It’s been a little less than a week since our last Covid-19 update for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois. At the time we had just come back from the Labour Day holiday here in the United States and that left us with two big questions. First, what would the data show after we began to process the tests after the extra time off? Second, would the holiday itself cause any increase in the numbers of new cases?
We also need to remember that last week we had seen some positive signs in some states. And we can start with those states today.
In New Jersey and Illinois we had the clearest evidence of this fourth wave peaking and new cases, whilst still climbing, slowing down with the seven-day average beginning to fall. The good news continues to be that both states continue to show signs their fourth waves have peaked. In fact, Illinois appears to be beginning a downward trajectory. New Jersey has flattened the curve, in other words exhibiting steady numbers of new cases each day.
Delaware appeared to have peaked, but after a brief dip following the holiday, the numbers have begun to shoot back up again. The seven-day average as of yesterday hit 457 new cases per day, exceeding that spike just prior to Labour Day. In other words, it appears that the fear of the holiday increasing rates of new cases, just as they appeared to be peaking came true in Delaware.
What about Virginia and Pennsylvania? Well in the former we had some indications prior to Labour Day that Virginia may have been approaching a peak of new cases. And now you can throw that out the window. Over the three-day holiday weekend, Virginia added just under 11,000 new cases. This past weekend, only two days, Old Dominion added just over 9,200. Not surprisingly the seven-day average spiked upward yesterday to 4,700 new cases per day. If the fourth wave continues at that pace, it will soon surpass the rates we saw last winter.
And in Pennsylvania the data is also not great. We had seen perhaps the beginning of a decline after a peak prior to Labour Day. In the week since? Well, the numbers of new cases have started climbing once again. In fact, yesterday the seven-day average climbed to just under 4,100 new cases per day. That is still below the spring peak and well below winter, but surpasses the numbers we saw just before Labour Day.
In other words, the fear of Labour Day creating new cases appears to have come true.
So then what about deaths? We know that deaths from any increase in cases won’t manifest in the data for a few weeks.
Starting with good news, let’s look at Pennsylvania. Two days after Labour Day the Commonwealth’s seven-day average for deaths reached 30.1 deaths per day. In the almost week since that rate has steadily dropped to 24.3 per day. Ideally we would want to see that trend extend beyond five days. Because if the Labour Day surge persists, it wouldn’t be beyond belief to imagine deaths rising again in coming days.
But that’s also about it for good news. True, Delaware went from 0.9 deaths per day to just 1.0. But that’s more of a stable rate than anything. All the other states have seen their death rates continue to climb of late. Although, we would also expect deaths to peak sometime after the peak in new cases, so this trend makes sense.
In New Jersey deaths climbed from 12.4 to 13.1 per day. Not terrible, but again still an increase in deaths. The worst increases were in Illinois and Virginia. In Illinois deaths have continued to climb, rising from 30.7 last time we wrote to 34.7. But Virginia has seen the worst, despite an apparent dip around Labour Day. Instead people are dying at increasing rates, climbing from 16.7 deaths per day to 27.1 as of yesterday.
Unfortunately, until we see new cases truly peak in Virginia those numbers are likely to continue climbing in coming days and possibly weeks.
Last time we looked at the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois we had some encouraging signs. In particular we had evidence of a potential slowdown in New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois and I wrote that I would not be surprised if we saw a peak in new cases. Virginia was the only state where things were bad and getting worse, though the rate at which they were getting bad had begun to slow. Finally, Pennsylvania had some conflicting data with its new cases and I wanted to see another week’s worth of evidence.
So a week or later, where are we?
First, the obvious caveat that the Labour Day holiday may affect these numbers in both the short term collection of data and the medium term potential for a surge of new cases from gatherings and parties.
If we look to last week’s good news states of New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, we do indeed see what we’ve long been waiting for since this summer: potential peaks in this fourth wave. New Jersey and Illinois. We can see the trend most clearly in New Jersey and Illinois where the beginnings of a decline from the peak appear as a slight dip from what we hope was the peak of the fourth wave. In Delaware that peak is still apparent, but the decline is less so.
Additionally for Delaware, over the last week the numbers rose above those of the third wave, i.e. in terms of cases the fourth wave is worse than the third wave of the spring. We had already seen Illinois reached that unfortunate milestone and fortunately for New Jersey the Garden State peaked at a point nearly half of the third wave’s peak.
What about last week’s bad news state? Well, Virginia, which does not report data on weekends, had an additional day of zero earlier this week. You can see that with the peak on Tuesday, which exceeded 10,000 new cases in one day. Of course, that’s really over three days and so we are talking about 3,000 per day. Unfortunately that extra holiday affected the seven-day average and caused a sudden fall. If we look closely at the data we can see that the trend probably points to a situation that continues to worsen. Two weeks ago the seven-day average was generally about 2800; last week it was about 3100; and heading into this week—excluding the Labour Day aberration—it looks to be about 3300. The very rough differences of 300 to 200 could point to a slowing rise in new cases, the necessary precursor to a peak, but we’d need to see how the rest of this week plays out before we can make any determination. But I’d probably say we are beginning to see the first signs of arriving at a peak in the coming weeks, maybe not next but perhaps in two or so.
And then we have Pennsylvania, where we had conflicting data and I wanted another week’s worth before making comment. I think the Commonwealth has indeed peaked, but unlike in New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, this peak looks more complicated. Note how we do have the recent spike I alluded to last week, but subsequent to that spike the numbers have been lower. I say complicated because in the aftermath of the holiday weekend we are seeing a slight tick upwards in the number of new cases, but it’s still below that spike. Consequently I’m reasonably confident we’ve just begun to peak here in Pennsylvania, but I’ll clearly want another week’s data before saying that with more authority.
What about deaths? How have those progressed over the last week?
Here too I’d be remiss if I failed to reiterate the caveats above that Labour Day can skew with the seven-day average—as we saw with Virginia—though any clustering of a surge of deaths would likely be weeks away given death’s status as a lagging indicator.
Here, unfortunately, we have not reached peak deaths for the fourth wave, at least not for all five states.
Starting with the bad news, we have two states where the numbers continue to climb. In Pennsylvania and Illinois, the two largest states in the data set, we have deaths continuing to climb. Both states’ averages exceeded 30 deaths per day yesterday. For Pennsylvania that is the first time since early June. We need not go much further back for Illinois, which had last recorded an average of 30 deaths per day in late May.
In fact, Illinois yesterday reached an average of 30.7 deaths per day. The state’s peak during the third wave was not much higher, 31.7. Given that we are seeing higher numbers of new cases in the fourth wave than we saw in the third, I would expect the deaths to continue climbing and exceed the third wave’s death rate in coming days.
Pennsylvania’s seven-day average peaked at 51 deaths per day earlier this summer and the Commonwealth’s average of 30.1 yesterday is still far below that level. Given that this fourth wave appears to be less severe in terms of new cases than the third wave, I doubt we reach the level of 51 per day, but I wouldn’t put a level in the 40s out of reach.
Next we have three states where we probably have some good news. Delaware is probably the easiest to report. Since the state has so few people with which to begin, we can expect to see fewer deaths. Indeed, this fourth wave may have peaked and did so at only 3.4 deaths per day. But yesterday that number fell to 0.9. However, I wonder if that is due to the Labour Day holiday. I would want to see more data before saying with more authority that Delaware may have peaked in terms of deaths.
Virginia and New Jersey both present cases where the seven-day averages are now down from some high numbers about two weeks ago. In late August, New Jersey reached a level of 14.3 deaths per day and Virginia hit 21.4. Yesterday’s averages had each state at 12.4 and 16.6, respectively. That looks good. But we can also see that in the last two days both states reported their highest number of daily increases since the beginning of the fourth wave. Yesterday New Jersey reported an additional 29 deaths. Virginia reported 30 yesterday, not the highest, but for that we need look only to the day before when it reported 48.
In other words, I want to see if these recent high numbers of new deaths are the result of delays from Labour Day or if we are beginning to see an actual reversal in the trend. Both at this point appear plausible. I would suspect, however, that New Jersey, given its peaked number of new cases, is more likely to be on actual downward trend in deaths. That said, given the recentness of that peak, I would still expect deaths to rise. I want another week’s worth of data to better evaluate the Garden State.
Virginia seems pretty clear to me, the most likely cause in the dip in deaths of late relates to the holiday. With the numbers of new cases continuing to climb and a peak appearing to be at least a few weeks away, Virginia probably can expect deaths to resume climbing for a bit more time. And of course this wave is already worse, in terms of deaths, than the third wave. Unfortunately I think that story line will only get stronger.
A brief bit of housekeeping, your author will be taking a brief holiday during which I won’t be posting. But I should return to posting next week.
Last week we looked at some relatively good news in terms of the spread of Covid-19 in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois. We had been watching some recent data that suggested some of the five states had begun to see a real and measurable slowdown in the rate of increase of new cases.
Where are we this week? Did those trends continue?
Starting with the bad news, we have Virginia. Old Dominion is now in the throes of a Covid wave worse than what it saw back in the Spring, and fast nearing the heights—maybe depths—of the winter wave. That wave peaked just under 6,200 new cases per day. (And fell to as low as 129 per day in mid-June.) Presently Virginia reports just under 3,200 new cases per day, or nearly half that previous peak. Unfortunately, we do not yet see any significant decline in the rate at which those case numbers have increased. The line in the graphic above is no longer curving upwards, instead you can describe it as more a straight line.
Somewhere below Virginia in that it’s not bad news, but it’s also not great news, we have Delaware and Illinois. In both states the unfortunate news remains that new cases continue to increase. But at present we can also see that new cases have begun to slow. In these states the curves have begun to flatten out, though they still tilt positive.
Contrast that to New Jersey, where we have good news. The Garden State looks similar to Delaware and Illinois, but the difference is the curve in New Jersey may have peaked. The line is now tilted negative. Of course, this is a very recent development and we would want to see this trend continue for a week or so before we begin to speak of New Jersey’s wave cresting.
But between New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, I would not be surprised if by the end of next week we begin to see new cases peaking and beginning to decline.
But what about Pennsylvania? Initially I would have placed the Commonwealth with Delaware and Illinois as it clearly had not peaked, but it did exhibit evidence that its curve was beginning to flatten. In recent days, however, as one can clearly see in the chart, the average has begun to shoot back up again. But as I cautioned last week, that’s not uncommon. Consequently, I want to see another week’s worth of data before we begin to talk about what direction Pennsylvania is taking.
In all this though, we do have one wildcard. This weekend we in the United States begin our Labour Day holiday. Will Labour Day gatherings and parties lead to increased spread of the virus? Will we have super-spreader events? Unfortunately we will not know for about a week or week and a half after the holiday.
As all this has been happening, we also have the death rate.
Last week I noted that we had begun to see rising numbers of deaths. This made sense given that deaths lag behind new cases. Early in the pandemic it often—not always—took a few weeks before people needed hospitalisation. Then a few weeks later is often—not always—when people would die. So a few weeks after the fourth wave began to take hold we continue to see rising numbers of deaths in all five states.
In Virginia and Illinois we see two of the most significant increases. In fact in the third wave, Illinois peaked at just under an average of 32 deaths per day. As of Tuesday the seven-day average was at just over 25. And with the current trend pointing towards increasing death, it’s possible we could see the fourth wave be more lethal in Illinois than the third.
Compare that to Virginia. Old Dominion saw a smaller death rate in the third wave, peaking at 18 deaths per day. However, just yesterday the state reached an average of 21 deaths per day. In other words, Virginia’s fourth wave has become more lethal than its third wave. Unfortunately, like in Illinois we continue to see deaths climbing and there is no evidence yet that deaths are slowing down.
In the tri-state area we see some slightly better news by comparison. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey deaths remain below their third wave peak. For example, in the third wave, Pennsylvania peaked at nearly 50 deaths per day. Yesterday the average was just below 20. Despite both states being below their third wave peaks, however, deaths do continue to climb.
Delaware is the exception here. With such a small population, it reached a third wave peak of about two deaths per day. At present it’s just reached three. But I would not say that three is significantly greater than two.
Overall, however, I expect to see deaths continue to climb over the next week or two until these slowing rates of new cases begin to create slowing death rates. And so I am hopeful that in the coming few weeks we will begin to see the new case rates slow, peak, and begin to decline by about mid-September. That’s more likely in places like New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, but if we’re lucky those patterns or similar will soon begin to emerge in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Last week I mentioned how there was some initial evidence showing the rapid, near-exponential spread of the virus was beginning to slow down. One week later, where are we?
The good news is that those initial signals do appear to be true, i.e. not noise. You can see it if you look at the very end of the charts for all but Virginia.
We can see the slowing spread rate most easily in Illinois and New Jersey. The shape of the curve now resembles more like the top of a hill rather than the beginning of a roller coaster. To be clear, this doesn’t mean Covid-19 is no longer spread—that is not the case at all. Rather, just the speed at which people are spreading the virus has slowed from that initial rapid acceleration.
In the last week, however, despite the good news for Illinois, we can also see that this fourth wave, driven by the Delta variant, has now exceeded the third wave we saw earlier this spring. Virginia still remains the only other state joining Illinois in that auspicious category, but Delaware is edging ever closer.
However, Delaware as well as Pennsylvania can both join Illinois and New Jersey in seeing slowing rates, though it’s not nearly as evident as in the other two states. Delaware continues to approach its third wave peak.
Virginia is the one state where we might just now be seeing the beginning of a slowdown. Though it’s probably the hardest state in which to see it. Yesterday, after a weekend of no data updates, the state reported over 7,000 new cases. That’s bad. But jumping from 5,900 new cases last Monday to yesterday’s 7,100 is comparatively good. Compare Monday to Monday, four weeks ago the increase was 91%. Three weeks ago it was 88.8%. Three weeks ago it fell to 30.9%. And then two weeks ago it was 26.8%. Yesterday’s increase was only 20%. Again, not great, but that’s a slowdown.
The hope in all five states is that we can begin to actually peak perhaps in early- to mid-September before the seven-day average begins to decline. The question then will be what do things look like as begin to head into flu season, which is when last winter’s deadly surge began in earnest.
What about deaths though?
Last week I discussed how we were seeing death rates hold fairly steady with only small increases to the seven-day averages. Unfortunately this past week we saw more significant increases. Nothing too dramatic, to be clear, but increases all the same.
Take Pennsylvania, for example. Two weeks ago we went from an average of 7 deaths per day due to Covid-19 to just 9 last week. But yesterday that number jumped up to 16. Illinois, which had went from 12 to 13, climbed from 13 to 20 as of yesterday.
This is also not terribly surprising. As we are now several weeks into this wave, we would expect to see hospitalisations increase, which we had been seeing, before, sadly, deaths followed suit. We may now be entering that phase where deaths, again, a lagging indicator, begin to rise.
I do not think, however, that we will see numbers near to the extremes we saw this past winter. Even to reach levels we saw this past spring will be difficult. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Illinois has reached nearly half its third wave peak number of deaths.
We will need to continue observing these death rates over the coming week to see if they continue to increase. I suspect they will before, like new cases, they begin to slow down before then peaking.
In last week’s update we looked at how in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois the numbers of new cases of Covid-19 were trending in the wrong direction. This past week they continued to do much the same.
This week I want to begin with New Jersey, because last week I noted how the growth in the number of new cases was holding steady. In other words, the number of new cases, whilst growing, was growing by roughly the same number of cases each day. We contrasted that with the other four states where we witnessed increasing numbers of new cases each day.
New Jersey’s continued to see similar growth, fairly flat, though it has increased ever so slightly. And in the other states we continue to see increasing numbers of new cases, but that accelerating growth may be tailing off. That doesn’t mean we are seeing new cases decline—far from it. Instead we are seeing the number of new cases become slightly smaller each day. And if you look ever so closely at the tails of each chart above, you can see how the slope of the line, the seven-day average, is no longer bending upward but is straightening out to a line instead of a curve or, in some cases, maybe even beginning to flatten out as one does as one would approach a peak.
This doesn’t mean we are at the point of seeing this fourth wave peak, but the first indication of such a thing happening would be a slowdown in the numbers of new cases. And so moving forward over the next two weeks or so, we’ll want to see if that continues.
In absolute terms, I mentioned last week that I wouldn’t be surprised if Illinois surpassed its springtime seven-day average peak of 3390 new cases per day. Fortunately, we haven’t yet hit that milestone. We are, however, just under 200 new cases per day away from that. This can speak to that slight slowdown in the numbers of new cases.
We also looked at how in the tri-state area all three states were well below their springtime peaks. That continues to be the case. However, Delaware is nearing that peak.
When we look at deaths, we also see very much the same story as last week.
Delaware continues to be the exception where we saw deaths climb by just one. But when we look at the other four states, the concern last week was Illinois where we saw a significant jump in the rate. Fortunately that has slowed down over the past week and deaths climbed from 12 per day to just 13 per day. Similarly, the rate in Pennsylvania and Virginia has also slowed down slightly with 9 and 7 people dying each day in those states, respectively.
The good news is in New Jersey. There the death rate has slowed so much so that the average hasn’t changed. Last week it was 6 per day. As of yesterday’s data update, it’s still sitting on 6.
And we need to mention again that these deaths and the hospitalisations that we don’t track are almost all happening solely in the unvaccinated population. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you really need to. Because these vaccines have been proven safe; they’ve been proven effective; and they’re free if you’re worried about cost.
It’s pretty much that simple. But for just under half the country, it’s not getting through. So I went looking for some data on the breakdown of Covid-19 cases by vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
I found an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-profit that focuses on health and healthcare issues. They collected the data made available by 24 states—not all states provide a breakdown of breakthrough cases—and what we see across the country is pretty clear. If you want more details on their methodology, I highly recommend you check out their analysis.
In all but Arizona and Alaska, vaccinated people account for less than 4% of Covid-19 cases. In most of these states, it’s less than 2%. For the states that we regularly cover here—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois—we have New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia represented in the data set.
Delaware leads the three with vaccinated people accounting for just 1% of Covid-19 cases. Virginia is 0.7% and New Jersey is just 0.2%. In other words, in New Jersey almost nobody vaccinated is catching Covid-19 over the observation period.
And when we look at the vaccinated population, we can see what breakthrough events—cases, hospitalisations, and deaths—they are experiencing.
In almost all states, less than 0.5% of vaccinated people are getting Covid-19. Only in Arkansas do we see a number greater than that: 0.54%. In no state do we have more than 0.6% of vaccinated people requiring hospitalisation. And with that number so low, it won’t surprise you that in no state do we have more than 0.01% of vaccinated people dying.
In other words, the rapidly climbing numbers of new cases and slowly rising deaths that we looked at yesterday, that’s almost all in people who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated.
Late last week I provided a brief update on the Covid-19 situation in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois. Today I wanted to circle back to my statement that I’d update everyone again early this week. Of course, we had to wait until states began reporting their Monday data to get a better sense of where we are at in terms of new cases and deaths.
Spoiler: nowhere good.
Let’s start, as usual, with new cases.
We can see just from the tail end of the charts above that new case growth is accelerating in nearly all five states. Nearly because New Jersey’s growth has remained fairly constant, in other words the number of new people getting infected is not becoming larger each day but remaining relatively flat. That said, compared to 28 July, my last more thorough update, the seven-day average for new cases is still up by 66%.
In the other four states we see accelerating growth, i.e. the number of people infected grows daily. Virginia and Illinois are perhaps in the worst positions. Consider that earlier this spring during the Third Wave, Virginia peaked with a seven-day average of 1615 new cases per day. Yesterday the seven-day average reached 1625. This Fourth Wave is making more people sick now than they were in the spring. Illinois is not yet at the peak of its Third Wave, 3390 new cases per day, but yesterday the Land of Lincoln reached 2713. It’s not far from that ugly benchmark. Can Illinois’ seven-day average see an increase of about 600 new cases per day in a week? Consider that one week ago the average was at 1914. That’s an 800-new case increase. I would expect that if my next update is next Tuesday we will find Illinois in a worse position now than it was in this past spring.
What about the last two states of the tri-state area? Fortunately—for now—both Pennsylvania and Delaware remain below, roughly by half or so, their springtime peaks during the Third Wave. In part, that’s because—along with New Jersey—the Northeast has some of the highest rates of vaccination. But none of those states are near the levels we would need for herd immunity, especially given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.
In Pennsylvania the seven-day average for new cases is now just shy of 1500 new cases per day. Interestingly, if we halve the Monday data that includes both Sunday and Monday the daily numbers of new cases have declined for five consecutive days. I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue given the rampancy with which Delta is spreading throughout the Commonwealth, but that would be the signal in the data we would be looking for when this Fourth Wave breaks.
Delaware reports much the same. Cases are significantly up, but now so much so as to outpace the Third Wave. The First State’s seven-day average now sits at 185 new cases per day, but for the past four days the daily number has exceeded 200. Unlike Pennsylvania, that’s not the signal we would want to see to give us a sense the wave might be breaking.
What about deaths? Last week I mentioned we were seeing those numbers begin to creep back up despite falling during the initial weeks of the Delta wave.
The tail ends here, with the exception of Illinois, are far harder to see. In Illinois, on 28 July the seven-day average for deaths bottomed out at 4 deaths per day. Deaths have climbed ever since, tripling to 12 deaths per day. Prior to yesterday, the state had seen double-digit daily deaths for five consecutive days for the first time since early June. These are signs that deaths are heading in the wrong direction. But if we want to try and find a glimmer of hope, those deaths started at 18 on 4 August, but have dropped each day landing at 10 on 8 August and just 6 yesterday. Fingers crossed?
In the remaining states the picture is similar in that deaths are rising, but not nearly as badly as they are in Illinois. In Illinois the death rate tripled, but to be fair it also did so in Delaware. Though that meant climbing from 0.1 to 0.3. In the states where we are seeing deaths from Covid-19, the rates have not even doubled. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the two closest to hitting that grim number. Their seven-day averages of 3.6 and 3.7, respectively, have reached only 6.6 and 6.4, respectively. Certainly not good, but perhaps we can be cautiously optimistic given the states’ relatively high rate of vaccination.
In Virginia we have seen the death rate climb from an average of 4.4 per day, nearly the same rate as Illinois, which has a lower overall rate of vaccination, to only 5.6 deaths per day as of yesterday.
It is important to note that vaccinations are doing a good job at keeping the vaccinated from needing to go to hospital or even dying. The phrase “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is very accurate. Whilst the vaccinated can become infected, most suffer very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. The reason for masking is that the Delta variant can infect the vaccinated to such a degree that, whilst not sick, they can infect the unvaccinated.
If you have not been vaccinated yet, it is critical that you do so. They are safe. They are effective. And they are free. There are only a few valid reasons for not receiving the vaccination. And “not wanting it” or “not needing it” or “not trusting the government” or “not sure whence the virus came” are not valid excuses.
Note: This was supposed to post Friday morning. But it didn’t for technical reasons. Throwing it up late because I’ll probably wait until Tuesday and the release of Monday data to do another update. And I want people to have the latest charts for the weekend.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to write up my usual analysis of the charts. Maybe I’ll do that for Monday, we’ll see. But I do want to post the latest Covid-19 data on cases and deaths before we head into the weekend.
The overall picture is that things are continuing to get worse. You can see that in all states the fourth wave, driven largely by the Delta variant, is here.
When we look at deaths, last week I had mentioned how deaths were still trending down. But as a lagging indicator it was just a matter of time before the new cases led to new hospitalisations led to new deaths. And that moment appears to have just arrived.
I should point out that Delaware appears to have folded in their probable deaths in with their confirmed deaths, as many states had done months ago. So that spike of 135 new deaths isn’t “real” as in those deaths happened a long time ago. The pre-probable death number was the same as afterwards.
I’ve heard a lot about vaccine hesitancy and resistance lately and I mentioned this on Monday. Subsequently, I thought I would try to make a graphic to try and help people understand where some of these excuses fit on the spectrum of rational to irrational—with claims of people being magnetised off the chart in the land of kooky.
But I also realised there’s a second spectrum, albeit far more limited in range, of selfishness vs altruism. And there is an interesting shift in how those who waited for the most vulnerable to receive their shots first were, initially, altruistic and rational. But now that those populations have received their vaccines, it’s shifted into an irrational selfish behaviour.
Anyway, I made a few sketches and as I was working on it, there was something in the aesthetic quality of the sketches that I couldn’t quite replicate digitally. And so I present the unpolished rough cut of my graphic.
For the fuller explanations, I refer you to my aforementioned post earlier this week. This was just an attempt to visualise the two spectrums.
I spent a good chunk of last week talking with people about reasons why people are not taking the vaccines for Covid-19 despite the fact they’ve been proven safe, been proven effective, and are free. I have heard a number of excuses in person—perhaps the subject for another post. But those are all anecdotal stories, though evidence that such reasons exist. Well this weekend I found some quantitative data.
The source is the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a group that focuses on health, health information and its communication. For Covid-19 they’ve been running quite a bit of information communication as one can imagine. One part of that? Public polling.
The latest survey covers the middle of June, but does include a question on why the unvaccinated remain unvaccinated.
I’ve got some quibbles with the design of the chart, primarily axis labels vs. a data label for every single bar, but I want to focus on the content today.
The vaccines is too new? I will grant you that it was developed very quickly. But there are two big reasons for that. First, to give the Trump administration credit where credit is due, whilst they didn’t really plan for a federal rollout of the vaccine they did eliminate much of the red tape and bureaucratic hassles that can slow down vaccine research. They did not, however, reduce the scientific rigour with which the vaccines were tested. Keep in mind that often times we heard stories of how the administration wanted to approve the drug well before it was ready. That is a sign that the testing wasn’t rushed.
Second, the mRNA method is new, but had been in advanced stages of research for a number of diseases including both influenza and zika. Scientists simply began to “reprogramme” the RNA bit to battle the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. In other words, we had been researching the type of vaccines for decades, but we just found a new target for its first widespread application.
Worried about side effects? Fair question. Last numbers I specifically saw were something like fewer than 300 severe allergic reactions out of over 3,000,000 million doses of Pfizer. In other words, that was a 0.01% chance. If you get Covid-19, the mortality rate is somewhere between 1% and 5%. In other words, you’re far more likely to get sick or even get sick and die from Covid-19 than from the Covid-19 vaccine.
Just don’t want to get the vaccine? Well now you’re being selfish. Vaccines aren’t just about you. They are a public health and safety measure. If you get sick, you put others at risk. In 1905, we heard similar arguments for people not wanting to get the new smallpox vaccine. (A disease we’ve almost entirely eradicated thanks to vaccinations, go look up how devastating it was to populations pre-vaccine. I’ll wait.) But these people who didn’t want the smallpox vaccine took their argument of “it’s a personal choice” all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided that personal liberty does have limits and can be overruled by what we call the police power of the state, specifically when personal liberty risks public health and safety. Here’s a simlar example. I have the freedom to speak without being censored by the government. However, I cannot go into a crowded theatre and scream fire. Because at that point I am endangering the stampeding masses. The government has the right to limit my speech in that specific area.
There are lots of things we don’t want to do, but have to do. Getting vaccinated is one of those things.
Don’t trust the government? Well the vaccine wasn’t developed by the government. The three big ones in the United States are Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. For my UK audience, you’re also looking at Oxford-AstraZeneca. I believe it was Pfizer even rejected accepting development money from the US government specifically to ensure that its research remained above reproach. In other words, the government hired the scientists who conducted the tests that proved the vaccines were safe for use.
But, and this is the kicker, the vaccines first began to roll out to the public in December 2020. We now have seven months’ worth of evidence and data in real world scenarios. The vaccines consistently have been proven safe and effective.
Don’t think you need the vaccine? Well like I said above, the vaccine isn’t about just you, it’s about society at large. We have personal liberty, but social responsibility. And your choice to not get vaccinated threatens and endangers the lives of others. Because there are, and we’ll get to this, some people who cannot receive the vaccine even if they want to. And you not getting it, threatens them.
Don’t believe the Covid-19 vaccines are safe? We spent nearly six months studying them in clinical trials and they were proven safe. We now have an additional seven months of real world, in the shit testing. And they have been proven safe time after time after time.
Don’t trust vaccines in general? If you’re grandparents or great-grandparents are still alive, ask them about how deadly smallpox was. Or maybe ask your parents about how terrible the mumps were. Or measles. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Turns out they were pretty terrible. There was a reason that older generations generally rushed to get vaccines, because they protect us from the scourge of viruses and bacteria. I haven’t seen a person with smallpox in my entire life because vaccines all but eradicated the virus. (It exists only within the bio-weapon laboratories of the United States and the Russian Federation.)
Have a medical reason why they can’t receive the virus at this time? Great, I mean, not great, but this is a real reason why people cannot and should not receive the vaccine for Covid-19. And this is why we want everyone who doesn’t have a precluding reason to get the vaccine, so that we can help protect you. But hopefully you’ll be able to get vaccinated at some point in the future.
Too busy or have not had the time to get it? Well, it’s been several months and it’s increasingly hard to believe you don’t have a half-hour or an hour to spare. It took me a 15-minute walk and then walked through an empty, snaking line for about five minutes, then had the little prick in a minute, then waited 15 minutes. Then walked home. Did that twice in a matter of weeks.
But let’s say you’re working crazy hours. Well, that’s one reason the White House is asking employers to give employees paid time off to receive the vaccine.
Don’t like getting shots? Neither do I. I told that to the corpsman who administered my first shot and I simply looked away. I’d rather get two little pricks than risk needing to go to hospital or die or infecting someone else.
Worried about missing work? As I said above, it doesn’t take long. The actual processing is just a few minutes. You have to wait longer in observation to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. But also like I said, that’s why the White House is pushing employers to give their employees paid time off to receive the vaccine.
Difficult to travel to a vaccination site? This would have been especially hard in the early months when the goal was to equip mass vaccination sites in city centres that could serve the most people the most effectively and the most efficiently. Since then, most pharmacies and many doctors offices are offering the vaccine. There are a number of mobile vaccination sites around.
Worried you will have to pay to get the vaccine? You don’t have to! The government is footing the bill for all of us. All you need to is show up with the required ID to prove you are who you say you are, wait your turn in line, get your shot, and wait for your observation period. Then, if you receive either Pfizer or Moderna, because you need two shots, you go back and present them with your vaccination card, and do it all over again.
But nowhere in that do you have to pay.
That was it for the reasons in the survey. But like I said, maybe I’ll address some of the other things in a post later this week.
Credit for the piece goes to the KFF graphics team.