Home News ‘Lying with Statistics’ – Is 95% Effectiveness Good Enough?

‘Lying with Statistics’ – Is 95% Effectiveness Good Enough?

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The Savage Nation (quoting NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov):

NOTE – The Savage Nation takes no official position on the value of a vaccine. It’s a decision every person must make for him or herself. But we hope this article will help clarify one aspect of covid vaccine claims.

The vaccine makers (Pfizer, Moderna, Astrozenica) want us to know that their covid vaccines are “95% effective.” That sounds great, but what does it actually mean? 95% of what? Let’s grant that the overall population is safer with a vaccine. But what about me? Am *I* safer with the vaccine?

How do scientists and experts report risk to the population? Well consider the national weather service.

WEATHER

When they tell us there’s a “30% chance of rain”, they mean that 30% of a city’s area will get rain. They assume that you, as a resident of the city, have a 30% chance of being in that area. This is not true of course, because different areas have different densities of people. But the weather service gets away with it because it’s “good enough”. No one complains.

But when it comes to vaccines, is “good enough” good enough?

COVID VACCINE

An official Pfizer Vaccine Trial report says that it started with 43,500 volunteers and divided them into two groups randomly. It followed all the correct protocols for double-blind placebo-controlled trials. It was careful to exclude individuals who might bias the results. Basically it was a study performed to the highest standards. Here is what it found:

  • VACCINE: Of 21,750 people who got the vaccine, 8 later caught covid. That is a 0.04% chance for any given individual (8 divided by 21,750). Very small!
  • NO VACCINE: Of 21,750 people who got the placebo, 162 later caught covid. That is 0.7% chance for a given individual. Also very small!
  • The study reports no deaths in either group.

Where does “95% effective” come from? They get that number by calculating the percent of people who got covid from each vaccine group, based on the total number who got it, which was 170 people. So 162 is 95% of 170, and 8 is 5% of 170.

To summarize, looking just at those who caught covid, 5% had the vaccine and 95% didn’t have it. But this ignores the fact that for the overwhelming majority of people in the study (43,330) the vaccine made no difference. They didn’t catch covid whether vaccinated or not!

PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE

A public health official will likely be pleased with this result. To them it means if you vaccinated everyone in the world then the overall sickness rate would be vanishingly small. Big victory!

THE INDIVIDUAL PERSPECTIVE

But what if you are an individual trying to decide whether to take the vaccine or not? Very different story!

  • Your risk of getting covid WITHOUT the vaccine is 0.7%. That is 17 times higher than your chance of getting covid WITH the vaccine (0.04%). BUT IT’S STILL A VERY SMALL NUMBER!
  • Put another way, 17 times a tiny number is still a tiny number. And this was just catching covid, not dying from it. Nobody in this study of 43,500 people died from covid.
  • Many other risks in life are much higher than 0.7%, including risks for cancer, heart disease, and various kinds of accidents.

The problem with using statistics and percentages in communicating about risk — and why statistics has gotten a bad name — is that there are many ways to compute a percentage and most of us in our daily lives don’t have time to sit down and puzzle it out.

NOTE – The Savage Nation takes no official position on the value of a vaccine. It’s a decision every person must make for him or herself. But we hope this article has helped clarify one aspect of covid vaccine claims.

More at NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov

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