Covid vaccine deaths and “trust the science”
How adverse events and vaccine death rate relate to the scientific method, empiricism, and the ultimate significance of statistics
42.7% of the world’s population has now received a covid vaccine, this amounts to 3.33 billion human beings. In total, 7.81 billion doses have been taken, making this covid vaccine the most ubiquitously administered medicine of all time.
You’ll be happy to know, it is also the safest and most monitored medicine ever.
Health authorities are monitoring the safety of covid vaccines all over the world right now with one the most intense, rigorous and unprecedented safety monitoring systems ever used in history. All of the adverse event reporting databases are linked globally and monitored every second by one of the most sophisticated artificial intelligence programmes ever employed in health care.
The vaccine was created by employing 30 years of knowledge gained through detailed mRNA experimentation, this in itself built on 60 years of genetic engineering data available which in turn had nearly 160 years of science to work with, since the Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher discovered DNA in his laboratory.
It was certainly not created “overnight”.
It is also important to note, that this vaccine marks a scientific discovery, not a medical one. This differentiation is significant, as scientific reasoning is achieved through empiricism, or better, by employing the scientific method of rigorous peer reviewed repeat testing, whereas medicine does not underlie such scrutiny and more often than not, a lot of medical procedures, particularly in surgery, are largely based on anecdotal evidence of what has worked in the past and what has not.
This is a fundamental difference between medicine and science, one that we will explore in more depth below.
What people mean when they say “trust the science”
There are no facts in science.
There are only continuing investigations. Ultimately, science is in the business of righting wrongs, it always has been and always will be. It is the most accurate and complete work of human knowledge ever created and when compared to religions, it will stand the test of time. To prove this, let’s just perform a little Gedankenexperiment (as Einstein used to call them, thought experiments):
Imagine tomorrow, all of the books ever written by humans were to disappear off of the face of the planet. In one hundred years from now, a whole new bunch of books will have been rewritten. The the bible, won’t be the same obviously, nor will Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea or James Joyce’s Ulysses - but you know what books will be identical in 100 years? All of the chemistry, physics, math and biology books will be 100% identical - provided the physical laws governing the nature of our planet do not change fundamentally during this time. That is pretty incredible and why is that? Because these textbooks are established via the scientific method, which is largely based on the observations we make in our known universe and the trial and error we apply in testing these observations.
This is where science separates itself from the religions of the world with their dogmas, beliefs in supernatural miracles and established traditions. The only tradition that science values is the tradition of continuous criticism. We used to believe that all of physics was controlled by the fundamental laws laid out by Newton in the 17th century, and some of the laws are still adhered to, like gravity or force, but then along came Albert Einstein and changed everything. A few years later, even large parts of Einstein’s philosophy of physics were corrected by the quantum interpretation of the universe by Nils Bohr, Schrödinger and Heisenberg. This continuous evolution of scientific knowledge is what separates it from all other human endeavours.
Scientists aren’t arrogant. They are honest. And for the most part humble - as only changing your mind on your life’s work, can make you humble.
The physicist Carl Sagan said it best:
“Science works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be. The obvious is sometimes false; the unexpected is sometimes true.”
How are scientific theories established?
The great Austrian philosopher of science, Karl Popper, wrote in his 1934 book The Logic of Scientific Discovery that the greatest hypothesis in science is one that can be falsified. By this he means that whenever anyone postulates an observation about the nature of reality, that the best thing that can happen for science is that observation gets proven wrong. It seems counterintuitive but that’s the way science works. Slowly but surely discarding all wrong observations, until we finally end up with what is really happening.
A good analogy could be that of a sculptor using a piece of marble, carving away the bits that don’t fit to reveal the statue of a human body. Except that this process goes on forever and ever in science, when you become a scientist you learn pretty quickly to get comfortable with the fact that your search for knowledge and the truth will be a never ending saga. And that is a good thing.
The nature of science itself means that we will never have ALL of the answers. Even if we live for infinity. Which is both comforting and not, at the same time. Philosophers refer to that feeling as the paradox of comfort.
Confirmation bias destroys objectivity
To build upon his idea of falsifiability in science, Popper went out of his way to analyse human traditions. He believed that one of the reasons science would always survive, was that it was built on a tradition of self-criticism thus always ensuring objectivity in the pursuit of science. A scientist who becomes rigid and stale in their analysis of the world is a lazy scientist.
The first thing you are taught in any science degree is the ability to recognise your own bias and to try and eliminate it from your thinking. In one of my biochemistry classes in university, our professor had a “bias box” and each of us students had a bias block (made of Lego) - and every time we entered his lab, we had to toss our block into the box - and when the lecture was over, we had to find our blocks again and pocket them on the way out. This was to symbolise that we would never permanently get rid of our biases, but that we can live happily by recognising their existence and trying to curb their influence on our thought.
Confirmation bias is a very real thing, and many people who are self-proclaimed anti-vaxxers suffer heavily from this. Whatever they are looking for, they will find. Humans are pattern seeking animals. Our brains do everything they can to confirm our word views. At times this gets so bad, that our reality can start to dissociate from what is actually happening around us - hence the analogy of the rabbit hole in terms of conspiracy theories - the psychological phenomenon of this dissociative intellectual state is called cognitive dissonance - and it is a dangerous place to be.
Incidentally, Karl Popper also came up with a treatise called the Paradox of Tolerance, a philosophical premise which couldn’t be more applicable today. Being an Austrian Jew in the 1930s, Karl Popper feared for his life and fled to New Zealand before the annexation of Austria was announced. It was here, teaching philosophy to Kiwi students at the University of Canterbury that Popper came up with his treatise. He believed that if human society became so tolerant, that it even tolerated the intolerant, then inevitably the intolerant would take over society - much like they did in Nazi Germany.
This philosophical premise is even more important today, considering the vast number of people who are not getting vaccinated, endangering everyone around them. If we tolerate them, they will endanger our collective well being. So what do we do?
Kary Mullis and the invention of PCR
One of the greatest fallacies purported by those against the vaccination and other covid measures is that the late great chemist and inventor of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Kary Mullis, supposedly said that his PCR test wasn’t effective in diagnosing infectious diseases - this is factually incorrect, he actually said the exact opposite and we have been using PCR for nearly 40 years to test for viruses. It is extremely accurate in predicting viral presence/load and more effective than any antibody test. It is one of the most incredible discoveries in human history, one that won Kary Mullis the 1993 Nobel prize in chemistry. How incredible this discovery really was, really deserves its own book - but I will try to summarise it below:
PCR uses an enzyme from an archaebacteria (the oldest organisms on the planet) found in sulphur vents at the bottom of the ocean floor. The bacteria is called Thermophilus aquaticus and is used because it can withstand temperatures of up to 90 degrees celsius and not be denatured - DNA needs to be heated to this temperature to unravel and be amplified. It was a stroke of genius, without which, we would not have an mRNA covid vaccine today, as simple as that.
Another nuance that scientists pay a lot of attention to is the phenomenon of correlation versus causality. Scientists will shy away from establishing causal relationships only until they are 100% sure these exist, and until then most will err on the side of assuming that two random events that happen simultaneously are due to correlation and not causation. Much like superstition versus coincidence.
Current estimates on side effects and case fatalities are mostly due to correlation and not causation as we will explore below.
Adverse event and death misinformation
I have had several people write to me with concern about the number of claims of people reported who have seemingly died shortly after being vaccinated. The concern here is primarily that there may be a causal relationship. I can fully empathise with the fear yet I always try to tell them to wager on the side of caution when reading these ‘statistics’.
No, 600 people have not died of the covid vaccine in Australia. If you examine the cases more closely, you’ll find that there are only 9 probable cases, of which 4 are inconclusive.
And when it comes to New Zealand vaccine deaths, concerned people have thrown the number 200 about, again, this number is simply incorrect.
Let’s examine it a bit more closely:
As the below data shows. Up until the 6th of November 2021, 103 total deaths were reported to the NZ Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) with people who also happened to be vaccinated.
Following a detailed medical assessment by CARM, Medsafe has since determined that:
47 of these 103 deaths are unlikely related to the COVID-19 vaccine, another 47 deaths could not be assessed due to insufficient information and of the last 9, 8 cases are still under investigation.
So that leaves one death, that may have been due to vaccine induced myocarditis. Yet we are still awaiting the Coroner’s determination. An extensive US study into myocarditis, showed that in a population of 100 000, 2.8 people on average experience myocarditis, this lies below the national average for this condition and researchers could not identify a causal link.
Some people will always die or experience an illness from a pre-existing condition after being immunised, especially if they are older. This occurs by pure chance and the CARM investigating intentionally took the natural death rate into account when researching these events.
One point of irony regarding the anti-covid anti-vax group, is that in the beginning when they were questioning if the pandemic was even a real thing, they complained that the death rate was exaggerated and that every natural death was being blamed on covid. Now it appears the flip-side is being promoted by these people, where every natural death should be blamed on a side effect of the vaccination.
You can’t have it all.
Erroneous claim: more vaccinated people dying of covid than unvaccinated
Recently, people in the UK have made claims that vaccinated people are more likely to die of covid than unvaccinated people, based on a new report from the UK Health Security Agency. Here, 3 week data to the week of November 21st was published, and it was revealed that out of 3726 covid deaths, 2903 were people who were vaccinated compared, with 708 people who were unvaccinated.
In statistics, phenomena like these are due to the Simpson’s paradox that outlays that the higher the percentage of a vaccinated cohort of a population gets, the more old people will be included in the vaccination category rather than in the unvaccinated one. And as such, the data will be skewed in favour of the unvaccinated. And old people die more regularly than young people. That’s simply what they do.
Vaccines work differently at different ages
Vaccinations do not work as effectively in the age cohort above 60 in men and 70 in women, due to the fact that there is no more thymus left in either cohort. The thymus is the organ responsible for creating naive T cells (that get primed by viruses or the vaccine and then inform the rest of the immune system) - this organ starts atrophying from birth and this rate happens slower in women than in men. It is the reason why toddlers are encouraged to put toys from the floor into their mouths, because their lymphatic system and blood is circulating with billions of these naive T cells that can stage responses to foreign microbes much more readily than an elderly person ever could.
This latest UK report also showed the rate of death per 100,000 people in each age cohort and this data revealed that when separated out and multiplied over the whole population, the rate of death in unvaccinated individuals was higher in every age bracket compared to those who had received two immunisations.
In Auckland, a city that is nearly 95% double vaccinated, the statistics are even more pronounced, here it has been shown that you are 81 times more likely to be hospitalised if you are unvaccinated.
In terms of death rate in unvaccinated individuals, the epidemiology professor Dr Tony Blakely puts it bluntly:
"We can say mathematically if vaccination reduces your chance of death by, say, 90 per cent, then once more than 90 per cent of the population is vaccinated, you would expect the number of deaths among the vaccinated and unvaccinated to be similar."
In terms of the high amount of people in the UK who have already been infected naturally, these results get skewered. In other words, if 90% of a given population are vaccinated and you then look at the other 10 per cent where half of them have had a natural covid infection, then these will be more protected than the vaccinated, thus tipping the results. Again, once an increased amount of unvaccinated people have had a covid infection and have survived, this will automatically shift the statistics toward more of the hospitalizations and deaths to be happening in the vaccinated cohort. It is simple mathematics.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that those people who have not been vaccinated have a much higher likelihood of dying upon first exposure to covid than those who are vaccinated. That statistic has been corroborated in every country that measures covid infections and death rate.
Lies and more lies
In spite of the fact that in the 19th century, Mark Twain said, before we had access to computers, that “there are lies more lies and then there are statistics,” when it comes to the statistics of covid hospitalisations and death rate, you can rest assured that the statistics are being peer reviewed in real time all over the world. Real anomalies would stick out like a sore thumb. As would a large number of deaths.
After all, 3.33 billion people is a lot of people. The largest number of simultaneously treated people in human history.
And lastly, 100 human beings die every minute of every hour, of every day.
If we would measure the amount of people who had high fived, and then died, chances are, considering the popularity of that hand movement, that 60 of these 100 people had high fived.
Does this mean that high fiving one another can cause death?
Of course not, that would be ridiculous.1
Covid vaccinations worldwide
Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination
Adverse events following immunisation with COVID-19 vaccines: Safety Report #36 – 6 November 2021
Criticism and Tradition in Popper, Oakeshott and Hayek
Karl Popper: Philosophy of Science
A Critique of Popper's Views on Scientific Method https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/105644/1/105644_3%20Critique%20of%20Popper.pdf
The Science of Right and Wrong
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“It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.”
The legend himself, Jacques Yves Cousteau.
however, during a pandemic of an infectious disease mainly transmitted via surfaces and aerosols, this analogy may have been a poor choice. My bad.