Rutland's Allan Grey is bemused by a plethora of statistics when it comes to Covid-19
The statement, “there are lies, damned lies and statistics” was popularised by Mark Twain, which he incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, writes Rutland columnist Allan Grey. It is more likely that the saying emanated from earlier expressions regarding legal witness, which refer to three types of witness...liars, damned liars and experts.
Are you left bemused by the plethora of statistics that we are constantly bombarded with, from the experts, sorry public health officials, via the damned liars, sorry politicians, and through the media, to demonstrate where we are in this never ending pandemic?
As a left brained, fairly numerate individual, I constantly have to think very carefully, in order to provide some context, and make some sense of them in relation to the life I lead and the risks I take on a daily basis. On any given day there are many more risks and dangers out there than Covid-19, and many we take for granted, or at least we think we understand them, we think we can avoid or control them. Then along comes the virus, and our ability to evaluate the risks of the virus itself and the vaccines that will return us to a normal life, seem to have gone out of the window because it’s so difficult to penetrate the statistics, and compare them to our every day experience.
The concerns regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine are but one case in point. What to make of 168 serious blood clots, and 32 deaths out of the 23 million people who have had the vaccine; these statistics suggest the risk of developing cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in combination with a low platelet count or thrombocytopenia after getting the vaccine is vanishingly small. This, says Sir David Spiegelhalter, Britain’s foremost expert in risk, is about the same chance as dying from a general anaesthetic, or correctly guessing the last five digits of a stranger’s mobile phone number.
Statistically the risk of suffering a blood clot is 1 in 137,000, or a chance of 0.0007 per cent, or the risk of dying from a blood clot is 1 in 720,0000, or a chance of 0.00014 per cent. To put it another way, you have a 99.9999 per cent chance of surviving the vaccination. Imagine any other situation, health or otherwise where you had a 99.9999 per cent chance of success, it wouldn’t take you long to back that horse would it, you’d probably put your house on it. Not only do you have that almost certain chance of surviving the vaccine, but also the benefit of a significantly greater chance of avoiding Covid-19 altogether, or suffering it to a much lesser extent.
So just what does a nice round 100,000 look like? Well on June 29, 2017, the lovely lady and I went to see Adele in concert at London’s Wembley Stadium, attended that evening by a sell out crowd of as near as damn it 100,000 people, all spellbound by the many hits of the amazing Adele, and the wonderful accoustics of the vast stadium. So the risk of suffering a blood clot from the vaccine would look like just one person affected in well over a complete sell-out Adele concert at Wembley Stadium. Now consider if it was deemed that one person would suffer a serious illness after attending one sell out concert, would you decide the risk wasn’t worth seeing Adele live? I certainly wouldn’t. And if it was deemed that one person would die from those attending seven Adele concerts, would you decide not to attend any one of them? As a fan of Adele, certainly not me.
Taking the vaccine is mathematically safer than driving your car where you have a risk of 1 in 40,000 of being killed in any year, or a chance of 0.0025 per cent, so nearly 20 times greater than taking the vaccine. Although much has been done in recent decades to reduce death on our roads, how much do we see and read in the media about that risk nowadays, we just don’t think it will happen to us, because we’re in control, whereas the AZ vaccine, has been constantly in the headlines, with more emphasis placed on blood clots caused by the vaccine, than those caused by catching Covid-19, which is estimated to be eight to 10 times higher.
I bet that if the miniscule risk of being dive bombed to death by a herring gull whilst eating fish and chips on the promenade at Skegness were constantly being analysed on the evening news by public health experts and politicians, sales of fish and chips would nosedive (pardon the pun), B&Bs in Skegness would soon be out of business, and there would be a gull cull from Hull to Hunstanton to ‘suppress the curve’ before you could say cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, or maybe not, but I hope you catch my drift.
Blood clots cn also occur from a number of other causes besides the Astra Zeneca vaccine; the birth control pill causes around 100 cases per 100,000 users and smoking causes nearly 200 cases per 100,000 smokers, each of them from everyday choices that are largely taken for granted. Consequently I’m convinced that it’s time to buy a lottery ticket, a mere 1 in 45,000,000 chance of winning the jackpot. I’m told that there are a few highly unlikely things that still have a far greater chance of happening, not least being struck by lightning or my driving a Range Rover down Oakham High Street in the company of Kim Kardashian.