April 2, 2021

The Economist(s) do(es) not get it … the upside-downs of real vaccination shots

In the recent edition of The Economist magazine (April 3rd 2021) the main topic is European Union’s (EU) central mismanagement of its vaccination policies to get the people of Europe being saved from Covid-19. The story (‘Europe’s response to covid-19’) goes as all stories go in the mainstream media throughout European capitals these days. The EU is overwhelmed by vaccination nationalism and unfit in admistrative terms due to a lack of implementation experience since the public health administration is a concern of the member states. Right, but banal.

Short cut version: European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, failed through ‘her centralised style’ (p. 17). So the result is claiming that USA and Britain, those countries who failed in the ‘first wave’ and were met with head-shaking laughter behind the curtain, do much better to contain and confront the ‘third wave’ this time. Even Emmanuel Macron, the often in the Economist’s pages praised French president, made it worse – like very many politicians throughout Europe – when he suggested that Astra-Zeneca`s vaccine is ‘”quasi-ineffective” in over-65s’.

The Economist’s narrative, however, lacks epidemiological and clinical facts. First of all, Astra Zeneca`s clinical study protocols indeed do not suggest effectiveness of its vaccine on several grounds for over-65s. Therefore, there has been very good reason to call this vaccine as ‘quasi-ineffective’ as Mr. Macron did. Not surprisingly, this is of course damaging to Astra Zeneca’s underlying business model but this should not be of concern for public health institutions.

Second, there has been a nine-fold rise in severe side-effects in applying this vaccine, namely cerebral venous thrombosis in Germany. The causally vaccine-related incidents of nine number of death led to a decision by the German Federal Permanent Vaccination Comission that Astra Zeneca’s vaccine should only be applied to over-60s. The fact that Astra Zeneca cannot fit to its scheduled vaccine delivery program for Europe due to shortness of supplies is not causally related but comes in handy for all sides of the bargain.

Thirdly, mockery by The Economist’s authors is further misplaced because Astra Zeneca’s seemingly marvelous vaccine has even not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and probably is not wanted, as a New York Times’ by mid-march 2021 article suggested. It might be of very importance if similar incidents as detected by Germany’s not so strong system of pharmacovigilance have been occurred in Britain or elsewhere where Astra Zeneca’s vaccine had been applied. As being displayed at the beginning of the vaccination program in Britain there had been some severe side-effects and even deaths. What is the evidence now? Here it is for Britain and for other parts of Europe look into a recent Washington Post article.

Finally, the so called ‘third wave’. Economists have been very slow to acknowledge that the ‘case notification rate’ being exposed in every news media article or social media post does not fit the definition of incidence of Covid-19. For the simple reason that the whole number of unknown cases – mostly asymptomatic – is not included in that ‘case notification rate’ an increase in the number of tests does inevitably lead to a surge in the ‘case notification rate’, if they are any cases around at all. The disturbingly well placed figure of ‘disturbingly spikey’ European Union in The Economist’s lead briefing (“Europe’s response to covid-19”, p. 16) shows epidemiologically fit readers very clear that the rise of the ‘case notification rates’ since January 2021 has – at least for a big part – been driven by higher testing numbers (‘dark blue shaded’ in the figure). But, again, a surge in ‘case notification rates’ measures must not confused with rising Covid-19-incidence. This is a totally different matter.

Summing up the clinicial as well as the epidemiological evidence, it must be said that The Economist’s main epidemiological premise of a ‘third wave’ is – to say the least – widely exaggerated for the moment (see here for Germany). By the way, to call the rising numbers of infected persons with new strains of Covid-19 consequential ‘waves’ suggests the user of such descriptions has no clue about epidemiological conceptions, anyway. How many waves have we – then – endured concercing the long history of influenza pandemics? Viruses that mutate cannot be traced by ‘waves’. Therefore, to talk of ‘waves’ is epidemiologically meaningless uterrance of bullshit.

Consequently, the lagging vaccination rate in the European Union has to be explained by other occurrences. Maybe the whole pharmaceutical industry fucked it up, using its bargaining power and opting-out monopolies to press hard for higher profit shares in Europe. Unsurprisingly, the tenability of such a hypothesis is unthinkable for an international magazine that is dependent on their marketing shares. The recently published rise of vaccine’s next year bargaining prices with the European Union, leaked by Bulgaria’s Prime Minster is revealing in that case. Nevertheless, the truth is always in someway uncomfortable – whatever she might be.

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