starting from very low levels. So as explained just above, their apparently worsening records in many cases can be dismissed as a statistical illusion, and the focus should remain on how good their records in absolute terms remain.
And the converse for the bottom ten: Seeming improvements in their records may stem from death and vaccination rates that stood at very high absolute levels, and remained high despite impressive-looking percentage change drops.
But another possibility deserves at least as much attention: These supposed statistical illusions actually show that the virus is advancing and retreating in waves in many instances – and that to some extent, the results mean that the worst vaxxed states are seeing significant improvements in their numbers, and the best are seeing significant deterioration, for reasons having little to do with vaccinations, and much more to do with the nature of viruses and their natural life cycles.
One particularly notable example is Florida, which has received so much attention because Governor Ron DeSantis has so strongly opposed many mandatory mitigation measures. Its full vaccination rate is now a little higher (55.6 percent) than the national average of 54.2 percent, and actually has been rising somewhat faster.
Its death rate initially rose much more strongly than the U.S. rate as a whole, and has stayed considerably higher (1.69 daily new deaths measured by the seven-day average per hundred thousand residents, versus 0.59 for the nation as a whole). But over the last week, its daily deaths have risen much more slowly (seven percent versus 26 percent).
Similarly, Florida’s hospitalization rate is still higher than the national average (with 45 residents per 100,000 versus 29 per 100,000 for the entire United States). But over the last seven days, Florida daily hospitalizations are down 19 percent, versus six percent for the nation as a whole.
It’s become a commonplace to observe that viruses don’t care what your politics are, or where you live, or what your vaccine views are. That’s all true. But it looks like, except for considerations that have long been known, like age and race, certain they care much less about whether you’re vaxxed than where you happen to live at any given time as they appear, surge, and fade (to varying extents) as they always have.